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Date of visit:
November 29, 2000

For location of this site in AZ, click on the map:
 Location of Chiricahua National Monument ...

We rate this site a:

Site Highlights:
 Off the beaten track
 Miles of hiking trails
 Trails nearly deserted
 Hikes easy-strenuous
 Wonderful formations
 Majestic views
 Balancing rocks
 Bring camera
 Peace and solitude


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Go to first part of trip - Fort Bowie Historic Site
Chiricahua - Life in the Mountains
Chiricahua National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument

Trailhead sign At the trailhead

At the trailhead

Majestic formations

Majestic formations

Echo park sign At echo park

At echo park

Upper rhyolite sign On the upper rhyolite trail

On the upper rhyolite

Lower rhyolite sign On the lower rhyolite trail

On the lower rhyolite

Exploring Chiricahua National Monument is exploring a fantasy world of extraordinary rock sculptures that were created by the forces of nature over millions of years.

Called the "Land of the Standing-Up Rocks" by Chiricahua Apaches and later the "Wonderland of Rocks" by pioneers, this northwest corner of the Chiricahua Mountains harbors towering rock spires, massive stone columns, and balanced rocks weighing hundreds of tons that perch delicately on small pedestals.

Where hundreds of these rocks occur together, such as in the Heart of Rocks, the landscape appears as a rugged badlands.

The story behind the rocks is not completely understood, but geologists believe that about 27 million years ago violent volcanic eruptions from nearby Turkey Creek caldera spewed forth thick white-hot ash.

The ash cooled and fused into an almost 2,000-foot thick layer of dark volcanic rock known as rhyolite.

The Chiricahua Mountains formed from this rock upheaval, and then the masters of erosion-water, wind, and ice began sculpting the rock into odd formations.

Erosion carved along weak vertical and hori-zontal cracks forming the fascinating rock forms preserved today in Chiricahua National Monument.

The Chiricahua Mountains are a world apart from the surrounding Sonoran and Chihua-huan Deserts.

In these cool, moist forested “sky islands" dwell many plants and animals of the Southwest and - what makes these mountains different - a number of Mexican species.

Mexico is 50 miles to the south, yet the Chiricahuas special mix of life is more like that found in the Mexican Sierra Madres than in these highlands.

Influence from the south is strong; many trees, wildflowers, and animals have crossed the border into Chiri-cahua National Monument.

Most conspicuous are the unusual birds, such as Hepatic tanager, Red-faced Warbler, and Elegant trogon, which make the area a natural mecca for birders.

Mexican influence includes mammals, such as the Chiricahua fox squirrel, coatimundis, and peccaries, and trees, including the Chihuahua pine and Apache pine. Mexican species intermingle with plants and animals more common to Southwest Mountains.

The plant variety is rich, from cactus in the lowlands, to oaks, alligator juniper, and Arizona cypress in canyon forests, to manzanita-buckthorn-skunkbush chaparral on ridges, to ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, and aspen that cover the highest slopes.

The Faraway Ranch
Faraway Ranch
Faraway ranch

The ranch house

The ranch house

The intrepid traveler

The intrepid traveler

A local inhabitant

Local inhabitant

Exploring Chiricahua The Chiricahua Mountains were the homeland of the Chiricahua Apaches. From these mountains the Apaches, led by Cochise and Geronimo, launched attacks against the the of pioneers for more than 25 years.

Their resistance slowed, but did not stop, settlement, and when Geronimo’s band surrendered in 1886 and was removed to a distant reservation, a new way of life took over.

Among the first pioneers to settle in the area were Neil and Emma Erickson, a Swedish couple.

Their “little home in the foothills of the Chiricahuas”, located in remote Bonita Canyon, ( see map ) included a farm and cattle ranch.

The only neighbors were the Stafford family, who lived in a log cabin close by.

By the 1920s one of the Ericksons' daughters, Lillian, and her husband, Ed Riggs, had turned the homestead into a guest ranch.

Lillian, the strong-willed “Lady Boss” named the ranch Faraway Ranch, because it was so "god-awful far away from everything."

Together she and Ed explored the Chiricahua wilderness with its “wonderful cliff formations.” They built trails and took guests on horseback trips to see the “Wonderland of Rocks.”

In 1922 they showed photographs of the rock formations at county fairs and chambers of commerce and promoted the idea of a national park.

Two years later, in 1924, Chiricahua National Monument was established to preserve the area’s natural wonders.

Site Gallery - The Chiricahuas
[ Image sequence shown hiking down from the rim ]
Massai Point overlook Massai Point overlook Massai Point overlook
Massai Point overlook Massai Point overlook Starting the hike down
Dee at start - snow country An echo canyon formation An echo canyon formation
An echo canyon formation An echo canyon formation An echo canyon formation
An echo canyon formation An echo canyon formation An echo canyon formation
An echo canyon formation An echo canyon formation An echo canyon formation
An echo canyon formation Echo park denizen (fox squirrel) At echo park
Upper rhyolite Upper rhyolite Lower rhyolite
Lower rhyolite
Chiricahua National Monument -
a park for all seasons.
Bewitching, enticing, enjoyable.
Site Gallery - The Faraway Ranch
Walking to the ranch The ranch buildings The ranch buildings
The ranch buildings The Erickson house The Erickson house
The Erickson house The Erickson house The Safford cabin
Safford cabin
Those were the early days,
pioneering, rustic, adventuresome.
For More Information
Chiricahua National Monument (National Park Service)
City of Willcox, Arizona
The Complete Guide to Willcox Arizona

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