Fascinating rock formations, natural beauty, scenic lookouts, a scenic drive, and miles of hiking trails characterize the Chiricahua National Monument, located in southeast Arizona. The park covers 11985 acres and has many activities and sites to entertain RV campers staying at the campground in the park.
Chiricahua National Monument was developed in 1924 to protect the hoodoos and balancing rocks in this special area. The area was the site of a volcanic eruption, approximately 27 million years ago, from the Turkey Creek Caldera. The ash from the eruption has since eroded to create fascinating rock formations and a unique landscape.
The visitor centre - itself historic and built in 1930 - at Chiricahua National Monument provides visitors with information, guides, atlases, and books that will help in your discovery of the many natural wonders and historical aspects of the park. There is free wifi at the visitor centre, however, cellular coverage in the park is unreliable. A free shuttle from the visitor center takes hikers out to the Echo Canyon or Massai Point trailheads daily.
During your stay you can visit the Faraway Ranch Historic District to get a feel for how people in the area lived, or check out the main attraction, Massai Point. Massai Point is a viewing area on a plateau at 6870 feet of elevation where trails, ravines, and rock formations all meet to create a “Wonderland of Rocks”. The Organ Pipe is another interesting geological formation, where a cliff face has been eroded by natural elements to form slats reminiscent of the pipes on an organ. You can also enjoy spectacular vistas with over the flat desert.
Chiricahua National Monument is located about 36 miles southeast of Willcox Arizona. Many amenities and services are available in this local town for RV campers to avail themselves of. Due to its remote location, Ciricahua is a “hidden gem”, and seldom visited, but it is well worth the drive and access by RVs is possible with a campground that accommodates RVs at the site. Campers are advised to fuel up in Wilcox, or Sunizona, as there is no gasoline available at the National Monument.
From Tucson, Arizona, which is about 120 miles from the monument, take the I-10 east to the first Wilcox exit. Proceed 3 miles into town and turn right at the stoplight. Follow the Arizona State Highway 186 for 32 miles to the junction at Highway 181 and turn left. You will reach the entrance to Chrichahua four miles down the access road.
Travelling from Lordsburg, New Mexico, a 100 mile trip, take the I-10 west for 67 miles and use exit 344 at Wilcox. Turn left onto highway 186 and travel 32 mile to Highway 181. Turn left and follow the road four miles to the monument entrance.
The visitor center parking lot has limited room and only vehicles that are a total of 29 feet in length are permitted. If your vehicle is longer than this, park at the Faraway Ranch parking lot about one and a half miles from the visitor center.
The Pinery Canyon Road is a dirt road that travels through the mountains to New Mexico, however, it is closed during the winter months and thunderstorms in the area leave this route in poor condition for most of the year so it is not appropriate for RVs.
Open all year round, and suitable for RV campers, this campground is located in the Chiricahua National Monument and accepts reservations. The campground is set in a pine and oak forest and is well shaded. A creek bed runs through the campground; however, it is usually dry. There are 25 non-electric sites and one group site situated at the campground. One ADA accessible site has an electric outlet for medical use only. There are some sites with water spigots, but please note there is no filling of RV water tanks permitted.
Most sites will only accommodate moderately sized RVs and trailers, the maximum size being 29 feet. Many of the sites are narrow and vehicles can not be parked side by side and they can be sharply angled, and difficult to back into for larger rigs. Hiking trails from the campground lead to the visitor centre and connect to the miles of trails in the park. Amenities include flush toilets and drinking water. Food lockers are accessible and all sites have a picnic table, grill, and tent pad. The group site has a fire pit. Other facilities include an amphitheatre, recycling and garbage disposal facilities, and an emergency phone. Pets are allowed at the campsite but restricted on many of the park trails.
Although there is no overnight camping for horses, many equestrians transport their animals in to the trailhead, and horse trailer parking near Faraway Ranch. The maximum number of horses and pack animals is 10 per contiguous group. Horse are limited to the developed trail systems and are not permitted on the Masai Nature Trail, Heart of Rocks Loop, Natural Bridge, and Sugarloaf Mountain trails. Equestrians should only feed hay or grain from feed bags or in stock trailers, and remove all manure from parking areas and trailheads.
With over 17 miles of developed trails suitable for day trips, ranging from easy to difficult, and of varying length, Chiricahua is a hikers paradise. Obtain maps at the visitors center for detailed maps and information on routes, and choose a hike that is suited to your ability level. A free shuttle from the visitors center takes hikers out each morning to the Echo Canyon and Massai Point trailheads, and hikers return to the visitor center on area trails. Hikers should sign up for the shuttle the day prior to their intended trek. The shuttle is not available from June to August. Pets are not allowed on park trails, however, your dog can join you on the campground trails, Faraway Ranch Trail, the lower canyon trails between the campground and visitor center, and at the entrance station on the Silver Spur Trail. Participate in the “I Hike for Health” program and earn a pin by hiking 5 miles of the park.
Ranger tours can be arranged at the visitor center, Bonita Canyon Campground, and Faraway Ranch. Tour the ranch to view the Erickson family home, this 45 minute program is available on weekends. Discover how people in the area lived and their unique history. Take ranger led tours to discover the natural geological wonders of the park and have unique wildlife species brought to your attention. Ranger programs are available all year long but are more prevalent in the spring.
The unique rock formations of the area, which were formed by erosion after a volcanic eruption blanketed the area in ash over 27 million years ago, are the main attraction at Chiricahua National Monument. Spires, hoodoos, balancing rocks, and columns create an ethereal landscape for visitors who enjoy the fascinating rock formations in the park. The park was formed to protect the rhyolite pinnacles which rise hundreds of feet above the canyon surfaces. Massai Point is the main landscape viewing point on a high plateau overlooking many of the interesting geological formations in Chiricahua. A park specific NPS Biodiversity Atlas, available at the visitor center, highlights the many geological features and process in the park. Other features include caves, lava flows and a nearby caldera.
The variety of habitat available at Chiricahua is home to many wildlife species. Grasslands, desert scrub, pine woodland and riparian areas in the region harbor many animals. Black bear, whitetail deer, box turtles, rattlesnakes, and salamanders can all be found wandering through the monument. In total there are 71 species of mammal, 46 species of reptile, and eight species of amphibian that can be encountered in the park. Have your camera ready to capture the diversity of wildlife on your visit. Be cautious when hiking for rattlesnakes on trails and keep your distance from large mammals, especially black bears, which should be given a wide berth.
Chiricahua National Monument is a bird watcher's delight with many bird species to spot in the park. The site has been identified as an Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy. Over 200 species have been documented in the region, which is home to species with restricted ranges, and enroute for many migratory birds that pass through or stay during the winter months. Interesting species you can encounter in the park include, Gould's turkeys, Mexican Jays, Acorn woodpeckers, Canyon wrens, White-breasted nuthatches, towhees, flickers, Turkey vultures, hawks, kestrels and falcons.