Chiricahua National Monument had been our list for a while. It’s pretty remote. However, since it’s also in the southeast corner of Arizona, it makes for a perfect winter destination. The 8 mile drive up the scenic road is the perfect lead in to some pretty epic hiking. The reason why it is referred to as a “Wonderland of Rocks” becomes pretty apparent shortly into the drive.
There are a handful of scenic pullouts on the way up, but they definitely save the best for last. The road ends at Massai Point. At 6870 feet of elevation, it gives panoramic views of beautiful rock spires all around. Just before that, we began our hike through Echo Canyon. Click below for our adventures in Chiricahua National Monument:
Chiricahua National Monument History
Native American history here goes back for centuries. Make that millennia. The Chiricahua Apache had a history of raiding and treated Spanish, Mexican, and American settlers no differently. Especially as their historical home was encroached on. From the 1860’s to 1870’s the Apache Chiefs Cochise and Geronimo carried out a series of raids on nearby settlers.
The surrounding mountains provided shelter until they were defeated in 1886. A monument to Geronimo’s surrender lies approximately 25 miles to the southeast. The Apache Wars, as they were called, lasted for 24 years. You can still visit nearby Historic Fort Bowie as well.
In 1924 an area just under 12,000 acres was designated as a national monument to protect the hoodoos and numerous balancing rock formations. The history of the region encompasses a lot more than just the national monument. Did we mention there is no entrance fee?
If you like hiking among amazing rock formations, this place is for you! We really only scratched the surface of what’s available. Ideally, the Heart of Rocks Loop would have been what we most wanted to see. But a 7 mile round trip wasn’t in the cards for us.
The Echo Canyon Loop is only 3.3 miles and might be just as spectacular. The NPS website suggests doing this loop counter clockwise: Echo Canyon to the Hailstone trail to the Ed Riggs trail. It’s a little easier that way since that has you coming down the steepest sections and not up. If you are looking for something shorter, just go down the grottoes on the Echo Canyon Trail and come back up. That’s roughly half a mile round trip and there were a couple of groups we came across doing just that.
Honestly, our family of 4 was pretty maxed out with the whole loop. The trail signs suggest it will take 2 hours. It took us 5!
Where to Stay
Bonita Canyon Campground is the only place to stay within the national monument. It is a beautiful campground for smaller RVs or tent camping. They say the maximum RV or trailer length is 29ft. However, be advised that 24ft is the maximum vehicle length for the park road past the campground.
There are lots of opportunities for free camping in the area. We boondocked at Indian Bread Rocks to maintain a cell connection for internet access. From here we had an hour commute to Chiricahua. The rock formations here make for some real scenic campsites, but it was also really busy. If we went again I would probably look for a different place to park.
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If you’d like to read about our RV and other RV adventures, then check out some of our other posts :
- Petrified Forest National Park
- Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
- Cathedral Gorge State Park
- RV Solar System Lessons Learned
- The Ghost Town of Rhyolite, Nevada
- Bonneville Salt Flats & Lemoille Canyon
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