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National Park Getaway: Chiricahua National Monument

By Kaylene Wright, Park Guide, Chiricahua National Monument

Road leading through a thick line of trees towards a mountain range
Entering the park along Bonita Canyon Drive

NPS Photo / Katy Hooper

Rocks. It’s all about the rocks here at Chiricahua National Monument! Come explore the “Wonderland of Rocks,” learn the stories of the people who called this place home, and have the one-of-a-kind experience of being on a Sky Island. 

Bonita Canyon Scenic Drive meanders eight miles from the park entrance to Massai Point, the end of the road. This is the iconic spot where you can see panoramic views of hundreds of weird, unique, beautiful, almost human-like rock pinnacles. Using your imagination you can find all different kinds of shapes that the rocks imitate—a camel, a person, a building, a character—the rocks can look like almost anything! 

Boulder balancing on a pinnacle formation
Big Balanced Rock is one of Chiricahua's most impressive formations.

NPS Photo

Looking to hike? You came to the right place! Chiricahua has more than 17 miles of hiking trails ranging from an easy, paved stroll to all-day treks in the wilderness. Perhaps you choose Echo Canyon Trail, a moderate loop hike that takes you in and among the rock formations and features a grotto that you can go and explore! Here, the rocks surround you like massive trees, and every turn brings something spectacular to see. You might adventure to the high point of the park, Sugarloaf Mountain, via another moderate hike that shows you the entire surrounding mountain range and both valleys that embrace the park. Heart of Rocks Loop, a strenuous hike, shows you the park’s unbelievable balancing rocks, seeming to be so fragile and easy to fall, yet they stand because the rock is so strong. 

Maybe you brought your dog and are looking to take them on a walk. You and your four-legged friend will enjoy our dog-friendly trails—Silver Spur Meadow, Faraway Ranch, and Bonita Creek—which pass through our historic district, offer shaded views of all the diverse species of trees and vegetation, and feature many different bird species! 

A coatimundi
Coatimundis, raccoon-like creatures from Central America, live throughout the monument.

NPS Photo / Ron Stewart

Being on a Sky Island is a special experience. “Sky Islands” are isolated mountain ranges rising up out of the surrounding desert “sea,” and there are several of them in Southeast Arizona. As the elevation changes, so do the plants, animals, and weather conditions. Chiricahua has desert, grassland, deciduous (seasonal leafy) forest, and coniferous (fir and pine) forest all within the 11,985 acres of the park. Eighty-six percent of the park is designated wilderness. 

Learn the stories of the people who have called Chiricahua home throughout the years. This is the Territory of the Chiricahua Apache and their leader Cochise. The Apache once traveled with the seasons thriving through the cycles of their environment. The Faraway Ranch house story is incredible as well—how a one-room cabin was transformed into a guest ranch by the Erickson-Riggs women! 

Ranger giving a tour on a desert trail
Check the park's calendar of events to find programs to join throughout the year, such as this ranger tour of Massai Point.

NPS Photo

After exploring for the day, stay the night in Bonita Canyon Campground and embrace the view of some of the darkest night skies. The Milky Way galaxy can be seen stretching across the sky on a clear night, along with meteors and thousands upon thousands of stars. 

As you depart, bring with you the memories of this special place. Come back soon, perhaps in a different season! All four seasons offer different perspectives of this very special park. 

Last updated: December 14, 2020