By Rob Hallberg

Madera Canyon and Saguaro National Park are the two spots most cited when discussing hiking in the Tucson area, but the Chiricahua Mountains should not be overlooked. It’s a little farther out, but the views and mountains are much different here and well worth the drive.

The Chiricahua Mountains are the largest of Arizona’s “Sky Island” mountain ranges; they also are the second highest range. The main crest of the mountain range resembles rolling hills atop a narrow high plateau.

This relatively flat area is bounded on the east and west by steep slopes and sharply dissected canyons. Beautiful rock formations dominate the scenery topped by Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir trees at its highest elevations.

Hiking Trails vary from Easy to Strenuous. Here are a few favorites:

The Bonita Creek Trail is a short, ½ mile hike along the creek where you may find wild animals and migrating birds. The Silver Spur Meadow Trail is a little longer at 1.2 miles that takes you to the Stafford Cabin, built in the 1880’s. Both of these hikes allow pets.

For a little more challenging hike, check out the Echo Canyon Loop. It’s a 3.3 mile loop that winds through spectacular rock formations to the densely wooded Echo Park. One of the lesser used hikes is the Natural Bridge Trail. At 4.8 miles, it winds through oak and juniper woodlands to a ridge, then drops into the Apache pine forest at Picket Park. It ends at an overlook of a small, water-carved natural bridge.

For serious hikers, the Echo Canyon to Heart of Rocks Trail is 7.3 miles and ends at the Big Balanced Rock. You can choose to return from this point or continue on the Big Loop. This takes you by all of the previously mentioned sites and includes Inspiration Point for a total of 9.5 miles. These are three to eight hour hikes so carry plenty of water and some snacks.

Take plenty of pictures! The area is so different it reminds me of Sedona.

About author View all posts

Guest Author