Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chiricahua National Monument: a wonderland of rocks

Chiricahua National Monument
The National Park Service calls Chiricahua National Monument in southeastern Arizona a “wonderland of rocks.” As you drive through the park, looking at fantastic rock formations, it is hard to dispute that moniker. The Apaches who roamed the area called it, “The land of standing-up rocks,” another nickname that is hard to argue with.

The monument is in the Chiricahua Mountains, an inactive volcano field that is 20 miles wide and 40 miles long. The monument itself is almost 12,000 acres.

Road to Massai Point
Noteworthy about this spot is that it’s where the Chiricahua, Rockies and Sierra Madre mountains meet the Sonoran and Chiricahuan deserts. This makes for great biodiversity, as trees from the different ecosystems live side by side.
There’s a small visitor center with exhibits that shows an eight-minute video about the monument. It’s narrated by the late Rex Allen, a local boy who hit the big time in Hollywood. Next up is the scenic drive to Massai Point. Some of the road lies under a canopy of trees, but the volcanic rock formations are still in the limelight.

View from Massai Point
Massai Point has a circular turnaround, an interpretive center and restrooms. Trails start here but some visitors found them too steep to walk. More trails can be found at Echo Canyon; in all, the monument has 17 miles of trails.

Motorists should note that RVs and trailers longer than 29 feet are long are not allowed beyond the visitor center.

Chiricahua National Monument is located 37 miles south of Willcox. Exit Interstate 10 at Willcox and head south on Highway 186. Turn left on Highway 181. The drive from Willcox takes about 45 minutes.

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