Welcome to our article on Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona. We are Adam and Kathryn (+ our pup Kona) and we run Adventures of A+K – a travel blog, YouTube channel and Instagram account. We travel full time around North America in our self-converted Sprinter van and love being outdoors, eating local foods, learning history, exploring cities and more.
We are both originally from Austin, Texas where we met back in 2011 at a burger restaurant we both worked at called Mighty Fine Burgers. In 2016, after a couple years of marriage and a timely job layoff, we decided to take a big leap and move across the country to Seattle so that we could be close to the mountains, ocean and adventures in the Pacific Northwest.
Our years in Seattle ignited a love of road trips and traveling, with us going out and exploring every single weekend. This prompted us to make the decision to convert a van and live in it full time. We have been on the road since August 2019, with some breaks here and there, and absolutely love it!
Visiting Chiricahua National Monument in 2022
We learned about Chiricahua National Monument a couple years ago and bookmarked it as a place to visit when we were back in Arizona. And this winter, we were finally able to make it happen! This national monument is the perfect mix of unique scenery, history and expansive desert.
This area was the home of the Chiricahua Apaches who called this area “The Land of Standing-Up Rocks” after the defining feature of the park: the rhyolite rock pinnacles. These pinnacles can be viewed on trails, from overlooks or even from the car – making it an accessible destination for all. But beyond the pinnacles, the park also has interesting homesteading history that you can see, which helps bring the past and present together.
And while Chiricahua National Monument is known by locals, it isn’t as widely known across the US, which allows it to remain less busy and provide a more immersive nature experience. We are firm believers that while national parks are great to visit, national monuments, state parks and national forest areas offer just as amazing of an experience but without the crowds. Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona is no exception.
4 Things To Do in Chiricahua National Monument
1. Hike The Big Loop and Marvel at the Rock Pinnacles
Our favorite experience in Chiricahua National Monument was definitely hiking The Big Loop, which is about 8 miles in distance and takes you in, above, and around the many rock pinnacles. This trail provides endless cool vantage points and experiences such as walking through narrow rock walls, going through a forest and having sweeping views of the pinnacles.
The Big Loop takes you through the Echo Canyon and Heart of the Rocks, while getting you up close and personal with the stunning pinnacles along the way. You can also shorten this hike if needed to make it less strenuous.
2. Visit Faraway Ranch and Join a Tour
Faraway Ranch was the homestead of Swedish immigrants, whose daughter Lillian and husband Ed Riggs played a big role in the park becoming a national monument, including building some of the first trails. Here you can find old buildings that you can peek into, including their home, which you can tour with a ranger (currently not offered).
3. Check out the Epic Views from Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain is just under 2 miles round trip and has a fire lookout at the top that you can peek inside. The hike is pretty steep but the views are beautiful! The summit stands at 7,310 feet and offers the best views over the national monument. It’s not quite the highest spot in the park, as an unnamed ridge rises 30 feet higher, but it’s worth hiking nonetheless.
4. Head to Massai Point for a Beautiful Sunset
Massai Point is the final stop on the park’s main drive and has a cool stone overlook, plus tons of rocks to sit on. We recommend this spot for sunset! You can also hike the Massai Point Nature Trail which is an educational hike that explains the geological history of the area. Read the signs along the way and learn about the volcanic history and rock formations.
Where to Stay at Chiricahua National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument is situated in a pretty remote location, about two hours east of Tucson. The closest town to the park is Willcox, which is still about 40 minutes away, but offers a few hotel options like a Holiday Inn Express and Best Western as well as groceries and restaurants.
The most convenient stay that we suggest is in the park at the Bonita Canyon Campground which has 25 campsites. If the campground is full, there is also a KOA in Willcox, plus free camping at the Indian Bread Rocks.
Tips for Visiting Chiricahua National Monument
We always recommend following Leave No Trace principles when exploring the outdoors. At Chiricahua National Monument, make sure to pack out any trash you may acquire, as well as pick up any trash you see. And please do not deface any of the rock pinnacles! They need to be protected.
There is no entrance fee, but despite not being a full blown national park, dogs are still not allowed on any trails. Before visiting the monument, make sure you have offline Google Maps and AllTrails maps downloaded. We had no service the majority of our time, so you will want to make sure you have access to any navigation tools you may need. We also suggest bringing lunch and snacks with you, as it’s quite a bit of a trek to get out of the park.