The Tombstone Hustle: Bikepacking the Dragoons

  • Distance

    72 Mi.

    (116 KM)
  • Days


  • % Unpaved


  • % Singletrack


  • Difficulty (1-10)


  • % Rideable (time)


  • Total Ascent


    (1,332 M)
  • High Point


    (1,811 M)
A scenic two day loop that links a legendary wild west town and the Cochise Stronghold, a rugged historic passage through the Dragoon Mountains.
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This is a relatively quick loop which could be started on a Saturday and finished just in time to drive back to Tucson or Phoenix Sunday evening. It starts on the fringe of Tombstone and gently meanders into the Dragoon Mountains and Coronado National Forest via Middlemarch Road. Forest Service Road 687 eventually funnels into a burly singletrack passage through the mountainous Cochise divide, named after the famous Apache Chiricahua Chief who held this natural fortress in resistance to the US Army for some 15 years.

After a heart-in-throat descent down the Stronghold, a long gravel downhill leads to a short stint on highway 191 before passing through the historic mining town of Pearce. At this point, there are several options for the loop, but we chose a dirt jeep road that climbed into the southern end of the Dragoons followed by a chunk of a paved road to take us through the town of Tombstone. Tombstone, an historic “Old West” town in Cochise County, was originally founded in 1879 and has since become quite the tourist draw. It was one of the last frontier boomtowns in the American West, its wealth is the product of successful silver mining and its notoriety is the result of its numerous infamous citizens, including gunslingers Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and Johnny Ringo. A few of the sites in town are worth checking out… the Bird Cage Theater, known to the cowboys of its time as “the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast” is worth a peek, or just head to the nearest saloon for a post-ride glass of sarsaparilla, firewater, or coffin varnish.

Difficulty: This route was awarded a 6 out of 10. It is short, and not terribly difficult, but there is some technical riding and one 45 minute to an hour hike-a-bike up to the Stronghold. In addition, the descent can be a little tricky if you are not a strong technical mountain biker.
  • Highlights


  • Must Know


  • Camping


  • Food/H2O


  • Pedaling through the historic wild west towns of Tombstone and Pearce.
  • A mixed bag of terrain; everything from fast singletrack, to grassland, to rocky hike-a-bike.
  • A fun and technical descent through the Cochise Stronghold on the eastern side of the Dragoons.
  • Beautiful high desert scenery and wildlife.
  • Best ridden in early spring or late fall, but is possible in the winter as well, just check the weather before setting out.
  • The route lies about 4,000 ft in elevation (1,220 meters), so nights may be cold.
  • Most of the route is on dirt roads with moderate climbs, but there is a sizable chunk of singletrack and the section climbing up to the divide has a fair amount of unrideable stretches; expect to push your bike from time to time.
  • The Cochise Stronghold pass is bear country; it’s advisable to bring a bear snag system to store food.
  • As noted by a rider in the comments, the 1.0-1.5 mile horse trail at the end of the descent might be a bit degraded and “isn’t very pleasant”. It could be avoided by dropping directly down into the campground in a short distance (albeit by hike-a-bike) and then good roads for the 1.5 mile to reconnect where the horse trail ends.
  • There are plenty of wild camping spots as well as designated National Forest camping; I recommend several options about 1/4 mile from the posted ‘divide’ on the trail (24.2 on the GPX).
  • Unless you are tackling the route within a week or so of rainfall, expect to carry water for a full 1.5 days supply.
  • There were plenty of active creeks when we rode it, but that’s not always the case.
  • There are several stores and restaurants in Sunsites/Pearce (around mile 36 on the GPX).

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • David B

    Cool terrain & scenery combined with interesting history. Thanks for sharing. What SC is Virginia riding?

  • Hi David. Thanks! Sorry for the delayed response, we’ve been out on the AZT for a few days. She’s on a super light 29 (a couple years old now)…

  • David B

    You don’t need to apologize for being out riding amazing places. Keep up the great work!

  • Jay Ritchey

    Just did this loop, but came back over Middlemarch Rd. Thanks for the info! We had a great time.

  • Hi Jay. Good to hear! The riding is everything from hikeabike to gravel grinding, but the scenery is great. Glad you enjoyed it. You should check out the Gila River Ramble if you haven’t already… we’ll have photos up soon.

  • Jay Ritchey

    Curious to know what your saddle height/pbh is. I’m deciding between a L and XL Krampus. I’m 6ft, 82cm SH. Any input would be helpful. Thanks in advance!

  • Hi Jay. Not sure the height… don’t have a tape on me, but I am about 6′ as well and have a freakish 34 inseam and the L Krampus fits perfectly…


    Hey! great route. wanna ride this next weekend. do you have gpx files?

  • Hi Nathan, sorry for the delay… been out riding the Kokopelli’s Trail. You can get the GPX by clicking through to RideWithGPS and finding the export link.

  • Alex

    hello I was thinking about riding this route next week. Will it be to hot or would it be better to wait and go another time.

  • Hi Alex. Sorry for the delay (I’ve been out riding). My guess is that is would be too hot right now, but it really depends on your heat tolerance and how much water you can carry. Check the forecast in Tombstone as well…

  • Brian Kattelman

    Hey all. A buddy and I did this ride over weekend. We took it counter clockwise though. Parked the truck at the Stronghold campground on the east side and headed into Tombstone. It was great because we took the big hill on fresh legs and make for a bit more of downhill fun into Tombstone. Stop in Gleeson and talk to the guys at the jail. Great guys that can give you the history of the area. Weather was perfect!

  • Nice. I thought it might be good in that direction!

  • Vince Colvin

    Headed in to ride this over thanksgiving, should be fun, we had planned a Big Bend bikepacking route but weather encouraged us to go farther west! Thanks for the route info!

  • Greg Armstrong

    The Stronghold is a rock climber’s paradise, with some terrific mt. biking in the area, especially the awesome singletrack over Stronghold Pass. This area recently escaped “Designated Wilderness” status, thus preserving the area for biking and future climbing developement. For a shorter one day loop, the trail splits close to the East Stronghold campground heading south and connects with Middlemarch Road near the top of the pass.

  • Ian WIlkey

    What kinda SS gearing do you think is appropriate for this route?

  • Todd Slaten

    Just did this ride over the weekend. Was my 2nd bikepack, loved it! Challenging and fun! Thanks!

  • Austin Smith

    My friend and I are planning to do this loop over Veterans Day weekend. Was there any reliable water (springs, creeks, etc.) before the mini-market in Pearce? Thanks!

  • huzyrdaddy

    for starters, this website is fantastic. the very best i have seen in a long time. my friend and i just completed the tombstone hustle. it was a great “wild west” tour. i do want to caution some riders that the rating of trail difficulty is always a very relative thing. we are in our fifties and have done a lot of non competitive riding. we are currently not in particularly great shape. i was a bit tired by the time i got to the trail up to the divide. the trial up to the divide was nearly 100% hike a bike for us. we were super gassed by the time we got there. and i was cussing the publisher of the route. when we returned i had to look it up so i would be causious next time i picked one of his routes! LOGAN! we were not technically talented enough to complete the single track descent without several dismounts. there were a couple of stretches of sand that were serious energy suckers, but fortunately they were typically short lived. there were several points with trickling water this time of year.

  • Thanks for the compliments on the site! Sorry for the misleading. I hope you had fun though. I will note that in the must know section it does mention that section… ;)

  • Michael Coffman

    no worries. i will have to do a few of your routes to figure out the LOGAN to huzyrdaddy factor. ex: LOGAN 5 X 1.6 = huzyrdaddy 8!

  • By the time you do enough to figure it out, a 5 will be a 5 ;)

  • Michael Coffman

    did you design and build this website? if so, do you design and build sites for others?

  • I did. But no, I don’t often have time.

  • fauxpho

    Nice loop. Some fun singletrack sections. I have a quibble w/ the 96% rideable time. We road the loop in 10 hours total (including snacks and resupply stops) and spent at least one hour hike-a-biking. Just the main push up to the pass in the Stronghold is about 45 minutes, then add the short hiking sections in the first singletrack leaving the dirt roads as you enter the Stronghold, and substantial bits of pushing on the “horse trail” that eventually connects to the road in the east Stronghold. Many people may also be walking portions of the descent. So I’d say 90% rideable at most.
    The 1-1.5 mile horse trail at the end of the descent isn’t very pleasant, and could be avoided by dropping directly down into the campground in a short distance (albeit by hike-a-bike) and then good roads for the ~ 1.5 mile to reconnect where the horse trail ends.

  • Hmm, interesting point about the horse trail… it was more rideable than that as I remember. Perhaps it’s degraded. I added this route 3 years ago and this is the first ‘update’ we’ve gotten. I am ok with changing the % rideable stat. I’ll also make a note of the horse trail…

  • fauxpho

    The horse trail could definitely change over time. Last weekend it was pretty chewed up and fairly overgrown with pointy flora. FWIW on a skill vs. terrain basis, I rode nearly all of the main descent, but was forced to dismount often on the horse trail. We didn’t try to walk down the main trail to the campground, and it seemed steep-ish (hence my assumption its largely un-rideable), but would be over quickly and connect to good roads. This “alternate” was real obvious at 0.2mile scale on my Garmin. My guess is it would have been the lesser of evils in the current state of trail(s).

  • Jamison Johnson

    Just letting everyone know the Minitmart in Pearce shown on the route is showing permanently closed on Google Maps.

  • Lindsay Nohl

    Just did a modified version of this trip over the weekend. Halfmoon tank up in the middle of the stronghold has plenty of water in it, as does the small spring next to the trail down closer to the eastside of the Stronghold.

  • Caleb Alan

    Hi everyone, I plan on doing this trip solo. Its my first solo bikepacking experience, wondering if anyone had any advice. Planing on mid fall, tubless with a couple spare tubes, and camping for one night. Not a super strong rider, but I commute 20 miles a day (which still wears me out lol). Carrying 3L of water and making the water stations near the end of the trip if possible. Anything else? Also down if someone is interested in going.

  • Caleb Alan

    Awesome, but how did the heat feel? I am guessing it was in the 90s? I kinda of want to try it early Fall. What do you think? I am from Tucson, so I am kinda used to the heat, but still. Would love your opinion!