Arizona is home to the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon, crazy desert wildlife, and very hot summers.
#1 Chiricahua National Monument is one of the hidden gems of the national park and monument system!
Unlike the Grand Canyon National Park, which sees more than five million visitors each year, Chiricahua National Monument sees less than 60, 000 visitors a year. On average, less than a few hundred visitors a day pass through here, making it a much less hectic destination than some other big name locations. Don’t be fooled by the numbers, though. Chiricahua is no less of a spectacular destination that any of Arizona’s other attractions, it’s simply one of Arizona’s best kept secrets. Luckily, we’re here to fill you in on all the awesome things about this natural masterpiece that most people never see!
#2 Chiricahua National Monument has been around since 1924!
Even then, people could see what a special place it was! 80% of the national monument, Chiricahua National Monument Historic Designed Landscape, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2008, also. The monument is just southeast of Wilcox, Arizona. In fact, it’s actually quite near to the Arizona-New Mexico border. Before it became a national monument, the Chiricahua Apache Indians called the Chiricahua Mountains home. In the 19th century, when the U.S. army started seeking out native peoples, Chiriachua became a stronghold.
#3 These rock formations were created over 27 million years ago!
Looking at these breathtaking hoodoos and balancing rocks, you might be at a loss trying to determine how they could possibly have been created. The answer is actually fairly simple: a volcano! When nearby Turkey Creek Caldera erupted millions of years ago, it spewed out nearly 2,000 feet of volcanic ash and pumice! When everything cooled, it became rhyolitic tuff. From there on out, nature took the wheel and eroded away portions of the rock layers to create the beautiful formations that we see today. As with any natural landscape, it is continuously changing. Though the processes of erosion are generally too minute to track with the human eye, over time, the formations of Chiricahua National Monument will continue to erode to create even more beautiful vistas!
#4 You can explore most all of Chiricahua National Monument if you’re willing to hike!
If you enjoy hiking, then you’ll be in heaven at Chiricahua National Monument! The place has their own hiking guide, available for free download on the National Park Service website! The Echo Canyon trail has a hike to suit everyone. If you’re feeling like a short stroll, hike .8 miles round trip to check out the Echo Canyon Grottoes. For a bit longer of a journey, take Echo Canyon trail out to Hailstone trail and onto Ed Riggs trail. It’s just over three miles worth of beautiful scenery. If you’re feeling especially energetic, hike from Ed Riggs trail, to Mushroom Rock trail, which will lead you to Big Balanced Rock Trail and the Heart of Rocks Loop. This is where you’ll get to witness all of the awesome rock formations that you see in pictures! If you follow along Sarah Deming trail to Rhyolite Canyon trail, you’ll find yourself back at the visitor’s center in just over seven miles.
#5 There are plenty of other activities at Chiricahua National Monument as well!
Don’t worry if hiking isn’t your favorite activity! There are many other options! On a nice day, with tables, grills, trashcans, and restrooms, Chiricahua National Monument is the perfect location for a relaxing picnic. It’s a great place for bird watching, and chances are good that you’ll see some other wildlife too. If photography is your thing, this place is about as picturesque as it gets! If you happen to own your own horse, you’re welcome to ride here. Be sure to makes plans for a historic tour, and you’ll learn a ton about the area. Faraway Ranch House is a high point of the historic district; here you’ll learn about the history of humans in the Chiricahua Mountains! When evening rolls around, don’t forget to look up. The stargazing is great here! Luckily, Bonita Canyon Campground is open year round, so you can even sleep under the stars. Before you leave, be sure to take the Bonita Canyon Scenic Drive. A 360 degree view of Rhyolite Canyon and all of the beauty surrounding it means that this isn’t an adventure to miss!