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Name: Cochise Peak (FR345A) Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (3.5 out of 5), the first portion is rated a 2/5 [See comments - may have been graded and is easier now]
Time: 2 to 3 hours Region: SE Arizona
Length: 3 miles (one way) Elevation gain/loss/change: +1400 / -200 ft / + 1200 ft (one way)
Type: Out and back Avg Elevation: 6500 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, summer, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: January, 2011
Short Description: This is a short, but beautiful trail that leads up to an unexpected lookout
Geocaches:Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. ATV1; ATV2; Middlemarch Canyon Trail 377;
References / Contact Information: Cochise Stonghold history;
Points of interest: Old mines, beautiful canyon, great views from "Top of the World" and possible mining camp
Special Considerations: The first portion of this trail is easy, a washed out hill near the end makes this a challenging trail
How to get there: From Tucson, take I-10 east to exit 331. Take US-191 south 21.3 miles to Pearce Rd, take right. Follow Pearce Rd 4.5 miles, turn left on Middlemarch Rd. Follow Middlemarch to Waypoint 004 (approximately 6.5 miles). Click here for directions

Trail Description

This is a great out and back trail that travels through an unnamed canyon and skirts Cochise Peak. It leads to an unexpected pass before heading down into Slavin Gulch (trail to be coming soon). This pass gives you almost 360 degree views of the Dragoon Mountains and is spectacular. It shouldn't be missed.

General Information and History

From Cochisestronghold.com: This rugged natural fortress was, for some 15 years, the home and base of operations for the famed Chiricahua Apache Chief, Cochise.  Cochise and about 1,000 of his followers, of whom some 250 were warriors, located here.  Sentinels, constantly on watch from the towering pinnacles of rock, could spot their enemies in the valley below and sweep down without warning in destructive raids.  No man, woman or child within a hundred miles was safe from these attacks.

Born in present-day Arizona, Cochise led the Chiricahua band of the Apache tribe during a period of violent social upheaval. In 1850, the United States took control over the territory that today comprises Arizona and New Mexico.  Not hostile to the whites at first, he kept peace with the Anglo-Americans until 1861, when he became their implacable foe because of the blunder of a young U.S. Army officer, Lt. George Bascom.   In that year, Cochise and several of his relatives had gone to an encampment of soldiers in order to deny the accusation that they had abducted a child from a ranch. The boy was later proved to have been kidnapped by another band of Apaches. During the parley, Cochise and his followers were ordered held as hostages by Bascom, but Cochise managed to escape almost immediately by cutting a hole in a tent. Bascom later ordered the other Apache hostages hanged, and the embittered Cochise joined forces with Mangas Coloradas, his father-in-law, in a guerrilla struggle against the American army and settlers. The capture and murder of Mangas Coloradas in 1863 left Cochise as the Apache war chief.   The U.S. Army captured him in 1871 and prepared to transfer the Chiricahua to a reservation hundreds of miles away, but he escaped again and renewed the resistance campaign. The following year after negotiating a new treaty with the help of Thomas Jeffords, his only white friend the band was allowed  to stay in their homeland.

The portion of the Butterfield Stage Line runs from Fort Bowie to Tucson crossed just off the northern tip of the Dragoon Mountains.   This line was a favorite target of Cochise's warriors, they killed 22 drivers in a 16 month period.  The Butterfield Stage Line established a station stop on the north end of the Dragoons in 1858.  It was called the "Dragoon Springs" station due to the natural springs located there.  A massacre occurred at this site on September 8, 1858.  On October 5, 1869 a Col. John Finkle Stone, the 33-year-old president of Apache Pass Mine, near Ft. Bowie, headed back to his home in Tucson aboard a mail coach. He had an escort of four soldiers. When they approached the abandoned stagecoach station at the north end of the Dragoon Mountains, a group of Apaches came out of a gully and hit them fast and hard, killing everyone.  (The ruins of the station stand today although the springs were rerouted by mother nature in an earthquake in the late 1800's.)

Cochise is reputed to have been a master strategist and leader who was never conquered in battle.   For ten years Cochise and his warriors harassed the whites by raiding lonely ranches and attacking stagecoaches and miners.  Cochise retired.  He died peacefully on the newly formed Chiricahua  reservation in 1874.  His son, Taza succeeded him as chief.   Upon his death, he was secretly buried somewhere in or near his impregnable fortress.  The exact location has never been revealed or determined. 

The town of Cochise, Cochise County, the renowned geological feature known as Cochise's Head in the Chiricahua Mountains and the Stronghold are all named in tribute to him

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The Trail

December 24, 2015:

The trail may be graded and much easier now. See member comments.

The trail starts at the intersection of Middlemarch Rd (FR345) and FR345A (Waypoint 004). Head north on FR345A. This portion of the trail is very easy as it winds its way through an unnamed canyon.

After almost 1.5 miles (Waypoint 005), you'll come to a windmill and large concrete cattle tank. There's also a 4WD trail that leads off to the right just before this that you may want to explore (we didn't have time to take it). A few yards north of the tank (on the left side of the trail) is an open mine. When we were there, someone had recently uncovered it. A black waterline collected water inside the mine and sent it to the tank. We talked to some other adventurers on the road and they said someone (I'm thinking the Forest Service) keeps burying the mine, then someone else (ranchers?), keeps digging it back out again. Interesting.

At Waypoint 006, the trail begins to become an actual 4WD trail. There are other trails leading off in both directions, stay on the main trail unless you want to do some additional exploring.

At Waypoint 009 (I know this is out of order), you'll see Pear Tank (a depression in the ground) off to the right. It was completely dry the day we visited the area.

Continue of FR345A for another 1/4 mile until you reach Waypoint 007. This is the bottom of a fairly nasty hill. It's not super steep, but it has some deep ruts. The Rubicon handled it without breaking a sweat, but I could see many stock vehicles having a difficult time here. Even if your vehicle can't climb the hill, it's worth hiking up to the top.

Climb the hill (either on foot or by vehicle) to reach Waypoint 008. When you get to the top of the hill, the trail T's. Get out of your truck and take in the view. I call it "Top of the World." I hadn't expected anything like it.

To the left (and to Waypoint 008), the trail dead ends after a few hundred yards, but you will see a much different view from the nice camping spot on your left and the end of the trail.

The trail on the right (which we didn't take), reportedly leads to an old mining camp with some foundations still in place. We learned this from some people coming up the trail after we had already headed back down (though they hadn't actually visited the camp itself). I will be coming back here soon to investigate.

After enjoying the views, we headed back down the way we came, had a picnic lunch at the windmill and continued our trek along Middlemarch Rd.

You’re done! Wasn’t that fun?

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Comments

Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here. You can also rate this adventure by clicking here.

Recently Graded

December 24, 2015

I live down here, just east of the Dragoons. I'v been getting back onto 4 wheeling and recently completed the Cochise Trail, as I believe it is called on the web site, and then a second time a few weeks later. Around here, this is known as Soren Pass. This was a great trail, with a terrific ending near the top with the last hundred yards washed out and leaving a challenging climb to the pass. It looks as if the FS, or the local rancher has graded the road here, in between my first and second trip, and the last climb to the pass is now a simple two wheel drive road :( Over the top of Soren pass leads you to the Slavin mine Anyway, thanks for your web site and all the info!!

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