Cochran Beehive Ovens and Box Canyon

Saturday March 18, 1995

This trip is to the beehive smelting ovens at the old town of Cochran on the Gila River east of Florence. The turnoff is between the river and the railroad tracks on AZ 79 in Florence (1 mile North of the bridge). We follow a graded dirt road along the river for 11 miles then go north through Box Canyon. Lots of great boulders on this trail make it more challenging than the Copper Creek road. Stock full-size trucks can make it through, but they use the skid plates alot if the rocks are wet enough to be slippery. I also added to the "desert pinstriping" on my full-size truck (Jan 21) due to brush along the trail. Shorter wheelbase and narrower 4x4 vehicles will have no problems. After travelling 3 miles North through Box Canyon, we take the right fork and loop around to the beehive ovens overlooking the old site of Cochran. The beehive ovens are on private land, but the road overlooking them is a nice spot for lunch and rock collecting. In the afternoon, we'll continue North and East and leave through scenic Walnut Canyon onto AZ 177. There are lots of new mining roads between Cochran and where you go over ridge into Walnut Canyon, so the route always seems a bit nebulous. Spectacular rocks and scenery all along easily account for why this ride was written up in a 4x4 magazine last year. There should be some great wildflowers. To finish the day, there is a great (and inexpensive) Mexican restaurant called Casa Rivera (destroyed by fire in 2000, but now another location in Oracle) we discovered in Hayden.

What to bring:
4x4 truck, sack lunch, sunscreen, jacket, hiking boots, water

Sunday, April 4, 1999

Here's the 4-wheelin' trip report for the fine trip we had on Easter Sunday April 4, 1999. By the time we left our rendevous point at Claire's Cafe in Catalina, a snow squall was well underway with almost an inch of snow on the ground. The drive to Florence was lots of fun. There was about 1.5 inches of slush on the road most of the way, and it was great seeing snow on all the desert vegetation. We stopped once to strap a minivan out of the ditch.

The participants were John Hill in "The River ....", Bob and Robbie Peterson in "Free Willy", Ed and Debbi McCullough in their brand new F-250 Super Duty Ford, Mike and Melissa Drake, John Waack and Skip Bohling. By the time we got to Florence, both the Drakes and the Waacks were passengers because of vehicle problems.

To be sure you've got the picture: 2 of 5 vehicles are already out of commission, its snowing and there are dark clouds on the horizon, and we haven't even made it to the trail yet! Yiiii-haaaa.

The snow was melting very fast, because Florence is lower altitude. Our trip through Box Canyon was great because the melting snow made lots of little waterfalls coming down off the high cliffs. Traffic was very heavy as we met half a dozen trucks going both ways in this narrow canyon --- seems that everybody had the same idea for a fun trip. Ed managed to get the new truck through without any damage to his virgin sheet metal.

We got to the Beehive Ovens about 2:30 and had a quick lunch and look around the ovens. By 3:30 we were headed cross country toward Walnut Canyon. There were intermittent light rain and snow showers all day long. Snow on the high rocks improved already spectacular scenery. Most of the trail is rocky, but there were plenty of puddles and mud to splash through. The water was never more than a foot deep, so the Gila Box veterans were unphased.

We came out on Highway 177 above Ray Mine about 5:15 in the midst of a vigorous snow storm. The only damage of the whole trip came in the last quarter mile when Ed got a flat tire.

John and Ed took the Drakes back to Florence by way of Superior to pick up their Jeep. The snow and clouds on Picketpost Mountain were very pretty. Bob took the Waacks directly back to Catalina via Winkleman to meet up with a new alternator. A fun day was had by all.

Trail Rating

We'll rate this one a "3" --- we were able to handle it in stock trucks in the days when we had relatively little 4-wheeling experience. Wet weather will make the trail more challenging.

Trail Location for Cochran Beehive Ovens

Travel time from Tucson is approximately 1 hour. From Florence proceed North on AZ Hwy 79. The turnoff to the East is between the river and the railroad tracks on AZ 79 in Florence (1 mile North of the bridge). Follow Price Road (graded dirt) East along the Gila River for 11 miles then go north through Box Canyon. The trail through Box Canyon has a handful of mildly technical rocks to navigate over. After travelling 3 miles North through Box Canyon, we take the right fork and go a little less than 2 miles before turning South toward the Beehive Ovens. The ovens are about 4 miles to the South. The trail to the ovens is rough, but not very technical.

After leaving the Beehive Ovens, follow the trail to the East along the river for about a mile. This section can be very muddy if the river has been high recently. Then turn Northeast (not exactly, but in the general direction of Red Mountain Mine). The trail winds around on the flats and then crosses the ridge going North on the East side of The Rincon. (see the GPS waypoints below --- parts of our route are not shown on the Teapot Mountain topo map, although the map indicates another possible route to the East of Copper Butte). The road drops down into White Canyon (going downstream) and then crosses into Walnut Canyon (going upstream) before picking up Battleaxe Road out to AZ Highway 177. The Highway 177 turnoff is on top of the hill about a mile North/West of Ray Mine.

The old Cochran townsite is normally not accessible from the North side of the Gila River where the beehive ovens are located. (The ford shown on the topo maps is washed out.) Other roads (with a rating of 2) lead into Cochran proper from the South. You get a nice view of the Cochran site across the river as you are descending toward the beehive ovens.

Topographic Maps Needed

North Butte, Mineral Mountain, Grayback, Teapot Mountain

Adjoining Topographic Maps

Area Maps

Area Map showing dirt roads around Box Canyon and Cochran.

GPS Coordinates

Landmark UTM Easting UTM Northing Altitude
Highway 79 turnoff to Box Canyon 12 4 64 800 E 36 58 000 N +1500
South entrance to Box Canyon 12 4 78 200 E 36 61 800 N +1580
North entrance to Box Canyon 12 4 81 000 E 36 67 750 N +2150
Jeep trail to Cochran 12 4 83 480 E 36 68 050 N +2475
Fork to ovens or river 12 4 85 175 E 36 63 900 N +1940
Cochran Beehive Ovens 12 4 84 600 E 36 62 750 N +1700
road from river 12 4 86 501 E 36 63 761 N +1688
toward Red Mountain Mine 12 4 87 827 E 36 63 956 N +1860
pass across The Spine near The Rincon 12 4 91 268 E 36 68 222 N +2511
near White Canyon 12 4 91 698 E 36 69 191 N +2227
in Walnut Canyon 12 4 92 579 E 36 68 756 N +1913
road out of Walnut Canyon 12 4 94 846 E 36 68 764 N +2554
turnoff from Highway 177 12 4 96 356 E 36 71 055 N +3000
former Cochran town site (across river) 12 4 86 050 E 36 63 150 N +1640

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Last modified: Mon Mar 12 19:54:58 2012