Horseback riders and hikers can access the Middlemarch Canyon Trail #277 from the Cochise Stronghold Campground. I wrote about the Cochise Stronghold Trail in February of this year. A little less than a mile in (for hikers) or a couple of miles in (for riders) on the Cochise Stronghold trail, a well-marked sign directs you to turn left on to the Middlemarch trail. You can also access this trail from the south side by Forest Road 4388, but this approach requires a high-clearance vehicle. I have not personally hiked or ridden this trail from the south side.
I have both hiked and ridden the Middlemarch trail from the north trailhead. The horses had an easier time of it than I did, as they could “4-point” while I only had two legs! There is a section where it is steep, and the rock and gravel are loose. I never hike with a hiking pole, but I needed one there. I did go down a couple of times. The horses didn’t have any problem.
There is a “jump-up” on a large boulder similar to what I wrote about for the Cochise Stronghold trail. A friend of mine wasn’t sure he wanted to ask his old horse to do that, but ours didn’t have any trouble. Honestly, I didn’t find it any harder than the one on the Stronghold trail.
After turning left at the large sign that points out the Middlemarch trail, the trail will split one more time. It is near a fence line, and there is no signage. Take the right fork and that will keep you on the Middlemarch trail. Follow that trail to the highpoint at a saddle where a barbed wire gate stands between you and the route to the southern trailhead. You can go through the gate, although we have not ridden past that point.
Starting at the horse trailer parking area for the Cochise Stronghold trail, it was a 6.6 mile round trip to the gate at the saddle in Middlemarch Canyon. The ascent is only 827 feet so it isn’t a hard trail in terms of climbing. It isn’t a hard trail at all, except for that area of loose rock.
If you take the left fork…
If you take the left fork, you will gain a little over a thousand feet in elevation, and the round trip is about 7 miles. It dead ends, at least as far as we could see, at a place where someone is preparing to erect a fence. We encountered a pond (of sorts) that was very sludgy. The dogs still enjoyed a drink and emerged looking like swamp rats…
Rockfellow Dome trail… NOT for sissies!
Another hiking trail is accessible as you are entering the Cochise Stronghold Campground. The road splits to go around a large boulder. There is a small parking area here. Unless you are a dedicated, competent mountain climber… forget it! I was by myself (with a couple of dogs) and very quickly I found myself on solid boulders, with little to grab on to, and dealing with a steep incline. I believe this is called the Rockfellow Dome trail… read the reviews! AllTrails says it is “moderate” but most disagree! I didn’t make it very far. Most definitely not a horse trail.
There was one other place I wanted to check out for horseback riding. As you first enter the Stronghold, right past Halfmoon Ranch, a road (of sorts) takes off in a northwesterly direction. . I was optimistic that this would be a good riding trail. Not so much… It didn’t take long before I found myself encountering steep inclines with loose rock. There is a dry riverbed there. The view was awesome. Most of my hiking that day was in the adjacent campground area. The dogs and I just meandered around the campsite roads.
The two best trails here are the Cochise Stronghold trail and the Middlemarch trail, which gives you two options. The scenery is beautiful!
On a final note, I have some exciting news to announce! This summer, an updated version of ID MyHorse Emergency Medical and Identification Tags will be available. This next-generation version will be more horse and rider-friendly, with better visibility at night and in smoky, forest fire conditions. We are collaborating with Arizona Foothills 911 and Horse Habit TV. Horse Habit TV will soon debut on Equus TV. Watch for future blogs about these amazing entities!
In the meantime, all existing inventory is on sale for 50% off!! Don’t miss this opportunity to get our current tags that will still provide you and your horse with vital protection in the event of an emergency. These tags are practical and visible hanging from your saddle. Additionally, they attach easily to your belt or slip over the buckle of your safety vest. Hang them on your horse’s stall at a show or attach them to their enclosure when you are camping and away from home. Braid them into your horse’s mane where they will stay put for months! All discounted purchases of existing inventory will entitle you to a 25% off coupon towards the purchase of the next-generation tag available this summer. Don’t miss out!