|Name: Soldier Basin (FR4698)||Author's Rating:|
|Author: Matt Marine||Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet|
|Type: 4WD||Difficulty: (Demanding 4WD trail)|
|Time: 2 - 4 hours (one way, does not including trip back or time to get to trail head)||Region: SE Arizona|
|Length: 7.6 miles (out and back)||Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +1548 / -1548 ft / +0 ft (roundtrip)|
|Type: Out and back||Avg Elevation: 5400 ft|
|Best time to go: summer, fall, spring, winter,||Fees: NA|
|Fitness rating: Low||Educational Merit: Low|
|Danger/fear rating: Medium||Scenic Beauty: High|
|Hours of Operation: NA||Last updated: September, 2013|
|Short Description: A beautiful trail south of Patagonia that leads to an old stone ranch house and stone cabin|
|Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area. American Peak; 4x4 Cache; Mowry Attraction|
|References / Contact Information: Offroad Passport Trip Report;|
|Points of interest: Ruins of stone ranch house; ruins of stone cabin; beautiful vistas and scenery, moderately scary shelf road if you don't like heights (has great views); old dam, mines|
|Special Considerations: Lots of old mines in this area, stay away from open mine shafts and be careful of mine tailings. Area / trail is not well traveled is desolate. Travel in groups.Trail is located in illegal immigrant and smuggler high traffic area, see page regarding warning (it's not as bad as it sounds).|
|How to get there: Take I-10 to the Sonoita Hwy ext (281), go south to Sonoita, then take a right onto Highway 82 towards Patagonia. Drive the 12 miles to Patagonia, then take a left on Taylor Ave, then another left on Harshaw Road. Drive about 11 miles on Harshaw Road to Waypoint 001. Click here for directions.|
May 2014 Update: A subscriber went on this trail and found a private property sign and "gate" just before the stone cabin at Waypoint 007. I talked with the Sierra Vista division of the Coronado Nation Forest Service. They stated that the area is Forest Service land and NOT private property. A rancher does have a permit to ranch the area and use the cabin, but they are currently not ranching the area and did not believe they would post the sign. They sometimes have problems with "squatters" trying to move into cabins and putting up private property signs to keep others out. They will investigate. He also stated they've had some significant vandalism on the cabin lately and had to replace the door. Makes me sick. Please respect these places (and all of our trails) or they may be open for us to enjoy. Bottom line: Property is FS land and NOT private property.
Soldier Basin is a beautiful valley in the Patagonia Mountains just north of the Mexico border. 95% of the trail is super easy and smooth. The first sections leads you up to a pass through a saddle. You will pass by a few mines and large tailing piles. There's also a small concrete dam that had a little bit of water flowing when we went.
After the saddle, you'll drop down into Soldier Basin. If you don't like heights, this can be a scary ride. For the most part, the trail is in good shape here, though there is one section with a couple of small 12"-18" ledges that need to be negotiated.
The short spur road (FR4897) is the most difficult portion of the trip. Two hills have significant washouts and ruts. We talked to some people in a stock Suzuki Samurai coming out. Although they successfully traversed this section, they said they had to try it a few times and had "significant" tire spin. People with experience and 31" tires or better should have no issues.
The stone ranch house at the end of FR4897 is awesome. It's roof has caved in over time, but the walls are thick and solid. This is a wonderful place for a picnic lunch.
Taking FR4698 to the end will bring you to a small stone cabin. This cabin (presumably built in 1937) is still in decent shape and has some "furnishings" inside. This section of the road is super easy.
There are two stone ruins in Soldier Basin that I know of. One is a large ranch style home, the other most likely a line cabin. The line cabin has a date of 1937, which seems about right.
There are also lots of mines and mining ruins in the general area. Both ranching and mining were very big in this area in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
I do not know the specific history of the two cabins.
April 2014 Update: A reader stated the road was closed just before the stone cabin at Waypoint 007 as private property and the road had been recently bladed. The current Forest Service MVUM still shows this as open and I will contact the Forest Service to see if they have any info on it. The road to the stone house at Waypoint 006 was still open. See comment (in comment section) below.
From the trail head at Waypoint 001, turn west onto FR4698. This first part of the trail is really 2WD high-clearance. The trail follows a small, rocky wash on your right. This was running when we went.
After a 1/2 mile, you will come to a good-sized tailings pile on your left (Waypoint 002). The faint trail to the left does not lead anywhere. Not far from the tailings pile, you will come to a small concrete dam on your right.
This was really interesting when we went. The upstream side was filled with dark and soppy mud from recent rains. I grabbed a long stick and poked the mud. I expected some decent resistance, but I was able to push it all the way down without much effort. When I pulled the stick out, you could hear the sound of the mud and water filling in the hole. For whatever reason, I thought this was super cool.
From Waypoint 002, continue to climb up to the saddle at Waypoint 003 (another 1/2 mile). After you cross through the cattle guard, you'll begin the long drop down into Soldier Basin. This section of the trail was a little bit butt-clenching for me. I don't like heights and although the trail is fairly wide and mostly easy, the drop off is significant. I get a little freaked out going down these types of trails.
Only one spot in this section is challenging at all. There are a couple of ledges or steps that need to be negotiated. They are located closer to the high side of the road (which I always hug), so I just rolled over them. Those with a narrow vehicle and stronger stomach can probably hug the cliff side and bypass them altogether (I think the Samurai we saw could do this).
After a half mile, you're through most of the scary stuff and you'll come to the switchbacks. These are easy and not a problem, and they get you quickly to the valley floor.
Two miles from the start of the trail, you'll come to Waypoint 004 in Soldier Basin. There is a faint trail to your left (FR4681 Cutoff). This is a much more difficult trail that takes you to the Guajolote Flats trail (coming soon). When the MVUM gets published this cutoff trail will be closed. You can read a trip report about this trail (there was some winching involved) by going to the Offroad Passport Forum.
Continue on the main trail to get to the old stone homes. After about 1/3 a mile from Waypoint 004, you will come to FR4897 on your right that leads to the stone ranch house. Take a right onto FR4897. This section is the most challenging of the trip. There are two hills that have some good sized washouts and ruts.
Good ground clearance, bigger tires and articulation will help you. As stated above, an older stock Suzuki Samurai made it (with some tire spinning and a few tries). I think any stock Jeep shouldn't have a problem if the driver knows where to place their tires.
One of the Jeeps on our trip did have an issue here. He has an aftermarket lift that doesn't fit just right and has a tendency to loose his driver's side front spring in places where his tire drops down into a big hole. He lost his spring twice there during our visit. The first time, he was able to back up into the rut and easily reset the spring. The second time, his spring broke off his bump stop and it caught in his steering linkage. He couldn't turn. We had to use a highlight jack and mallet to pick up his front end and dislodge his bump stop. Fortunately, we were able to get it back on and we reattached his anti-sway bar to he wouldn't be able to articulate as much. He was good for the rest of the trip.
The stone ranch house is almost a 1/2 mile up FR4897 (Waypoint 006). The trail ends at the house and a couple of cattle tanks. Take some time to explore this wonderful old home. Look at the craftsmanship that went into the walls and fireplace. I really liked how the doors all lined up. Please be respectful and don't trash the place. Better yet, pick up someone else's inconsiderate trash and haul it away. Under the shade trees here is a nice place for a snack or picnic.
When you're done, head out to the main road (Waypoint 005) and take a right to head west to the second stone cabin on FR4681. This section of the trail is much easier than what you've just been on. You will come to the end of the road (Waypoint 007) after a little more than a mile. There's a stone cabin, small concrete water silo, deep stone well and rock corrals on your left.
The cabin appears to have been built in 1937. It's very stout and still has some "furnishings" on the inside. When you're done exploring the area, head back to Harshaw Road the same way you came in.
Stone Cabin Closed
April 2014: First I want to say that we love your website. We often pick an adventure off of your site when we want to do something different. So far, your directions and ratings have been dead on. This past weekend (4/26/14) we decided to tackle the Solider Basin adventure. True to your description, there was some butt clinching going on, but the views were incredible. The reason I am writing is to let you and your readers know that when we got to the cabin site we found the road blocked with the attached sign. There was also a sign attached to the cabin that stated the Double Bar R ranch had closed off the cabin. On another note, the road was freshly graded most of the way. We talked to another couple that stated they have never seen the road in such good condition (I believe his statement was that the road was in “Cadillac condition”).
As you can tell, I’m not very long winded, so thanks for your work on the website.
Walked to Soldier Basin
September 29, 2013: Matt, it's been years since I've 4x4 d into soldier basin, I've always enjoyed the trip. Usually going via Guajalote Flats. I've been into the basin, over the top to 3R canyon and to Providencia Canyon, all on horseback over the years.
My favorite way into Soldier Basin is on foot from Palamoa Canyon behind Nogales Airport. I try to do it about once a year to the rock line shack. By foot, where I park my Jeep, it takes about an hour of relatively easy hiking to get there . Fall is my favorite time of year, just before the hunting season as during hunting season, the cabin is often occupied by hunters.
Harshaw road has other interesting destinations including Flux Canyon, Duquesne, and a multitude of side roads.