Chiricahua National Monument Day Hiking Overview

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Chiricahua National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument (Purestock/Getty)

Chiricahua National Monument Day Hiking Highlights

  • The monument has a great variety of trails—easy strolls, challenging all-day hikes, and everything in between. Pick up map and trail descriptions at the visitor center or the monument's website.
  • For a look at pioneer and dude ranch history, take the easy Silver Spur Meadow Trail from the Faraway Ranch Picnic Area pullout on your left near the monument entrance. The trail continues to the visitor center and campground.
  • Learn about the monument's unusual geology, and enjoy the views on the short Massai Point Nature Trail at the upper end of Bonita Canyon Drive.
  • A hikers' shuttle service heads up Bonita Canyon Drive in the early morning so that you can enjoy a long downhill hike back to the visitor center.
  • Sugarloaf Mountain Trail takes you to a panorama of the region from one of the highest points in the monument at 7,310 feet. It's 1.8 miles round-trip from a trailhead off Bonita Canyon Drive.
  • Ryolite Canyon Trail connects the heights at Massai Point with the visitor center and campground below in six miles one-way, or 4.1 miles from Echo Canyon Trailhead. It's best done with a shuttle to the top.
  • On Heart of Rocks Loop, you'll see Big Balanced Rock, Punch and Judy, Duck on the Rock, and other famous features. The trail map shows the several ways to get here.

More than 20 miles of trails wind through the park, passing unusual rock formations—Duck on a Rock, Totem Pole, and Big Balanced Rock—and exploring park forests. One leads to a small natural bridge and a ledge of volcanic hailstones, evidence of ancient eruptions that created the rock of Chiricahua. Trails range from a quarter mile to nine miles round-trip.

Trail Descriptions:

Bonita Creek Loop: An easy two miles (round-trip), starting at the Bonita Creek parking lot. This short level loop circling the picnic area takes you along the intermittent stream of Bonita Creek, where you'll see Apache plume and prickly poppy blooms in the spring and early summer. This is a good trail for birding and you might also spot whitetail in the lower portion of Bonita Canyon.

Bonita Creek Trail: An easy five miles (one-way), beginning at the Bonita Creek parking lot or Faraway Ranch parking lot. Following the twists and turns of Bonita Creek, this level trail connects the Faraway Ranch and Bonita Creek Picnic Area. Keep an eye out for quail, migrating birds, and deer. You may even see an occasional coatimundi or javelina.

Campground to Silver Spur Meadow Trail/Visitor Center to Silver Spur Meadow Trail: An easy two miles (each), beginning by the Group Campsite in the campground or the west end of the Visitor Center. This trail gives visitors an alternative way to get to the Visitor Center, running through excellent birding habitat and riparian forest with a short side trip to Silver Spur Meadow and the site of the Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

Faraway Ranch Historic Trail: An easy 1.2 miles (one-way), beginning at the Faraway Ranch parking area. This trail takes you to the historic ranch that was homesteaded by Neil and Emma Erickson, continuing past the Stafford Cabin, one of the original structures in Bonita Canyon and Silver Spur Meadow. Then it splits, allowing visitors to head northeast to the campground or southeast to the Visitor Center. There are several stream crossings, which may be dangerous when water is flowing. Crossing may not be possible when the water level is high.

Echo Canyon Loop Trail: A moderate to difficult 3.5 miles (including the Hailstone Trail), beginning near the end of Bonita Canyon scenic drive at Echo Canyon parking area. The trail takes you through spectacular rock formations to a dense wooded area called Echo Park and returns via the Hailstone Trail. Hiking this loop, despite its short length, is one of the most scenic experiences in the park.

Hailstone Trail: A moderate 0.8 miles, beginning at the junction of the Echo Canyon trail and the Upper Rhyolite trail, or the junction of the Massai Point connection trail. This mostly level trails runs along the sunny south-facing slope, so it gets very hot in the summer. Look for volcanic hailstones about half way between the trail junctions.

Heart of Rocks Trail: A difficult 1.3 miles via Hailstone or 7.2 miles via Sarah Deming, beginning at the Echo Canyon or Massai Point parking areas at the end of the eight-mile scenic drive. This trail leads through cool pine and fir forests and offers great views of the Totem Pole, Big Balanced Rock, and many other famous rock features. A short trail (0.9-mile loop) just beyond Big Balanced Rock leads into the Heart of Rocks area. The return trip may be made via Sarah Deming Canyon, the Hailstone Trail, or back to Massai Point.

Inspiration Point Trail: A moderate one mile (round-trip) beginning at the Heart of Rocks trail, approximately two miles from the Echo Canyon or Massai Point parking areas. This short path through pine and juniper forests offers an excellent opportunity to view the full length of Rhyolite Canyon.

Massai Point Nature Trail: An easy 0.5 miles, beginning near the exhibit building at Massai Point. This self-guided nature trail offers views of a balanced rock, a lookout point, and Rhyolite Canyon to the west.

Natural Bridge Trail: A moderate to difficult 2.4 miles (one-way), beginning at the trailhead on the Bonita Canyon scenic drive, approximately 1.25 miles beyond the Visitor Center. This trail climbs through oak and juniper woodlands to an Apache Pine forest, and features a small natural rock bridge toward the end. The return trip is along the same route.

Rhyolite Canyon Trail: A moderate to difficult 1.5 miles (one-way), beginning at the Visitor Center Parking Area. The trail climbs out of lower Bonita Canyon into the upper segments of Rhyolite Canyon and offers access to the Heart of Rocks and Echo Canyon areas. From the junction at Sarah Deming Canyon, the left fork will lead into upper Rhyolite Canyon and access Echo Park. The right fork leads into Sarah Deming Canyon towards the Heart of Rocks area.

Sarah Deming Trail: A difficult 1.5 miles (one-way) beginning at the Heart of Rocks trail or Rhyolite Canyon trail. This trail climbs almost 1,200 feet in 1-1/2 miles, running through mostly shaded areas with lots of oak and pine.

The Sugarloaf Mountain Trail: A moderate 0.9 miles (one-way), beginning at the parking area off Bonita Canyon scenic drive near the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. This trail, through one of the highest elevation areas in the park, offers exciting views in all directions. The return trip is along the same route.

Upper Rhyolite Trail: A moderate 1.1 miles (one-way) beginning at the junction of the Echo Canyon and Hailstone trails, or the junction of the Rhyolite and Sarah Deming trails. This trail runs mostly downhill from Echo Canyon with one uphill portion after the last stream crossing, crossing Rhyolite Creek in several places. It winds through shaded oak and pine woodland, and offers wonderful opportunities to see seasonal birds.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 18 Mar 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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