2012 AH Classic Wall CalendarShop the AH Store >>

Our 2014 calendars are now available!

Classic Wall Calendar

CL14 $10.99

Our classic 13-month spiral-bound calendar features 30 full-color photographs and a handy map of Arizona on the back.

Order Now >>
Purchase Camping GuideShop the AH Store >>

Featured Book

Arizona Highways
Camping Guide

AGCS3 $22.95

Our newest book, which includes Arizona Highways iconic photography and maps, is sorted by region and is written for car-campers and families. Detailed information about accessibilty, amenities and fees is included for each campground.

Order Now >>
2011 AH Wildlife CalendarSee Selection of Images >>

Featured Prints

Poster Prints
Special Edition Prints

Many of the extraordinary images found in our award-winning magazine, scenic coffee-table books and exquisite calendars can be purchased as fine posters and prints.

Order Now >>
Shop the AH Store >>

Featured Gift Item

Centennial Issue Reprint

SPCENN2 $4.99

If you missed our February 100-page Centennial Issue on newsstands earlier this year, here's your second chance to get a copy of this special collector's edition of Arizona Highways magazine..

Order Now >>

  • print page
  • Tell a Friend
  • Post to Facebook
  • YouTube
  • past to del.icio.us
BULLETscenic drives archive
Scenic Drives Photo
Gleeson's historic jail was built in 1910. Now restored, it's open to the public on the first and fourth Saturdays of each month.

© Randy Prentice


>> Click on image to view
it larger in a separate window.

Editor's Note click to expand
The Back Roads BookFor more scenic drives, pick up a copy of our book, The Back Roads. Now in its fifth edition, the book ($19.95) features 40 of the state's most
scenic drives.

To order a copy, call 800-543-5432 or click here.

Ghost Town Trail
Just outside Tombstone, in the shadow of the rugged Dragoon Mountains, this scenic dirt road weaves through desert scrub and links the old mining towns of Gleeson, Courtland and Pearce.

By Roger Naylor

History can be fickle. Long after the last gunfighter was planted on Boot Hill, Tombstone survived to grow into an international tourist attraction. Yet neighboring towns with pasts nearly as colorful have faded into oblivion, leaving behind faint scars on the landscape.

Just outside Tombstone, a lonely dirt road weaves through desert scrub, in the shadow of the rugged Dragoon Mountains, and links three former mining communities. Gleeson, Courtland and Pearce are strung along the length of the aptly named Ghost Town Trail, a drive blending scenery and history in one outing.

Follow the signs to Gleeson from Tombstone and you soon exchange boardwalk streets for a sprawling sky and cloud shadows wafting across rolling hills. Just before reaching Gleeson, take a quick detour to the most unusual gift boutique in Arizona. Makeshift signs for Rattlesnake Crafts lead down a side road to where an old trailer is surrounded by an astounding collection. Antiques, artifacts, rusted tools, old guns, bottles and minerals are displayed in open-air "rooms," piled atop weathered shelves or mounted on fences. The trailer is packed with handcrafted items like wallets, belts, knife sheaths and cell-phone cases made from rattlesnake leather. If you want to make a purchase and no one is around, drop the cash in the wooden mailbox.

Next stop is Gleeson, once home to the Chiricahua Apache tribe that mined turquoise for jewelry and trade. After the tribe's members were either killed off or relocated, prospectors continued mining turquoise, but when a man named John Gleeson discovered a large copper deposit, the town boomed.

During its heyday, Gleeson reached a population of more than 1,000. Today, about five people live in or near the town limits. Although few, they're an energetic bunch. A couple of residents have purchased and completed restoration of the 1910 Gleeson Jail. It's now open the first and fourth Saturdays of each month, and other times by appointment. Inside, you'll find artifacts, memorabilia and a map for a walking tour where you can see the cemetery and remnants of the schoolhouse and hospital. The Bono Store and Saloon also still stands. Peek inside to see a mural painted in 1982 that depicts the townsfolk.

A mile past Gleeson, turn left onto Ghost Town Trail Road and continue to Courtland, a fleeting boomtown. Starting in the early 1900s, big companies sank shaft after shaft at a fever pitch, encouraged by high-grade copper findings. The population swelled to 2,000, and the town boasted a newspaper, movie theater, ice-cream parlor and auto dealership, among its many businesses. Then the ore pinched out and the mines closed around 1920. During the ensuing decades, the desert reclaimed the town, leaving only scattered foundations and crumbling ruins, including the unrestored twin of the Gleeson jail.

Nearby Pearce replaced Tombstone as the local Wild West town. When gold was discovered in 1896, many families and businesses relocated from Tombstone, where the mines had flooded. The Alvord-Stiles Gang, responsible for numerous robberies and shootings, operated out of Pearce. The town prospered into the 1930s before emptying. Yet sitting on U.S. Route 191, Pearce survives. Several historic buildings are intact, and a couple of shops are open for business.

Tour Guideclick to expand

Map of AreaNote: Mileages are approximate.

Length: 34 miles one way

Directions: From Tombstone, drive east on State Route 80 to Camino San Rafael. Turn left onto Camino San Rafael, drive 1 mile, and turn right onto Gleeson Road. Continue for about 14 miles. Turn left at Ghost Town Trail/Gleeson-Pearce Road.

Vehicle Requirements: None

Warning: Back-road travel can be hazardous, so be aware of weather and road conditions. Carry plenty of water. Don't travel alone, and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

Information: Rattlesnake Crafts & Rocks, 520-642-9407 or www.rattlesnakecrafts.com; Gleeson Jail, 520-508-1802 or www.gleesonarizona.com

Travelers in Arizona can visit www.az511.gov or dial 511 to get information on road closures, construction, delays, weather and more.

>> Back to Scenic Drives Archive


Story ArchivesFind previously published stories online... [more]

Global SnapshotsSend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

Photo of the DaySend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

 

Social MediaJoin our Facebook, Twitter and Flickr communities for behind-the-scenes glimpses at Arizona Highways... [more]

Events & PromotionsEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]

Travel GuidesThere's so much to see and do in Arizona. Let our online travel guide be your one-stop resource for planning your next Arizona adventure... [more]

site map  |  terms of use  |  privacy policy  |  corporate sales  |  about us  |  contact us

Arizona Highways Television AZ Dept. of Transportation AZ Dept. of Public Safety Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

© Copyright 2014 Arizona Department of Transportation, State of Arizona. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The images on this Web site are copyrighted, digitally watermarked and registered with the Digimarc tracking system. All rights reserved. Copying and downloading images from this site are strictly prohibited.