Coronado National Forest, Pearce
By Kelly Vaughn Kramer
Legends were born in the Dragoon Mountains. There, Chiricahua Apache leader Cochise hid from and battled his enemies, and there he’s buried. “I have drunk the waters of the Dragoon Mountains, and they have cooled me,” Cochise is believed to have said. “I do not want to leave here.”
After a visit to Cochise Stronghold Campground, you may not want to leave the Dragoons, either. But you’ll have to — there’s a 14-day stay limit.
Saguaros, yucca and big, shady oaks are the dominant foliage. Although they’re pretty, it’s the rocks that are most likely to capture your attention. They balance as hoodoos and jut against the sky, making it easy to see why Cochise hid in their shadows.
The short Stronghold Nature Trail meanders around the campground and along yuccas that populate the area, while the much more difficult Cochise Trail ventures into Stronghold Canyon West. There is no water available at the campground, so you’ll want to pack plenty of your own — far more than you think you’ll need. While Cochise was able to survive in the Dragoons, you’ll appreciate modern amenities, such as coolers chock-full of water and snacks.
Photo: The Dragoon Mountains of Southeastern Arizona were once a stronghold of Chiricahua Apaches. | Randy Prentice
Elevation: 5,000 feet
Directions: From Tucson, travel east on Interstate 10 for 72 miles to U.S. Route 191 and turn right. Continue on U.S. 191 for 12 miles to Ironwood Road and turn right. Follow Ironwood Road (Forest Road 84) for about 8 miles to the campground.
Information: Douglas Ranger District, Coronado National Forest, 520-364-3468 or www.fs.usda.gov/coronado
Season: September through May
Fee: $10 per night
Amenities: Toilets, Pets