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Mormon Canyon Loop - Chiricahua, AZ

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Guide 7 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Douglas
4 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Loop 7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,160 feet
Elevation Gain 2,660 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4-6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 20.3
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
21  2016-04-23
Chiricahua Peak via Turkey Creek
30  2015-09-19
Chiricahua Figure 8 Loop
26  2012-07-22
Mormon Canyon Chiricahua Hike
44  2011-10-02
Mormon Ridge & Canyon Loop
45  2011-10-02 tibber
29  2011-10-01 tibber
20  2006-10-07
Mormon Canyon Trail #352
Author tibber
author avatar Guides 21
Routes 574
Photos 25,460
Trips 835 map ( 10,371 miles )
Age 63 Female Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Sep, Aug, Oct
Seasons   Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  6:02am - 6:22pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Everchanging Environment
by tibber

Likely In-Season!
These trails traverse a wide range of biologic zones. Mormon Canyon Trail passes through a picturesque riparian area that includes a number of Rocky Mountain maples. This loop includes plant life found in the Upper Sonoran Desert such as Schott's yucca and silverleaf oak, the trails climb into a forest of Engelmann spruce, a species found as far north as British Columbia.

Starting from the Mormon Ridge Trailhead on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains, this is a rugged loop that ascends the Mormon Canyon Trail (3 miles) and returns via Mormon Ridge Trail (4 miles) or you can reverse it (both ways are steep). From the junction of the two trails at the top of the canyon (Mormon Saddle), you can head up to the Crest Trail and from there; so MANY options.

Going up the Mormon Canyon Trail at this time (2011) will require some route finding skills due to the results of the Horseshoe II fire which burned a total of 222,954 acres within the Chiricahua Mountains of Southeastern Arizona. Wiki

After you cross W Turkey Creek from the road you will eventually be following an old road thru large oaks and junipers. Enjoy the road while you can as soon the trail changes due to the blow outs from the erosion caused by water coming down the mountain. As you make your way up the Canyon, you will not be too far from the drainage that runs into the Creek. This Canyon has a bit of a spooky aura to it; especially on a cloudy day.

You will eventually come upon the Chiricahua Wilderness Marker (if it's standing). Along the trail to your left you may be able to spot an old rectangular cement trough, the remnants of an old sawmill with scattered brick around it and the Mormon Spring (Latitude: 31.8564814 Longitude: -109.322007) Box. So if you have a moment, explore around a little; it's lots of fun. Continuing up you may be able to spot the Spring Rock and Tree on your right.

Eventually you will cross over the drainage to the other side of the canyon and then continue the incline up the extremely picturesque canyon. You will see occasional mossy sections as well as some cascades of water. Eventually the water will disappear as will the trail. It is cairned in spots but not so much on the upper reaches.

About 1/2 way up you will see a small amount of burned pines (pre Rattlesnake Fire). From here the trail will switchback once in awhile but it is in this section that you might have to feel your way around. Your goal of course, is to get to the crest. To your left is the clear area below the trees. You don't really want to go further than that and instead want to keep a steady course up the grassier part of the canyon.

I would suggest if you don't have pretty good route finding skills, you may want to think twice about doing this trail. A route is loaded but it's not perfect due to the disappearing trail and getting around obstacles. (I don't think you can get too lost as you know you gotta go up). 3 miles later, you are at the saddle. You can head south (right) on the Mormon Ridge Trail for .7 miles to reach the Crest Trail which connects you to many areas in the tops of the Chiricahuas.

For this loop hike on the Mormon Ridge Trail, turn left at the sign. You will pass the trail you came up on so be careful as the two trails run parallel for a few minutes so you need to stay on the higher trail or you will be heading back down the canyon. You will now be heading west along the ridgeline above the Canyon you just came up. This part of the hike is mostly out of shade so keep that in mind.

You will switch back from time to time but mostly be staying on the side (south) that keeps the Canyon in view. From one section you can see the Whetstones and the Pinalenos. As you eventually come across and are looking west, you will get to see the Dragoons. At one time you will come around on the north side as you cross behind away from the Canyon.

You will continue your way mostly down the south side of the ridge passing thru some of the new and old burn area. You will also encounter some tricky switchbacks so please pay attention to the tell-tale signs such as rocks or logs across an area where you need to turn. You will cross back and forth over a scree chute a few times but nothing too ominous. Other than that, it's pretty easy to follow the trail though it doesn't appear to be used much. The views are well worth it. 4 miles later you are back at W Turkey Creek and the road. This trail is called Mormon Ridge Trail #269.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2011-10-06 tibber
    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
    Mormon Canyon Loop - Chiricahua
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Chiricahua Peak via Turkey Creek
    Chiricahua Peak has been on my to do list for at least a year. Claire & I had plans to hike it back in September but the road to Rustler Park was unexpectedly closed so we stayed near the National Monument. After the trip I did some research and saw trip reports starting from the west side in Turkey Creek. This looked like a great option and we worked out all the details and hit the road on Friday afternoon. Our plan is to day hike on Saturday & Sunday and hit a variety of trails in the area.

    Chumley, Claire, Kyle and myself left Phoenix around 1pm and made the drive to the Chiricahuas. We made good time and found ourselves at Sycamore Camp around 4:30pm. The established campground was about half full with four parties so we continued up the road and spotted a sweet site right next to the creek. The turn off was blocked with some medium size rocks and we weren’t sure if it was a legal site. Chumley and I both had the motorized use plan PDF on our phones and saw this truly was legal camping so we moved the rocks and drove down. The site is magnificent with a fire ring and lots of room for camping. We set up camp and then drove back down the dirt road to get cell signal so we could text FOTG our camp location and other important items. Did someone forget hiking shoes?!?!

    Saturday morning started slow for everyone. FOTG and Jackie arrived around midnight and all of us took our time with breakfast and gearing up. Our group of six people and four dogs left camp around 9am and walked down the road to Mormon Canyon Trail. We hit the trail and started making our way up canyon. This is a really nice trail that parallels the creek most of the way. It’s a steady gain that had all of us huffing and puffing as we made our way up. We took short breaks when needed and continued the climb up. The trail eventually leaves the creek and makes a few more switchbacks before leveling off at a saddle that is the junction with the Mormon Ridge Trail.

    We took a short break and discussed our options. The known route heads to the southeast before turning for Chiricahua Peak. I noticed an old trail on some of the forest service maps that heads to the north. I didn’t have any info on the trail and made a hand drawn route for us to follow. We decided to go for it and this turned out to be a mistake. The route was very overgrown with lots of deadfall. I felt bad for the dogs but we kept pushing through. We could see the trail cut but had a very hard time staying on it. About a third of a mile across the route was completely consumed by new growth so we decided to bushwhack straight up the mountain. The going was very slow and difficult as each step slid down about six inches in loose dirt. We eventually topped out near Anita Park and were glad to be on the Crest Trail.

    Once on the Crest Trail we made the final push for Chiricahua Peak. This last stretch was fairly easy besides some deadfall to navigate. Once up top we took an extended break and enjoyed the summit. The views are limited from all the trees but I didn’t mind. The temps were perfect with a nice breeze and I enjoy the cool mountain air at elevation. After our break we looked for an alternative route down the east side of the peak but couldn’t find an established route. We didn’t want to experience another route finding fiasco so all of us, except Chumley, went down the way we came up. From there we connected to Chiricahua Saddle. This trail was in good shape for the most part other than more deadfall. Once at the saddle we met back up with Chumley and continued down.

    Our group decided to split at the top of Mormon Ridge & Mormon Canyon. FOTG, Jackie & Kyle decided to stay in the canyon so they could water the dogs. Claire, Chumley and myself headed down the Mormon Ridge Trail which was in good condition for the most part. There was some deadfall but no major issues. We made relatively good time as we headed down. The sun was beating down and I wouldn’t want to climb this trail on a hot and sunny day. We eventually hit the road which we followed back to camp returning around mid-afternoon.

    This was a nice day on the trails. I really enjoyed the Mormon Canyon and Mormon Ridge Trails. I also enjoyed Chiricahua Peak. It doesn’t have the expansive views like Mount Wrightson but is still a quality peak. My biggest takeaway is the vast trail system in this range. Trails are all over the place and I would love to explore more of them. A return trip is definitely in the plans for some point in the future. Thanks to Chumley and FOTG for both driving.
    Mormon Canyon Loop - Chiricahua
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    So today was the day that I thot I was gonna attempt a 12 mile hike with serious elevation, for me anyway. So wrong Chiricahua breath! I realized after the first 2 miles and gosh knows how much elevation gain, the later start, the lack of fuel in my body and the ominous weather, the chances weren't good. :(

    This first four miles is a doozy :sweat: though incredible :D . It gets even more scenic the higher you get. I particularly liked the views toward the Dragoons where I had been two weeks earlier. And of course there's the view of the Peaks (Johnson, Monte Vista) to your south that attract your interest.

    The trail got dicey in a couple sections. One time it was particularly tricky but come to find out, we had missed an immediate switchback which we noticed as we were making our way back across the side of the hill. Randy realized a couple times that he should have turned & I should have been paying more attention too :doh: instead of going straight so it's important that a person be mindful of these abrupt switchback turns. The wrong way had been properly blocked but with the fire and water and such, those road blocks had been moved around a bit and were quite subtle. But I don't mind a little scrambling so it was actually kind of fun.

    Probably the 8) est part of this trek was when we got to the top of one of the switchbacks where we were treated to spectacular, almost 360 degree views. We took a 10 minute break here. Little did we know what a fantastic show we would get as we walked across the north side of the ridge. Though there was some burn, the greenery and the wildflowers above Ward Canyon and beyond were absolutely magnificent :y: . We were very happy hikers. Plus an added bonus, this was the level part of the hike for about 10 minutes. It was great.

    Eventually you get back over to the south side of the ridge above Mormon Canyon and it's back to the up and up :sweat: . The up is not dramatic, it's just forever it seems. The weather would threaten from time to time so Randy wanted us to keep going steady. As we were walking along through some great wildflowers, I told Randy I wasn't gonna be able to do the entire hike. He had already given me two bailout routes and I told him, I wanted to take the bailout at Mormon Saddle and head down the canyon rather than try the ridge and the rest of the hike. We were fighting time and weather, I was fighting hunger at this point.

    Eventually I kept plugging along and still managed to enjoy almost all of this ridgeline elevation except the 1/2 mile before we finally got into a more protected area where Randy timidly proclaimed there looked to be another corner to go around and I proclaimed, I had to eat :lol: . He agreed that this spot would work fine. It did turn out to be a scenic area with nice views across Ward Canyon toward the Saulsbury Crest Trail area and Anita Peak. It was nice to see some of the various peaks in the Chiricahuas in person. Here is the video from the Ridge part of the hike:

    We ended up probably being about 1/4-1/3 mile from the Junction. I am glad we chose to have lunch where we did because I thot the views were much better. Next, it was all downhill :DANCE: as they say. This wasn't the easiest downhill but at least I didn't need as much lung power. It was here I was particularly glad Randy had done this part of the hike a few times last year as the trail was no where to be found in a couple cases :-k . Eventually of course, we would hook back up with the trail.

    The scenery was so interesting especially the deeper we got into the canyon. And as we got deeper there were cairns that helped guide us as the trail would disappear again. We passed by some cool mossy covered rocks and trees. Randy told me we should be coming closer to the where the water suddenly appeared from under the rocks. Soon I hear him say, "I think the creek is just ahead". Less than one minute later we are struggling to get our jackets on as quickly as possible :o .
    No, it wasn't the creek, it was a hail storm :lol: (which I thot I was filming but apparently I didn't press the movie button never engaged). We would hear the creek flowing in about 10-15 minutes. So now if you're ever hiking with Randy and he says he thinks the creek is just ahead, grab your jacket. This moment, in spite of the hail, provided great levity.

    I think because this is such a long and tightly-treed canyon, it gives off a sense of spookiness :scared: but especially on this kind of weather day. As we started to get closer to the bottom, we came across an area where I noticed debris up in the tree and then in another tree. At first we were surpised that the water would have flowed that high, well above us, but then realized the water had probably got caught between some very tall boulders and had pooled up. That must have been something. Here is the video from the Canyon part of the hike:

    Soon we were back at camp, having a beer, taking down the tarp and on the road but not before stopping at John Ringo's gravesite. I had read a little about him while doing my research for this hike. His death is very interesting. We were also lucky to enjoy a beautiful sunset all around us and lightning storms in the very far north and east as we made our way toward Benson on Dragoon Road via Sunizona. We had a great Mexican meal at a restaurant Randy wanted to try on main street before we parted ways in Tucson.
    Mormon Canyon Loop - Chiricahua
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Randy was kind enough to set up a weekend at one of his favorite spots :) in southern Arizona. Despite the forecast, we went for it arriving at a very nice campsite up from the main campground, setting up and sitting under the tarp while it rained off and on for an hour. Then we put on our day packs and headed toward the main campground via the creek before heading up to the Spring Tree on the Mormon Canyon Trail.

    It's always delightful when you get to hike by a stream and hike with someone that is so familiar with the area. This part of the Chiricahuas had only been open a little more than a week so Randy was particularly curious to take a deeper look after his drive by earlier in the week. And indeed, the water per the erosion from the fire, had caused the creek to do all sorts of things besides running the banks by cutting deeper ravines, changing curves and getting down to the bedrock creating newer cascades of water and obliteraing others; though three main little waterfalls in the area were still pretty much in tact.

    We made our way past one of the old camping sites and then turned around and decided to walk up the creek to the dam to try and get a better angle on the waterfall just to its south. We were able to climb above the dam but our efforts didn't pay off as we couldn't get closer :( to the waterfall. We decided to scramble up the very tall rocked bank to get back on top which ironically took us to the spot where we had taken photos from above.

    We then came to the new intersection with the Mormon Canyon trail and headed up that way to go check out the remains of an old saw mill and Mormon Spring. This starts off as a fairly nice walkable old logging road but soon deteriorates, once again due to the intense erosion caused by the water flow due to the fire. You can see where the fire has burned a lot of the trees but not completely.

    You basically follow the drainage as you make your way up the trail. Off in the distance, Randy spotted what he thot was the spring box but it was actually an old cattle trough. Randy didn't recall seeing it in the past either because it was covered by vegetation or he had just not paid it any mind. This trough was obviously fed by the spring further up. To see some of the rain action at our campsite, our walk along the creek and up the dam before making it to the trough, check out this video:

    From here we soon came upon the spring and the box, all pretty much in tact. We got back on the trail for a little while before going down a bit to explore the old sawmill site. Randy says a lot more of the bricks have been exposed since the fire and erosion so it was fun to wander around a bit and explore :D . After our curiosity was satisfied, we got back on the trail and headed to the Spring Rock and Tree. Randy says the spring used to flow out of the tree (you can see the hole in the bottom of the tree) and now comes out of the rock (though very little flow).

    This was as far as would go on the Mormon Canyon Trail. Randy decided we would not be taking this trail up tomorrow. We headed back to camp and actually walked past it to another area of the creek where there were some cool rocks and another little waterfall :DANCE: . Fortunately, the rain held off for the most part so this was good.

    We got back, had a beer and a snack, altho I decided it was too cold for beer so asked Randy if we could have wine (which happened to be from a local vinter and it turned out to be quite good :D ). Randy got a fire going using a paraffin match 8) system (since it had been so wet earlier) and using some of the logs he had brot along. Earlier we had also covered up some of the logs by the fire pit to keep them dry. It was good to have the fire; though once a little wind came thru, it seemed to warm up a bit. Anyway, I shared my banana :? cold fried chicken and potato salad for our supper. (I had stored a banana in the cooler with the chicken).

    It seemed a short time after we had retired to the tents, the rain came down in droves along with some occasional lightning and thunder :scared: . One time when I rolled over, the brightness of the lightning flashed right before my eyes; that was a bit startling. I did find the rain on my tent (never experienced that before) and the babbling creek soothing. I still didn't get much sleep but at least it was nice to be awake and listen to all of that. I was also trying to adjust to my new sleeping bag arrangement with the Agnes Gilpin where you have the pad inside the sleeping bag. Both items were new and seemed to work well.

    Here is the video as we hike in the area of the spring, the old sawmill, the spring rock and tree, back down and past the campsite to an area further up Turkey Creek:

    Permit $$

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

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Tucson, take I-10 east for 72 miles to US 191. Turn south 21 miles to AZ 181 and drive 12 miles east to the Turkey Creek turnoff (Forest Road 41). Follow FR 41 approximately 8 miles east to the campground.

    (Turkey Creek Road (Forest Road 41) heads east. Tall pines appear among the oaks and junipers after seven miles and you'll enter the national forest in another mile; West Turkey Campground is on the left just 0.1 mile farther and Sycamore is 1.5 miles farther up on the left. You'll also pass several trailheads in the national forest that connect to the heights.)
    page created by tibber on Oct 06 2011 2:32 pm
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