Cochise Stronghold is up in the Dragoon Mtns at 5000′ just west of Sunsites, AZ. We are camped in the area for a week to check out some of the sights. Our boondocking spot is nestled up against a terrifically rocky mountain backdrop. Our first evening we hiked up one of them to get a better view.
For our first ride we drove over to Cochise Stronghold for a big, tough loop. Our ride was 27.2 miles with 3064′ of climbing topping out at 5968′. Total Duration = 4:45, number of people on the trail = zero. First, more about Cochise.
Cochise led the Chiricahua band of the Apache tribe during a period of violent social upheaval. The United States took control of this area in 1850 and Cochise kept peace with them until 1861. In 1861 Cochise went to the nearby US Army encampment to deny accusations that his people had kidnapped a boy. Young Army officer, Lt. George Bascom ordered them held hostage, to no avail. Soon after, Cochise joined forces with another band in a guerilla struggle against the Army Cochise escaped by cutting a hole in the tent. Later, in 1871 the US Army captured him again and prepared to transfer him to a new reservation hundreds of miles away. What happened though? He escaped again. Cochise is said to have been a master strategist and was never conquered in battle. His name translates to “having the quality or strength of an oak”.
Cochise Stronghold Loop
Our ride started right at the closed campground and climbed up an incredibly sandy and boulder riddled jumble of rocks. After a mile or so we turned onto Middlemarch Canyon Trail. The erosion on this trail is ridiculously horrible and we had to hike off and on A LOT. There is zero trail maintenance and probably only good if you are on a horse. I can’t even see how hiking this would be fun. It’s a loamy mess with deep ruts and trenches. The saving grace is the views you get of all the rocky outcroppings and cliffsides. These mountains are big! When we finally got to the top a couple miles later we were disappointed that the first part of the downhill was the same. Down at the dry creek bed it got better and was rideable but still pretty rough.
The next half of the ride is a series of beautiful gravel and dirt forest roads through the canyons with interesting granite domes and cliffs to gawk at. The climbs are never too much and there a couple long descents when you crest and head north. After turning onto FS 688 the trail road dead-ended at the next section of trail.
The Stronghold Divide Trail is also black diamond and it climbs pretty steeply through switchbacks on just the narrowest of trails. There is quite a bit of hiking on this trail as well. It just keeps going up into the rocks and made the hiking worth it…almost. What I liked about this trail is the downhill was mostly rideable. It is highly technical and we were lucky to get down unscathed.
Overall, I would probably never do this as a mountain bike loop again because there is just too much significant hiking. The views are amazing though and quite impressive.