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Coke Ovens - Via Cottonwood & Box Canyon, AZ

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Guide 17 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Globe > Superior SW
4.3 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Distance Round Trip 0.55 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,709 feet
Elevation Gain -48 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 0.79
Interest Historic
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
4  2014-02-01 topohiker
11  2013-11-30
Coke Ovens 4x4 Loop from Superior
4  2012-09-30
Asbestos Point
28  2012-03-24 topohiker
7  2011-12-22 CannondaleKid
20  2011-11-11
Coke Ovens via Battle Axe
15  2011-10-08
Cochran-Gila River
7  2009-12-17 AZLOT69
Page 1,  2
Author Randal_Schulhauser
author avatar Guides 71
Routes 98
Photos 9,967
Trips 1,009 map ( 9,248 miles )
Age 59 Male Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Jan, Dec, Nov → 9 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:12am - 6:23pm
5 Alternative
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Hotter than mesquite!
by Randal_Schulhauser

Notice! It was reported in this forum thread that the Coke Ovens are on private property that is closed to the public.

This is more a destination than a hiking trail per se, but an iconic Arizona location nonetheless! The ghost town of Cochran is nearby and could be combined with a visit to the Coke Ovens as well as hiking North or South Butte. NOTE: 4WD vehicle is a must and traveling with 2 or more vehicles strongly recommended. ALSO NOTE: State Trust Land Permit required. Information is listed further down the page above directions.

If "getting there" is half the fun, combining a trip to the Coke Ovens with a loop through Cottonwood Canyon and Box Canyon will double the fun. Cottonwood Canyon Road is located between milepost 144 & 145 along Hwy 79 at the flag pole. The "No Trespassing" signs don't apply if you have a State Trust Land Permit. A red flag up the pole indicates the National Guard may be practicing nearby with live ammunition. Follow Cottonwood Canyon Road until you reach the T-intersection with Mineral Mountain Road. Take Mineral Mountain Road south until you reach another T-intersection with Box Canyon Road. Take Box Canyon Road south until you reach yet another T-intersection at GPS co-ordinates 33o 08.984N, 111o 12.085W. This is the turn-off for the Coke Ovens and Martinez Mill & Mines. Follow the trail up over the saddle. Take the turn-off at GPS co-ordinates 33o 09.193N, 111o 10.610W to follow the loop to the Coke Ovens.

The Arizona Highways book "Arizona Ghost Towns and Mining Camps" by Philip Varney speculates that the five charcoal kilns were built around 1882 along the Gila River by the Pinal Consolidated Mining Company to turn mesquite into charcoal to be used in the ore smelting process. Charcoal burns hotter and longer than the mesquite wood from which it was derived. Smelters preferred coke, which is derived from coal, because it would burn even hotter and longer than charcoal. The abundance of mesquite in this Gila Valley location was exploited by the mining company in an attempt to obtain economic advantage. It should be pointed out that "Coke Ovens" is a complete misnomer and "Charcoal Kilns" would be most accurate to describe these bee hive structures.

Cochran was a mining and railroad town along the Phoenix and Eastern Railroad (and later, the Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix Railroad) beside the Gila River. The Silver Bell and Copper Butte mines combined with trade from nearby ranches created a town of about 100 people when the first post office was established at the site in 1904. Closure of the mines and post office in 1915 caused the town to vanish almost overnight.

Precisely when the Coke Ovens ceased operation is unknown, but homesteader William Fred Jenkins actually lived in one of the kilns in the 1930's. In 1971, these five unique structures standing over 30 feet high 72 feet in circumference were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. In the 1980's, an attempt to integrate the kilns into a guest cottage/bed and breakfast operation was made. When you explore the kilns today you can notice the alterations such as concrete floors, door frames and windows to support this make-over. I can not find any records as to how successful this venture was.

On the return trek, continue along Box Canyon south towards the village of Price located along the Gila River wash. Follow Price Road back to Hwy 79 and the town of Florence.

Many off-roading guides indicate that the Coke Ovens sit on private land. No access restrictions were encountered on our recent visit. This route could be an interesting mountain bike journey, or a base camp for some interesting hiking opportunities in a remote location. Enjoy!

Check out the Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2005-12-24 Randal_Schulhauser
    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 of 11 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Coke Ovens - Via Cottonwood & Box Canyon
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    I parked outside box canyon and hiked in. This time I went to Myers and Herring mines. I saw numerous ‘hole in ground’ mines along the way. I followed another road that went behind Bell butte. The road ended but I was about a mile from Silver Bell mine. I almost bushwhacked through, but the terrain changed my mind (and for being alone).

    I made my way to the Coke Ovens and had a very late lunch at the Gila.
    Coke Ovens - Via Cottonwood & Box Canyon
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    I took Fan and Mike to see the Coke Ovens & Martinez Canyon.
    We parked right outside Box Canyon and started hiking in.

    Fan wasn't feeling great, so she dropped back and followed our footprints. Mike and I made the Coke Ovens by noon. We talked to some ATVers who crossed the Gila. The Gila is now a foot deep.

    On the way back we ran across Fan. She hiked with us back to the Coke Ovens / Martinez split. We started heading to Martinez canyon. Fan didn't like the heavy ATV traffic so she headed back to the Jeep.

    We got to the Cabins and headed up the 'luge'. It was very steep and slippery. The views from the top were spectacular. I could very clearly see the AZT from there. We did a little poking around the Silver Belle and the Columbia mines.

    We got back to the canyon floor and headed away from the mill. My GPS showed an old road and the Martinez well was in that direction. We did some mild canyoneering for a bit. There was no road and we didn't find any well.

    We then headed back to the Jeep.

    We noticed that after we started the 'luge' we didn't see any more vehicles.

    The overcast helped a lot with the temps.
    Coke Ovens - Via Cottonwood & Box Canyon
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    Ever since I hiked the new section 16 of the AZT and looked into Martinez canyon I was a mission to check out the Martinez cabins/mill/mines.

    I wanted to park at where Price road/Box canyon intersect, but I missed it and went up Box Canyon to right before the canyon narrows up.
    I wanted to hike and not do much 4x4ing. I can hike faster that I can off-road/4x4 and it's less nerve racking (especially bouldering and steps!).

    I started hiking a little after 8 and the box canyon was nice and cool. By 9 I was at the Martinez turnoff.

    I got to the cabins and headed to off the mill and the mines. I explored for a while, looking at the mill mines and machinery. I then headed to the Columbia / Silver belle mines. There was twice I thought I took a wrong turn because there was no road, just a creek with big boulders. Then I saw a road. I climb up almost to the Belle Mine and had a good view of the area. I could now see the AZT section 16 where I was looking into this canyon last February!
    Life is Good! :y:

    I was tempted to check out the 'luge', but I wasn't sure on how long it would take to get to the Coke Ovens, so I turned around.

    When I returned to the cabin there was about 6 ATVs there. Up until this point I hadn't seen one ATV or 4x4. I got down to the spring and there was about 5 ATVs there. One guy asked if it was crowded at the cabin. I replied that there was 6 ATVs. The Guy said "Oh so it's pretty empty". I replied "that's one perspective". The guys then said that that area gets very crowded.

    I was under the impression that the Martinez Canyon was closed to ATVs, but I never saw a sign stating it.

    One the way out from the cabin, there must have been 15 quads/ATVs and 5 Jeeps going in. I'm glad I brought my MP3 player to drown out the noise.

    Next was the Coke Ovens. Along the way I saw two spots where there was windshield glass all over the road. I'm guessing it was a rollover. When I got to the loop section, there was 2 Jeeps and a trike sitting at the intersection. They asked me which way was better and I told them I was going to left because there was no vehicles coming out that way.

    I was impressed when I first saw the Coke Ovens. The pictures don't do it justice. I was surprised at how much cooler it was in the ovens; it felt like it was 10 degrees cooler. A couple minutes later a set of ATVs pulled up. They said they left shortly after seeing me at the Martinez cabin. They were amazed at how fast I got there. Then the Jeeps and the trike pulled up. I beat then by 5 minutes. I guess this re-affirms my belief that you can hike faster than ATV's on rough roads.

    I talked to folk and learned that the Gila was 3 feet deep. One guy told me that the house next to the cabins was pristine 15 years ago and over time 'idiots' stole the appliances, broke all the windows and trashed the place.
    The Jeeps were worried about the trike, so they left to tow the trike across the Gila and drop it off at in Florence.

    I took a nice lunch inside the Coke Oven. A sheriff's helicopter buzzed by the ovens and one point.

    I had an hour to explore, so I went to validate a shortcut route I had though up. From looking at my topo's, it looked like there might be a way to hike back to Price road from the north side of the Gila. There was flat land on the North side of the Gila all the way until what looked like a wall. The train crosses the river here via a bridge. I was hoping that there might be a way to get to the bridge before the wall. I found a road going the direction of the bridge. By now I was in a mesquite forest that provided ample shade. I was getting very hopeful when I saw the bridge in the near distance and especially when the GPS showed the bridge being less than a 1,000 feet away! The road punched out of the woods right at the Gila. I saw the wall, a bunch of do-able rocks below it and nothing. It was a dead end with the Gila flowing that deep and fast. I backtracked to see if there was any way around the wall and there was nothing reasonable. So the only way to shortcut back to Price road is to cross the Gila when it low and follow the tracks back.

    After 4 o'clock I didn't see another ATV. I returned to the Jeep via the roads just as it got dark.

    The temps were perfect in the morning and the evening. The middle of the day was very warm. I went through 7 liters of fluids.

    This is a cool place to explorer either by vehicle or hiking.
    Coke Ovens - Via Cottonwood & Box Canyon
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    We started early to beat the rush of ATV's, dirt bikes & 4x4's by heading directly to Martinez Canyon for a hike and exploration of the Silver Bell and Columbia Mines. The cabin area was chock full of said parties by time we finished our exploration/hike so it was a good thing we wasted little time.

    From there we drove out to the Coke Ovens but by this time it was like a ATV/dirt-bike convention so we continued on down to the Gila River to where Eric and Hank had their misadventure about a year ago. While the river bed was dry halfway across, it was rushing pretty fast farther out. Part of it was shallow based on the waves but there was a 5' wide spot with no swirls so it would be a deeper spot so there was no way we were going to cross today. So we headed back to the ovens which by this time was almost deserted but for 3 ATV's and their riders. Having noticed now as well as earlier the amount of people who didn't appear adventurous enough to tackle the whole drive from Box Canyon to the ovens, I asked one of the drivers which way they came in from. He answered across the river from Cochran Road. Since we were down there and saw no evidence I asked where. He told us it was almost as soon as we get out of the trees, but not remembering a good looking crossing there we were baffled. To that he said to follow them and they'd show us.

    Good thing we followed them because even if we knew where they crossed we wouldn't have know the direction and exact spot. Instead of driving straight across where they drove down the bank, they turned upstream 20' then swung out across then another curve farther downstream and out. Although the ATV's were lower than us with 4 people in each, it was a good thing my air intake was the highest point under the hood because water was gushing out everywhere. Thinking we were home free we look ahead and find trees to the edge of the water so we have to drive back down into the water for another 50' before driving up a steep, slick and muddy bank. It was very shallow here so no worries but with only ATV's and cycles using this route it took the locker engaged and just keeping the foot on the gas to get up the bank. We followed the ATV's until we hit Donnelly Wash and we cruised south to the Flo-Kelvin highway and back to Florence. Not done 4-wheeling for the day we headed east on Price Road for the trip through Box Canyon and back out Cottonwood where we had entered some 8+ hours before.

    Another long run for the Samurai over plenty of rough terrain and a river crossing without a hiccup so things are working out great.

    See our mine exploration hike triplog here:
    [ triplog ]

    To view the videos from inside the mines follow the links...
    Columbia Mine: ... .php?id=47
    Silver Bell Mine: ... .php?id=48
    Coke Ovens - Via Cottonwood & Box Canyon
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    I've done passage 16 of AZT a couple of times and wanted to check out the new section. So I did a loop with the old and the new sections of passage 16.

    I parked by the artesian well and headed up (and went up and up!) on the old passage 16. I was surprised how far the intersection of passage 16/17 had moved. It was nice that the old AZT signs and posted were still on the old passage 16.

    I started on the new passage 16 and WOW it was amAZing!! :DANCE: The AZT association saved the best section for last. They really out did themselves. The views are Grand Canyon style, with 360 vistas. The trail is awesome as well. You can see it way out in the distance and then be on it in about 10 minutes. The trail feels like it was designed for mountain bikers. The views of Martinez canyon are great. Now Martinez canyon is on my to-do list. Sadly, the trail leaves this canyon and moves over to another canyon that starts dropping into the Gila River. The views are still great but, the trail start to drop so the vista's start to drop as well.

    I've been in the White Rock Wilderness a couple of times, but I've never seen these views. I'm still amAZed about the views. :GB:

    One good/bad thing: I forgot to bring a camera. I would have gotten some great pics, but I would have spent too much time taking them.

    I got to the Gila River a little faster than expected. The coke ovens were a 1.5 mile detour from the Rincon/passage 16 intersection. I wanted to check them out, so I went for it. I came across a group of AVTers and asked how far away the coke ovens were they said it was another couple of miles. I didn't have any maps with the coke ovens on it and there were some spur roads/trails, so I turned around. NOTE: when I got home, I found out I was almost right at the coke ovens :tt:

    I had lunch at a Gila River ford spot. The river was moving fast and looked deep as I threw some rocks into it.

    The hike along the Gila River was nice. There are sections were you're above the Gila looking down on it. The trail in this section is so freshly cut that the ground is still soft.

    I made it to where the old / new sections meet and went up the wash to the FR that leads to Walnut Canyon. The creek in Walnut canyon was barely flowing. There were some section were the water went underground. The artesian well is flowing very nice.

    This is now my favorite AZT section. It has so much to offer in scenery and quality hiking. I highly recommend this section.

    I will make some more trips out to this area to go to the coke ovens and to explore Martinez canyon.
    Coke Ovens - Via Cottonwood & Box Canyon
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    Mineral Mtn Quadrangle - Slot Canyons
    Long 4x4 drive out to the SE corner of the Mineral Mountain Quadrangle followed by a very short hike to explore a number of slot canyons.

    We came in from the west via Cottonwood & Martinez Canyon Roads. After visiting the Coke Ovens Gummo wished for a something a bit less adventurous than the drive out so we went east along Battle Axe Road and up to Superior on the return.
    Coke Ovens - Via Cottonwood & Box Canyon
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    Due to my abbreviated recon 4x4 trip two days ago I was eager to return to complete the unfinished business. Knowing I would be tackling even tougher terrain than last trio I recruited my neighbor Richard to ride along as my co-pilot/spotter.

    Again I started out on Battle Axe Road from the east only this time we took the Walnut Canyon loop counter-clockwise and thus see it from a different perspective. In this direction the roughest and most washed-out areas are uphill so it was a little more trial-by-fire for the air locker and it proved to work great, giving me even more confidence to tackle more difficult terrain. At the SE point of the loop we crossed the dry Gila River and drove a few miles in hopes of locating an old Jeep/pack trail to the Golden Bell Mine. One the drive south we didn't see anything that gave an impression of any trail after turning around and heading back north there appeared to to a slight ridge situated along where my information indicated in may be. But without getting out and walking some distance on foot we couldn't tell and with plenty more recon to do we headed on to complete the Walnut Canyon Loop.

    I was quite surprised by the number of items of interest presented themselves by traveling the opposite direction, which just meant we'll have plenty more hiking to do in the near future. We stopped at a campsite on a small mesa providing an awesome view... will have to try it soon. On the way up last last few climbs there was a tarantula where I needed to place a tire so I stopped, got out, took a photo then started a video while giving it a slight nudge to move it along. It moved a little but stopped too soon so I attempted to get it to crawl onto my hand so I could set it out of the way. While it had no problem climbing over my fingers, it didn't appear to like my driving half-gloves (necessary to prevent blisters from constant wheel kick-back... with no power steering and a small steering wheel you get plenty) and skittered away. Oh well, at least it moved out of harm's way and we could proceed.

    Once out of the Walnut Canyon loop we headed on out to the Coke Ovens, which Richard had never seen before. (Actually he had never seen 90% of the areas we would cover) When we got to the hole that was mud a few days back it was almost dry so it was without even a slip of a tire that we climbed up that part. Next was the brutal couple-hundred-yard climb up the hill after passing through the tree-tunnel along the river bottoms. Bog slow was the only way to do it without rattling our teeth, yet they still felt like they were rattling. Now on the ridge heading toward the ovens we had a great view of the surrounding terrain. Down another jarring hill and a short jaunt across to the ovens and we were ready for a quick tour of the ovens and grab a lunch while we were there. We were just about to start eating when a group of 3 ATV's and two Jeeps (box-stock mid-50's CJ on street tires and a mid-60's CJ slightly better equipped) showed up... oh great... now I know why there are so my ATV accidents, all but one had a Bud Light beer in-hand and he had a Coors Light. By their manner and conversation there were all pretty well lubricated. After a short conversation we found they were all from the Coolidge area and enjoying a day off together. When asked if they may be hunters they replied, no we just like to piss off hunters. They were friendly enough and freely offered us some beer which we declined, wishing to have our full faculties available to us on the upcoming treacherous area. Thankfully they headed back south across the river from whence they came and we headed into the next portion of our adventure.

    Although I knew the more westerly route heading north had some very difficult steps we figured we'd try it anyway. But when we got to the first 4' step next to a pretty good drop, with no other vehicles along in case of trouble we went back to the ovens to take the easterly route, which being longer presented practically the same amount of difficulty to traverse. At a wash just before the toughest climb of the day we came across a four-door '52 Ford Crestliner that by the looks of it could possibly have been there since that time. I'd guess it was driven out here when the road still had gravel over it instead of the erosion-washed smooth boulders that are there today.

    We could have dawdled longer but with the hill of steps right but 50 feet away it was time to take it on. Not wanting to end up like the Ford we carefully scouted each section of the climb before attempting it. As uneven as the steps were it was necessary to weave back and forth to avoid the potential dangers to the vehicle. The extra care paid off... nothing but the tires made any contact with the terrain. Once at the top of the hill, having been this far from the north a few weeks back the rest was easy. (not really, it just seemed that way)

    Only one more obstacle that caused me trouble previously was left to tackle. Previously the big shelf was devoid of stacked rocks to aid climbing it but this time there were a few. With a few minutes to add a few more strategically placed rocks the Samurai took it like it was a slanted driveway. With the last obstacle of consequence defeated we made one quick stop to see the petroglyphs in Cottonwood Canyon and we were on the way back home.

    Another fifty photos and more video as well as ideas for about a dozen places of interest to hike to in the next few months.
    Coke Ovens - Via Cottonwood & Box Canyon
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    I spotted a trip posted by Topohiker the other day and he mentioned the water level being low in the Gila River. That was the green light for me to attempt to hike to the Coke Ovens from Donnelly Wash (see South Butte trailhead info). Every time I have attempted it the river was too deep and too swift thru this area. Today was a success and the Coke Ovens are an easy hike via this route. I crossed the Gila just east of the railroad tunnel and trestle and followed an old jeep road to the Ovens. Great fun and on the way back I meandered along the Gila. If you like river walking and exploring get out to the Gila now.
    Coke Ovens - Via Cottonwood & Box Canyon
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    Nice day for a duel sport adventure. Mix some hiking with a trip on the Quad. Randals Trip report says it all but I added a twist to it by approaching from the east. Specifically, State Route 177 to Battle Axe Road to the Coke Ovens. A fantastic adventure not for the meek. Check out my Route, and don't go alone. This is a long Fifteen Miles, One Way that absolutely require a high clearance 4 X 4. Pass by several old Mines.
    Views of the Gila River Valley and the White Mountain Wilderness are fantastic.
    The Coke Ovens are a work of art and should be preserved. Poke around and find an old Stone House........what else is out there.
    Coke Ovens - Via Cottonwood & Box Canyon
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    The Triplog for this hike is excellent as well as the trip itself. I've been doing this trip for years and was going to write it up but found this triplog and can not improve on it. The roads have been getting increasingly worse due to erosion and is definitely four wheel drive and then not for the amateur. During this day we found at least 20 abandoned mines along with the Martinez, Silver Bell, and Columbia Mines , all of which need to be hiked to by all but the most experienced and equipped off road vehicles. One of our party tried to motor up to the Martinez mine and beyond-he made it but suffered some body damage to his vehicle. The rest of us hiked the four mile round trip thru the red rock and cottonwood beatiful canyon. Many original structures still exist here as well as original motors-generators-belts-pullys-etc. used to extract minerals mined from these mountains. Many structures have suffered extensive vandalism by the usual suspects-the morons-who seem determined to ruin everything. The BLM has obviously noted the damage and posted signs recently which have also been damaged. The usual outcome always seems to follow-the authorities will return and destroy whats left in the name of safety and all remants of this history will be lost.

    Permit $$
    AZ State Land Recreational Permits are available for an individual ($15.00), or a family limited to two adults and children under the age of 18 ($20.00).

    Land Parcel Map

    Map Drive
    Strictly 4x4

    To hike
    Av Time (off-roading to coke ovens, 1-way) - 3 hours

    From Phoenix take Superstition Freeway (Hwy 60) east approximately 43 miles to Florence Junction. Take Hwy 79 south towards Florence approximately 5 1/2 miles to Cottonwood Canyon Road turn-off.

    GPS route summary:
    1. Hwy 79/Cottonwood Canyon Rd. turn- off; 33o 10.745'N, 111o 21.129'W, mile 0.00, el 1768 ft.
    2. Cottonwood Canyon/Mineral Mountain Road junction; 33o 12.160'N, 111o 13.480'W, mile 8.10, el 2397 ft.
    3. Mineral Mountain Road/Box Canyon Road junction; 33o 10.094'N, 111o 12.083'W, mile 11.21, el 2297 ft.
    4. Box Canyon/Coke Ovens turn-off; 33o 08.984'N, 111o 12.085'W, mile 12.68, elevation 2070 ft.
    5. North Martinez Spring turn-off; 33o 09.193'N, 111o 10.610'W, mile 14.65, elevation 2352 ft.
    6. Coke Ovens Loop 1st turn-off; 33o 07.518'N, 111o 10.253'W, mile 17.13, elevation 2021 ft.
    7. Coke Ovens Loop 2nd turn-off; 33o 07.340'N, 111o 10.309'W, mile 17.48, elevation 2156 ft.
    8. Coke Ovens; 33o 06.246'N, 111o 09.901'W, mile 19.07, elevation 1709 ft.
    9. Box Canyon Road - Price Road junction; 33o 05.811'N, 111o 14.203'W, mile 31.47, elevation 1581 ft.
    10. Hwy 79/Price Road turn-off; 33o 03.625'N, 111o 22.729'W, mile 41.30, elevation 1486 ft.

    See GPS overview map and detailed map for off-road route to the Coke Ovens.
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