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Name: Gleeson Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: (based on one vote)
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Maintained Dirt Road)
Time: 1 - 2 hours Region: SE Arizona
Length: 15 miles (one way) Elevation gain/loss/change: +1000 / -660 ft / +340 ft (one way)
Type: Out and back (or through trail) Avg Elevation: 4800 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Medium
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: Medium
Hours of Operation: NA except for jail (see description) Last updated: November, 2011
Short Description: An easy dirt road to a ghost town near Tombstone
Geocaches: of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. Where the Pavement Hits Dirt; Rocky Mountain Hide; Tomb with a View
References / Contact Information: Gleeson Arizona; Ghost Towns; Ghosttowns; 1967 Desert Magazine;
Points of interest: A refurbished old jail and a few other foundations and buildings remain
Special Considerations: Much of Gleeson is on private property, please respect it.
How to get there: Just South of Tombstone, head east on Gleeson Road. Stay on Gleeson Road for about 15.5 miles until you reach Gleeson (Waypoint 001). Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This is a easy trip on a graded dirt road that can usually be accessed by passenger cars (in good weather) to the ghost town of Gleeson. This is a well-graded dirt road (actually pavement for a big portion of the trip) and should be able to be traversed by passenger cars in favorable weather. Gleeson is a "living" ghost town in that there's still some residents to live there. Unfortunately, many of the interesting buildings are on private property so access is limited.

General Information and History

The area known as Gleeson was initially settled as a mining camp called Turquois (without the 'e'). It was named after the mineral which had been mined by Native Americans in the area. In the late 1800’s after most of the hostile Apaches had either been killed or forced elsewhere, prospectors and miners moved in and took up the turquoise mines. Tiffany & Company of New York even operated a turquoise mine here for a few years. The Turquoise post office was established on October 22, 1890, and lasted only a few years until September 17, 1894.

In 1900, an Irishman and local miner John Gleeson registered a copper claim and opened the Copper Belle Mine. On October 15, 1900, the town of Gleeson was officially born when the Postal Service opened a post office in the town. A number of other mines opened in the area. These were the Silver Bill, Pejon and Defiance claims. During this time, the town supported about 500 people, mainly in the copper mining business. In 1912 a fire consumed 28 buildings and the town was rebuilt. Copper production boomed to supply demand World War I and the town swelled to over 1000 people.

During the prosperous times, the town had a school, hospital, theater, and a dozen restaurants and bars. Gleeson also had a large Mexican population. This was because they were allowed to work underground (for which the wages were higher), unlike Bisbee, where Mexicans could only work the lower paying jobs on the surface.

In the 1930s, the price of copper fell and the mines played out. The Gleeson post office closed on March 31, 1939.

Gleeson's Jail has been rebuilt and is open to the public on the first Saturday of every month. Click here for more information.

A western movie was made in 1938 called "The Mysterious Rider" (AKA "Mark of the Avenger") that shows Gleeson at the time. You can find the entire movie here. I haven't watched the entire movie, but it did look like you could see the jail at about 48 minutes from the beginning.

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The Trail

The "trail" begins just south of Tombstone at Waypoint 001. Drive east from Highway 80 on Gleeson Road. This is a paved road as it leads through a new neighborhood. Just make sure you stay on Gleeson Road as you travel through this neighborhood.

After a few miles, the pavement ends and turns into a wide dirt, well-graded road. Keep on the main road as you pass some small ranches and other roads leading of in either direction.

At Waypoint 002, you can turn right and head down to Rattlesnake Crafts. I didn't care for the rattlesnake crafts they made, but the rows and rows of "junk" they had strung up around the area is worth the few mile side trip.

After about 15 miles, you'll begin coming into Gleeson. There's a cemetery off to the left (north side of the street) at about Waypoint 003. Not a lot there, but it may be worth a stop. After the cemetery, you'll come to an abandoned building on the right. We stopped in for a short look. No private property signs, but there was a large bees nest over the front door, so I didn't do much exploring.

At Waypoint 004, there's the old jail to the south and the old general store to the north. You can park by the general store. As I said earlier, the old jail is privately owned and has been refurbished. It's open on the first Saturday's of the month (click for schedule here), but wasn't open when we went through. Also, just south of the old jail is the remains of the hospital, but this also appears to be on private property.

I would have liked to have taken N. High Lonesome Rd to the south down to Bisbee, but was informed that this portion of the road is also owned by the people who bought the old jail. I do not understand how someone can own a public road (maybe it wasn't public) and am going to investigate this further.

During our visit, a film company was shooting a western documentary at the site. I attempted to ask them a few questions, but they weren't all that friendly, so we stayed on the north side of the street. Maybe it was a Freudian slip, but when we got back to the Jeep, I didn't want to "beep" my door open with the remote since they were shooting, so I opened the door manually. Unfortunately, this set off the alarm and I couldn't shut it off for almost 30 seconds. Unfortunately, they had to reshoot the scene. They were even more unhappy. Me, on the other hand, laughed so hard I almost drove off the road as we were leaving the area. None of this was intended, at least consciously.

You can explore around the old general store and the foundation to the north, but most everything else in the area is on private property. When we were there, a good portion of this area was for sale. If you want to have a small property (with some old buildings on it), you just may want to go shopping in Gleeson!

You can take the road out of Gleeson to the north (N. High Lonesome Rd), but all the cool stuff is on private property and the road ends at private property after a little over a mile. I wouldn't waste my time.

You can turn around and go back the way you came, or you can head out to the east (the road turns to pavement shortly after Gleeson) and head out that direction if you want. If you don't like dirt roads, you can always come in this way. To the east is the old ghost town of Courtland, but I haven't visited that area yet.

Have fun and be safe.

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Member Comments

Love Gleeson

July 2012: I love Gleeson been there twice. We hiked up the mountain to the mined where you can actually walk into a few that are wide open. Never saw any signs marking private property from where we parked or in any of the areas we walked. We saw one sign on our way back but it was unclear as to what direction it was saying you couldn't pass. One mine goes in at least a mile and is very sturdy. Have some great pictures of this area.

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