Forged from the ashes of a massive volcanic eruption that occurred many moons ago, the towering rocks of Chiricahua National Monument resemble rows of rugged stone totem poles carefully carved by nature’s hand. The Apache people, who were among the first inhabitants of the region, referred to the area as the place where “rocks stood upright.” The rock formations at Chiricahua National Monument are so impressive that there’s a push to make it Arizona’s fourth National Park. In the meantime, the Monument offers a wealth of enjoyable activities, including hiking, sightseeing, and stargazing.
Chiricahua National Monument boasts over 17 miles of hiking trails. Visitors can opt for a brief 15-minute jaunt or embark on a more demanding several-hour trek along the 9.5-mile Big Loop. Even if you’re not an avid hiker, a short excursion through Chiricahua’s delicate rock grottos is well worth the effort. Discovering a rock that appears so fragile that even the slightest gust of wind could knock it over—yet has stood firm against relentless wind, rain, and erosion for millions of years—is an awe-inspiring experience.
Bonita Canyon Drive provides a panoramic view of the varied landscapes within Chiricahua National Monument. As you wind your way through Bonita Canyon, you’ll encounter evergreen forests and tall, delicate rocks that seemingly defy the laws of physics. Massai Point offers breathtaking views of towering mountains, distinctive rock formations, and dense pine forests. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a black bear or an ocelot in the distance.
In 2021, Chiricahua National Monument was recognized as an International Dark Sky Park, meaning that the area has virtually no light pollution. On a clear night, visitors can easily glimpse the Milky Way without the need for a telescope or binoculars. The Monument is an ideal spot for watching the Perseid meteor shower, which occurs every August. While Chiricahua National Monument does have a campground, spaces are limited, so it’s advisable to make a reservation if you plan to stay overnight.
Chiricahua National Monument is a surreal, arid wonderland that will leave you utterly enchanted by the stark beauty of Arizona’s desert landscape. If the crowds at the Grand Canyon overwhelm you, consider a trip to Chiricahua National Monument for equally breathtaking sights and a chance to soothe your frayed nerves. The sweeping view from atop Massai Point is sure to leave you speechless.