Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club
Chiricahua National Monument Car Camp
October 9-11, 2015

General Description: Chiricahua National Monument.
Filled with statuesque, stony splendor and some of the most unusual, unique, and bizarre rock formations to be found anywhere in Arizona. This is Chiricahua National Monument – Land of the Standing-Up Rocks. This is where many postcard shots of rock formations are done. Ft. Bowie is a D class hike for Friday afternoon (~3 miles). Echo Canyon/ Heart of Rocks is a B class hike for all Saturday. (10 miles, but mostly downhill) An alternate trail (5 miles) that is all downhill is Echo Canyon/ Rhyolite Canyon, class C.
Exploring Chiricahua National Monument is exploring a fantasy world of extraordinary rock sculptures that were created by the forces of nature over millions of years. Called the “Land of the Standing-Up Rocks” by Chiricahua Apaches and later the “Wonderland of Rocks” by early pioneers, this picturesque northwest corner of the Chiricahua Mountains harbors towering rock spires, massive stone columns, and balanced rocks weighing hundreds of tons that perch delicately on small pedestals. Where hundreds of these rocks occur together, such as in the Heart of Rocks, the landscape appears as a rugged badlands.
We currently have a reservation at the Bonita Canyon Group Campsite, which sits at an elevation of 5,400', for the nights of Oct 9 and 10, 2015. The campsite can hold a maximum of 24 people and 5 vehicles. We need a minimum of 8 people to keep the group site. Camping fees are $3 per person, per night for the group site. Additional cars can park in another lot, and we can shuttle people to the campsite. Additional individual campsites are available at the campground on a first come, first serve basis and cannot be reserved. The group site is limited to tents only. RVs and tent trailers will need to be assigned to the individual sites. These sites are $12 per night and can accommodate up to 8 people, 2 vehicles, and 2 tents. There are no hookups for RVs, but a gray water dump station is located near the restrooms. Restrooms have running water. As in most parks now, ground fires are not permitted. Fires will be limited to the cooking grills provided. We will need to bring our own firewood and charcoal, as wood gathering is not permitted.
Scenic Drive:
Climbing gradually through oak, juniper and pine forests, Bonita Canyon Drive winds 8 miles to the mountains' crest and Massai Point. The overlook gives commanding views of the park, desert valleys beyond, and the landmark peaks of Sugarloaf Mountain and Cochise Head. As you drive back, stop at the roadside pullouts to see rock formations, other geologic features, and exhibits.
This is a very nice campground. It has trees, running water in the restrooms and is very laid back. They have just redone the group site, so it should be nice. The group site is off by its self, so it is like you are the only ones there.
COST: $5.00 per person entrance fee (not per vehicle) plus $3.00 per person per night camping fee for a total of $11.00 per person. Michael expects $6 per person camping.
Best Time of Year to Hike: May through October. Summer hiking can be hot. I hope this hike is after the high heat of summer. Normal day time is low 80s. Normal night time is high 50s.
Hotel/Motel Accommodations: For those who do not care to camp in tents, but would still like to join us for the Friday and/or Saturday hike, please check the listing below for accommodations in the Willcox area. In your email to me, please state that you plan to say in a motel and if you want a roommate.
Weather conditions: Bisbee
Temperatures average about 10-15° cooler than in Phoenix.


After we have lunch, we can work up a good dinner appetite by hiking Ft. Bowie Trail and national monument. This is a relatively easy flat 3-mile loop hike, with about a 200' elevation change. Ft. Bowie is a very large fort that was the main staging point for the hunt for Geronimo. The fort had the first ice cream machine west of the Mississippi.

This being our only full day in the Chiricahuas, we will use most of it to take in the breathtaking Heart of Rocks Trail, a spectacular hike that will introduce the first-time Chiricahua visitor to the very best scenery and the most unique rock formations found anywhere in the Chiricahuas. Length: 10 miles. Level of difficulty: Moderate (1,600' EC). We will begin at the Echo Canyon (6780') parking area, which is at the end of the 8-mile scenic drive. The trail descends through Echo Canyon to Hailstone Trail, which we use to cross over to the cool pine and fir forests. We will continue to the trail junction with the Inspiration Point (7000') trail for lunch. After lunch we continue on the main trail to just beyond Big Balanced Rock (and the end of the forest) for a short side trip (0.9 mile loop) into the actual Heart of Rocks area, with excellent views of the Totem Pole, Big Balanced Rock, Pinnacle Balanced Rock, Camel’s Head, Thor’s Hammer, Punch & Judy, and many other well-known rock features. The return trip will be made via Sarah Deming Canyon continuing though Rhyolite Canyon, with a short walk from the ranger station (5400') back to our camp site. We will then use one of the vehicles we left at the camp site to retrieve the vehicles we left at Echo canyon. An alternate trail (5 miles) that is all downhill is Echo Canyon, Rhyolite Canyon, with a short walk from the ranger station (5400') back to our camp site.

For those not up to the 10 mile hike on Saturday:
There are several shorter trials in the area. Bonita Creek Loop is 0.2 mile RT, Bonita Creek Trail is 1 mile RT, Faraway Ranch Historic Trail is 2.4 miles RT, Rhyolite Canyon Trail is 3 miles RT, and Sugarloaf Mountain Trail is 1.8 miles RT. There is also the option of a guided tour of Faraway Ranch, not far from the campground.

Sunday will be an optional day. For those who wish to pack up and leave for an early start back to the Phoenix area, please feel free to do so. For those who would like to see more while in the area, there are several options available. There is always more hiking, but for those who have had enough hiking for a while (which will probably be most of us after Saturday’s hike), there is a very interesting guided tour of the nearby Faraway Ranch, which gives an excellent insight into the life and times of some of the early day pioneers in the Chiricahuas and the many day to day challenges and hardships they faced. If you missed any of the scenic overlooks along Bonita Canyon Drive, this would be a good opportunity to see those. Bisbee is also nearby for mine tours and shopping.

Trip Leader:   
Please email the leader by September 13 to confirm.

9:15 AM on Friday morning, October 9, in the parking lot near Einstein Brothers Bagel Shop on the SE corner of 48th Street and Ray Road, just west of I-10. We will try to get away about 9:30.

From Phoenix, take I-10 east past Tucson. Get off at the Willcox exit (#340, 2nd exit). We have about a four-hour drive ahead of us and should arrive at the monument by about 2:30. Have lunch in Willcox at about 12:30, pick up gas and any other things. Travel to Ft. Bowie for the Friday afternoon hike. The road to Ft. Bowie is gravel, but it is graded for cars. There is no gas or services in the Chiricahua or Ft. Bowie National Monument. For those of you leaving at different times, please let me know when you are leaving, so I will know when to expect you at the campground. No cars may be left at Einstein Brothers.

Accommodations in the Willcox area:

520-384-3556 Best Western Plaza Inn
520-384-4655 Budget Riteway Motel
520-384-3156 Chochise Hotel & Gift Shop
520-384-4222 Days Inn
520-384-4636 Desert Breeze Motel
520-384-3577 Desert Inn of Willcox
520-586-8800 Holiday Inn Express (Benson)
520-384-3270 Motel 8
520-586-7533 Triangle T Guest Ranch

updated June 23, 2015