Two years ago as we made our way across Arizona bound for a return visit to the Big Bend National Park region of Texas, we nipped down to an Arizona Wildlife Refuge called Whitewater Draw. Here we witnessed incredible flights of thousands of Sandhill cranes!
While in the area we also had plans to tour Chiricahua National Monument. Unfortunately, that year they had bad flood damage, and most of the monument was closed. We marked it down on the to-do list for another time.
This 2016/2017 Snowbird season found us back in southeastern Arizona with Chiricahua squarely in our sights. I’d heard the campground inside the park is extremely tight and has a max length of 29 feet. The only other camping close by appeared to be dispersed in the Coronado National Forest lands. To be on the safe side, we decided to dry camp near Willcox at the Willcox Playa SWA. Then, take a drive down in the truck first to check things out.
Scoping Out the Camping Options
The 40-minute drive from Willcox on HWY 186 takes you through high desert grasslands with far off mountain views. Beautiful cattle ranch country with little traffic. First, we checked out the Bonita Canyon Campground inside the park and boy did it live up to its billing. A no-go zone for larger RVs. It’s tight with low branches and a couple of steep dips in the road. (Check my video at the end of the article for footage)
Next, we headed down the roughly 7-miles of dirt road to look at the Coronado Forest free boondocking opportunities along Pinery Canyon Road. However, we never made it. The washboard was so bad we gave up and turned back after only a couple of miles. So, it looked like we would be staying in Willcox and day tripping in.
Since we’d be absent from the trailer for extended hours, we decided to leave the free camping at the Willcox Playa SWA and spring for a few days at an RV Park. There were several to choose from but based on reviews we went with the Sagebrush RV Park. $25 a night, friendly management, long pull thru sites and excellent free WiFi.
Chiricahua National Monument Visit
Chiricahua did not disappoint. Wow! Mammoth stone pillars embedded in a gorgeous forested mountain landscape. The views from the along of the 8-mile scenic drive are breathtaking. At the drives end, there are several parking areas with viewpoints, scads of informational plaques and trails to explore.
A “Wonderland of Rocks” is waiting for you to explore at Chiricahua National Monument. The 8-mile paved scenic drive and 17-miles of day-use hiking trails provide opportunities to discover the beauty, natural sounds, and inhabitants of this 11,985 acre site. – https://www.nps.gov/chir/index.htm
Chiricahua is a hikers paradise with trails winding their way through immense rock formations and along the mountain ridge lines and into valleys. Most have a decent amount of elevation changes but are well maintained. They range from easy walks to quite grueling full on day hikes.
The elevation is over 6000 feet and weather variable so bring layers of clothes and lots of water. After a few hours of hiking your legs are bound to be wobbly with all the up and down terrain. I find a walking stick extremely handy, especially headed down.
With all the gorgeous vistas and giant totem shaped boulders as subject matter, our cameras shutters were constantly snapping away. Around every corner is a photo-worthy scene!
Chiricahua Trip Photo Gallery
Video Showcasing our Chiricahua NM Day Trip
We visited Chiricahua several times during our Willcox, Arizona visit and thoroughly enjoyed each day of hiking, photographing, picnicking and just plain drinking in the scenic beauty. The park service has really done an excellent job at preserving the natural beauty of the place. Thumbs up, well worth a day trip.
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