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Natural Bridge Trail - Chiricahua N.M., AZ

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Guide 18 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Douglas
3.8 of 5 by 11
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,520 feet
Elevation Gain 550 feet
Accumulated Gain 681 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 8.21
Interest Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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10  2019-05-30
Natural Bridge Trail
14  2017-05-31 cactuscat
11  2015-09-29 AZWanderingBear
12  2014-06-22 trekkin_gecko
6  2014-06-22 johnlp
12  2010-12-18 SkyIslander18
8  2010-07-21 gummo
10  2008-09-28 Jeffshadows
Page 1,  2
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → 1 PM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:05am - 6:16pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Chiricahua rock concert
by PrestonSands

The highlights of this lightly traveled trail at Chiricahua National Monument are a natural bridge, a pine filled valley hidden between fascinating rock formations, and a wilderness experience a world away from the crowds at Massai Point.

You might want to avoid this hike if heavy rain or monsoon action is imminent, as there is the possibility of getting stranded on the wrong side of Bonita Creek if it flash floods. The trail gets a little faint near the south end of Picket Park, but route finding really isn't an issue. The Hike:

The Natural Bridge Trail begins at a small pull off along the road to Massai Point. The trail takes off right next to a large trail information sign, and immediately crosses Bonita Creek.

Once across the creek, the trail begins a steady climb up the oak and cypress filled bottom of North Bonita Canyon. Around 0.6 miles, the trail begins climbing a rocky slope out of the canyon. Now free from the tree cover, you'll get your first good views of hoodoo filled Bonita Canyon.

After a short climb, the trail reaches its high point on top of an oak and manzanita covered mesa, where the trail levels out for a time. The high point of the Monument, Sugarloaf Mountain, rises up behind you, while the Sulphur Springs Valley comes into view to the west. The trail gently descends to the west across the mesa, before encountering a short series of switchbacks that take it into the upper end of Picket Canyon.

Now in Picket Canyon under a canopy of silver oaks, the trail begins to curve to the south, and enters the hidden valley of Picket Park. This Chiricahua jewel is indeed park like, with its open stands of apache pines, and carpets of summer wild flowers. The tiny cones of chihuahua pines litter the ground, and the whole area emits a rich pine fragrance. Bizarre totem pole spires and abstract stone faces reminiscent of Easter Island tower high above the park, as you make your way south through this hiker's paradise.

As the trail heads south out of the park, it emerges from the pine forest, and begins climbing up a sandy wash. The entire canyon soon comes into view, revealing an endless array of oddly shaped pinnacles that stretch into the distance.

The Natural Bridge Trail soon comes to an end on a rocky shelf on the west side of the canyon. Native bedrock provides seating at this tiny overlook. A sign points to the sheer eastern wall of the canyon, where a stout, arching, natural bridge of volcanic rock is nestled high above among the lichen covered cliffs. Unfortunately, the trail doesn't go up to it, but one needs only a telephoto lens to get close.

Claim a slab of rock for yourself, kick back, and rock out with nature!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2007-09-11 PrestonSands
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Natural Bridge Trail - Chiricahua N.M.
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Main hike of the day was the Natural Bridge trail ... and beyond.
Not a single other human in evidence.
Best part was the easy/fun 20 minute route finding scramble past the end of the trail up to the Bridge.
Later, back at camp I heard turkeys gobbling in the distance and had to go wandering after them ... felt odd but kinda fun to be hiking along with slides on my feet and carrying nothing but my phone and a cup of mini Chips A'hoy in my hand. :)
Natural Bridge Trail - Chiricahua N.M.
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Day 3 of our 8-day Southeastern AZ road trip.

Had a quick breakfast in camp before heading out for this hike. No cars at the little pull-out trailhead, and we'd see no one on the trail either.

The start is just a slog uphill through the burned out area. Definitely got the lungs pumping. Once on top it was fun crossing the plateau with nice long views west. Saw the first deer of the many we'd see during the day. Dropped down into the next drainage and enjoyed some shade in the pine grove that wasn't effected by the fire. Surprisingly a good bit of water as well.

The bridge is a nice little treat at the end of the trail. Took a short break to admire nature's handiwork and headed back. Lots more trails to do before the day was done.

Saw a small black bear just west of the trailhead. MJ's first bear in the wild. He was quite plump and healthy and only interested in putting distance between us and him.
Natural Bridge Trail - Chiricahua N.M.
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We arrived at the Chiricahuas in the early afternoon and decided to camp in the campground. We got camp set up and then headed over to the Natural Bridge Trail. We pulled up to an empty parking lot and starting hiking. The going is relatively easy as you hike up a canyon. The early portion paralleled a creek that had a nice flow. After a mile the trail turned to the west and made a steady climb up to a plateau. From there it was smooth sailing to the end of the trail where the Natural Bridge comes into view. This is a nice area and the bridge is very cool. We took a break here and Claire did some exploring. From there we made a quick return to the jeep. We were the only ones on this trail.
Natural Bridge Trail - Chiricahua N.M.
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john had mentioned wanting to check out chirichua national monument sometime
i was there in 2006 and 2009, so i was up for another visit
left phoenix sunday morning and arrived at bonita canyon campground around 1:30, after a stop at the riggs family cemetery, where we saw two large owls
set up camp, made a trip to the visitor center and lounged for a couple hours
it was a little warm in the afternoon sun, so we put off hiking until later
very nice campground
saw some deer in one of the sites, almost a petting zoo
drove up bonita canyon to hike sugarloaf mountain
less than a mile up to the fire tower
had forgotten about the tunnel
was quite shocked at the fire damage on the west side of the peak
took in the views and headed back down
between hikes we wandered around massai point for a few minutes
saw a coati in the road on the drive back down
too quick for pics
next up was the natural bridge trail
a new one for me, and i really liked this one
a nice climb up to a ridgeline, then a descent into picket park
some fire damage there, too
ended with a view of the natural bridge, and it would be fun to off trail up to it next time
losing daylight on the return and finished just before sunset
the volunteer ranger told us that he saw a mama bear and two cubs right before or after we left the parking area
it would have been cool to see them
went back to camp, cooked dinner and turned in
a fun day with a new trail
Natural Bridge Trail - Chiricahua N.M.
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Chiricahua National Monument is easily in my top 5 favorite places to hike in all of Arizona. I have not hiked the Natural Bridge trail in over 4 years and chose it as my primary trail on this visit. I also included Massai Point nature trail & Silver Spur trail to complete the day.

Massai Point nature trail - On every visit to the monument, I always drive up first to the top and hike the nature trail and out onto "Speakers' Rock" overlook to take in the sea of hoodoos below. From here I got my pack in order and drove back down to the Natural Bridge TH.

Natural Bridge trail - Started up the trail at noon. There was one other car at the pulloff when I arrived and I ran into them at Picket Park as they were heading back. Arrived at the end of the trail and had a snack there while taking in the view of the natural bridge across the canyon. I only wished this trail would go right up to the bridge! Made my way back down and then drove out to Faraway Ranch for the rest of the day.

Silver Spur trail - Started at Faraway Ranch and hiked to Silver Spur meadow and back. If you asked me to guarantee a deer sighting on any trail, this would be the one I'd pick! I have hiked this trail over 10 times and have seen deer on it every time. I saw 8 on this trip.

Another great day at the monument and a trip I will make many more times!
Natural Bridge Trail - Chiricahua N.M.
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Another great family hike. The Chiricahua range never ceases to amaze all of the senses. The Pinyon are all bearing nuts right now and the trail was flanked by daises, Indian paintbrush, and dune sunflowers. With the light wind that was blowing, the weather was perfect. As an added was National Lands Appreciation Day so they let us in free :)
Natural Bridge Trail - Chiricahua N.M.
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While the day started off with rain, the sun was out now and temps were perfect for an afternoon in the wilderness. As the crow flies the natural bridge is only on the other side of this mountain you are looking at. Check out the gps route. Up a wash/creek to the top of the mountain then a U turn and back down the other side of the mountain to the destination. Along the way the vegitation changes dramatically. The Apache pine tree, sporting 10 inch needles is awesome.
Natural Bridge Trail - Chiricahua N.M.
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I had been wanting to hike this trail for a while, and finally had the chance. I didn't start hiking until 3 pm, but it worked out well. Although it was rather warm, the afternoon sun lit up the cliff where the natural bridge lies. It would have been shaded in the morning. The best part of the hike was Picket Park. What a sweet spot! Lots of purple wildflowers, tall pines, and huge rock formations to look up at. Didn't see anyone else on the trail. What had started out as a bad day for me was turned around completely by this enjoyable hike. :)

Permit $$
National Monument Fee $10-25 per 7 Days

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Chiricahua National Monument
Chiricahua NM $5 per person / 7 Day Entrance Fee

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From I-10 exit 340 in Willcox, head south on highway 186 for about 33.2 miles to highway 181. Turn left (east) onto highway 181, and follow it for 3 miles to the Chiricahua National Monument entrance. (There is an entrance fee) Follow the highway for approximately 3.3 miles beyond the Monument's entrance to the sign for the Natural Bridge Trail, on the left side of the road. (The trailhead is 1.25 miles past the Visitor Center). The Natural Bridge Trail starts next to the large trail information sign.
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