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Name: Rock House Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: (based on one vote)
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Moderate 4WD) - Bypass created past difficult section, may be easier
Time: 4 - 6 hours Region: SE Arizona
Length: 21 miles (one way) Elevation gain/loss/change: +833 / -1757 ft / -924 ft (one way)
Type: Through trail Avg Elevation: 3600 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: February, 2013
Short Description: A nice 4WD road to an old line cabin called Rock House and some very beautiful area with lots of boulders
Offroad Passport Forum: Click here to join the discussion on Offroad Passport regarding my first trip in October. Click here for the discussion about my trip in February.
Geocaches:Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. Line Shack; Crossroads to the Line Shack; On the way to the Line Shack
References / Contact Information: None at this time
Points of interest: Rock House, Sunnyside Ranch (which I have not been to yet), an easy and fun wash, great big boulders
Special Considerations: May require a State Trust Land permit (see update on permit page).Can be brushy. Watch for mountain bikers (a portion of this trail is along the 24 Hour Trail).
How to get there: Take Oracle Road north out of Tucson. Oracle Road turns into State Highway 77. Follow Highway 77 past Oracle Junction Willow Spring Road. Take a left and drive approximately 8 miles down this graded dirt road until you get to Waypoint 001. Take a left onto 4WD trail. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

The Rock House trail is just north of Catalina (which is just north of Tucson). It's a great short trail to an interesting old line shack. The route described is a moderate 4WD trail that can be difficult for stock vehicles with long wheel base or small tires. You can also visit the Rock House the "back way" which is much, much easier and should be easy for almost all 4WD vehicles (see trail description)

After you get done exploring the Rock House, take the trip up to the old Leaning Windmill that's at the end of the road. The drive up is incredible. You will pass through large boulder fields (but not over them) and will also be blessed with some awesome views.

The wash portions of the trail are fun and sandy. Although I just found out about this trail in 2012, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to take people.

Google Maps and Google Earth

GPS tracks for this adventure were recorded with My Tracks software on my Android cell phone. This is an awesome piece of free software that allows you to record GPS tracks, waypoints and historical data. It will tell you things like elevation gain, time history, average speed, etc. It will also let you take a tour (similar to playing a time accurate movie) of your track on Google Earth. You can send your tracks to friends or upload them to Google.

Google Maps
Click here to view this adventure's track on Google Maps.

Google Earth
You can also download a Google Earth movie (called a tour) of this adventure (must have Google Earth on your computer). Right click here to download the .kml file, then select "save target (or link) as..." For help on how to play the movie on Google Earth (not very intuitive), click here.

General Information and History

The only thing I was able to learn about this place is that it may have been an old line shack for a nearby ranch. If so, it is probably the best line shack I've ever seen. Someone put a lot of effort into this to make it nice. There's a BBQ out front, nice porch, fireplace and quartz chimney. What a wonderful piece of Arizona history.

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The Trail

2013 Update: See private property concern below.

The trail begins off of Willow Springs Road (a graded dirt road) at WPT001. Take this 4WD trail to the west. You can also start this trail right after the Willow Springs Ranch arch by taking the 24 Hour Bike road (The track in yellow) in along the gasline road (green trail on map). My preference is to take the way in from WPT001. It's a little more scenic and you're less likely to come into contact with mountain bikers.

The first part of the trail takes you to some of the rolling foothills of the mountains to the west. It's easy going and fairly smooth. There are numerous trails leading off in both directions. For the most part, stay on the main trail, which is usually straight ahead. Keep going past Waypoints 002 and 003.

If you want to take a look at Jones Tank (Waypoint 0050, take a right at Waypoint 004 down the overgrown trail. It's a very short trip to this dirt tank. Not much to see, but it's worth the short trip.

You can head out from Jones Tank via a second short trail, then take a right back on the main road. Keep driving west along the road. You may be able to see the radio tower in the distance a few times, but the closer you get, the harder it is to see it.

There are a bunch of trails here leading off toward the south that link up to the main gasline road. A few also go north. Usually you just stick to going as close to straight as you can, but if you get off the main road, you'll usually end up on the gasline road or at a dead end. No problem either way.

At Waypoint 006, track right to stay on the main road. You will see a downed windmill (no motor) here. You will reach the gasline road at Waypoint 008. Take a right. This is a very straight road, but is a bit more difficult than what you've driven already. Some of the hills can be a little steep.

Keep going straight, past the road on your left to McCarty Tank at Waypoint 009 even though this way looks less traveled. After another 1.4 miles, you will come to a fairly wide, sandy wash at Waypoint 010.

There are two trails that head off to the right, which are only about 30 feet apart. The first trail you will see goes up Tipparary Wash, past Tipparary Tank and finally dead ends at some large boulders in the wash. It's a fun and short side trip if you want to take it, but nothing too interesting (see blue trail on map).

Take the second right to go to the Rock House. After about 1/4 of a mile, the trail comes up out of the wash and climbs the hill on your left. If you are going a lot further than this, you're probably on the wrong trail (which is what we did last time).

After you reach the top of the hill and begin going down the other side, you will come to the most difficult part of the trail (less than 1/2 a mile from Waypoint 010). There's a nice big washout at Waypoint 011 that can be a little bit scary for novices (and people like me). When we did this trail in the summer, the washout was much larger. Someone filled in the worst of it and going through this winter was a lot easier.

UPDATE: This obstacle has a bypass now and and can make the entire trail easier. Rated a 2 if you take the bypass.

You will come to a neat old corral and round tank at Waypoint 012. Go through the gate and come up out of the wash. There's a trail that heads off left and does not follow along side of the wash here too. You don't want that one. The trail follows along side the wash, but not in the wash. The first time we went there, we followed the wash. I'll just say, it's not a good idea :-)

You will know if you're on the right trail when you quickly come up on a few good washouts. These are pretty much straight across the road, but can be pretty deep. I was glad my long wheelbase Jeep had a lift and 33 inch tires. I was surprised I didn't bang anything, but I am able to make it cleanly through.

A short distance later, you will come up on the Rock House on your left at Waypoint 013. Please be considerate. Don't trash the place. If you have some time, pick up other people's garbage. Okay, off my soap box for now.

This is an awesome cabin. The best info I have on it is that it was an old ranching line cabin. I love the quartz chimney. Someone took a lot of time and effort to build this place. There's also a tank and some other foundations on your right between the cabin and wash.

We found a dead desert tortoise here last summer. Sad.

If you made it this far, you've made it past the most difficult sections of the trail. After the Rock House, Keep going straight until you come to a large wash at Waypoint 014. A left here is your return route. Keep going straight to go to the end of the trail.

The next mile of the trail is a fun, easy wash to drive through. At Waypoint 015, keep straight past the road on the right. At Waypoint 016, keep straight. The road on the left goes out to a corral along Bogard Wash (see blue trail on map). This trail is easy and well worn until you get to the corral at Waypoint 016a. It takes you through some nice saguaro forests. After that, the trail becomes less traveled and abruptly ends at a nice lookout to the west at Waypoint 016b. The lookout is nice, but nothing too special here.

The next part of the trail was my favorite. You go through some very scenic desert with "Lots o' Boulders" on either side. The trail itself is easy and smooth and navigates through the boulder fields nicely. The last portion of the trail climbs a nice hill and then drops you down to a tank and windmill. The windmill leans a good amount. Someone tried to use barbed wire to hold it up, but the cables are now slack.

I would suggest you park at the tank and walk to the windmill. The 100 yards to the end of the road at the windmill is very brushy. There's much more room for parking at the tank also.

We tried to climb to the top of the boulder mountain on the north, but there was way too many prickly pear cactus and the boulders were too large. We made it about half way up and there are some nice rock formations. If you want to give it a try, we had the most luck starting from the road at the top of the pass. Much less cactus on that side. Be careful, it looked like a great place for mountain lion lairs.

When you're done having fun there, return to Waypoint 014. Take a right down the wash. Once again, you'll have a great time driving in this sandy, curvy wash. Stay in the main wash until you reach the gasline road at Waypoint 020. The trail at Waypoint 018 leads to Waypoint 012 before the Rock House. I am not sure where taking a right at Waypoint 019 will take you.

2013 Update: I have heard that the access through Goff Ranch Road goes through private property near Highway 79 (the ranch house). I do not if this is correct or not. I have been through there several times and have never seen a private property sign. They have recently installed a new cattle guard. Again, no private property signs. Use your best judgment.

To get back to pavement, go almost directly across the gasline road at Waypoint 020 onto Goff Ranch Road. Although this road is on my GPS, it is much less traveled than what you've just been on. Again, there will be roads leading off in all directions. For the most part, stay going straight ahead and on the main road. At some points, the road almost looks like it will end, but it doesn't (if you're on the right road :-). There are some nice saguaros along this route too.

After almost five miles, you will come to a ranch house on your left. Drive by on the road to the right of it and you will come to a new cattle guard, then highway 79 and pavement at Waypoint 023!

TIP: Here's a nice tip for those of you who don't have a lifted 4WD. Most 4WD trucks and SUVs should be able to easily make it to the rock house by coming in the reverse direction: up Goff Ranch Road, down the easy wash, then down to the Rock House from the north. This way you can bypass the more difficult sections to the south of the Rock House. Then just go back the way you came in.

Wasn't that a fun trip?

Have fun and be safe.

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Member Comments

Easier Now

February, 2016: I did the Rock House run with the Tucson Rough Riders a couple months ago and feel it's probably a little closer to a 2 now. Pretty easy.

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