Cochise Stronghold, just west of Pearce/Sunsites on the east side of the Dragoon Mountains, is a fabled area which was the hideout of the Chiricahua Apaches when pursued by the U.S. Cavalry. The legendary chief Cochise is buried somewhere in this natural granite fortress, though the location of his grave is unknown. In addition to its historical interest, the Stronghold affords many recreational activities such as camping, picnicking, hiking, horseback riding and birding. There is a day use fee.
Half Moon Ranch and Visitors Center is open by guided tour on Sunday mornings. Sign up with the host at East Cochise Stronghold Campground.
There are 20 single campsites in the developed campground which offers drinking water and restrooms with disabled accessibility. There is a 28′ RV limit. Camping fee.
In addition to the half-mile nature trail, there are hiking and horseback trails, including a challenging hike to historic Council Rocks.
Cochise Stronghold is a favorite spot with local trailriders. From the equestrian trailhead there is a one-mile connecting road leading to Cochise Trail #279, the main trail into the Cochise Stronghold area. This is a mountainous area and you should be prepared for some areas where caution is necessary due to narrow cuts and switchbacks. There is no dependable water at the trailhead or along the trails. Bring water or containers to fetch it from the public campground. Horses are not allowed in the developed campground area.
If you are interested in other horse trails you may want to check out Horse Trails of Arizona: Mountain Trails and Camps by Michael C. Yager. (Johnson Books, Boulder, 2004) This paperback guide gives a lot of information on horse trails throughout the state, including length of trail, elevation and level of difficulty. It does not have any maps, though, and the historical commentary at the beginning of each section is often jumbled and inaccurate. Another book you may wish to check out is part of the Falcon Guides Series, Trail Riding Arizona (Falcon Guides).
The spectacular granite outcroppings make this a premier area for technical climbing and skilled bouldering. Before doing any climbing, check with the Douglas Ranger District to see which areas are currently off-limits. Frequently areas are closed when endangered species are nesting.
The verdant areas of the Stronghold offer many opportunities for bird-watching. Among the birds you may expect to see are Mexican jay, hummingbird, prairie falcon, turkey vulture and golden eagle.
Vehicles with high clearance and 4-wheel drive can cross the Dragoon Mountains on several rough roads. Dirt forest roads join Cochise Stronghold on the east side to Council Rocks on the west side of the Dragoons. There is also a drive to the old Butterfield Stage Coach stop at Dragoon.