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rocks on the nature trail
Chiricahua National Monument
Closest available address
12856 East Rhyolite Creek Road Willcox, AZ 85643
Park is open 24 hours. The visitor center is open daily 8am - 4:30pm.
Best time to visit
Chiricahua National Monument is a 12,000 acre park best known for a variety of rock formations. The monument was established in 1924, primarily to preserve the volcanic rocks. The park is a “sky island” surrounded by a desert environment and given its elevation and higher rainfall it boasts a significant number of plant and animal species. Chiricahua is primarily a hiking park, but also has a small orientation museum and a historic ranch house.
The monument’s rock formations reflect erosion of volcanic rock deposited here in an eruption 27 million years ago. Indians lived in the area for many years and the name of the monument stems from an Apache word for land of wild turkeys. Southern Arizona was not meaningfully settled by Americans until the late 1800s. The Erickson family moved here in 1888. A daughter, Lillian Erickson, and her husband Ed Riggs later developed a guest ranch business and were principally responsible for the monument’s establishment.
Visiting Chiricahua was unplanned, just a place to stop on a long drive, but it’s a diamond in the rough. There are 17 miles of trails. The 3 mile Echo Canyon loop worked well as a moderate hike with many views of rocks. This trail is easier if you head counterclockwise to avoid climbing a steep hill. This hike departs from the top of the Bonita Canyon Drive, an enjoyable excursion in its own right. There is an exhibit shelter on natural history at the top of the drive and a short nature trail with additional rock formations as well. Not to be missed is a tour of the Faraway Ranch House in which the Erickson’s lived. The tours typically leave at 11:00am and 2:00pm but are subject to change. The house is like a time capsule from the mid twentieth century and the docent guide had many stories and insights about the family. The house tour was time well spent as was a visit to the monument. Even if you are not into hiking, a visit here is worthwhile for the views, ranch history and incredible rock formations.
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