Cochise’s Stronghold is a National Forest Service campground on the other side of the Dragoon Mountains from Benson. It is the actual location that Cochise and his warriors used to hide out from the Army during the mid-1800′s.
From Benson we drove first around the northern end of the Dragoon Mountains and then south along the eastern side. Cochise’s Stronghold is a hidden valley about half-way down the range. We didn’t know it was a valley until we’d driven several miles up a dirt road and it suddenly opened up in front of us.
The valley is surrounded on three sides by steep, boulder covered hillsides. It is easy to see why Cochise used this spot since there were thousands of places to hide and to make ambushes from.
The campground only had about 20 campsites, but they were all paved, with picnic tables, a grill and a fireplace. Our motor home would never fit however, which is too bad since it was a very pretty location. Not only was the road to the campground narrow and winding, the longest vehicle that could fit into a campsite could only be about 20 feet long. When we got there there was only one small trailer in the campground and a small group of picnickers a couple of sites over, so we were pretty much alone there.
We had picked up sandwiches along the way , and so we selected one of the campsites for a picnic. The campground is at an altitude of about 4600 feet and cooler than Benson by at least 10 degrees. It also must get more water since there were trees everywhere and we were in the shade. We had an attentive audience while we ate.
Several jays settled in the nearby trees and watched us carefully while we ate. I broke up some pieces of bread for them and tossed them a little ways away. After a few moments they warily flew down and took them, keeping an eye on us the whole time.
There was a small, paved nature trail near our picnic site. After our lunch I took Susan in her wheelchair on it. There were signs along the trail that detailed the history of Cochise and the Chiracahua Apache indians and a little bit of the natural history of the area.
There was a dry streambed next to the campground but it was obvious that this area gets a lot more moisture than Benson does. There were trees everywhere and up one of the canyons, about half way to the top of the mountains there were some pine trees. Even though it hadn’t rained for several weeks, we ran across several groups of flowers.
The campground was very nice. It was clean and well kept up although we never saw any rangers. For a campground we’d have to give it an A for accessibility. The area is spectacularly scenic and well worth the visit.