When I visited my american family some time ago, they suggested that we could go for a hike through the “Wonderland of Rocks”, which is basically everywhere in the Chiricahua Mountain Range. So we packed a few things, took our cameras with us, made sure to wear appropriate shoes (well, most of us did) and soon were on our way up to the mountains.
The humongous mountain range is located in southeastern Arizona and is part of the Coronado National forest. You can access it from Willcox from the north (that’s where we came from), Douglas from the south and Rodeo from the east. And while we were getting closer and closer I got more and more impressed, cause suddenly you realize how impressive the Chiricahuas really are. The highest point, Chiricahua Peak, rises 9,759 ft (that’s 2.975 metres) above sea level. Whoa, right? No wonder that snow up there is quite common!
As an Austrian I am used to mountains – I mean, we do have the alps, right? And yes, our highest mountain, the Großglockner, tops Chiricahua Peak (by like 1.000 metres or 3,280 ft), but still: I was impressed. The main reason why I liked it so much were the enormous stone spires, stone columns, hoodos and balanced rocks, created by subsequent erosion and composed of Rhyolite Canyon Tuff. You walk around those little paths and all around you there are gigantic formations that make you feel so small and unimportant. Speaking of small: The Chiricahuas are a bio diverse area with a lot of species, big and small. Birds, ocelots, squirrels, jaguars, mountain lions, black bears and much more wildlife has it’s natural habitat in the mountain range, flora-wise you find wildflowers and a lot of Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs.
To experience the “Wonderland of Rocks” you can either take the 8-mile paved scenic drive by car or bike, if you feel like more activity, you can chose from a total of 17 miles of day-use hiking trails. And if you want to take a step back in time, you can visit the furnished home of the Erickson family (“Faraway Ranch House”) who campaigned to establish Chiricahua National Monument. Speaking of establishing: It is also thanks to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), who’s members constructed, designed and developed most of the trails between 1934 and 1940. The fact that my “american dad’s” father was part of that added a special feeling to walking these paths.
If you are in the region, make sure to stop by at the Chiricahuas. You won’t regret it, big promise. Breathe in the clean air, enjoy the views, take a million of pictures and feel like a little ant while walking underneath balancing rocks. And on your way back you should definitely get dinner at Big Tex BBQ in Willcox. A very special location I’ll tell you about in another blog post. So stay tuned, folks.
Chiricahua National Monument
12856 E. Rhyolite Creek Rd
Willcox, AZ 85643
Open daily from 8 am to 4.30 pm, the entrance is free. You can camp there for 12 USD/night.