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Name: Brown Canyon Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: Bike Difficulty: (Medium)
Time: 1 - 3 hours Region: SE Arizona
Length: 5.0 miles (loop) Elevation gain/loss/change: +700 / -700 ft / +0 ft (loop)
Type: Loop Avg Elevation: 5300 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Medium Educational Merit: Medium
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: Medium
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: April, 2009
Short Description: A short mountain bike ride with a fun singletrack downhill.
Geocaches:Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. Brown Canyon Extreme; Brown Canyon Can; Scheelite Mine
References / Contact Information: SDMB; Friends of Brown Canyon; Coronado National Forest
Points of interest: Brown Canyon Ranch. Gorgeous scenery. Awesome singletrack downhill. Trees!
Special Considerations: Watch out for hikers. This is a popular hiking trail.
How to get there: The trailhead is a few miles south of Sierra Vista. From Tucson, take I-10 east to exit 302. Drive south on highway 90. When you reach Fry Blvd in Sierra Vista, keep going straight onto Buffalo Soldier Trail for five miles. Take a right on Highway 92. After 3 miles, turn right on Ramsey Canyon. After about two miles, turn right into a small dirt parking area (marked with a trailhead sign). Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This is another great trail located about an hour and a half southeast of Tucson near Sierra Vista. Although short, it starts with a heart-pounding climb up a Jeep road and ends with a super fun, long down hill section on single track. As a bonus, you can also opt to visit the historical Brown Canyon Ranch. And beautiful scenery to boot. All-in-all a great ride!

General Information and History

For the most part, it’s a fairly easy trail which isn’t too technical or rocky. I only have to walk my bike around a few obstacles (and many of those I can do when I’m feeling brave). The first part of the ride is on blacktop, then on 4WD Jeep trail Keep pedaling, it’s worth it. Once you get to the trough, hang on. It’s almost all downhill from there and just plain fun. I believe the direction (clockwise) outlined in this post is the best way to ride, but you can ride it either way. Your choice. Mix it up.

Brown Canyon Ranch is currently being restored by the Coronado National Forest and the Friends of Brown Canyon volunteers.

Here's some information from the Friends of Brown Canyon website: Although a very short distance from Sierra Vista, visitors get a sense of what the area was like in the early 1900's and can easily forget that civilization is but a short distance away. The most prominent building in Brown Canyon is the well-preserved adobe ranch house at the mouth of the canyon. Often called the Barchas Ranch, after the last owners, this 4-room ranch house dates from the early 20th century and has passed through many Families. Because of the many names given the ranch by former owners, "Brown Canyon Ranch" was selected as more descriptive and less partisan to the past owners.

Brown Canyon Ranch was built a century ago by a local pioneer family and includes their ranch house, storeroom, corrals, water system, and a pond that is the habitat of an endangered frog species. The property in Brown Canyon was first permanently occupied by John Thomas Brown and his family who settled there around 1800. It passed through the hands of other users during the latter part of the 19th century until the house was built by James and Tom Haverty between 1905 and 1907. James and his wife, Lessie, homesteaded the ranch in 1912 and owned the property until 1921, when they sold it to William and Margaret Carmichael. The Carmichaels were major land owners and significant philanthropists in early Sierra Vista. During their ownership, Harvey James, the owner of several mining claims up Brown Canyon, and who lived way up in the canyon in the summer, sometimes rented the house in the winter. He and his wife would often invite friends to the ranch for a social potluck and dance in the living room. Also during the time of the Carmichaels, a Yaqui Indian named Chico Romero lived there with his wife and daughters. In 1946, the Carmichaels sold the ranch to Roy and Stella Rambo, who operated it as a cattle ranch. They in turn sold the property to Samuel and Cecile Barchas in 1957, together with their additional ranch holdings across South Highway 92 (OY Ranch). The Barchas family did not live at Brown Canyon, but in a stone house at OY Ranch. Sarah Barchas obtained Brown Canyon Ranch through gift deeds from her parents in 1960 and 1961 and she owned the site until 1997. Brown Canyon Ranch is also known as the Barchas Ranch and was acquired by the USDA Forest Service in a land exchange in 1998. The Ranch is currently under renovation, but is open to walk around the property.

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The Trail

From the starting point (Waypoint START), take a right on Ramsey Canyon road. Ride on the blacktop for half a mile. Some of the homes and property on the right pushed my envy button. At Waypoint BCRT, take a right on Brown Canyon Rd. This quickly turns into a 4WD Jeep road. There are a few private driveways on the right, so always choose to go left while on this road. You will see private property signs here, the road is public, but for a while the property on either side is private. You’ll also see a sign that reads, Keep Right. Ignore this and go left.

Now you’ll start the long climb up. The Jeep road isn’t too steep, but I have to rest a few times on the way up (I’ll blame it on the elevation :-). Keep going, all this will soon be worth it. Once you reach Waypoint 09, celebrate! You’re at the highpoint of the trail.

Keep riding along the Jeep road until you reach the trough at Waypoint TROUGH. This is a great place to take a break and relax for a minute or two under a canopy of tall trees. For the most part, from here on out, it’s awesome singletrack.

Only a hundred yards or so after leaving the trough, you’ll see an old water tank on your left, and shortly after that, you’ll see a Y in the trail. To the left is a short uphill out and back climb to Pomona Mine and the Fort Huachuca boundary.

If you decide to take this short spur, go to the left, ride for a short distance, then take a right up to the Pomona Mine. Follow the switchback up to the boundary fence, then turn around and come back down.

A right at the Pomona Mine intersection takes you back down the canyon. This part of the trail winds it’s way down the mountain and can be ridden fairly fast if you know the trail. BE CAREFUL HERE. This is a popular hiking trail, watch out for our hiking friends. Portions of the trail can be a little rocky and a full suspension bike is helpful, although I ride a hardtail.

At Waypoint GRAVE, you can take the short (50 foot) trail up to the grave where W.H. Frierson (1855-1928) is buried. I don’t know the story of who this person was or why they’re buried here. If anyone knows, please email me.

Continue down until you reach Waypoint 023. You’ve got a choice here. A right here (up the steep, rocky hill) is a shorter route back to the parking lot with more singletrack. Keep going straight and you can visit Brown Canyon Ranch, but you will have more dirt road instead of singletrack.

I choose to go the Brown Canyon Ranch route. Keep riding straight ahead, through a wash, then at about Waypoint RANCH1, you’ll come to another Y-intersection. Take a right. (If you miss it, after another 100 feet or so, there is another Y-intersection and you can also take a right here). Assuming, you took the correct right, you’ll quickly come to a fence line.

There are private property signs on the fences, but the pass through (not a gate) near the corners allows access to the ranch. You’ll see the caretakers RV and the ranch (Waypoint BRANCH) directly ahead. Follow the trail to the ranch. There’s a pond on your left, you might even see the Fort Huachuca’s surveillance blimp not too far off. There are picnic tables near the pond and the ranch is being restored by the Friends of Brown Canyon. You can go into the ranch, sign in on the visitor’s log and look around. They’ve doing a great job at the restoration.

Take a right on the dirt road in front of the ranch. Follow the road up a slight rise, then when the road curves to the left (between Waypoints RANCH2 and 027), you’ll see a trail through a fence opening framed with heavy timbers. Ride straight, through the opening, and continue on this trail/road toward the parking area. Keep left when you see the trail heading off to the right. If you would have taken the uphill trail at Waypoint 027, you would come out here.

Finish the trail by riding the short distance to the parking area. That was a quick, fun ride, wasn’t it? Time to go around again!

Have fun and be safe!

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