Chiricahua National Monument is located 120 miles southeast of Tucson and only a short drive to the border between Arizona and New Mexico. Established on April 18, 1924, this monument is home to some of Southern Arizona’s most beautiful rock formations.
With over 17 miles of trails winding through the park, one has a difficult time choosing which trails will give them a comprehensive view of the park. Luckily, multiple trails interconnect and allow you to complete what is called the Big Loop. On this beautiful 9-mile loop you will be surrounded by the hoodoos of the upper canyons and the pine- and cypress-covered lower floors. In months with frequent rainfall you will also have the pleasure of seeing the water that flows through this park and forms all of these beautiful formations.
Thanks to the wonderful efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps, all the trials within the park are beautifully maintained, easy to follow, and accompanied with well-indicated signs. Please do you part to keep these trails beautiful by packing out what you pack in.
The Big Loop Trail begins from the parking lot for Echo Canyon. Turn right onto the Echo Canyon Trail; you'll be immediately presented with many photo opportunities, and it is easy to get caught up in the beautiful formations just a few miles into your trip, but remember that more is yet to come.
A short way into Echo Canyon you will enter into the Grotto. A maze of tunnels within the formation connect and allow you to explore to your heart's content before continuing down into the canyon and passing through Wall Street.
After your short hike down into the Echo Canyon floor you will begin to be surrounded by the proud Arizona pines and cypress trees of Echo Park. These trees are a welcome sight in the summer when you are longing for some shade from the heat that radiates from the rocks up above. Here you will connect to the next two trails on your trip, the Upper and Lower Rhyolite trails. These trails offers you beautiful views of the Rhyolite Canyon, which runs all the way back to the visitor center.
Your shaded break comes to an end when you begin the climb up Sarah Deming Canyon on the Sarah Deming Trail. On this 1.6-mile climb you can expect to gain around 700 to 800 feet, which will definitely allow you to check off a leg day from your workout list. At the top of this beautiful climb leading you back into hoodoo country you will see the creatively named Big Balanced Rock peaking out above the trees. This rock weighs in at a whopping 1,000 tons and stands 25 feet high.
This big daddy of a boulder marks the beginning of the Heart of Rocks Loop, one of the most popular trails on the route. While this trial may only be 1.1 miles, it exhibits some of the most beautiful formations of the park. Simply follow along the well marked trail and make sure to keep your camera ready for shots of some amazing formations like Pinnacle Balance Rock, the lovely Old Maid, a Camel’s Head, Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer), the adorable Ducky on a Rock, and closer views of Big Balanced Rock.
This marks the end of the Heart of Rocks Loop, and you connect up with the Big Balanced Rock Trail for about a mile before making another connection to Mushroom Rock Trail. If you feel so inclined, you can take the short 0.5-mile Inspiration Point Trail for even more amazing views of the surrounding country before returning on the Mushroom Rock Trail. Be sure to watch for a sign on the ground marking a view of the trail’s namesake. Think you have had enough rocks for one day? This trail continues to open up onto beautiful and sweeping vistas of the hoodoos down below.
You will begin to bottom out on the trail as you pass over a wash that connects you to the Ed Riggs Trail. Take a right on to this trail and begin your 400-foot climb back up to Echo Canyon Trailhead and the parking area.