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In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Chiricahua National Monument (NM) will waive entrance fees on Monday, January 20, 2014. The free entry is offered as part of a nationwide initiative to encourage people to visit and experience the many wonders of national park sites across America. The National Park System includes 401 units and amazingly, 268 of those never charge an entrance fee. Among these are the two other National Park Service (NPS) sites in Cochise County: Coronado National Memorial and Fort Bowie National Historic Site.
Other fee-free days at Chiricahua NM and other NPS units this year include: February 15-17 (President’s Day weekend), April 19-20 (National Park Week opening weekend), August 25 (the National Park Service’s 98th anniversary), September 27 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).
In recognition of the fee-free day, Western National Parks Association (WNPA), the nonprofit organization that partners with the NPS to operate the park store in the visitor center at Chiricahua NM and 65 other NPS sites across the west, will offer a 15% discount in their stores on January 20. Proceeds from sales allow WNPA to help support the interpretive and educational programs at Chiricahua NM and other NPS sites.
Nicknamed the “Wonderland of Rocks,” Chiricahua National Monument (NM) was established in 1924 to protect the fantastic rhyolite rock formations known as “The Pinnacles.” The park also features 17 miles of hiking trails, a visitor center that is open daily, and the first-come, first-serve, 25-site Bonita Canyon Campground. Chiricahua NM is home to many species of birds, including Mexican species not commonly found in the United States. The monument also protects remnants of the area’s history. Guided tours of the Faraway Ranch house are currently offered most weekends at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. From its humble beginnings as a single family homestead in the 1880s to a popular 20th century guest ranch, the house and furnishings are reminders of days past.
Winter is a great time to explore the monument. Cooler temperatures and clear skies make for great hiking weather. Chiricahua NM receives an average of 12 inches of snow from November through March. Although the monument generally remains open, the upper portion of the scenic drive may be closed while snow is cleared from the roadway and parking areas. Be sure to call the visitor center before heading out for more information and current conditions. Visitors should dress in layers, and be prepared to encounter snow and ice on the trails.
The monument is located four miles east of the junction of Arizona Highways 181 and 186. There are no services (gas, food, or drinks) available at the monument. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/chir or call the visitor center staff at (520) 824-3560, ext. 0.