Chiricahua National Monument

Description

The forces of wind and weather have worked their magic on the 27-million-year-old volcanic rocks of Chiricahua National Monument, leaving a rhyolite forest of spires, hoodoos, and balanced boulders. High in the "sky islands" of the Chiricahua range, at the intersection of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts and the Sierra Madre and southern Rocky Mountains, Arizona's Chiricahua monument provides habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna. Even Mexican species, whose general habitat begins at least 50 miles to the south, thrive in this special environment. Rare bird species, including black-chinned hummingbirds, painted redstarts, and both yellow-rumped and red-faced warblers, to name just a few, are found at Chiricahua. Javelina, hog-nosed skunks, and coati-mundi share the rough terrain with bear, deer, grey fox, bobcat, mountain lions and wild turkeys, which were reintroduced in 2003.In 1888, Swedish immigrants Neil and Emma Erickson came to Arizona and established a homestead on property near the "Land of the Standing Up Rocks," as the area is known to the Chiricahua Apache. From 1917 to 1972, the Faraway Ranch was home to the Ericksons and their children, who operated it as a cattle ranch and later as a guest facility. In 1979, the ranch became part of the Chiricahua monument and today it is open to the public, offering a glimpse at the evolution of a ranch from pioneer homestead to the present. What to see and do: The visitor center for Chiricahua offers a wealth of displays on the geology, biology, and human history of the monument. Acquaint yourself with the area by viewing the slide presentation and consulting the computer information station. From March to November, rangers hold interpretive programs at the visitor center and the campground amphitheater; check at the visitor center for details. Faraway Ranch and adjacent Stafford Cabin are a mile and a half west of the visitor center and guided tours are given daily. The trail from the visitor center to the ranch makes an easy, scenic 1.4-mile hike, if you prefer hoofing it to driving the distance. Bird watching is especially good along this trail. Drive to Massai Point via scenic, eight-mile-long Bonita Canyon Drive. From Massai Point, you can see Sugarloaf Mountain and Cochise Head, as well as a panoramic view of Chiricahua National Monument and the desert beyond. The Echo Canyon Loop trail begins near here and winds for 3.5 miles through a portion of the bizarre rock formations. A free 8:30 AM shuttle will take you to Echo Canyon and Massai Point trailheads for a mostly downhill hike back to the visitor center. Registrations must be made in person that morning or the day before. The seven-mile Heart of Rocks Trail will take you even farther into the spires and hoodoos to landmarks with names such as "Duck on a Rock" and "Punch and Judy." There are over 17 miles of well-maintained trails in Chiricahua, but no backcountry camping is allowed. Those wishing to make an overnight hike of it can find primitive campsites just outside Chiricahua in the Coronado National Forest. Call 520-364-3468 for more information. Hikers who attempt longer day-hikes, such as Heart of Rocks, should bring plenty of water along, as the trails are all dry. Chiricahua National Monument's 22-site Bonita Canyon campground operates on a first come, first served basis for tents, trailers, and RVs under 29 feet long. There are restrooms and water available, but no hookups. The park is open year-round. The visitor center is open daily from 8 AM to 4:30 PM, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, when it is closed. Pets are not permitted on wilderness trails and must be leashed as javelinas have attacked dogs. Visitors should note that there is no food, lodging, or gas available at the monument. You should fill your tank at Willcox, 37 miles north, or Sunizona, 27 miles southwest, before proceeding to Chiricahua.

Address

12856 East Rhyolite Creek Road
120 miles southeast of Tuscon.
Willcox, AZ 85643

Lat/Long

32.00659000, -109.38938000
Visit Website
(520) 824-3560

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