Pinal County is a vibrant and fast-growing county that offers the best of Arizona. Whether you’re a history buff interested in Native American history, early western settlements and a rich local history, or an outdoors enthusiast looking for great fishing, hunting and camping, Pinal County has something to offer.
Get to Know Pinal County
Pinal County is named for the Pinal Mountains, which was the name the Spanish gave to the mountain ranges, meaning “pine.” The county is ringed by the beautiful ranges of the Superstition Mountains, Mineral Mountains and Waterman Mountains. It enjoys a dry, sunny climate most of the year.
Pinal County is the third largest county in Arizona and one of the fastest-growing counties in the U.S. The county currently has a population of roughly 375,500. Pinal County’s growth can be attributed to several causes:
• A strong economy with low unemployment and a median family income of $56,000 a year.
• Warm year-round weather and a wealth of outdoor activities.
• Proximity to major metropolitan areas of Tucson and Phoenix.
• Low cost of living.
The county’s main economic drivers have been mining, farming and tourism. Copper and silver mining have provided thousands of jobs and millions in revenues in the region for over 100 years.
A Booming Economy
Its location in the so-called “sun corridor” makes Pinal County ideal for various types of farms. Agriculture is also a huge source of revenues and employment in the region. Pinal County produces fruits, vegetables, cotton, sorghum, millet and corn.
The prison industry has provided another huge boost to Pinal County’s economy. The county is home to the Pinal County Adult Detention Center, Saguaro Correctional Center, La Palma Correctional Center, the Central Arizona Detention Center, the Florence Correctional Center and the Arizona State Prison Complex that has six facilities.
The Future and the Past Meet
Pinal County is rich in Arizona history. It’s also where you’ll find one of the most futuristic projects in the country.
Pinal County is home to Biosphere 2, a project that was named one of the 50 must-see wonders of the world. Biosphere 2 was created by the University of Arizona and is a perfect replica of the major ecosystems of earth.
The Biosphere features 6,500 panes of glass that shelter a tropical rainforest, an ocean made up of a million gallons of water, coastal fog, a desert environment and more. Visitors enjoy a truly immersive experience that includes a tour, a movie and the chance to experience every type of environment.
Arizona is a major agricultural center, responsible for growing much of the cotton used by U.S. manufacturers and the country’s second-largest producer of lettuce, head lettuce, romaine, cauliflower and broccoli. Over 15,000 farms across the state combine to create a $12.5 billion agriculture industry.
To celebrate its agricultural abundance, regular farmer’s markets are a natural in Pinal County. Following are some of the major markets where you can buy farm-fresh produce, dairy products and more.
Casa Grande Farmer’s Market. This open-air market is open year-round and held in Florence. You’ll find homemade bakery products, grass-fed beef, tomatoes, honey and prepared meals. It’s open every Tuesday from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Lucky Nickel Ranch Certified Organic Farmer’s Market. This family-run ranch offers organically grown peas, kale, cabbage, watermelons, lettuce, radishes, herbs and more. The ranch also raises goats and operates an on-site bed and breakfast. The market is held in Eloy every Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
Oro Valley Farmer’s Market. This is a year-round market that brings together small local ranchers, farmers and businesses. Vendors sell prepared foods along with ranch-fed beef and pork, fresh eggs, honey and local produce. This market also accepts SNAP and WIC. It’s held every Saturday in Oracle.
Outdoor Fun and Sports
Golf. If you love golf, you’ll love golfing in Pinal County’s perpetually sunny weather. Enjoy hitting the links at one of dozens of well-kept golf courses. These include:
• Apache Creek Golf Club in Apache Junction.
• Kearny Golf Club in Kearny.
• Mountain View Golf Club in Saddlebrooke.
• Oasis Golf Club in Florence.
• Poston Butte Golf Course in Florence.
Fishing. Enjoy fishing for bluegill, catfish and largemouth bass in San Carlos Lake, or head over to Canyon Lake to catch walleye, crappie, catfish, sunfish and rainbow trout. At Roosevelt Lake, you can try your hand at smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and flathead catfish.
Water sports. Pinal County has a number of rivers and lakes where you can enjoy tubing, kayaking, rafting, boating and water skiing. You can bring your own watercraft or enjoy a guided cruise down one of the many scenic, beautiful rivers that run through miles of mountains and cliffs.
Camping. If you like to stay close to nature, you can’t beat camping. Pinal County is home to several parks where you can pitch your tent and enjoy hiking, fishing, canoeing and swimming. You can stay in several state parks including the Lost Dutchman State Park, Picacho Peak State Park and West Pinal Park.
If RV camping is more your style, there are numerous RV parks in the county as well. They offer full amenities and easy access to all of the county’s activities.
Transportation and Amenities
Pinal County is serviced by CART, the Central Arizona Regional Transit system. These buses are designed primarily for seniors and those with disabilities to have transportation for shopping, medical appointments and social events. The CART buses run from 5:15 am to 8:00 pm. Buses are equipped to take passengers with wheelchairs, oxygen machines and other equipment.
Main Cities and Communities in Pinal County
Ak-Chin Indian Community
In the Sonora desert lies the reservation that is home to the Tohono O’odham (Papago) and Pima Indians. The Ak-Chin have set aside about 15,000 acres of farmland that is worked by tribal members, making it one of the largest farming communities among tribal lands.
The community also operates a Harrah’s Casino that now includes a 148-room resort. The luxury resort includes swimming pools with swim-up bars, luxury dining and accommodations, and gaming that includes slots and table games. This casino is one of the largest employers in Pinal County with over 800 workers.
The reservation also houses the Him-Dak museum, the first of its kind in America. It houses memorabilia and artifacts that represent the tribe’s history.
Apache Junction is a favorite vacation spot for Arizonans and people from all over the U.S. Nestled in the majestic Superstition Mountains, the town boasts beautiful scenery where you can enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities. You can hike the famed, historic Apache Trail, one of the most scenic routes in the country.
Enjoy wildlife photography, desert ATV tours, motorcycle and horseback tours, water skiing, fishing, rafting or visiting the Goldfield Ghost Town. Apache Junction has a population of around $36,000.
Apache Junction hosts a yearly celebration of Jacob Waltz, the famous Lost Dutchman who claimed to have found a rich goldmine in the Superstition Mountains in the 1870s. As legend has it, after Waltz died, a box full of gold was found under his bed. A friend claimed that Waltz had discovered the mine but never revealed the mine’s location. Prospectors and explorers have been looking for it ever since.
Located in the Santa Cruz Valley midway between Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona City is a young community. It was founded in 1959 and got its first post office in 1962. Arizona City has a population of around 4400.
Arizona City’s claim to fame is the purity of its water. The city is fed by the Santa Cruz river, one of the few rivers that flows North from Mexico. According to city records, this water has consistently been tested and found free of all impurities.
Currently, Arizona City is a small farming community with a small township. Plans are underway, however, to build a Dreamport Village resort and an extreme motorsports venue nearby, which planners say will bring thousands of jobs and a huge boost to the local economy.
Coolidge is home to the Casa Grande ruins, the first site in America to receive protected historical status, which it did in 1892. These ruins left by the Hohokam people who settled this part of the state centuries ago have long intrigued scientists.
In addition to the ruins, Coolidge is home to several buildings on the national historic register, including the Coolidge Women’s Club and the original Coolidge School. Coolidge has a population of roughly 11,000. It is named for President Calvin Coolidge, who authorized the construction of the Coolidge Dam that brought much-needed irrigation to the region.
Eloy got its name from a railway station built by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1878. The station was named East Line of Yuma, and railway engineers typically shortened that to the acronym ELOY. The town’s founders then discovered that the word Eloy meant “chosen one” and a name was born.
Eloy City has a population of roughly 11,000. It is home to four correctional facilities housing a total of 6800 inmates. Eloy has many recreational amenities including 12 parks, a recreation center, swimming pools and golf courses.
Gila River Indian Community
One of the largest reservations in Arizona, the Gila River Indian community is home to over 11,00 members of the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and the Pee-Posh (Maricopa) tribes.
The reservation sits on over 370,000 acres and the tribe operates its own telecomunications company, electric utility, industrial park and healthcare clinic.
The community operates three resort-style casinos that are open 24-7, an extreme driving school, golf courses and resorts. In addition, you can visit the Aji Spa where you’ll enjoy treatments based on the ancient healing arts of the Pima and Maricopa traditions, or the HuHuGam Cultural Center, an educational center designed to teach the history and traditions of these tribes.
A newer, upscale community in Pinal County, Gold Canyon is a flourishing community with a wealth of dining, shopping and recreational activities. The permanent population is about 10,000 but that doubles during the winter months with the arrival of “snow birds” who make their winter home there. Located at the foot of the Superstition Mountains, Gold Canyon offers golf resorts, hiking trails and bike routes.
Kearney was built in 1958 by the Kennecott Mining Company, in order to provide housing for copper mine workers. Many residents from nearby Sonora and Barcelona also moved to Kearney as the copper mine grew and took over the land. It was named for General Stephen Watts Kearny, who led a dragoon of soldiers through the area on their way to California in 1846. Kearney has a population of about 2400.
Marana is a fast-growing city with a current population of around 35,000. Marana is notable as a treasure trove of early state history. Marana has several noteworthy sites that show evidence of human settlement and farming as far back as 4200 years. These include the Marana Mound, a site inhabited by the Hohokam community between 1150 and 1300 A.D, and Linda Vista Hill, a Trincheras settlement that was inhabited between 1200 and 1350 A.D. Marana sits partially in Pinal County and partially in Pima County.
Mammoth is a small town of about 1500 known for its natural, unspoiled beauty. The town took its name from the Old Mammoth Mine, located above the town in the late 1800’s. Miners said the gold deposits were “mammoth,” and the name stuck.
Mammoth is a hidden gem for recreational activities. Set in the Galiuro Mountains, it offers great opportunities for hiking, photography and exploring the old abandoned mines. The nearby lower San Pedro River area is a birder’s delight where you can see southwestern willow flycatchers, Gila woodpeckers and American kestrels.
Maricopa’s motto is “Proud history, prosperous future.” This city on the banks of the Gila River was a prosperous trading post in the 1800s, where its abundant water supply and thriving city made it a key stopping point for travelers. Since then, this city of 48,000 has maintained that heritage of providing rest, recreation and natural beauty to travelers from all over the world.
Maricopa is the only city in the U.S. that is bordered by two Native American nations. Maricopa’s median income is $75,000, one of the highest in Arizona. Maricopa is a thriving, diverse community that manages to stay friendly and welcoming.
The town was named by prospector Alan Wardle, who named his first mine after the ship that brought him to America. The discovery of gold and silver helped the town prosper through the 1800s and beyond.
Oracle became famous for its Acadia Ranch, a sanitorium for people suffering from tuberculosis. The warm, dry desert air was believed to be ideal for people with this disease. The ranch is now a museum dedicated to local history.
Today, Oracle is home to the Biosphere 2 project and Peppersauce Cave, a former mining cave that is open to explore. The town has a population of about 3500.
San Manuel was built in 1953 as a company town to serve the San Manuel copper mine, which closed in 2005. Today it is a premier destination for ATV riding, hiking and biking. San Manuel is also the entry point to the Arizona Trail.
San Manuel, Mammoth and Oracle form a tri-community area that shares economic and civic resources. San Manuel has a population of around 3500. San Manuel is home to San Manuel Museum, a mining museum, and the one-runway San Manuel Airport.
San Tan Valley
This community of 80,000 is largely a bedroom community for workers in Phoenix. The San Tan Mountain Park is a recreational area offering many activities. San Tan Valley includes age-restricted housing for seniors, housing for families and multi-unit housing.
Superior was built as a company town for the Silver Queen and Magma mines. Superior is home to the Boyce Arboretum State Park, a naturalist’s paradise where you can view over 2600 of plants that grow well in arid climates.
Founded in 1935, the arboretum is the oldest and the largest arboretum in Arizona. It has a cactus garden, palm and eucalyptus groves, an Australian exhibit, South American exhibit, aloe garden and an herb garden.
Superior, with a population of roughly 3500, is a small town with a big claim on Hollywood. Movies that were filmed in Superior include Eight-Legged Freaks, U-Turn, How the West Was Won, Blind Prophecy and Skinwalkers.