Cochise Stronghold is located to the west of Sunsites, Arizona in the Dragoon Mountains at an elevation of 5,000 ft. This beautiful woodland area lies in a protective rampart of granite domes and sheer cliffs which were once the refuge of the great Apache Chief, Cochise, and his people. This rugged natural fortress was, for some 15 years, the home and base of operations for the famed Chiricahua Apache Chief, Cochise. Cochise is reputed to have been a master strategist and leader who was never conquered in battle. Upon his death, he was secretly buried somewhere in or near his impregnable fortress. The exact location has never been revealed or determined.
The Middlemarch Trail provides access into the remote backcountry of this history-rich mountain range. Middlemarch Pass was the half-way point on the route used by the military from the Sulphur Springs Valley to Tombstone. The trail passes through habitats that range from the upper Sonoran Desert, with its yucca and juniper, to higher elevation stands of oak and pinyon. Views are best early on along the trail where high elevation vistas encompass a portion of the sweeping Sulphur Springs Valley and the neighboring Chiricahua Mountains.
Monte Vista Peak is one of the best viewpoints in the southern Chiricahuas. The Monte Vista Trail begins at the wilderness boundary in North Fork Canyon at the end of an old jeep road and immediately begins switchbacking up the mountain’s south slope. Views are good along much of the route and, as the trail gains elevation, they just keep getting better. At the summit, reached via a 0.2 mile spur trail, the panorama includes much of southeastern Arizona including several of its Sky Island mountain ranges.
Fort Bowie witnessed almost 25 years of conflict between the Chiricahua Apache and the US Army, and remains a tangible connection to the turbulent era of the late 1800s. Explore the history of Fort Bowie and Apache Pass as you hike to the visitor center and old fort ruins. Today, this peaceful landscape stands in stark contrast to the violence that once gripped this land.
Turkey Pen Trail begins its journey to the crest at the Turkey Creek Ranger Station and goes up and over a saddle into Turkey Pen Canyon. These trails are primitive; traveling them by horse or mule is not recommended. Both canyons support healthy riparian areas that provide a pleasant setting for your journey and make for good wildlife watching along the way. Views from the saddle between the canyons, and from the upper stretches of the climb to the crest, add spice to the trip.
The Dragoons are but the beginning of spectacular mountain vistas: to the west, the Whetstones, the Huachuca’s to the southwest, the Rincon’s northwest and Little Dragoons to the north all adding their visual magic. Sunrises and sunsets over these rugged ranges are kaleidoscopic…awesome. These mountains are steep and rugged with forests confined to a few north facing slopes at the higher elevations. The mountain slopes at lower elevations support scattered evergreen oaks, desert forbs, and grasses.