Explore the Unexpected in Cochise County this Summer
Northern Arizona during summer’s heat? Been there, done that. Try someplace new!
By Ivy Morris
Triple weeks (months?) of triple-digit temperatures got you down? Take a few days to escape the warmth for outdoor adventures in Cochise County, a hidden gem in Southern Arizona. The drive is just as quick as the one from Phoenix to Northern Arizona, but the ambiance when you arrive is a 180 — no waiting in lines to take photos on hikes, and no sharing crowded biking trails. Not convinced? Give yourself a weekend in Southern Arizona to see how refreshed you feel. It’s the kind of break that rejuvenates you for the heat — I mean, the week — ahead.
Ascend the spires and domes of Cochise Stronghold, a backcountry climbing area with thousands of routes for all ability levels, from 5.5 to 5.12c. Choose your challenge — a great deal of sport climbing is available, which may require gear placement, as well as traditional, multi-pitch climbing routes that were put up by pioneering climbers in the 1970s. Cochise Stronghold’s craggy environment lends itself to some of the best crack climbs in Southern Arizona, as well as some of the area’s longest routes. Climbs can be difficult, and you may find yourself on a route that’s still evolving — err on the side of caution or hire a guide for advice.
Blue skies above, inspiring track ahead — mountain biking in Cochise County offers diverse terrain, a range of difficulty levels and memorable experiences that you’ll want to return to again and again. Estimate more time than you might need on a ride from the Dragoons to East Cochise Stronghold; there are historical sites along the way, places to picnic, and you may even find an arrowhead at an old battleground site. In the opposite direction — Dragoons to West Cochise Stronghold — hitch your bike to an offroad-capable vehicle to traverse through Coronado National Forest. The reward is thrilling, with hard climbs with fast descents. Beginners enjoy the Garden Canyon/Brown Canyon Trail, a 13.2-mile trail that brings mountain bikers past the Brown Canyon Ranch, an 1880 home with a working windmill and corrals.
Pedal from Sierra Vista to Bisbee and back on the Bisbee Loop, a 60.8-mile circle that goes through bird-abundant riparian habitat, rolling grasslands and smaller communities between Sierra Vista and Bisbee. Our tips? Start in Sierra Vista and plan to stop for lunch in Bisbee (Poco, Thuy’s Noodle Shop and The Quarry are favorite stops for cyclists). Be sure to avoid Mule Pass Tunnel by taking North Old Divide Road a half-mile before the tunnel entrance.
Hiking in Cochise County takes explorers through Sky Islands, Riparian habitats and to historic sites. The Arizona Trail stretches from the southern border of Arizona to the state’s northern border with Utah. It’s more than 800 miles of Arizona’s best landscapes, and it starts in the Huachuca Mountains in Sierra Vista. The 21-mile, southern terminus segment is no cakewalk, and don’t feel obligated to complete the entire trail. The Huachuca Mountains are home to many other popular trails, including the Miller Canyon and Crest Trails. There are more than a dozen trail combinations at Chiricahua National Monument, including the easy 1.5-mile stroll to Fort Bowie, an outpost of the United States Army and the site of Geronimo’s surrender in 1886.
Equestrians have been coming to Cochise County for horseback riding adventures for decades, including John Wayne (a big fan of the area) and Eleanor Roosevelt. Guided trail rides are available through Tombstone Monument Ranch, Triangle T and others; there are also a number of boarding facilities if you’re bringing your own horse. Some favorite areas to explore include Coronado National Forest, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and the aforementioned Arizona Trail. Observe all signage, take it all in, and enjoy!
Cochise County’s high-desert elevation makes it a perfect all-season getaway. Check out the itineraries section to help plan your next getaway.