The spring at Apache Pass has attracted humans to this part of the Sonoran Desert for hundreds of years (at least). As you might have guessed from its name, the Apaches were the area’s inhabitants when the Butterfield Overland Mail route built a station here in 1858. Four years later, after Apaches ambushed the Union Army during the Civil War, they constructed Fort Bowie to help keep peace in New Mexico. The fort received an upgrade in 1868, and then was used to fight against Cochise and Geronimo until it was finally abandoned in 1894.
Fort Bowie ruins, cemetery, stage station ruins, site of wagon train massacre
To visit the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center, the literal “must-do activity” is to hike 1.5 miles from the trailhead. You do pass interpretive signs, a cemetery, and ruins along the way, plus you earn an “I Hike For Health” pin just by getting there. For those unable to hike the trail, contact the NPS for alternate access directions.
Getting to the NPS visitor center means hiking three miles roundtrip in a shadeless desert. If it is a nice day, make a loop of it by taking Overlook Ridge on the way back to the trailhead.
The post cemetery has freshly-painted wooden grave markers, including one for Geronimo’s two-year-old son.
Access to this NPS site requires driving a graded dirt road that is impassable during flash floods.
Private campgrounds are available in Bowie and Wilcox, Arizona, but we recommend a night at the NPS campground in Chiricahua National Monument (which is well-known for its ringtail and coati sightings).
Chiricahua National Monument (Arizona)
Coronado National Memorial (Arizona)
Tumacacori National Historical Park (Arizona)
Explore More – When did Geronimo finally surrender to U.S. troops before being sent to Fort Bowie and on to Florida’s Fort Pickens (now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore)?