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Chiricahua National Monument Guide — Visitor Center, Camping, and More

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

800 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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Chiricahua National Monument features mesmerizing geologic features, including columns, pinnacles, and a unique collection of balanced rocks. This area was formed by a volcanic eruption covering over 1,200 square miles in ash. Rock layers, called rhyolite, were formed after the ash melted, leaving behind a beautiful landscape that can be seen today.

This park has fantastic opportunities for hiking, watching wildlife, and discovering the fascinating story of how this monument was formed. This park is one of the least visited in the National Park Service, bringing in only 60,000 visitors annually. Still, there is so much to enjoy in this remote Arizona area. 

How To Get to Chiricahua National Monument

Where Is Chiricahua National Monument?

Chiricahua National Monument is located in Cochise County in eastern Arizona. The park stretches over 12,025 acres of hills, valleys, and astonishing geologic formations. The closest major city to the park is Tuscon, Arizona, about 120 miles away. 

Chiricahua National Monument Opening Hours and Seasons

Chiricahua National Monument is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are times during the year when park roads will close due to extreme weather or fire hazards. The visitor center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and closes for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. 

Nearest Airports to Chiricahua National Monument

Each of the 2 nearest airports has benefits and drawbacks and is within 250 miles of the park. Look at the specific information for each airport to help you determine which would work best for your travel needs. 

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is an airport option that is 240 miles away from Chiricahua National Monument. This airport option is a bit further than Tuscon and takes a little over 4 hours to drive to the park. 

This airport offers nonstop flights to over 120 domestic and 23 worldwide destinations, such as Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Miami. Once you arrive at the airport, many rental car agencies are available to help you make your journey to the park.

Hot Tip:

Along the way, there are many beautiful sites and landmarks to see, which can enhance your drive to the main destination.

Tuscon International Airport (TUS)

Tuscon International Airport is the closest major airport to Chiricahua National Monument. It takes about an hour and 45 minutes to arrive at the park from this airport option. 

This airport offers nonstop service to 19 U.S. destinations and connects flights to over 300 cities worldwide. Airlines serviced include Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest, Sun Country, and United.

Several rental car kiosks can help you arrange the last leg of your journey. This is the most popular option for guests flying to this park. 

Driving to Chiricahua National Monument

Clouds Building
Image Credit: R. Stewart via NPS

There are different routes to Chiricahua National Monument, depending on your destination. Most visitors drive in from Tucson or Lordsburg, New Mexico.

Travelers arriving from Tuscon will take I-10 East to the first exit for Willcox. Upon arrival in Willcox, drive 3 miles into the town and turn right at the stoplight. From that point on, take Arizona State Highway 186 for 32 miles until you reach State Highway 181. Take a left, drive 4 miles, and then you will be at the monument’s entrance.

Those coming to the park from the Lordsburg area will take I-10 West from Lordsburg and exit 344 to Willcox, a total of 67 miles. Turn left, take Highway 186 for 32 miles, and then take Arizona State Highway 181 for 4 miles until you enter the monument.

Driving to Chiricahua National Monument is a wonderful way to see Arizona’s gorgeous sights and landscapes. 

Taking the Train to Chiricahua National Monument

There is no train service to Chiricahua National Monument.

Taking the Bus to Chiricahua National Monument

There is no option to take the bus to Chiricahua National Monument. A free hiker shuttle takes hikers to the Echo Canyon or Massai Point trailheads. This shuttle operates from September to May and picks up passengers at the Faraway Ranch parking lot.

Those who want to use this form of transportation must sign up for it in person at the visitor center the day before or the morning you plan to hike. It is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Getting Around Chiricahua National Monument

The best way to get around Chiricahua National Monument is by private vehicle. With plenty of places to park, get out and explore, or hike during your visit, a car is definitely an asset. The National Park Service offers a variety of printable and interactive maps to help you plan your itinerary. 

What To See and Do in Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument is one of the least-visited parks in the National Park Service, but there are many things to see and do here. Travelers will discover excellent hiking trails, guided tours, historic homesteads, and scenic drives. There’s something for every visitor to enjoy at this national monument.

Birdwatching

Birding is a popular activity at Chiricahua National Monument. Nearly 200 types of birds have been documented in this park. These include the Gould’s Turkey, Mexican Jay, Acorn Woodpeckers, canyon wrens, and Cooper’s Hawks.

There are many opportunities to participate in programs for birding, such as Birding for Beginners, bird counts, and bird walks. This national monument is a paradise for birding enthusiasts as well as a plethora of bird species. 

Guided Tours

Rangers lead a variety of guided tours at Chiricahua National Monument. Most tours take place in the spring, but several are offered year-round. Tours are typically held at Faraway Ranch and vary from ranch tours to bird walks, from stargazing events to evening programs at the campground.

Participating in the guided tours is an excellent way to learn about the history, nature, and culture of this area of Arizona. 

Faraway Ranch Historic District

Faraway Ranch House
Image Credit: A. Huston via NPS

Faraway Ranch was home to a Swedish immigrant family in the mid-1880s. They settled in this 160-acre homestead. The family eventually made this a ranch where visitors could enjoy a vacation and see the fantastic rock formations, which later became Chiricahua National Monument.

The ranch operated from 1917 to the early 1970s. It was then sold to the National Park Service. Today, guests can explore the grounds and see what life was like for this family.

Hiking

There are several hiking trails at Chiricahua National Monument, each varying in difficulty and length. Some popular hikes include the Bonita Creek Trail, Massai Point Nature Trail, Natural Bridge Trail, and the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail. The trails that wind throughout the park offer unmatched opportunities to explore the geology and wildlife of the park.

Visitors can earn an “I Hike for Health” pin when hiking at this national monument. To earn this pin, each hiker must complete a minimum of 5 miles in the park and take a selfie on each trail to show to the park staff in the visitor center.

Hot Tip:

If you plan to hike in this park, be sure to come prepared with plenty of water, snacks, sun protection, and the appropriate gear for hiking.

Scenic Drive

One of the best ways to see Chiricahua National Monument is by traveling along Bonita Canyon Scenic Drive. This 8-mile drive winds through oak, pine, and cypress forests up to Massai Point, an ideal location for a picnic and 360-degree views of Rhyolite Canyon and nearby valleys and peaks.

A half-mile loop nature trail and an exhibit building also teach the park’s geologic history. If you want to see the park’s highlights, one of the best ways to do this is to take the scenic drive. 

Stargazing

Chiricahua National Monument is a spectacular spot for stargazing. Thanks to the park’s incredibly dark skies, the stars and moon put on a stellar performance each night. Massai Point, Echo Canyon Trailhead, and the Bonita Canyon Campground are some of the best places to enjoy the night skies.

Some of the celestial sights that can be seen in this area include the Milky Way, planets, and star clusters. The park offers night sky events where visitors can learn from astronomers and view the sky under strong telescopes. 

Best Times To Visit Chiricahua National Monument

Deer in Chiricahua National Monument
Image Credit: R. Stewart via NPS

Chiricahua National Monument is an incredible place to visit, no matter when you make the journey. If there are specific events or activities you want to participate in, there may be a better time than others to plan a visit. Let’s explore the top times to visit this park.

Best Time To Visit Chiricahua National Monument for Ideal Weather

Spring is the best time to visit this national monument for ideal weather. April is the best month to enjoy the park. The temperatures range from the low 40s to the low 70s, and there is, on average, only 1 day of precipitation. 

Best Time To Visit Chiricahua National Monument To Avoid the Crowds

Summer is the slowest time at Chiricahua National Monument. The high temperatures deter tourists from traveling during this season. If you want to visit the monument when it is least active, plan to come in June. This is the hottest month of the year when temperatures are typically in the low 90s. Be prepared with sun protection and plenty of water to avoid dangerous situations. 

Best Time To Visit Chiricahua National Monument for Camping

Camping is a wonderful way to experience Chiricahua National Monument. The most popular times for camping here are in the spring and fall. The overall best month for camping here is in April. The temperatures are ideal, and there’s a minimal chance of rain this month, making it a perfect time for sleeping outdoors. 

Cheapest Time To Visit Chiricahua National Monument

Saving money while traveling might sound unheard of, but it is possible with some research and planning. The cheapest time to visit Chiricahua National Monument is from early to mid-September.

Once Labor Day travel subsides and school returns to session from summer vacation, there is a dip in visitation. Flight rates and accommodations tend to be lower this time of year, saving you hundreds of dollars. 

Annual Events in Chiricahua National Monument

Several events take place regularly at Chiricahua National Monument. These events include ranger-led hikes, bird programs, and night sky programs.

Where To Stay in Chiricahua National Monument

Choosing where to stay is one of the first orders of business when planning any trip. This park’s incredible location makes planning this part of your trip a breeze.

Inside the Park

Bonita Canyon Campground
Image Credit: NPS

The only lodging option within the boundaries of Chiricahua National Monument is camping under the twinkling stars. A single-developed campground at this park is a great place to enjoy nature, rest, and experience the beautiful Arizona area.

Bonita Canyon Campground is nestled in a shaded pine and oak grove near the Bonita Canyon wash. This campground has 25 sites, restrooms, picnic tables, running water, and trash pickup. There is also a group site that can accommodate groups of 9 to 24.

This campground is an excellent option for visitors who enjoy primitive camping without electricity. Most visitors will tent camp, but RVs and campers are permitted as long as they are under 29 feet. 

One thing to keep in mind when camping here is that this is bear and mountain lion country. It is crucial to properly store all food and cooking items and anything else that would attract wildlife in a closed vehicle when not in use. This helps to avoid encounters with dangerous wildlife. 

Camping at Chiricahua National Monument is rugged and rejuvenating. This is a perfect option for nature and adventure enthusiasts. 

Towns Near Chiricahua National Monument

For those who prefer a more traditional stay, there are plenty of options for a place to set up a home base near the park. Whether you are looking for a contemporary hotel with all the luxuries of home or a rustic stay in a cabin, you can find exactly what you desire in the towns near Chiricahua National Monument.

Sunizona, Arizona

Sunizona is 23 miles from Chiricahua National Monument. This town is an excellent option for a home away from home during a trip to this part of Arizona. 

There are many unique places to stay in this town. Many options are private vacation rentals, cabins, and family-owned bed and breakfasts. There aren’t as many restaurants here, but plenty of choices remain. Some options include Tex-Mex restaurants, local cafes, and authentic Mexican restaurants. 

Recreation abounds in this quaint town. Not only are there several options within the town, but there are many more options in the surrounding areas. Many visitors enjoy historical and architectural tours, visiting the museums and theaters, and exploring the area on foot or by bicycle.

Bottom Line:

Sunizona is an excellent option for a base camp when visiting Chiricahua National Monument. Its proximity and abundance of accommodations, restaurants, and activities make it a superb choice.

Willcox, Arizona

Willcox is where Chiricahua National Monument is located, so you can’t find a town closer to the park. This small town is known for its hospitality and has plenty of lodging, dining, and recreation options. 

Popular chain hotels, locally owned bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds are just a few options for lodging in this town. There are also lovely resorts and affordable motels if that is more your speed. 

The dining scene is exciting in this Arizona town. Many of the restaurants serve authentic cultural cuisine and unique Tex-Mex creations. There are also options for several fast-food restaurants, pizza parlors, BBQ joints, and diners. 

For recreation and entertainment, visitors will love the countless opportunities to enjoy. The Sonoran Desert surrounds the town and is perfect for cyclists, hikers, golfers, and adventure seekers. Those who love history have the opportunity to learn about the Indian Wars of the late 1880s and the role Willcox played in them. Come prepared to see ghost towns, historic sites, and museums as well. 

With its proximity to Chiricahua National Monument and abundant options for a great stay, Willcox is ideal for those who want to stay near the park. 

Where To Eat in Chiricahua National Monument

There aren’t any dining options within the boundaries of Chiricahua National Monument, but several options are nearby. From cultural cuisine to hometown diners, even the picky eaters will find something to suit them.

Coronado Vineyards

Coronado Vineyards offers a unique dining experience for those visiting the Willcox, Arizona area. This vineyard offers wine tastings and tapas, which makes for a nice break from exploring the park.

Charcuterie boards loaded with gourmet meats and cheeses, fresh fruits, and jams are one of the go-to menu options at this vineyard. Other menu items include fresh salads topped with seasonal fruits and goat cheese, warm dips with artisan bread, flatbread pizzas, and delectable desserts.

Enjoying tapas at Coronado Vineyards with friends and family is a wonderful way to end a day of exploration and adventure at Chiricahua National Monument. 

Tortilleria Taqueria La Unica

Tortilleria Taqueria La Unica is located in Willcox, just a short drive from the park. This restaurant is one of the top-rated restaurants in the town. It serves authentic Mexican cuisine and is loved by locals and tourists alike.

The menu includes traditional favorites like homemade chips and salsa, chimichangas, tacos, burritos, and fajitas. Customers rave about the carne asada, shrimp in poblano sauce, chicken fajitas, and camarones caliche. 

When visiting this national monument, you won’t want to miss a delicious meal at Tortilleria Taqueria La Unica. Your belly and tastebuds will be rewarded when you dine at this authentic Mexican restaurant.

Chiricahua National Monument Facts

Chiricahua National Monument Willcox United States
Image Credit: Lori Stevens via Unsplash

1. A New Park Established

Chiricahua National Monument was established on April 18, 1924.

2. Original People of the Park

The original inhabitants of the Chiricahua National Monument area were the Chiricahua Apache. It is believed that they entered into this area between 1400 and 1500. Their tribe was named after the Chiricahua Mountains in the area. 

3. What’s in a Name?

Chiricahua is an Opata word that means “wild turkey.” This area was known for the plentiful wild turkeys that called the area home. 

4. International Dark Sky Park

Chiricahua National Monument received the title of International Dark Sky Park in 2021. This monument is the 104th International Dark Sky Park in the association. 

5. An Abundance of Animals

Many creatures call Chiricahua National Monument home. Animals often spotted here include Gourd’s wild turkeys, bobcats, grey foxes, mountain lions, black bears, Arizona white-tail deer, birds, lizards, and snakes. 

Final Thoughts

History buffs, nature enthusiasts, and adventure seekers will find Chiricahua National Monument a land of exciting opportunity. With several hiking trails, an incredible scenic drive, historic districts, and incredibly dark skies for stargazing, there’s something every visitor will enjoy at this park.

Book your trip to this national monument and discover the intriguing geologic, cultural, and natural story of how this area came to be.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter Chiricahua National Monument?

It doesn’t cost a thing to enter Chiricahua National Monument. This park does not require an entrance pass. There are fees for certain activities, such as camping, but general admittance is free of charge.

How long should I allot when visiting Chiricahua National Monument?

Spending a minimum of 2 hours exploring this national monument is recommended. While this park is small, there are several incredible hiking trails and opportunities to explore history, so staying upwards of 3 days is common.

How do I pronounce the name of Chiricahua National Monument?

The correct pronunciation of Chiricahua is cheer-i-cow-ah, with long e and short i vowel sounds.

What are the busiest times for visiting Chiricahua National Monument?

Spring is the busy season at Chiricahua National Monument, with visitation being high in March and April.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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