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Chiricahua National Monument

Summary: A nice day hike hitting almost all trails in the monument.
Directions: From Phoenix drive south on I-10.  About 75 miles south of Tucson exit onto Highway 186.  Follow the brown signs for Chiricahua National Monument pointing left onto Highway 181 into the park.   Entrance fee is $6 per carload (a map is included with the entrance fee).   Drive to the Visitors Center and park.
Road Conditions: Passenger car - paved all the way.
Navigation: Easy - if you get lost in this area it's time to spring for a seeing eye dog.
Length: 17.9 miles
Date Hiked: April, 2000
Weather Conditions: Warm in the sun, temperatures reached ~80 degrees.
Required Skills: None
Hike Description: This is a sample route that the author and his wife took which enabled them to see most of the monument in one day.  All trails are clearly marked and well trodden (an indication that crowds are probably the norm in this area).  From the Visitors Center take the Ryolite Canyon Trail 1.5 miles to the junction with the Echo Canyon and Heart of Rocks Trails (1.5).   Bear left onto the Heart of Rocks Trail.  An additional 1.6 miles near 'Big Balanced Rock' a side trail branches left into the Heart of Rocks (3.1 miles).  Turn left and complete this short 1.1 mile loop hike through a neat section of rock formations (4.2 miles).  Upon returning, continue on the Heart of Rocks Trail for another mile to a junction with the Inspiration Point out & back side trail (5.2 miles).  Turn left and complete this 1 mile round trip side trip (6.2 miles).  Continue once again on the H of R Trail 1.2 miles to the junction with the Hailstone & ??? Trails (sorry - spaced on this trail name, seem to remember it as some guys name?) (7.4 miles).  Turn right on the latter towards the Echo Canyon car park.  After 0.7 miles (8.1 miles) you will come to a junction with the Massai Point Trail, turn right onto this trail and hike 0.3 miles to the Massai Loop (a short loop with some interpretive signs & exhibits.  When finished with the loop, hike back the way you came (8.7 miles) and continue 0.2 miles to a junction with the Echo Canyon car park trail (8.9 miles).   Turn left at this point onto the Echo Canyon Trail, which descends 1.6 miles through some more neat formations to a junction with the left branching Hailstone Trail (10.5 miles).  Stay on the Echo Canyon Trail as it descends into the canyon, follows the streambed for a short ways then climbs back up the opposite bank to meet the Ryolite Canyon Trail once again (11.6 miles).  Turn right on this trail and follow it back to the Visitors Center (13.1 miles). 

Get in your car and drive up the road a bit to the pull off on the left hand side for the Natural Bridge Trail.  Hike this 4.8 mile out and back trail to a small natural bridge (a nice walk, but the bridge is pretty lame).  17.9 miles total.

Rating (1-5 stars):
According to the brochure 'Exploring Chiricahua National Monument is exploring a fantasy world of extraordinary rock sculptures that were created by the forces of nature over millions of years.'  I would have to agree, definitely a unique and photogenic area - also one that is probably overcrowded most of the time.  The author and his wife completed this hike on Easter Day and, while there were plenty of people, it wasn't too crowded.
Maps: Official Chiricahua National Monument Map - NPS (get this when you pay your entrance fee)
Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona - Rainbow Expeditions
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Big Balanced Rock. Typical Chiricahua