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Fort Bowie Loop, AZ

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Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Douglas
3.9 of 5 by 16
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,700 feet
Elevation Gain 452 feet
Accumulated Gain 515 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.58
Interest Historic
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6  2018-11-23 MandaBearPig
41  2017-07-04 DarthStiller
2  2016-11-02 cactuscat
15  2016-04-02 Tortoise_Hiker
17  2016-04-02 The_Eagle
2  2016-01-28 cactuscat
23  2014-01-12 GrottoGirl
16  2013-03-12 SkyIslander18
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author avatar Guides 2
Routes 0
Photos 292
Trips 35 map ( 207 miles )
Age 37 Male Gender
Location Tolleson, AZ
Historical Weather
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, May, Oct → 10 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:06am - 6:15pm
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A Hike Through the Old West

This hike has alot of history to offer! With a rich past in Native history (Chochise and Geronimo) and the conquest of the American west by the US. The Trailhead to Fort Bowie begins from a parking lot on the graveled Apache Pass Road that runs south from the town of Bowie, or east from Ariz. 186. A 1.5 mile (3 mile loop) interpretive trail gives all the details of history which occured in the area. The first trail junction from your left is the return route so stay on the trail heading straight.

The first ruins to be seen is an old miners cabin sight. The famous Butterfield Overland Trail can be seen along with the ruins of its stage station. Next comes the post cemetary were still rest some civilians killed by apaches along with "Little Robe" one of Geronimo's sons. The U.S. Army casualties had been moved to San Francisco in 1895. The next sight is ruins of the adobe foundation of the Chiricahua Indian Agency which hints at the spirit of cooperation that existed during the first years of the Chircahua Reservation. Next is a recreation of an Apache Wickiup which gives the sense of what life was like in the ancient of days. Farther still come the Apache spring. The focal point for of which this history occured. It was the only reliable water source for miles, and both the US establishment, and natives were reliant on it. For that reason there was much bloodshed over this source of water. The spring still runs, however signs around it say not to drink it. So examining the water it looked clean and clear, so I tasted it, and it was good. Far better than any tap water I've had. Just drink at your own risk. There is water available up at the visitor center not far from the spring, so I would advise just to wait until then. Next comes the ruins of the first site of Fort Bowie, a smaller fort situated on top of a small hill which a small side trail leads to 1/8th of a mile away. Retrace back down the trail to head up east to the much larger ruins and the grand site of the second Fort Bowie ruins. There is a visitor center filled with artifacts, pictures, and books of the area. Water is available outside of the visitor center. Also note that this does not get an extreme amount of visitors due to the fact the only way to access the ruins is by the 3 mile loop hike. So you may have the place to yourself.

The return trail heads up to Vista point which a small and steady climb to the top of a hill will give an overview of the forts sites, and also give a good vantage point of the valley. The trail then switchbacks back down the hill to intersect with the trail you started on. This may be a little rough for small children, but I would rate it slightly moderate. This is defenatly a hike to do if you like to hike to see historic sights, and this trail by far gives a great tour through the history of the area. At times its seemed as if I had traveled back in time.

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2006-11-06 IRIE_LION
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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 20 deeper Triplog Reviews
Fort Bowie Loop
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Morning exploring Fort Bowie National Historic Site with the family and pooch for Black Friday. Did not do the return loop as my mom's knee is shot for elevation changes. There's quite a bit more to the ruins than I would have assumed. Highly recommend stopping at Dwayne's Fresh Jerky for some of the best jerky and roasted nuts in AZ on your way back to the 10!
Fort Bowie Loop
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Fort Booty, how I've missed you! We headed over to the Fort after hiking at Chiricahua NM, and arrived late afternoon at a deserted trailhead for a quick visit. Spent some time at the cemetery reading about the victims of frontier tragedies. Amazing history in this lonesome valley.
Fort Bowie Loop
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Took Addie & Sabrina on an AZ history hike today.
We took off from the Ft Bowie Trail-head to the ruins and then added on the Butterfield Trail for the big figure 8 loop.
Great hike with the only bummer being that the Visitor center at the fort was closed today (Mon & Tue closed).
Cool highlight of the day was 4 guys showing up at the fort behind us with a drone that they flew over the ruins.
We got to watch the live camera view on there cell phone app!
Great history, awesome scenic views & with 2 very fun partners ..... it was a day well spent in Cochise land!
Fort Bowie Loop
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Another fine day walking through history.
I was the only car at the trailhead, and the first visitor of the day to reach the VC at about 12:30 pm. Chatted with volunteer Sue and Ranger Michael - both very pleasant people. VC has small but good displays as well as nice gift shop items and maybe the cleanest bathrooms I've ever seen at a recreation site.
This is a great hike, well worth a visit - even if you're not into the history. I didn't explore all the paths through the Forts - since I did that last time, racking up 6.6 miles on what is supposed to be a three mile hike. The weather was threatening and I had game 7 to get home for.
Fort Bowie Loop
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We were at the Chiricahua National Monument for a hike. We finished with enough time to be able to squeeze something else in. Denny mentioned to Joe and I something about a David Bowie hike, so we had to check it out.

It ended up being a history lesson hike. Joe's favorite. Short and sweet with lots of cool things to see... and I got to help fold the flag at the end of the day. A first since Boy Scouts. An Easy hike and worth checking out if in the area.

According to the Rangers, David Bowie was never at this Fort.

Fort Bowie Loop
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This was the "if you're going, you're doing this too" hike. I'm just not a BobP / Al_HikesAZ / Dennis Williams history buff like the big boys :)

It turned out to be a better than anticipated hike. The rangers were pretty cool too!

Denny then focused in on La Unica Tortillia y Tacqueria in Wilcox. They just added a new patio. Temps were shivering but we were starving. Pretty busy but they kept the chips coming even after Bruce refused them twice. What kind of person refuses more chips? The food was pretty good.

We then sang our way home. Unfortunately we were all pretty tired so the high notes kinna hurt.
Fort Bowie Loop
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If you are any sort of history buff, this is a fabulous hike! The standard route is 3 miles, but that is if you go straight there and back and don't do any exploring. Just seeing all the things on the self-guided tour, I did over 5 miles, and I never got to the wagon train massacre or Bascom camp sites. The signs on the tour cover the whole loop, not just the lower part to the main fort site.

Also if you go, make sure you go on a day when the ranger is in the museum there. Lots of really interesting stuff in there too that you'll miss out on otherwise! The rough idea the ranger gave me was that in peak season he was there daily, but in summers just on Saturdays and Sundays.
Fort Bowie Loop
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My annual trip out to Cochise land before the heat moves in.
Hiked the Fort Bowie - Butterfield Trail - Apache Pass Rd. big loop clockwise.
As always - Awesome AZ history, great trail and wonderful scenery !!!

Fort Bowie Loop
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Last time I went here was in the mid 1990's. This time they had the cemetery cleaned up and a nice fence around it. I do not recall that the first time I hiked in as part of a military class I was attending. I hiked in with my son. We got started late of course because we stopped to see the Thing on the way. ALso on the drive into Fort Bowie we stopped to see some burros near the road. It was a nice short little trip into Fort Bowie but when we got on the ridge it was very windy. We stopped along the way to read all the markers. I took a little rest on the ruins of one of the Butterfield Stage Coach houses along the way. I was interested in the remains of the fireplace. I wonder how many travellers rested there in front of that fireplace and got warm. We joked on the way out about a zombie attack. What would you do in the middle of nowhere if zombies started chasing you?
Fort Bowie Loop
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Bassett Peak Tales 2012

3 days
607 miles
33 gallons of gasoline
266 digital images
Fall colours
"Robber" stellar jays
Clean, crisp mountain air (with just a hint of snow)
Unexpected solitude
No work distractions

The Plan => Friday 11/9 rendezvous at Einstein's Bagels in Ahwatukee AZ, truck pool, and hit the road to the Bassett Peak trail head at the end of FR660/Ash Creek Road to set up camp in the Galiuro Mountains to enjoy what many consider the best fall colours in Arizona.

I've been able to keep my 2012 quarterly wilderness adventures pretty much as planned; "Anza Borrego California Tales 2012" (check out => ), "Oregon Tales 2012" (check out => ), and Colorado Fall Colours 2012" (check out => Those 3 days crossed out on the November calendar to take in the Bassett Peak fall colours at Ash Spring were about to be tested...

Thursday started out with 6 adventurers ready and raring to go, by sundown there was only 1. Weather forecasts and other calamities took their toll. With Friday already booked off, I decided to roll the dice and use the Willcox Holiday Inn Express as basecamp with some adjusted plans;

A. Ahwatukee AZ - ground zero, home
B. Willcox AZ - basecamp at the Holiday Inn Express (check out =>
C. Fort Bowie National Historic Site - stop at the old fort (check out => and
D. San Simon AZ - S. Noland Rd. turn-off to head south to Portal AZ and the South Fork of Cave Creek TH in Chiricahua National Monument
E. South Noland Road - note; signage is not "San Simon Road" as noted in HAZ write-ups
F. Foothills Road - turn-off to SE towards Portal AZ
G. Portal AZ - SE access to Chiricahua National Monument (check out => and
H. South Fork of Cave Creek TH - access at the South Fork picnic area (check out =>
I. Forest Road 42 - up and over the Chiricahua Mountains (check out => ... &actid=105)
J. Dos Cabezas AZ - a drive back to Willcox via SR186
K. Willcox AZ - basecamp at the local Holiday Inn Express (check out =>
L. Bassett Peak TH - end of the road for FR660/Ash Creek Road in the Galiuro Mountains (check out =>
M. Tucson AZ - Sunday dinner with my youngest daughter, Tobyn
N. Ahwatukee AZ - home again...

DAY 1 - Friday 11/9
Ahwatukee AZ to Willcox AZ
185 miles
3 hrs 1 min 1-way per Google Maps

Hit the road for the Willcox AZ basecamp.

DAY 2 - Saturday 11/10
Willcox AZ to South Fork of Cave Creek Trail #243 via FOBO and FR42 to SR186
96 miles
3 hrs 34 min per Google Maps

I have never been to the Chiricahua Mountains before and thought I could take advantage of being in the vicinity. My home library contains the book "Cochise - the Life and Times of the Great Apache Chief" by ASU professor Peter Aleshire (check out => ... 0471383635 ). Despite the literary criticism, I've always been intrigued by this book and the subject (an easier read about Cochise was authored by Dave Roberts). It's arguable that the existence of Fort Bowie can be attributed to Chief Cochise, so it was fitting to make the side trek. Upon entry to the site, I discover the cool nickname for Fort Bowie - FOBO, uttered by one of the staff (FOBO is now forever burned into my brain). A quick tour of FOBO Loop followed by a pondering about the location of the tent Cochise cut open to make his escape in 1861 (check out => ... elix-3.pdf ) during the "Bascom Affair". The low hanging clouds created a fittingly eerie FOBO atmosphere...

The main objective of the day was exploring South Fork of Cave Creek Trail #243 and the fall colours I've heard raves about from some HAZ trekkers and others (check out => and ). Maple Camp would be the primary objective given some of the photos I've seen. I arrived at the picnic area at the end of South Fork Road noon-ish. A group of 3 hunters decked out in full camouflage were exiting the trail as I began my trek. They said they managed to get a single shot off during their morning hunt - I indicated I hoped to get considerably more (digital) shots off that afternoon... I arrived at the Maple Camp area wondering what all the fuss is about. Undeterred, I trekked another 2 miles or so upstream from the Burro Trail junction seeking fall colours. I have to agree with Letty's recent assessment (check out => ) and look forward to area recovery to its former blazing colours. I returned to the TH with just enough remaining daylight to spark-up the BBQ and grill a couple of burgs. To my complete surprise, I discovered a robbery in process - Stellar Jays landing on my picnic table and helping themselves to my Doritos - with me only an arm's length away!

I returned to my Willcox basecamp via Forest Road 42 up and over the Chiricahua Mountains to join up with SR186 near Dos Cabezas. When I packed up and left the South Fork picnic area my truck thermometer indicated it was 48degF. As I peaked-out along the Chiricahua ridgeline, my truck thermometer indicated it was a chilly 34degF!

DAY 3 - Sunday 11/10
Willcox AZ to Bassett Peak TH (Ash Creek Rd/FR660)
36 miles
1 hr 37 min per Google Maps

Sunday sunrise revealed a brilliant blue cloudless sky with snow visible on the highest mountain peaks. I slowly made my way to the trail head stopping many times to observe the various eye-candy (I still regret passing up the pumpkin field and failing to re-create the image captured by Derek von Briesen => ) including snow on Mount Graham. As I turned onto FR660 near the intersection of Ash Creek Road and Sunset Loop, I was surprised to see nobody at the usually busy "hunter's meadow". Saw one group of campers at the large site as you exit the wash and another group at the almost-TH. I parked my truck here and discovered the campers were mostly from Mesa AZ. They indicated it had snowed overnight accompanied by some strong winds. Once on the trail, I was treated to a riot of colour (albeit a week past their prime). At Ash Spring, the aspen still had about half their leaves. Another one of the old growth aspen fell victim to the weekend winds - every time I've visited there's another old growth casualty. Without any new growth aspen, I wonder how many more years we'll have to enjoy this spectacular scene??? After capture my fill of fall colours, I packed up my gear with a dinner stop in Tucson visiting my daughter Tobyn.

And that's my Bassett Peak Tale 2012! Photos to follow...

Permit $$

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
From Tucson take I-10 east to Willcox. From Willcox take Ariz. 186 22 miles to gravel Apache Pass Rd. Head east into Apache Pass Fort Bowie NHS Trailhead parking lot.
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