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Name: China Camp (Gordon's Camp) Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: (based on one vote)
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Easy 4WD)
Time: 2 - 4 hours (this trail only) Region: Central Arizona
Length: 2.5 miles (one way) Elevation gain/loss/change: +1200 / -300 ft / +900 ft (one way)
Type: Out and back Avg Elevation: 5800 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: August, 2014
Short Description: A fairly easy 4WD trail with some awesome scenery and a great place to camp to boot
Geocaches:Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. China Camp Cache; Dragoon Dilemma ... solved; C6
References / Contact Information: The Mines, Camps, Ranches, and Characters of the Dragoon Mountains, by Lynn R. Bailey
Points of interest: "The Gate", China Camp, Council Rocks, Cochise Stronghold,
Special Considerations: Trail is remote, not well traveled. Lots of old mines in this area, stay away from open mine shafts and be careful of mine tailings.
How to get there: The easiest way to drive this is coming in from the south from Tombstone. Take I-10 east (from Tucson) to exit 303 (Benson/Douglas). Drive approximately 25 miles to N. Middlemarch Rd (just north of Tombstone). Take a left on Middlemarch Rd (dirt road). Drive about 12 miles until you reach FR697 (Waypoint 001), then take a left. Click here for directions

Trail Description

This area is a wonderful place to explore when visiting Council Rocks. Although I rated this an easy 4WD trail, it does require 4WD and some stock vehicles may get banged around. The climb up to China Camp is outstanding, just beautiful. And China Camp itself is like a hidden oasis in a rock strewn desert. There are a ton of trails to explore in the area, so you can easily make a weekend out of it.

General Information and History

I read a ghost town forum about a book called, “The Mines, Camps, Ranches, and Characters of the Dragoon Mountains” by Lynn R. Bailey. This is the information I was able to get from the forum:

About 1901 or ’02 Joseph Trappman, a Tombstone prospector, staked six claims there. These claims and others were purchased by Yee Shang, a Tombstone shopkeeper, and incorporated into the Dragoon Mountain Mining Company. The outfit was financed by San Francisco Chinese merchants to the tune of $300,000. The company, supervised by W. W. Dunbar, ran for a few years. It used only “American labor.”

August 2011 note: I bought this book in a local bookstore in Bisbee (I could not find it on Amazon). I can't wait to read it and I will review it on my Books page shortly.

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The Trail

The start of the trail is off Middlemarch Road (FR345) at Waypoint 001 (Gordon Tank). Head north on Forest Road 697. There are a few minor spurs, stay on the main trail.

After about 1/2 a mile, keep straight at Waypoint 002, heading for the mountains in front of you. The next mile or so is awesome as you climb up a shelf road and get to look down on the rock formations that make the area around Council Rocks so famous.

As you near Waypoint 003, you'll turn slightly to the right as you head into what's called "The Gate." The trail follows a narrow slice in rock formations on either side. At first glance, the trail may look too narrow for your vehicle, but you should be able to make it no problem.

After going through the gate, the trail heads down into a small, but beautiful valley. Once down in the valley, you'll notice some concrete slabs off to your left (Waypoint 004). I believe this is an area where a mining camp used to be (see above history). Today, this is a great place to camp, with interesting areas close by to explore.

August 2014 Update: From this spot, there are many trails to choose form. FR2002 heads northeast and dead ends about a mile from the main road at Waypoint 007. Not a lot on this spur road. Not sure if the road continues on after Waypoint 007, but it looked like it could dead end without any place to turn around. We turned around at Waypoint 007. Retrace your way back to the main road.

FR697 continues north. We traveled along FR697 for another 1/2 a mile until we reached Waypoint 005 (which is known as Gordon's Camp). You have two choices here.

A right turn onto FR4390 (also known as the "Switchbacks of Death" trail ) heads up a tightly switch backed road to a mine at Waypoint 008 (~3/4 miles). The road is in okay shape, but is extremely dangerous if you drive all the way to Waypoint 008. Parking at the last switchback at Waypoint 007 (~ 1/2 miles from Waypoint 005) is highly recommended. There is no place to turn around at the end of the road and backing down or turning around is dangerous. The road is narrow and the terrain very steep. We did not pay attention to this and I think I lost a few years of my life turning around at the mine. It was something like a 17 point turn, with my tires partially off the road and the dirt and mud crumbling away. One of the scariest things I've ever done four-wheeling. There appears to be a wrecked Suburban at the bottom of the hill there. I guess he did not make the turn. The mine was pretty cool though. Click here to see some pictures from the trip. Click here to see video from the trip.

Update! Click here to read the story behind the wrecked Suburban from the guy who drove it (and rolled it). It's amazing he survived.

Bearing left at Waypoint 005 continues on FR697. You can make the short and fairly easy drive to the mine at Waypoint 009 about 1/2 a mile from Waypoint 005. There is also a cool mine here and ample space to turn around. We met a couple of ATV/Rhino riders here and they said they saw us on the switchbacks across the canyon and couldn't believe we had done that. I told them I'd wished we hadn't. They also told us that the trip up to the top of the hill above (to China Peak) was more difficult and had tighter switchbacks. One of the Rhino drivers almost flipped his Rhino trying to make the turn. They did not recommend continuing up the trail in my 4dr Jeep. After they scare we had on FR4390, we headed their words of caution and turned around. Here is some feedback I received on the trail from a subscriber (thanks, T.J.!). "I recently went on the China Camp trail and kept going on the main trail past the camp and found maybe one the most difficult trails I’ve come across. The locals call it China Peak and it is a nasty trail that is not for weak-hearted. Lots of switchbacks before you get to very steep double break hill with lots of loose rock."

An older couple we talked to while we were up there (they were checking on a small patch of wild lilies they had been visiting for more than 20 years) said that they thought the mine in this area had small cable ways to bring the ore down. They thought the cable ways may still be visible, but we did not see anything but cables on the ground.

We camped around Waypoint 004, then made our way back out to Middlemarch Rd the next morning.

Have fun and be safe.

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