Chiricahua Welcome Sign

Chiricahua National Monument: The most unique park in Arizona

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Entrance to Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument, located in South East Arizona, deserves a top place on your Arizona Bucket list for sure, and I’d say needs to be the top of any of your travel lists!

When you think of Arizona National Parks no doubt you visualize the impressive landscape of the Grand Canyon or the looming presence of the Saguaro Cactus. These are 2 drop-dead gorgeous National Parks that should definitely be seen, BUT the often overlooked and undiscovered gem of Arizona is Chiricahua National Monument.

What is Chiricahua National Monument?

Chiricahua National Monument is just over 12, 000 acres of unique, impressive beauty that will steal your heart, your imagination, and draw you back again and again.

Yellow Lichen covers a large rock in Chiricahua National Monument

The Chiricahua Apaches that inhabited this area originally called this place “land of standing-up rocks”, and I can’t think of a better way to explain the geological features that are here.

The most impressive of these geological features are the rhyolite rock pinnacles. These rock towers reach high into the sky, sometimes over 100 feet, and are often perched on small bases. If that’s not cool enough, they are also covered in bright yellow and green lichen! Looking at them reminds me of a Dr. Suess book, with topsy turvy rocks placed haphazardly about that should topple down at any moment. But, hundreds of years after the volcanic activity that formed them, here they stand.

Along with the pinnacles, you’ll also see caves, mountains, valleys, ancient lava flows and calderas.

balanced rock- Chiricahua National monument

Wildlife in Chiricahua

I always hope to see wildlife when I’m exploring National Parks. This time, though, I was hoping to NOT see wildlife! This is mountain lion country. This is rattlesnake country. But there are also black bears, white-tailed deers, squirrels, coatis, and more birds than you can count! I have a real fear of mountain lions, I have no idea why they are the one species that gets my anxiety racing, but they do. Luckily for us, we didn’t see any!

If you see a mountain lion: make yourself big, and loud. Protect your neck, by turning your backpack around to cover it. Throw anything you can reach (without bending over) to a spot in front of the animal (try to not hurt it). Maintain eye contact. DO NOT RUN! Fight if you have to use your hiking poles, tripod, water bottle, or whatever you have!

According to the NPS, the unique geology, geographic location, and diverse ecology of the park all play a role in its incredible animal diversity. In all, there are 71 species of mammals, 46 species of reptiles, 8 amphibians, 171 species of birds, and uncounted numbers of insects that regularly occur at Chiricahua National Monument.

We visited in late February, so we also didn’t see any snakes or bears. What we did see was some white-tailed deer and a lot of very beautiful birds. If you love bird watching, Chiricahua Mountains will be heaven for you!

What to do in Chiricahua National Monument



Chiricahua National Monument is a hiker’s heaven! Hikes range from a simple .5mile nature walk to 10-mile strenuous hikes. The cool thing about hiking here is that a lot of the trails connect, so you can make the loops as large or as small as you would like to!

The most popular hikes start from Echo Canyon Trail Head. From here you can see some of the most impressive and diverse parts of Chiricahua. There is also Massai Point Trail Head, which is a half-mile easy loop that starts in a parking lot. The loop has signs that teach you about the natural features that you see, and the history of the area. There is also a super cool lookout from Massai Point that overlooks the pinnacles, the valley, and the surrounding mountains. There is a natural bridge you can hike to, a fire look-out, and a historical district you can hike. If you only have one day here, I’d highly suggest Echo Canyon.


If you aren’t a hiker, or the weather is not optimal, or you just don’t have time, thats ok! You won’t miss out on Chiricahua!

The road that starts at the entrance goes all the way to the top! There are quite a few pull-outs where you can enjoy the views and get photos! To best see the park driving, head up Bonita Canyon road to where the road forks at the top and head left towards Echo Canyon Trailhead.

Just past this parking lot keep heading up and you will be at the Sugar Loaf Parking lot. loaf parking lot gives you views of the fire lookout (and the trail to hike to it). It also gives you views of the valley.

Head back down the way you came and stop at Echo Canyon Trailhead. If you aren’t hiking, there are restrooms and picnic tables here and you have an awesome view!

Leaving Echo Canyon lot, head back the way you came, turn right at the stop, and head up the hill to Massai Point. There is a large parking lot here. This is where you can head to the lookout point and see all of the amazing pinnacles in the canyon. This is also the start and finish of the nature trail.

When you are done, here just head back the way you came. Be sure and look for pull-outs and signs of the rock formations that have been named. The signs will be on your passenger side, and the rocks you are looking for will be on the drivers’ side, so pullover!

TIP: The pull-outs and views are easier to utilize on the way back down the hill! So, enjoy the drive up and then make your stops on the way down!

But wait…there’s more!

You can also ride horseback on the trails at Chiricahua, take a guided tour of Far away ranch, and camp here! There is a visitor center with lots of information as well!

All the important details about Chiricahua National Monument

  • Chiricahua is a National Monument, it is run by the National Park Service, but there is no fee to enter (Yay! Free!!)
  • Chiricahua National Monument is located 120 miles south of Tucson near the town of Wilcox. This is where we stayed overnight to get an early start to the park. (Lodging is limited as Wilcox is small)
  • We had cell service on and off in the park. There is wifi at the visitors center if you need it.
  • There is a shuttle that leaves from the visitors center at 9 am to take you up to the hikes (but not during COVID)
  • Chiricahua National Monument is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day
  • Chiricahua National Monument ranges from 5,124 feet / 1,562 meters in elevation at the entrance station to 7,310 feet / 2,228 meters at the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Weather: we were there in late February and the weather was wonderful! In the late summer, you can expect the monsoon season and daily thunderstorms
  • Visitor Center hours are 8:30-4:30. We got there early and they had a table with hiking maps and information available to grab.
  • Pets can camp if they are on a leash. They can go on a few trails, but be sure and check because not all of the trails are pet-friendly.
View from Massai Point Chiricahua National Monument

Is Chiricahua National Park worth visiting?

Seriously, Chiricahua National Monument should be visited. I’m not saying that other National Parks in Arizona aren’t amazing. I am just saying this is equally, (if not more) amazing. Another awesome reason to visit: not many people do! We passed 5 people The ENTIRE DAY! So, it is a great break from the chaos and crowds too!

We had one day here and really got to see a lot. If you plan on spending more time here, I suggest you camp in the park because it really is out of the way and not too close to anything else. Drive times are long to get to and from the park to anywhere else you are probably wanting to spend time.

So, what do you think? Ready to go? Let me know In the comments, and if you have questions Im here to help!

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