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Name: Council Rocks Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: (based on one user vote)
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (1 out of 5)
Time: 1 to 3 hours Region: SE Arizona
Length: 9 miles (one way) Elevation gain/loss/change: +1043 /-528 ft / + 515 ft (one way)
Type: Through trail Avg Elevation: 4900 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Medium
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: January, 2011
Short Description: This is a semi-maintained dirt road to some of the most beautiful scenery in southern Arizona
Geocaches:Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. Council Rocks Cache; Slavin Gulch Trail
References / Contact Information: Cochise Stronghold
Points of interest: Dragoon Mountains, Council Rocks, the rugged beauty of the area
Special Considerations: A navigation NIGHTMARE (if accessing through the northern side). GPS almost no help. See how to get there and trail notes
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 10 miles until you reach FR687 (take left). Drive north on FR687 for about 6.5 miles until you reach FR687K, take right and drive about 0.25 miles until you reach the parking area for Council Rocks. Click here for directions from Tucson.

Trail Description

January 2013 Update: During our last visit, we found the gate at Waypoint 014G locked. You will have to retrace your steps back to Middlemarch Road and Tombstone. I contacted the Forest Service regarding this and it appears that the ranchers in the area have the right to lock the gate as desired (though the people I spoke to at the Forest Service were not familiar with the exact location I spoke of).

The trail skirts the western side of the Dragoon Mountains. This is one of the most ruggedly beautiful places in southern Arizona. The rock formations are spectacular. The open ranch land seems endless. The history significant. The only thing lacking on this trail is driving over big rocks. The trail's too easy for many four-wheelers out there (you don't need 4WD), but still shouldn't be missed.

General Information and History

Legend has it that Council Rocks was so named when Apache Chief Cochise meet with General Howard in 1872 to make peace (though some believe this was near Dragoon Springs). The Dragoon Mountains were Cochise's part of his stronghold and where he and his people could elude pursuing military troops.

The Council Rock formation also has petroglyphs dating back to prehistoric Mogollon people that were here about 1000 years ago (at least that's the thought). You will also find numerous grinding stones where these people ground up seeds and nuts with a pestle.

Use your imagination and you can almost see the historic people still working around the area.

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The Trail

You can access the trail from either from the north or south sides. Access from the south side seems to be fairly straight forward, the north side is a navigational nightmare.

Starting from the southern end of the trail: head north on FR687 from the intersection of Middlemarch Rd and FR687. There are numerous two-track and 4WD trails that head off to either side. Stay on the main road (or explore these to your hearts content if you want). Some of these trails will take you right up next to some really cool rock formations and cliffs.

Keep left at Waypoints 014A and 014B to stay on the FR687. At Waypoint 014C, keep right. This portion of the road isn't on my Topo! map, but it's the continuation of FR687. If you want to hike to Council Rocks (which I would HIGHLY recommend), take a right onto FR687K at Waypoint 014D. Drive 1/4 miles to the parking area on the left at Waypoint 014E.

Walk through the gate and follow either of the two trails to Council Rocks (Waypoint "Council") about another 1/4 mile to the southeast. Here you'll find some petroglyphs, grinding stones and precariously balanced rocks (see Council Rocks hike for more information). An interesting side note: my TOPO! map shows "Council Rocks" almost a 1/2 mile northeast from where the National Forest Service says they are. I don't know if they consider both formations Council Rocks, or there is a mistake on someone's part. One of these days, I'm going back to visit the rock formation that my topo map says are Council Rocks to see what's there.

When you're finished, head back to the parking area and drive back to Waypoint 014D. From here, head north for about 1/2 a mile and turn left at Waypoint 014F to see the Whitehouse Ruins. The ruins (Waypoint "whitehouse") are only 1/4 miles away. Park in the small parking area, but you can't actually go and touch the ruins. They are private property and fenced off. Still, they are worth the short trip to see.

Go back to the main road and take a right. Here's where it gets confusing and my GPS unit failed me. The following are directions for the route I took out:

January 2013 Update: During our last visit, we found the gate at Waypoint 014G locked. You will have to retrace your steps back to Middlemarch Road and Tombstone. I contacted the Forest Service regarding this and it appears that the ranchers in the area have the right to lock the gate as desired (though the people I spoke to at the Forest Service were not familiar with the exact location I spoke of). The remaining directions are only used if the gate is open.

At Waypoint 014G, keep left and go through what looks like a private property gate (it was open the time we went through). It looks like all the private property is just to the right of the road This was confirmed when my GPS told me to take a right here, which I initially did. A right here will take you down beautiful West Canyon, but not out.

My GPS unit (nor Topo!) doesn't recognize the road you're now on. It wants to take you down E. Stronghold Canyon Rd, but it's not where it says it is. My GPS also was telling me to turn on roads that did not actually exist. Very frustrating. After a few wrong turns, we finally used the tried and true method of staying on the most traveled road as long as it headed north or west.

We took a right at Waypoint 014H (about 3/4 from Waypoint 014G) and again at Waypoint 014I (another 3.5 miles), always keeping to the main road. There will be lots of minor roads that lead off in both directions, stay on the major road. I am purposely not stating the road names. They can be misleading, especially if you are still using your GPS.

After another 4.5 miles, you'll come to Sybil Road. Finally, a road my GPS recognized! Head north through an automatic gate (cool) and I-10 is just a few miles away.

You’re out! Wasn’t that fun?

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