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Natural Bridge Trail - Chiricahua N.M., AZ

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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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2  2021-02-13 gummo
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
Page 1,  2
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 169
Routes 148
Photos 5,617
Trips 1,516 map ( 7,711 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → 1 PM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  5:28am - 7:19pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimeteracres
🔥 2011 Horseshoe 2 Fire158.9 mi*

Chiricahua rock concert
by PrestonSands

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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 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 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 wildflowers. 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 canyon's west side. Native bedrock provides seating at this tiny overlook. A sign points to the canyon's sheer eastern wall, 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.

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.
90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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