Chiricahua National Monument Things to Do

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  • Mountain spiny lizard
    Mountain spiny lizard
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    the charming grounds
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Most Recent Things to Do in Chiricahua National Monument

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    ROCK PANCAKES

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Rock pancakes stack high in the sky

    The thought behind the formation of these rock spires is that volcanic ash spewed out first, cooling into a 2000 foot deep layer of dark colored rhyolite. Erosion - water, wind and ice - then sculpted the formations into what you now see.

    Look at the formations from the car off Bonita Creek Drive, from Massai Point or better, take the Heart of Rocks and/or Echo Canyon trail through the 'heart" of the formations.

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    MASSAI POINT

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Peering over a 'Wonderland of Rocks' at Massai Pt

    From the Visitor Center, the Bonita Canyon Drive winds 8 miles up to dead ened at this point, 6879 ft/2094 m high. From here trails take off, exhibits explain and you overlook the Land of the Standing-Up Rocks.

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    TELESCOPES

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Looking for Punch and Judy

    You can peer through spotting scopes at Massai Point towards the different sights within the rock formations, the Monument or the surrounding region. Sugarloaf Mountain and Cochise Head is off to the north. An early homesteading couple turned their ranch into a guestranch and used to take guests on rides and walks up into what they coined as the 'Wonderland of Rocks'. The couple helped turn the idea of making the area into a national park into reality in 1924. Their ranch, Faraway Ranch, is open to tour near the Monument's entrance.

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    Allow time to take a hike

    by kop-queen Written Dec 24, 2009

    We only had time to drive to the top and wander around for 20 minutes as we arrived far too late in the day. Ideally had we been there a couple of hours earlier the light would have created much better shadows. We passed many signs for different trails and I imagine it would have been a lot of fun to hike some of them.

    There is a small visitor centre and gift shop near the entrance so be sure to stop off and pick up a map at least.

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    Faraway Ranch Historic District

    by richiecdisc Written May 23, 2009

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    the Farawway Ranch
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    Neil and Emma Erickson, Swedish immigrants, settled in Bonita Canyon in the late 1880s. Their homestead is now a National Historic District and the appropriately named Faraway Ranch is the main feature. It is charming and it's nice to stroll the grounds on your own or do a tour of the house proper at set times.

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    a rattlesnake for lunch

    by richiecdisc Written May 23, 2009

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    Mountain spiny lizard

    Reptiles are also pretty prolific here in Chiricahua with over 30 varieties of snakes alone. We saw a rattlesnake late afternoon as we sat picnicking close to the Visitor Center and caught this very pretty Mountain spiny lizard while out on the trails.

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    claret cup hedgehog cactus

    by richiecdisc Written May 23, 2009

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    claret cup hedgehog cactus

    Due to an incredible biogeographical diversity where four regions come together, there are over 1000 variety of plants ranging from oaks to cacti. It makes for great camping and picnicking unlike many other Southwest parks where the sun's intensity and lack of shade make for less than ideal lingering.

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    the one-eyed ring-tailed cat

    by richiecdisc Written May 23, 2009

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    the rare one-eyed ringtail
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    Chiricahua is home to a variety of mammals ranging from black bears to an evidently rare and illusive small number of jaguars. They are rarely spotted and we were not so lucky but we did see the very common white tailed deer at dusk and normally nocturnal ring-tailed cat who happened to have lost one of his eyes. It was probably the injury that prompted it being out early than you might expect and possibly looking for handouts up at Massai Point.

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    Mexican Jay

    by richiecdisc Written May 23, 2009

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    the colorful Mexican Jay

    Evidently, Chiricahua is a birder's paradise with 13 species of hummingbirds alone found within its borders, many of a Mexican origin so rarely seen elsewhere in the United States. We unfortunately were there for a brief period so didn't get to see even a fraction of the recorded 200 different species found in the park. We did see our first Mexican Jay of the trip and he was a beauty.

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    over 20 miles of trails

    by richiecdisc Written May 23, 2009

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    great views from the trail
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    If you have more time and are up to it, there are over 20 miles of trails that get you deeper into the amazing rock formations. The distances are relatively short but there is a lot of up and down so pick your trail according to your fitness level and experience. There are quite a few to chose from and they are set up so that you can add one trail to another if you are up to it. It's nice being able to decide while out hiking and not have to commit perhaps to more than you actually tackle. The park's website details all the trails and you can pick up a park map at the Visitor Center for free that has a fair representation of the trails. We combined the Massai Point, Ed Riggs, Mushroom Rock, Inspiration Point, Big Balanced Rock, Heart of the Rocks Loop, Sarah Deming, Upper Rhyolite Canyon, and Hailstone Trails for a total distance of a little over 10 miles. We didn't intend to do about half of that but we were enjoying ourselves and making good time so just continued. It's very well marked and even the park map was adequate to make the last minute decisions to continue on. Heart of the Rocks is the best part and if you want to do just that and back the way you came, it's about 8 miles but that doesn't take in Inspiration Point, another high light. So, you are game, just plan on doing the bigger loop and you'll not have to backtrack and see more of the part in the process.

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    Massai Nature Trail & Bonita Canyon Drive

    by richiecdisc Written May 23, 2009

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    ok, this is a bit off the Nature Trail but not far

    The average visitor to Chiricahua National Monument will be content with doing the very scenic Bonita Canyon Drive and taking in the incredible views at Massai at the road's culmination. At the very least, you should do the very short but equally pretty Massai Nature Trail to get a feeling for walking amongst the pinnacles. It's quite awe inspiring and fun too. Don't be afraid to go a little off the Nature Trail, the views are wonderful and it's not so far. Try and do it in the late afternoon for the best light as it gets you into great position for photos.

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    it's all about the spires

    by richiecdisc Written May 23, 2009

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    erosion can do wonderful things
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    The magnificent rock pinnacles of Chiricahua have their origin in an incredibly large volcanic eruption 27 million years ago which spread 2000 feet of pumice and ash forming rhyolitic tuff in time. Over an extended time, erosion formed the resulting spires that make this area so awe inspiring.

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    Echo Canyon Loop Trail

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Apr 6, 2009

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    Echo Canyon Trail

    This is a 3.3 mile loop trail rated Moderate in difficulty. I would recommend traveling in a counter-clockwise direction, which will allow you to descend 450 feet, then follow an area with a slight incline, and finally ascend 380 foot. This is a wonderful walk, my husband said it was his all time favorite. The first part (if traveling counter-clockwise) in the Echo Canyon winds through beautiful and interesting rock formations that tower around you. You will then enter the wooded Echo park area, followed by an open area called Hailstone, and then finally onto the Ed Riggs trail among large pine trees. You could still glimpse the spires of rocks through the trees as you walked the wooded areas. In a couple areas you could also see a small stream, which we walked across on rocks in one area.

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    The Stafford Cabin

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Apr 6, 2009

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    The Stafford Cabin Photo

    If you do not wish to walk the entire 1.2 mile one way Silver Spur Meadow Trail at least start at the Faraway Ranch parking lot and walk to the Ranch house, then continue on to the Stafford Cabin. This is a good turning around spot if you do not wish to continue walking the entire trail. The cabin was built by Ja Hu Stafford in 1880 and is on the National Historic Register. Added onto, it was purchased by the Ericksons in 1918 and used as a guest cabin for the Faraway Ranch.

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    Silver Spur Meadow Trail

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Apr 6, 2009

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    Erickson���s Faraway Ranch Home

    This trail is 1.2 miles in length one way. Easy hiking, it begins at the Faraway Ranch parking lot and takes you past the Faraway Ranch Historic District to the Stafford cabin. Swedish immigrants Neil and Emma Erickson settled at Faraway Ranch in 1888. In the 1920s their daughter, Lillian, and her husband had turned the homestead into a guest ranch, which was used until 1973. The Historic home is on the National Register of Historic Places. Continuing east from the historic ranch area, you will enter the Silver Spur Meadow where the Civilian Conservation Corps camp was located when they worked on developing the monument. Fireplaces still stand where the Silver Spur Guest Ranch Lodge was once in business from 1948 to 1968. This is both a pleasant walk as well as a historic one.

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