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Slavin Gulch Trail #332, AZ

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Guide 23 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Douglas
4.3 of 5 by 11
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,834 feet
Elevation Gain 1,715 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,854 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 16.67
Interest Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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17  2019-08-10 RedRoxx44
26  2019-06-16 RedRoxx44
15  2015-01-24 bikeandhike
5  2014-12-05 BenTelly
40  2014-03-30 writelots
52  2014-03-30 tibber
13  2013-03-02 southpawaz
12  2013-03-02 cindyl
Page 1,  2,  3
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 1 PM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:08am - 6:17pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
The Stronghold's lesser known backside
by PrestonSands

Overview: The Slavin Gulch Trail 332 follows an old mining road deep into the bouldered dells of the western Dragoon Mountains, near Tombstone, Arizona. In addition to the rugged scenic beauty and solitude of Slavin Gulch, there are ruins from a historic mining operation at the upper end of the trail.

The Slavin Gulch Trail is served by two trailheads, however, the western trailhead is the easiest place to start, as the eastern (upper) trailhead requires four wheel drive, and that end of the trail requires an off trail scramble down a steep mountainside.

History: Slavin Gulch is thought by some historians to be the location of the 1872 peace conference between Cochise and General Howard, as the description of their meeting area seems to fit Slavin Gulch better than the nearby Council Rocks.

The Slavin Gulch Trail follows the route of a long abandoned road used to haul ore from the Abril Mine, at the head of Slavin Gulch. The Abril Mine, named for Tombstone residents Manuel and J.S, Abril, yielded large amounts of zinc and copper from its extensive system of tunnels, during the first half of the twentieth century.

Hike: From the unmarked trailhead along Forest Road 687, the Slavin Gulch Trail heads east along the broad grassland floor of Slavin Gulch, on a well maintained and easily followed track. Conical buttes of bare Stronghold Granite rise all around, while oaks, mesquites, and catclaw thickets dot the canyon bottom. Up canyon, a large cliff face would seem to stop the upward progress of the trail. Approaching the cliff face one mile in, the route becomes apparent, and the Slavin Gulch Trail enters a narrow box below massive cliff walls. Numerous house sized boulders create seasonal waterfalls in the creek bed, as the trail treads a narrow shelf on the south side of the drainage.

Emerging from the box, the Slavin Gulch Trail enters a hidden valley of boulders and hoodoos, surrounded by rocky knobs and peaks. The trail continues northward, leaving the valley, and heading for a pass, while following the path of an ancient, narrow road blasted from the granite bedrock. The track briefly becomes a little fuzzy as it parallels the creek bed into a second, lesser box, but a few cairns guide the way.

Just over two miles in, the Slavin Gulch Trail breaks free from the confines of the second box, and enters a larger hidden valley, where the greyish limestone crest of the Dragoon range comes into view to the east. The trail again follows the obvious route of the old road through the center of the valley for the next three quarters of a mile, wading through manzanita thickets and past stately groves of Arizona Cypress. At the head of the valley, the trail turns north to climb the rapidly narrowing drainage of Slavin Gulch, through dense pinyon forest pierced by scores of jagged hoodoos.

At around the three mile point, the Slavin Gulch Trail stumbles into a small, steep walled basin near the head of Slavin Gulch. At this point, the trail leaves the creek bottom behind to follow the ancient road on a circuitous path up the mountainside, passing a collapsed, metal roofed cabin along the way.

The Slavin Gulch Trail appears to come to a dead end at three and a half miles (31.90822 N, 109.99412 W), where it encounters the elaborate ruins of the Abril Mine, whose rotted wooden structures cling precariously to the mountainside. Unless you are determined to reach the end of the trail, this is probably a wise place to turn around, as the final 0.2 miles to the road and trailhead above is a 400 foot vertical scramble up a steep scree slope of loose rock, brush, cacti, and slippery bedrock. However, the reward for this final scramble is a fantastic view down Slavin Gulch and of the surrounding peaks and valleys.

If you decide to go for the top, head south from the mine for a couple of hundred feet to a rocky drainage, where several scramble routes are possible. The easiest way (and what appeared to be the route of the "trail") seemed to be to stay near the mining structures and their associated tailings piles, while following a drainage northeast. Whichever way you choose, you will reach Forest Road 345A at the 6600 foot contour. The end of this road, at (31.90797 N, 109.99233 W), is the upper or eastern trailhead. The trailhead is unsigned, but the Slavin Gulch Trail appears as a use trail heading north from the end of the road.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2009-01-27 PrestonSands
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Coronado FS Details
Water is present for most of the year in the larger pools of Slavin Gulch, which serves as the setting for most of this Dragoon Mountains trail. Slavin Gulch Trail connects two 4-wheel drive roads deep in the Dragoons, cutting a course that bears roughly southwest in the shadow of China Peak. There is plentiful evidence that the Apaches used this area heavily before prospectors and cowboys became the most common backcountry travelers in the Dragoons. Today, recreationists seek out secluded areas such as this to capture a feeling for the past. From the eastern trailhead and its good views of Tombstone and the Huachuca Mountains, the trail drops steeply into Slavin Gulch. Riparian vegetation such as sycamores and cottonwoods hold sway along the floor of the gulch while just a few feet away, plants of the upper Sonoran Desert affirm that this area can be hot and dry much of the year. Such a diverse habitat and remote setting make this a good place to encounter desert wildlife. Watch for coatimundi and Coues white-tailed deer as you scan the trees for some of the variety of songbirds that either make this small oasis a home or pass through it on their yearly migration. At the southwest end of the trail, access is from the end of a road that requires high clearance as well as 4-wheel drive.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Slavin Gulch Trail #332
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If you've read Angela's description of our hike in Slavin Gulch I can only add one thing:

Don't listen to a word she says. It's ugly, flat and featureless (wink). There's nothing at all of interest in this stinking canyon (wink wink) and you're better off keeping to the Stronghold trails (yeah right). I'd say anyone who wanted to hike Slavin Gulch was really just a glutton for punishment who really just didn't care about sweeping vistas, massive boulders and beautiful riparian vegetation.

Oh, and you probably would not see massive Arizona Cypress, dense Velvet Ash and the impressive ruins of a turn-of-the-century copper mine. Nope - nothing of value up this gulch. Just leave it to us masochistic, misery-loving Arizona hikers who like nothing more than a wild and deserted canyon full of hoodoos, waterfalls and the ghosts of Arizonans past.

We'll keep it our secret ;)
Slavin Gulch Trail #332
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After packing up from our weekend camp/hike ABC event over at Cochise Stronghold Indian TH, Wendy and I were the only ones to opt for day two hiking options. Those folks who didn't join us would surely be disappointed they didn't do this hike. If this isn't on your "to do" it should be!

What an unexpected surprise. Less than 2 miles in I felt like this scenery rivaled the Supes and by the end, not only did it rival it, the trail conditions were 2/3rds terrific so that would make it an A, with water it would easily have been an A+++++++++++! The trail condition is so nice as you walk up the first mile of old FR 687A through the golden grasslands and eventually flanked by Arizona Cypress and other trees on your right side. As you start up in the canyon, you hike through tiers of the box canyons as you make your way deeper into the mountains. And what beautiful mountains these are :y: .

I found myself astonished more people hadn't done this hike as I ogled at this grand scenery imagining what it would be like with water as you could see where there had been deep pools. You hike along this creek/drainage area for awhile as the trail creeps up. It is also very lush with lots of various trees including ash, cypress, manzanita, juniper, oak and other trees :) Wendy could tell you about.

Somewhere along here we had a morning snack before tackling the last couple miles. There were wind gusts off and on all day. It played havoc with my video as I have to edit all the sound. It was also slightly overcast so the color wasn't super bright for the camera lens but fine for Wendy and me. We hit some nice part of the trail again as we headed more east. Far, far ahead and high we spotted the grey tailings of the mine. It's hard to believe we would be just below that when we reached the mine area.

Once again, there was a drainage we would hike along except now it was on our right. It had lush beautiful trees as well. We continued at our delight in hiking this trail.... until we got to the rockier and slightly steeper sections but it really wasn't bad. One sure had to wonder in certain areas how wide the road wasn't for the mining operation. The road that was left was sure filling in nicely. At this point we were anxious to get to the road that was flatter in terrain as we had to switchback up for our last push to the mine. And of course, the nearer and higher you get, the expanded views to the SW are something to awe at :DANCE: !

We finally made it to the Abril mine remains which were totally cool. It was pretty windy initially when we were up there so we tried to find a lunch spot that would deter some of that breeziness. After lunch we wandered around the sight and partially up the scree hill on the right. If we had more time and hadn't done the 11 miler the day before; we may have taken this on. So it's gonna be one of those "next times" but when there's water in the drainages and creeks.

We had seen shack remnants from above and wanted to see those on our way back. Little did we know that we had walked right past them on our way up :doh: . Not much to see really but it adds to the aura of the place. Oh, just as we left the mine area we could hear a rattler, tried to find it, but without success. Of course coming down and hiking back was as spectacular as the coming in; except for the occasional heavy breathing on the way up of course.

On the nicer portion of the trail, Wendy was so gleeful she was hiking donuts :lol: with her hiking poles.... ya, the trail is that nice and wide in sections. We passed this one boulder that looked as if it had flipped upside down from wherever it fell because it had a scoop out of it that could only have been caused by water but NOT from its current position :-k . Further down the trail Wendy had me pet a Velvet Ash :) ; that was so cool! The light was lighter now and we would step out to the points along the way that were high above the creek bed. It looks like there could be some awesome pour-overs.

As we got closer to the bottom of the canyon we encountered those 4 hikers from VT we had seen the day before on the Stronghold Trail. They were probably in their 60s and 70s. The one old fella with the black hat didn't look like he could go much further. I think the younger couple probably continued up just a bit (per our recommendation) while the older couple waited in the shade of the tree. Just ahead they would get to see the house-size boulders and a chance to see some of the Valley in the first box canyon.

This is kind of one of those hikes that doesn't need to come to an end. It's just so magical and full of life :y: even as we once again walked in the valley of golden grass with various of the Dragoon Mountains rising high above us with their beautiful green decor. Yep, a hike you all must do if you can. The road out to the TH is not that bad on the 687 and you can do Council Rocks too.
You can make the hike longer and steeper by climbing up to the adits. Or if there is water, you could climb down and check it out or if not too much water, you can probably hike up the drainage. The rock formations and mountains caused me to be breathless by their beauty. LOVED it and a pretty nice trail for most of the way really helped too.

Part 1 heading up toward the drainage:
Part 2 heading deeper into the mountains:
Part 3 to, at and from the Abril mine remains:
Part 4 heading down the trail (Wendy does her donuts, boulder that's upside down):
Part 5 continuing down the trail and through the golden grasses of the valley:
Slavin Gulch Trail #332
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Pitch black skies, dust cloud roads and unexpected rain sprinkles of the previous night faded into a new day, and I awoke at my Slavin Gulch campsite, ready to visit an old friend after a five year absence. Decomposed Stronghold Granite crunched beneath my Tevas and sweat stung my eyes in the warm spring sunlight, as I moved up the narrowing canyon into oak woodland and mountainous terrain. Lost in the confines of my beloved Dragoons, I considered the last century's road builders, on whose road I was now walking. All of their effort to blast a road through this rugged canyon to their mine had nearly been erased by time and nature's rejuvenation. Not feeling the need for a nasty off trail scramble, I stopped at the Abril Mine to rest in the shade, where I found a nice specimen of sparkling raw zinc. After taking a few photos to honor the occasion, I quickly made my way back down the canyon to my truck. One more Dragoon destination was calling my name today...
Slavin Gulch Trail #332
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First time on this trail - thought it was great! Classic Cochise - incredible rock formations and boulders and rugged trail. I ended my hike below the mine (it was hot! I had come from the intersection of Middlemarch and FR 687 and was not up for more adventure...) - it was astounding to think of the amount of structure/mining/materials at this site - amazing.

Great information on the area and the Abril mine from the Green Valley Hiking Club (PDF):

Slavin Gulch Trail #332
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it's that time of year, you know. the time of year where i want to get out and go camping as much as possible. ok - so that's really most times of year, but hey. we needed a plan. bobby and i have gotten in a rhythm of every other weekend of going to different parts of the state, and this week it was my turn to make the recommendation. i knew that i wanted to camp in the west dragoons - that part was certain. the hike? that part i wasn't so sure about. i knew that there was a possibility of going up to china peak from slavin gulch since randy had led a group up there a few years before when i couldn't make it. and bobby is great with maps so i figured this could be a possibility. little did i know...

the slavin gulch trail is really nice. we even went by some pools, which made me question whether or not backpacking in the area would be completely out of the question or not. but the real excitement happened after we made it to the mine area and we started to bushwhack our way up to the jeep road above.

we were doing okay for a while, until we came across this area where we had to cross the tailings pile. i took a few steps, and then slid and fell on my bum and made it about five feet before coming to a stop. this made me go into complete panic mode. panic is not something you can control, you see, and this was definitely an out-of-control moment. we finally made our way back to solid ground, and finally up to the jeep road (probably the only time i have ever been happy to see such a sight).

i was shaken, and wasn't thinking clearly or reacting very fast enough. i grew weary quickly, but after all that i had been through, i thought it folly not to go through to the peak. we had already made it so far. however, when we made it to another bit of a peak, and we could see the destination, i decided that i'd had enough. i didn't want to go back down to the saddle in order to make it back up to china peak. i was getting slower and slower, and we were running out of daylight and i was running out of steam. i had a celebratory brew here, because for some reason i thought i had deserved it, before heading back down.

i felt like i had cheated death or something, so somehow we ended up going down the man-made scree on the way back to the slavin gulch trail. an uneventful hike out, and back to camp we went.

i do love this area for camping. the hiking will always be secondary here. someday i think i'll re-try the bagging of china peak, but i think i'll do it from more solid footing. perhaps the route that is posted here...
Slavin Gulch Trail #332
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cindyl picked this hike out for our weekend's main event; one that she had done in part before, with the added goal this time of scrambling up to FR345 and then heading for China Peak. We drove down and staked out a good campsite before heading out to the trailhead and got started about 9:45. We made decent time up the trail, and enjoyed the views all the way along the gulch untli we reached the lower Abril Mine site.

After a sit down break, we slowly made our way up the hill, trying our best not to slip and slide too much, and eventually we were on solid ground again. We paused to a peek at the adit along this road, which was blowing out cold air like an air conditioner, then road walked our way south, finding that in a couple shaded spots there was still a couple inches of snow across the road. When we reached the spot to leave the road and start towards China Peak, we decided to leave it for another day. We walked west up a short spur road and took a break there before heading back the way we came.

We took a different route down for the upper half of the scramble, staying further north and heading for the midway tailings pile and there traversing south to catch the route we had come up. There is another adit there as well; today it was several inches deep with water and also blowing out cold air. Hiking out, I noticed how much work had been put into building this long abandoned road, it must have been a good mine to cover that expense. With a short drive, we were back at camp to finish setting up, with dinner made before the sun set and a fire going shortly thereafter.
Slavin Gulch Trail #332
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Bagging Miller Peak was just hanging there on the (whenever the wind seems it won't be gusting to gale force all afternoon over the ridge) springtime to do list. I set out for said quest yesterday morning, only to turn into a sustained wind of 20+ mph heading-up Montezuma Pass @ about 9:45am - NOT a good sign! I chose to turn it around at the Coronado National Memorial Visitor Center and began making contingency plans for the day's outing. Such a luxurious feeling - being so fortunate to dwell in the Baja Arizona - having so many ranges to pick from in Cochise County, a seeming embarrassment of riches.

Without remorse, I immediately knew I'd be heading for the Dragoon Mountains of lore. After stopping back at the house for a brief bit of research...I hastily printed-out a topography map and got back out the door. I had read about Slavin Gulch, and further reading the write-up on HAZ by PTY made this route an easy choice. It would take some time to get to the trail head, so I doubted if I would be able to make it all the way up today with an appointment to be back in town before 6:30 pm. The bonsai world of the 'Goons' awaited, and Slavin Gulch Trail was all that one could hope for in a southern AZ hike! The plant life is always especially vibrant in this range - stunning in fact - and the gulch was filled to the brim with verdant Canyon Oaks, Hedgehog Type Cacti ledges and a near Manzanita monoculture up top-side. The wind gusted fearcily at times and moved the orographic stratus clouds quickly over head, all quite surreal with the Dragoon Granite backdrop ever shifting all around - simply wonderful!!! Avg. Grade 42.3% GPS Route Available.
Slavin Gulch Trail #332
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Slavin Gultch trail is one of the hidden jewels of southern Arizona. Great trail great weather with great friends. A little hard to get to along 10 miles of washboard roads . About 6 mile in I asked " Does anybody have to pee?" we couldn't get out of the truck fast enough. Apparently I was not alone. The scenery was awesome in both directions. I just wish it connected to the Middlemarch trail and didn't dead end at the mine.
Slavin Gulch Trail #332
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The making of a perfect day: Drove from Willcox through the Dragoon Mountains via Middlemarch Road and Middlemarch Pass to the west side of the range, enjoying the rock formations and beautiful southern Arizona scenery on my first visit to this area. After a drive across grassland foothills I arrived at what ended up being the "new" trailhead along FR 687 (F.Y.I. the Coronado National Forest's webpage for Slavin Gulch Trail is incorrect with respect to trail distance and west trailhead location). I immediately knew this was going to be a sweet hike when I started up Slavin Gulch. It didn't disappoint! I only saw one couple coming down as I was going up, although this side of the Dragoons was brimming with people on this rather warm January day. Arriving at the Abril Mine, the easily followed trail promptly gave out. Not feeling that I had truly conquered the trail (as written on the C.N.F. webpage, at least), I chose to claw my way up the nasty slope up to FR 345A. I regretted this decision until I reached the road and noticed the view :) Coming down was a little easier, as there was a somewhat better (but no less pants-ripping) route leading down from the end of FR 345A. I mastered a "scree slope glisade" down the mine tailings, which worked out quite well. Once back at the mine, I hauled it down the trail, and was able to catch a few sunset shots on the Dragoon cliffs. My return hike time from the Abril Mine to the west TH was 1 hour, 5 minutes, including photo stops. Since I was in the area, of course, I had to make a visit to Tombstone. Everything was closed at 7:00 on a Sunday night, but that made for a great photo-op of the historic district.
My opinion: Cochise Stronghold and Slavin Gulch Trail are the two best hikes in the Dragoon Mountains.

Permit $$

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To hike
Main West Trailhead: Take US 80 (south) from Benson. Turn left onto Middlemarch Road (one mile north of Tombstone), and follow it for approximately 10 miles to the Coronado National Forest boundary. At the Forest boundary, turn left onto FR 687. Follow FR 687 for 2.85 miles to the unsigned trailhead at (31.8784 N, 110.02658 W), where FR 687 makes a hard left after crossing a creekbed. The Slavin Gulch Trail begins as a blocked and closed road heading uphill and north from FR 687. Within 150 feet, there is a sign for the Slavin Gulch Trail, and the trail passes through a vehicle barrier fence. (see hike description)

East Trailhead: Take US 80 (south) from Benson. Turn left onto Middlemarch Road (one mile north of Tombstone). Follow Middlemarch Road for approximately 14.4 miles to FR 345A. Turn left on FR 345A and follow it for approximately 5 miles to its end at the top of Slavin Gulch. (see hike description)
page created by PrestonSands on Jan 27 2009 2:48 pm
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