Willcox: 81 miles E of Tucson; 192 miles SE of Phoenix; 74 miles N of Douglas
Although the towns of Bisbee, Tombstone, and Sierra Vista all lie within Cochise County, much of the county is taken up by the vast Sulphur Springs Valley, which is bounded by several mountain ranges. It is across this wide-open landscape that Apache chiefs Cochise and Geronimo once rode. Gazing out across this country today, it is easy to understand why the Apaches fought so hard to keep white settlers out.
The Apaches first moved into this region of southern Arizona sometime in the early 16th century. They pursued a hunting-and-gathering lifestyle that was supplemented by raiding neighboring tribes for food and other booty. When the Spanish arrived in the area, the Apaches acquired horses and became even more efficient raiders. They attacked Spanish, Mexican, and eventually American settlers, and despite repeated attempts to convince them to give up their hostile way of life, the Apaches refused to change. Not long after the Gadsden Purchase of 1848 made Arizona U.S. soil, more people than ever began settling in the region. The new settlers immediately became the object of Apache raids, and eventually the U.S. Army was called in to put an end to the attacks; by the mid-1880s, the army was embroiled in a war with Cochise, Geronimo, and the Chiricahua Apaches.
Although the Chiricahua and Dragoon mountains, which flank the Sulphur Springs Valley on the east and west, respectively, are relatively unknown outside the region, they offer some of the Southwest's most spectacular scenery. Massive boulders litter the mountainsides, creating fascinating landscapes. The Chiricahua Mountains are also a favorite destination of bird-watchers, for it is here that the colorfully plumed elegant trogon reaches the northern limit of its range.
In the southern part of this region lies the town of Douglas, an important gateway to Mexico. Unless you're heading to Mexico, though, there aren't many reasons to visit. Yet if you do find yourself passing through Douglas, be sure to stop at the historic Gadsden Hotel; the Slaughter Ranch is also worth a visit.