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A few of the most popular hiking trails

Before you start, check out these safety tips from the Cochise County Sheriff's Office.

Benson Area | Sierra Vista Area | San Pedro River | Willcox Area

Benson Area
Cochise Stronghold, Dragoon Mountains (520) 364-3468
Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District
Stronghold Nature Trail (easy)
This barrier free history trail is .4 miles long and offers a self-guided interpretative tour of the plants that the Chiricahua Apaches who camped here used in their daily lives. It would offer a good beginning trail for a family with children. The Stronghold also contains longer and more difficult hiking and equestrian trails. Before using these challenging trails, consult the Douglas Ranger District for current trail conditions which can vary with season, weather and maintenance status (520) 364-3468. Day use fee, $3, Camping, $10.

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Sierra Vista Area

Coronado National Memorial
National Park Service (520) 366-5515 Free
Dogs are not allowed on National Park or National Monument trails. Joe's Canyon Trail (moderate)
This trail (3.1 miles one way) extends from near the Visitor Center to Coronado Peak Trail (200 yards from the Montezuma Pass parking lot). Climbing 1000 ft. in the first mile, the trail offers spectacular views of Montezuma Canyon and the San Pedro River Valley. It also offers views of the grasslands of Sonora, Mexico.

Coronado Peak Trail (easy)
This relatively easy trail of less than half a mile one way leads upward from the Montezuma Pass parking area to Coronado Peak (6864 ft.) Benches and interpretive signs offer less adept hikers places to pause along the way. From Coronado Peak the views are of the San Pedro and San Rafael Valleys and over vast high-desert grasslands.

The Crest Trail (strenuous)
This trail, beginning near the Montezuma Pass parking area (6576 ft.), goes 5.3 miles one way to Miller Peak. At an elevation of 9466 ft., Miller Peak is the highest peak in the Huachuca Mountains. The Crest Trail then continues north through Miller Peak Wilderness Area for a total of 24 miles.

Coronado Cave Trail (moderate)
The steep and rocky trail from the Visitor Center to the entrance of Coronado Cave requires careful footing, so this hike is challenging even though it is only 3/4 mile one way. Entrance to the cave is by permit only. Free permits are available at the Visitor Center, which is open 8-5 daily. Each person wishing to enter the cave should provide two flashlights. Candles or flares are not permitted.

Reef Townsite
The Reef townsite was a mining camp active from the 1880s to the early 1900s when miners sought silver, gold and tungsten there. The town took its name from nearby Carr Reef, a band of quartzite cliffs running along the eastern side of the Huachuca mountains.Once you make the white-knuckle ride up the one-lane many-switchbacked road, you reach two relatively large level areas, Reef Townsite campground and Ramsey Vista campground. These two campgrounds and adjoining parking lots provide parking and access to many hiking trails. The short trail around the Reef campground guides visitors among old mining digs, a primitive water system, and the foundations of an ore mill. The elevation here is 7200 feet. In mid-October Carr Canyon glows with splashes of bright yellow formed by the forest of aspens high up the mountain. There is a $10 charge for overnight or day use. The day-use group picnic site can be reserved by calling the Sierra Vista District Office, (520) 378-0311. Season: spring, summer, fall

The Arizona Trail
This 750-mile non-motorized trail, which will eventually traverse the entire state, begins near the U.S.-Mexico border in the Coronado National Memorial. It follows the Crest Trail from Montezuma Pass into the Miller Peak Wilderness. At Copper Glance the trail begins to descend following the Sunnyside Canyon trail along riparian habitat. Then it follows the Scotia Canyon Trail through another excellent birding area on the way to Parker Canyon Lake. At this point the trail leaves Cochise County, cutting across the grasslands of Santa Cruz County and then northward through Pima County.

Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District
Although pets are not strictly forbidden on most Forest Service trails, you are responsible to keep your pet contained. Pets should be on a leash and should not chase wildlife or frighten others on foot or horseback. If possible check the trail first on your own to make sure your pet will be able to manage the altitude, obstacles and the grades of the terrain. Call the ranger office (520) 378-0311 for current information on specific trails.

Carr Canyon, Huachuca Mountains
Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District
(520) 378-0311
Carr House Nature Trail
The former ranch house in Carr Canyon is now an information center, staffed by volunteers who can provide information about the area. It's open Saturdays and Sundays 10-4. When the house is not open, visitors can still enjoy the delightful, wooded nature trail, which begins near Carr House and travels past the ruins of a former dude ranch complex, a creek and several excellent bird-watching spots. A good family hike.

Parker Canyon Lake, Canelo Hills
Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District
(520) 378-0311
Parker Canyon Lakeshore Trail, (easy)
This 5-mile trail, which circles the lake, begins and ends in the patio area in front of the boat dock and store. The lake edge can be reached from almost any point of the hike, providing opportunities to observe the waterfowl that make their home there or use it as a stopover on a seasonal migration. From the benches along the trail bald eagles and osprey can frequently be sighted. Mammals in the area include Coues white-tailed deer and coatimundi. There are a number of ways to get to Parker Canyon Lake from Cochise County, but the simplest is to take Hwy 90 to its intersection with Hwy 82 from Tombstone (Mustang Corners), take 82 west to Sonoita and then take Hwy 83 southeast, winding but very scenic, to Parker Canyon Lake.

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San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
Bureau of Land Management, (520) 458-3559
San Pedro House Interpretive Loop (easy)
This short interpretive loop trail begins at the San Pedro House, a historic ranch house restored by the Friends of the San Pedro River and now housing a bookstore and gift shop. From the house, the trail passes the Big Cottonwood Tree, abandoned agricultural fields, Garden Wash, the Kingfisher Pond, a dry Ox Bow, and Linear Pools, which provide habitat for turtles, frogs and fish.

San Pedro River Trail Complex
At the San Pedro House information is available on the long-distance trail complex that is being developed to parallel the river through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. When completed this trail will be approximately 30 miles long.

Sections of this trail are as follows:
Fairbank Section, Trailhead at Fairbank, 2 miles, north to Willow Wash
Charleston Section, Trailhead at Charleston, north to Boquillas Ranch (5.8 miles) or Fairbank (8 miles)
Clanton Section, Trailhead Hwy 90 across from San Pedro House, north to Escapule Rd. (3.6 miles)
Del Valle Section, Trailhead San Pedro House, south to Hereford Rd. (8.5 miles)
Hereford Section, Trailhead Hereford Rd., now on the west side of the river, south of the new bridge. Trail passes under the bridge.
Palominas Section, Trailhead NCA entrance just south of Hwy 92, south to Mexican border. (Watch out for people- and drug-smugglers. Not a recommended route) (4 miles)

Murray Springs Clovis Paleo-Indian Trail (easy)
This 1-mile trail goes through the site of an important archaeological discovery--some 10,000 years ago early American immigrants, known to archaeologists as the Clovis hunters, dispatched and butchered Columbian mammoth, bison and other now-extinct ice-age animals at various points along a stream here. Access this site from Moson Road just south of Highway 90. The entrance, which is just across from the water treatment facility of the City of Sierra Vista, is a cattle-proof gate which leads to a parking lot. From there the trail is marked by interpretive signs.

The Grand Central Mill Trail (easy)
This 1 1/2 mile hike from the ghost town of Fairbank to the ruins of the Grand Central Mill follows an old town roadbed to the site. A number of these stamping mills were built along the San Pedro River during the silver boom in Tombstone. The silver-bearing ore was brought to the river by mule trains and then pounded to a fine powder by huge iron stamping rods before being processed with mercury. The masonry work of the foundations of this mill is still clearly visible.

Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate Historic Site Interpretive Trail (easy)
The 1.2 mile hike from the parking area will take you to the ruins of a Spanish presidio in use from 1776-1780. Interpretive signs mark the locations of the soldiers' barracks, the quarters of the comandante and the chapel. Horses are permitted on the trail but not on the historic site. There is no shade on this trail, so be sure to bring sun protection and water.

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Willcox Area
Fort Bowie National Historic Site
(520) 847-2500
Apache Pass Historic Trail
The trail to the ruins of Fort Bowie (3 miles round trip) winds past the remains of a Butterfield Stage Coach Station, the post cemetery, an Apache wickiup, and the spring that made the area so desirable by providing the only reliable source of water for many miles. There are benches at the spring so hikers can rest up and cool off at this scenic spot. We were lucky enough to see a coatimundi foraging in the moist earth near the spring on one occasion. The walk is moderately strenuous and you'll want to stop at the interesting sites along the way, so allow a minimum of two hours for the round trip visit, including a stop at the visitor center. Be sure to bring water and sun protection. Dogs are not allowed on National Park or National Monument trails. There is an alternate route back for those who do not wish to retrace their steps on their return to the parking lot. There is also a side trail to the original site of the fort.

Chiricahua National Monument
National Park Service,
(520) 824-3560
More than 20 miles of hiking trails wind through the park, past natural bridges, startling rock formations, and evidence of the ancient volcanic eruptions that produced the bizarre rock formations of Chiricahua. Dogs are permitted in the campground and picnic areas but are not allowed on the wilderness trails. Trails range in difficulty and length, some a mere 1/4 mile, others as much as 9 miles roundtrip. The park provides a hiking brochure with details and guidelines for these hikes, available at the visitor center. There is a $5 per person fee to enter the Monument.

Chiricahua Mountains, Chiricahua Wilderness
Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District
(520) 364-3468
The Chiricahua mountains contain both regular National Forest trails and wilderness trails. The wilderness area is restricted to hiking and pack animal use only. The absence of motorized or mechanized vehicles, low trail maintenance, and limited signage provides a challenging outdoor adventure for experienced hikers. Extra care is required when hiking in wilderness areas. Take suitable safety precautions and make sure someone knows where you're going and when you plan to be back.

Coronado National Forest, Safford Ranger District
(928) 428-4150
When you are in the Willcox area, you may want to check out some of the recreational opportunities in Graham County, north of Willcox. The Safford Ranger District includes the Winchester, Galiuro, Santa Teresa and Pinaleno mountain ranges. The Galiuro mountains contain the Galiuro Wilderness, one of the most remote and rugged areas in southeast Arizona. The Pinaleno Mountains are a popular recreation destination, with campgrounds, miles of hiking trails, and trout fishing in Riggs Flat Lake. NFS Safford Ranger District, P.O. Box 709, Safford, AZ 85548, (928) 428-4150
The District Office is located in the Post Office Building in downtown Safford. Office hours are 8-4:30, Monday through Friday. To visit the office, leave I-10 at Exit 352 (eastbound) or 355 (westbound) and go north on Highway 191 to the stoplight (Highway 70). Turn left and continue to the next stoplight (5th Avenue). The District Office is located on the third floor of the Post Office.

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Recommended reading:

Ghiglieri, Michael P. and Thomas M. Myers. Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon. Flagstaff: Puma Press, 2001. River guide Ghiglieri and medical doctor Myers have collected more than 500 accounts of fatalities in the Grand Canyon, but this book should be required reading for anyone hiking, climbing or rafting anywhere in the southwest deserts. Flash floods, heat stroke and dehydration are dangers encountered throughout the state.

Kiefer, Don R. Hiking Southern Arizona. Phoenix: Golden West Publishers, 1995. (He gives specific information on many of the trails in our area, including elevation, length, difficulty, maps needed, and whether dogs, horses and bikes are permitted.)

Southern Arizona Trails
Southern Arizona Trails