Coke Ovens Trail
On this trail, ride the challenging trail through Box Canyon and close to the Coke Ovens, a set of 5 historic charcoal kilns along the Gila River. Unfortunately, the Coke Ovens sit on private property and are inaccessible to the public. You can still get a decent view of them and enjoy the challenging trail in the area. Please be respectful of posted signs near the Coke Ovens.
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Permits: A State Trust Land Permit is required for this trail. Permits cost $15/individual or $20 for two people and are good for 1 year. Get permits here.
Where to go:
From the I-10/I-17 interchange in central Phoenix, head south on I-17. After 6 miles, merge onto I-10 east. Follow I-10 for 5 miles and then merge onto the US-60 towards Mesa/Globe. Follow US-60 for 40 miles to AZ-79. Take exit 212 toward Florence/Tucson and follow AZ-79 south for 14 miles. Turn left onto Price Road just after railroad tracks. Follow Price Road/Price Station Road east for 2.4 miles. Stay left and after 200 feet, turn right. Continue along the road for 2.9 miles where it will follow along the railroad tracks before crossing over them. After crossing continue east along Price road for an additional 4.3 miles. Box Canyon Trail begins where Box Canyon Road leaves the railroad tracks at approximately 33° 5'47.77"N, 111°13'57.99"W. Staging is available here or 1 mile up the road. Take Box Canyon trail north for 5.4 miles.
From the Gila River and Price Road junction, follow Box Canyon Trail north for 5.4 miles through the scenic and moderately challenging Box Canyon. Along this first part of the trail, you’ll follow normally dry washes most of the way. The 1.5 miles through Box Canyon are the most scenic. After 5.4 miles, turn right where Box Canyon Trail continues to the left. Reset your odometer. Follow the wash as it heads northeast. After half a mile, the trail leaves the wash as it heads east on dirt roads. The trail crests a small hill and then turns left into a wash at the 1.0 mile mark. Stay right at 1.2 miles where the trail forks. Follow the trail east as it winds across the hill side. Watch for erosion on this part of the trail which can create small washouts.
The trail then heads downhill and crosses a wash and comes to a junction at 2.1 miles. Stay right here where Martinez Mine trail goes left. The trail heads south and winds through the hills and past a cattle pond. At 2.5 miles the trail makes a sharp right turn and then up a challenging hill. This section has a couple of decent sized step-ups that require careful tire placement. The trail heads due south as it levels out and begins to drop back downhill. At 3.4 miles you reach another tricky bit – a large rock ledge has to be navigated coming downhill. Cross a wash at the bottom of the hill and resume climbing. After cresting the hill, the trail drops down another challenging hill at 4.2 miles.
At 4.7 miles, the trail reaches the bottom of the hill and splits. This is where you have to make a decision. Going right here takes you to a gate close to the Coke Ovens but is more difficult. Going left also takes you to a view of the Coke Ovens but is slightly easier and provides access to the Gila River (not advised to cross).
Going right: the trail continues to wind south up and down towards the Coke Ovens. A few sections get narrow and rocky. The toughest section is around 6.0 miles as the trail descends. The trail officially ends around 6.5 miles at a marked private property line and gate. Observe signs and be respectful to the landowner. While it may be tempting to visit the Coke Ovens, don’t – enjoy the view from the trail.
Going left: the trail climbs from a wash and turns left just after 5.1 miles. Stay right at 5.3 miles where the trail splits. The trail heads south downhill towards the Coke Ovens. Stay right at 6.2 where the trail splits again. At 6.8 you get the best view of the Coke Ovens before entering private property. This trail used to loop around back to the other trail but landownership change has made that route impassable. Again, be respectful of posted signs on this trail and refer to the Google Earth tracks available above for approximate property lines. You can access the Gila River by staying left at 6.2 miles, however if the river is flowing, don’t cross.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
Despite not being able to go up to the Coke Ovens anymore, this is still a fun trail that enters a remote area of Arizona not explored by many. This trail is rated a ‘7’ at the most difficult point on the right fork at the end of the trail. The section through Box Canyon with its sandy bottom and occasional boulders is rated a ‘5’. The 6.5 miles to near the Coke Ovens are more difficult with some trail erosion and challenging hills making wheel placement trickier and lockers helpful. Some small, aggressive nearly stock vehicles can probably make this. High clearance is a must as is 4-wheel drive. Allow for a good 3-6 hours to drive out here and explore the area. Easily extend your day by taking the Martinez Mine Trail, the rest of Box Canyon trail north, or the Reymert Mine and Ajax Mine Trail to Highway 60.