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Old West Routes
 

Use the Route tab to explore options by desired time and pace on the trail.  

Our Scouting Reports & GPS Tracklogs retrace the paths blazed to old west frontiers by early pioneers and prospectors. They left an ideal overland explores playground in their wake; remote pack trails, wagon roads, water routes, ghost towns, boom camp survivors, mine relics, colorful history and a spirit for adventure that inspires. 

 
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North American Overland Journeys
 

Location tabs are the fastest way to find geographic regions of interest and interconnected trails.

All of our Scout Reports and GPS Tracklogs flow continuously from one interesting region to another, state-to-state, province-to-province, nation-to-nation using as little pavement as possible, and when we do, it tends to be byways versus freeways.

 
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Go Deeper: Foot, Bike, Horseback & Watercraft
 

For many, self-reliant vehicle overlanding is the adventure. Others Go Deeper. 

All our Scouting Expeditions provide opportunity to hike, bike and backpack. Many routes also provide equestrian and watercraft journey extensions. We’ve flagged some favorites to inspire you to take your overland adventure to another level.

 
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Explore what fascinates you the most.
 

Every Scouting Expedition is researched to travel through Old West Frontiers rich with interesting trails, tales and relics. 

The roar of the rush has subsided, but imprints linger; ghost towns, abandoned rails turned to trails, surviving boomtowns that retain the charm of yesteryear continue to outfit today’s adventurers with supplies, historical lodging and spirits. Look deeper, and you will find signs of Native America.

 
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Choose Your Pace & Challenge
 

As most of our Scouting Expedition GPS Tracklogs are interlinked, the base route is most often Easy or Moderate, but we explore Difficult options along the way. Some can be overgrown and sometimes barley visible, making them that much more appealing for those looking to build that into thier own adventure. Three broad categories are used but beware, what is Easy today can be Difficult tommorow, due to environmental conditions (see Go Prepared). 

 
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Get Lost in the Journey
 

One of the greatest pleasures associated with 4WD vehicle overlanding is the ability to wander at will, as one trail leads to another in a maze of options. However, advance research can help you explore routes that fascinate you the most and can make the most of your time.

There is nothing wrong with using a map and compass for guidance. In fact, you should always have them with you. But GPS technology and affordable mapping software really empower you to free-flow and always have a sense of where you are, at all times.

 
Arizona Territory Wild West Loop or Pass-thru Journey

Arizona Territory Wild West Loop or Pass-thru Journey


If the American Southwest fascinates you, the region Southeast of Tucson, Arizona the Mexican and New Mexico Border is rich with old West trails and tales; The Butterfield Overland Mail Stage route thru Apache Pass, Chiricahua & Cochise Stronghold Trails and the High Lonesome Road. Adding interest are the famous characters that once traveled these Wild West arteries; Wyatt & Virgil Earp, Doc Holiday, Bat Masterson, Johnny Ringo, Geronimo and Cochise, to name a few.

See Journey Overview & Leg 1 & 2 Scouting Reports for History Before Retracing Overland Stage Route, Wagon Roads, Abandoned Rail Lines & Native Trails of Southeast Arizona.

Roots of ‘Wild West’ Blood & Thunder 10 Cent Novels
Bird Cage Saloon, home to the longest running poker game in American history.

TREK STAGE A: WILD WEST LEGENDS & TRAILS

What better place to start a scouting expedition to retrace trails and explore relics of the old wild West than Tombstone, Arizona; home to the Shootout at the OK Corral between the Earp brothers and the Texas Cowboys. In the day ”Cowboys” was a derogatory nickname for cattle rustlers. We then followed the abandoned El Paso & Southern Railway towards the ghost towns of Fairbank, once the lawless hideaway for the Cowboys. After spending some time in the incredibly preserved frontier town of Bisbee, home to the massive Phelps-Dodge Copper Queen Mine and the equally frozen-in-time 40’s ghost town of Lowell, we traveled up the abandoned High Lonesome Road to Gleeson and Pearce ghost towns.

TREK STAGE B: GREAT SOUTHERN OVERLAND STAGE ROAD, CHIRICAHUA HOODOOS & COCHISE STRONGHOLD

It was 1858 when John Butterfield won a Government bid to carry mail from St. Louise to San Francisco and the Butterfield Overland Mail Stage was born. A million dollars was invested in 250 Concord Coaches, 1,000 horses, 500 mules and relay stations every 15 miles. The longer 2,800-mile southern route would pass through Arizona and a native trail that became know as Apache Pass to avoid the Rocky Mountains and winter snows. We retrace the route where Apache Chief Cochise and Geronimo were not about to give up their passageway and groundwater spring, without a fight. Our scouting expedition retraces this famous pass and the ruins of Fort Bowie, built to defend the pass. On the way we explored trails around the Chiricahua Hoodoo and Cochise Strongholds, where Apache evaded the US Cavalry.

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Trek Stage A : WIld West Legends & Trails  
Stabilized old jail along High Lonesome Road in Gleeson ghost town. Twin found up the road, in a natural state of decay.

WIld West Legends & Trails

Trek Series starts in Tombstone, home to the legendary Gunfight at OK Corral, the first of three urban frontiers chock full of old west relics and wild west tales that add depth and context to the historical trails we retrace. The first railway to serve Tombstone was built in 1882, terminating 10 miles away at Fairbanks. It was not until early 1900‘s that a spur line was built right to Tombstone. We retrace this abandoned line and the old stage-freight wagon road that linked the first New Mexico & Arizona Railway. We then check out the incredibly intact boomtowns of Bisbee and Lowell. Once a major mining hub, Bisbee has reinvented itself without loosing its soul. When miners moved out, artist moved in giving the old city a unique look and culture. Lowell appears frozen in its 1940’s peak; both are a perfect springboard to hit the High Lonesome, once a major artery connecting the boomtowns of, Bisbee, Gleeson and Pearce. The abandoned road now requires a 4x4 to bypass the crumbling bridges. We jumped on and off the Gleeson-Pearce Ghost Town Road to discover faint signs of the Arizona & Colorado Railway and followed it towards Pearce. Rating: Leg 1, 3 & 4 are Easy urban frontier experiences, Leg 2 and Leg 4 are Moderate and Leg 5 is Easy if you stay on Ghost Town Road, and Moderate if you retrace old New Mexico & Arizona Railway along the way. 

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Trek Leg 1 : Tombstone & The Texas Cowboys Gunfight at OK Corral  

Where global fascination with the American Wild West was sparked when the Earp Brothers, Doc Holiday and the Texas Cowboys would square off at OK Corral in 1881.

Tombstone & The Texas Cowboys Gunfight at OK Corral

It was 1877 when a raggedy prospector, decided to finance his explorations by working as a scout for a Cavalry post called Camp Huacchuuca. While out looking for intelligence on the Chiricahua Apaches, Ed Schiefflin would also keep his eye out for interesting silver specimens. In his spare time he would go back out to collect stone specimens for assay, despite warnings from the soldiers in the camp that he would not find stones but his own Tombstone. Ed persevered, and struck it rich, and never lost his scalp to the Apache. The new town below the mine would become known as Tombstone. But it was the Earp Brothers that would forever be remembered for the Gunfight at OK Corral, in Tombstone. Albeit, somewhat commercialized Tombstone is still a good place to start your journey - where the romance with 'Wild West' all started.

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Trek Leg 2 : Abandoned Railway to Fairbanks  

We retraced the Overland Stage route & El Paso & Southwestern Railway that share the corridor between Tombstone and Fairbank.

Abandoned Railway to Fairbanks

The Arizona & New Mexico Railway would bring such exotics as iced oysters on the shell to Fairbank, but wagons had to carry it the rest of the way to Tombstone. The Butterfield Overland Mail stage travelled this route from Apache Pass, under the watchful eye of Geronimo and Cochise. Up the road, Johnny Ringo and his Texas cowboy outlaw gang drove stolen cattle down the wash to Frank and Tom MaClaury’s ranch before they lost their lives in the gunfight at the OK Corral. We retraced the Butterfield Overland Mail stage route and the El Paso & Southwestern spur added to link Tombstone to the main line at Fairbank.

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Trek Leg 3 : Bisbee; Urban Outpost on the Frontier  

Incredible place to wallow before or, preferably, after a long overland journey when a fine meal, shower and a little urban recreation is appreciated the most.

Bisbee; Urban Outpost on the Frontier

During the summer of 1876, the 6th US Cavalry was called to the field to put down the Chiricahua Apaches that had been attacking the Overland Stage and settlers passing through Apache Pass. By the time the 6th arrived, the renegades had fled to the rocky fastnesses of the Mexican mountain peaks and remained a thorn in the side of the army, settlers and prospectors rooming the hills. A hostile force of 50 warriors embarked on a series of daring attacks in the far tip of Southeastern Arizona. Lieutenant John A. Rucker organized a company of scouts, both civilian and friendly Apache for counter intelligence. In command of a detachment of Troops H and L, and his scouts, he overtook and defeated a band of 50 Chiricahua warriors on January 9, 1877.  Later Lt. Rucker led Company C into what would become known as Tombstone Pass and Castle Rock in May of 1877, by a spring Apache Scouts had told them about. A civilian scout by the name of Jack Dunn found signs of faint green stain on the hillside, which indicated the presence of lead, copper, and perhaps silver. This would be the start of the Copper Queen Mine and one of the world’s most outstanding frontier mining towns.

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Trek Leg 4 : Lowell, The Shady Dell & The High Lonesome Road  

Lowell and The Shady Dell appears frozen in its 1940-50’s peak. The combination makes for a perfect springboard to hit the High Lonesome Road.

Lowell, The Shady Dell & The High Lonesome Road

During my research for interesting trails running north from Mexican-SE Arizona, that would link to Sonoma-Baja, as part of our three-nation expedition, I came across a road called “The High Lonesome”. It was just so Hollywood romantic; I had to try it out. The abandoned road is a blast, but it was discovering the combined Bisbee-Lowell urban frontier, that was the real treasure discovery. Bisbee an eclectic mix of structures and cultures, Lowell and The Shady Dell appear frozen in its 1940-50’s peak. The combination makes for a perfect springboard to hit the High Lonesome, once a major artery connecting the boomtowns of Bisbee, Gleeson and Pearce. The abandoned road now requires a 4x4 to bypass the crumbling bridges. If you’re a photographer you will find ample fodder. My humble documentary shots pale compared to the photos I’ve seen in galleries and on-line, but they will give you a sense of why this urban frontier sets the stage for the upcoming overland journey.

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Trek Leg 5 : Gleeson Pearce Ghost Town Road & The Dragoon Mountains  

We weaved between the High Lonesome Road and parts of the abandoned bed of the Arizona & Colorado Railway.

Gleeson Pearce Ghost Town Road & The Dragoon Mountains

After bypassing the 10-mile ranch that now owns a section High Lonesome Road, we picked up the old route and followed it to Cochise Stronghold as it crosses the mineral rich toe of the Dragoon Mountains. We weaved in parts of the abandoned bed of the Arizona & Colorado Railway that was built from Cochise to Pearce and Gleeson, at the turn-of-the century. This northern section of High Lonesome has been coined the Gleeson to Pearce Ghost Town Road by Cochise County, to stimulate interest. The first town in the area was called Turquoise, named after the stone that had been mined by natives here for many generations.  Later the town was moved closer to water, down the hill, and was renamed Gleeson. Discoveries of cooper, silver and lead drew more prospectors in the 1890‘s. Old mines can be explored along wagon roads and the A&C Railway that travels around Maud Hill and Turquoise Mountain. Rating: Easy on High Lonesome Road, Moderate on parts of abandoned railway.

 

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Trek Stage B : Overland Stage Road, Chiricahua Hoodoos & Cochise Stronghold  
Adobe ruins of Fort Bowie, built above the coveted Apache Springs in 1862.

Overland Stage Road, Chiricahua Hoodoos & Cochise Stronghold

War Chief of the Chiricahua Tribe used the natural fortress of granite domes and jagged, steep cliffs to evade the US Army. Camping below the steep Dragoon Mountain ridges of Cochise Stronghold, it is easy to see how a stealth band of Apache warriors could stay a step ahead of the US Army below. The site has some structured campsites but the real appeal of this region is the fantastic array of random camp areas. Some feel very secluded and sheltered by the steep cliffs above. We carry on up Morse Canyon making a stop at the grave of Johnny Ringo, some say was killed by Wyatt Earp, in retaliation for the suspected murder of his brother Morgan. We head north to a massive collection of spires and hoodoos, Chiricahua National Monument, an immense volcanic eruption that shook the region 27 million years ago. The formations made a great hideaway for the elusive Apache. Leaving the park, we started on Pinery Canyon Road that turns into a dirt track to New Mexico, but choose an even rougher trail; the abandoned frontier Hand Pass, a great backdoor route to Apache Pass and Fort Bowie, where Cochise went on a retaliatory killing rampage that ignited a 15 year war with the Apache. The final two legs travel Rug Road, a mining road with sections once covered with carpets to stop erosion; remnants remain embedded. Rating: Leg 6: Easy, Leg 7 Easy to Chiricahua Hoodoos and Moderate for Hands Pass with possible Difficult section with high water. Leg 8 Easy and Leg 9-10 is mostly Moderate with some Difficult sections.

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Trek Leg 6 : Cochise Stronghold Canyon  

The real appeal of his region is the fantastic array of random camp areas below dramatic cliffs.

Cochise Stronghold Canyon

Cochise Stronghold Canyon is a perfect destination for camping, a beautiful setting in the Dragoon Mountain. While the site has some structured campsites, the real appeal of this region is the fantastic array of random camp areas. Some feel very secluded and sheltered by the steep cliffs and granite domes above. The Apache used these mountains to evade the US Cavalry until Cochise signed a treaty in 1872, on these very grounds, where he was born and buried in a secret location. Camping below the steep Dragoon Mountain ridges, it is easy to see how a stealth band of 250 Apache warriors could stay a step ahead of an Army marching below.  

 

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Trek Leg 7 : Chiricahua Hoodoo “Hands Pass” Backdoor Trail  

Chiricahua National Monument got its start from an immense volcanic eruption that shook the region 27 million years ago. The formations made a great hideaway for the Apache until Fort Bowie was built and the band moved to Cochise Stronghold.

Chiricahua Hoodoo “Hands Pass” Backdoor Trail

This special place can be even more rewarding for overlanders when combined with “Hands Pass", a little known and used historical back door mining trail from Chiricahua National Monument; home to a massive collection of spires and hoodoos. The region got its start from an immense volcanic eruption that shook the region 27 million years ago. The Apaches called this place, The Land of Standing-Up Rocks, describing the many hoodoos in this ‘sky island‘ surrounded by a sea of desert grasslands - 12,000 acres of pinnacles, columns, spires and balanced rocks formed by volcanic activity; ideal for exploration. The formations made a great hideaway for the Apache until they moved to Cochise Stronghold when the US Army built Fort Bowie in this area. After leaving the paved park access, we explored Pinery Canyon Road that turns into a dirt track to New Mexico, but choose an even rougher historical trail across the Chiricahua Mountains; Hand Pass-East Whitetail Creek.

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Trek Leg 8 : Apache Pass & Great Overland Stage Road of 1861  

See Associated Trek Series to view route on Google Maps/ Satellite or download free GPS/GPX on your smartphone, tablet or dedicated GPS device.

Apache Pass & Great Overland Stage Road of 1861

Slideshow is active and route map can be viewed on-line or GPS/GPX downloaded free, via Associated Trek Series Stage. Scout Report/photo description copy is under construction but maps and photos alone, speak volumes. 

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