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Chiricahua Peak from Rustler Park TH, AZ

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Guide 35 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Douglas
3.6 of 5 by 12
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 12 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,468 feet
Elevation Gain 1,282 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 - 7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18.41
Interest Peak
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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37  2012-05-27 RedRoxx44
18  2011-11-09 JuanJaimeiii
35  2011-05-13
Crest Trail #270 - Wilderness to Monte Vista
23  2010-10-02
Anita Park - Chiricahua Mountains
Page 1,  2,  3
Author Vashti
author avatar Guides 4
Routes 68
Photos 345
Trips 95 map ( 542 miles )
Age Female Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Sep, Oct → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:02am - 6:21pm
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0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Greenery amidst the Burn
by Vashti

Likely In-Season!
This trip report account details from the Rustler Park trailhead to Anita Park via the Chiricahua Crest trail. We backpacked in intending to go to Sentinel Peak, but the altitude affected us more than we thought it would. Anita park is just before the Chiricahua Peak, less than 1 mile away.

A couple of things that we think important to note about this trail: though the trail itself is "maintained", as in you can always locate the trail, it is full of fallen trees from the burn. The trail turns into a bit of an obstacle course, with many trees to step over, climb over, or walk around. The trail could be in much *worse* shape, as you can see while hiking just how much maintenance has already *been* done by all the cut trees moved off to the side of the trail. Kudos to the trail crews who did all this work, it is much appreciated. The sad thing is that more burned trees fall every windstorm, so that the trail maintenance is a never-ending task. The large burn areas make for rather dismal hiking with dead trees everywhere and full exposure to the sun. Of the 5 miles to Anita Park, I would say the first mile was beautiful (full greenery & large trees), and the last mile is beautiful, but in between is almost fully burned. The only upside to the fully burned areas is that you get a great view of the mountain range. The burn area I am speaking of is from 1994 where the fire burned 27,000 acres in the Chiracahua wilderness. There is a particularly ugly section of fallen trees, as in plural many fallen trees all of top of each other that require a brief detour from the trail or at the very least some serious over-tree climbing, just past Round Park (just past the Bear Wallow turnoff).

Trails that branch off of the main Crest trail and that are in the burn area are not in good shape (so many fallen trees as to look impassable). This is especially true for the Centella Point lookout trail and the Flys Peak trail from the junction with the Crest Trail -- large trees almost completely block the initial path. I would say that the Saulsbury Canyon trail did not look very good from the Crest Trail, either, but a backpacker we ran into on the trail did mention that the trail was in pretty good shape, as she had just come up that way. The Bear Wallow trail looked clear and easy to follow. We went down the Greenhouse trail, and it was in great shape. The Greenhouse trail is in a non-burned area, however. When we started hiking in from Rustler Park, a notice was posted on the Ranger Board saying that extreme care was to be used in hiking off the Crest Trail given that no updated maps are available since the 1994 fire and that only the Crest Trail was regularly maintained.

Anita park is ~4.9 miles from Rustler park, the Chiricahua peak summit trail turnoff is ~0.5 miles past the Anita park turnoff. I must say that despite the heavy burn, the trail signs are all where they are supposed to be. This is good because the Crest trail is almost more a collection of many junctions to other trails. Anita park is a beautiful park, only slightly affected by the burn. There are plenty of high trees to hang up your food if backpacking. Reading the Sentinel peak trail reports on HAZ, I was overly concerned about bears. We did not see any sign of bears, and the other camper in Anita Park said the ranger station had not had any bear reports "for some time", whatever that means. The backpacker from Saulsbury canyon did say she saw fresh bear scat, so take the necessary precautions. There is a nice cooking area in Anita park, complete with fire ring, if fires are permitted at the time you are there. There is also plenty of grassy areas to provide many great places to pitch your tent. The Anita Park springs trail is clearly signed, and the spring itself is directly off to the left side of the trail (you cannot miss it), about ~0.25 mile or so down the trail. The spring has a stone catch basin which hold probably 8 gallons of water. The catch basin was overflowing when we were there. I think the sunset at Anita park made the trip through some of the more burned parts all worth it!! :)

Interesting side trips:
* A U.S. Forest Service Cabin is located ~0.5 miles down the Greenhouse trail from the Crest Trail. It is very beautiful down the Greenhouse trail, full greenery and old growth. The trail dips down rather steeply, but if you ditch your pack, it is a nonissue. :) It is worth it to see the Cabin and the pretty clearing, complete with Outhouse. The outhouse door even has "The Highness is In" grafittied on the inside of the door... ! ;)

* The HeliPad is located up from Anita Park, on an unmarked spur trail. However, the spur trail is easily discernable as the trail is cleared manually and many 6-inch high tree stumps are left. The trail extends up about ~0.25 miles to the top of that summit, where a large clearing exists and views are possible on almost all sides. A very exposed campsite is here, as well. A fellow camper in Anita Park, an older man who had been doing trail maintenance when we hiked by him, told us that the clearing is used as a helipad for fire crews and for emergencies. I am not sure of the validity of the statement, but it seems reasonable. :)

Other notes:

* There was plenty of water where we were at Anita Springs and in Cima Creek (by the Forest Service cabin ~0.5 miles on the Greenhouse trail from the Crest Trail). This I mention because when I called the ranger station, they told me to carry in all the water we would need. This was not at all necessary. The springs were flowing strong.

* Per the rangers, no campfires are allowed at this time.

* The temperature was rather chilly, probably in the low 40's at night. There was plenty of snow patches around the Crest trail. I wish I had brought my gloves and hat, but at least I had my 0F sleeping bag! :)

* The Crest trail itself has gradual elevation gains/falls, but no hefty climbs/descents. The side trails, however, have substantial elevation fall/gains as the Crest trail literally cuts across the mountain side.

* The wildflowers were just starting to bloom while we were there (4/26/03 weekend), but I would think in another 1-3 weeks from now, they would be in full bloom! Just beautiful!! :)

* There is a 4WD drive road which extends past the Rustler Park campground and continues along to meet up with the trail about ~1 miles from the trailhead in a nice meadow area. We did not take this road ourselves, and we are glad we did not because the first one mile of the Crest trail is very beautiful with great views of Rustler Park. The first mile of trail goes through a mostly unburned tree area at a higher elevation than the 4WD road, and also follows along a tall rock face for part of the way.

* Supposedly there is a $3 per car fee at the Rustler Park Trailhead parking lot, but when we arrived, there was a sign stapled (heavy duty stapled via staple gun) to the fee sign which said "no services, no fee" which I assume was posted by the rangers. Outhouses exist at the trailhead, but the water spicket did not work.

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2003-04-29 Vashti
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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
Chiricahua Peak from Rustler Park TH
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This hike was the fulfillment of a long desire to hike the high Chiricahuas. Nick, Allen and I met in Willcox, then we made the scenic drive up Pinery Canyon to Rustler Park. The Rattlesnake Fire does not detract from the scenery at all. Big trees, endless and changing views, and scenes reminiscent of the White Mountains, all on an "island" near the Mexican border: I love it! The invisible pooping horse (first mistaken for a bear) was the only other living creature on the trail on this perfect day. Even the drive down rewarded, with the transition from tall firs to Arizona Rainbow cacti. I'll be back :)
Chiricahua Peak from Rustler Park TH
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Had a great hike to Chiricahua Peak from Rustler Park. My second time up the peak, first from this route. Rustler Park is really nice. As always the Crest Trail is excellent. Very well cleared too, thanks to those working on that. The burned areas open up magnificent views. The untouched forest is just glorious. The parks along the way are nice too. The slopes of the Chiricahuas have many gold aspen in the fall, much more so than I remembered.

The weather was phenomenal and the company as well. Great day in some great mountains.
Chiricahua Peak from Rustler Park TH
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Great hike to bag Chiricahua Peak & Flys Peak :) :thanx: Shawn for setting this up. This an easy trail with great views and the trails were decked with wildflowers - especially the 2nd mile. Trail is generally shaded meandering through pines and open meadows decked in flowers and great views from saddles...Both peaks do not have views (Flys seemed to be be a cow paddock!) but it was a destination none-the-less. The beauty of this trail is the journey. The fire damamge is present but nolonger really detracts from the views -- it has made for opening that are full of color! Well marked trails and clear of tree falls makes for a quick pace but watch out for gopher holes that lurk underfoot! The rasberries were out and pickings sweet! Return saw us lolly gag over the views and the flowers and watching thunderstorms drench far away peaks ...they'd catch us later in the evening.

I think we saw some bear scat along the way but no wildlife sightings.
Chiricahua Peak from Rustler Park TH
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In honor of my 52nd birthday, six friends gathered high in the Chiricahua Mountains. Patrick and David met us for dinner Friday night at the Desert Rose Cafe in Wilcox.

It takes more than an hour to cover the 30-odd miles of serpentine gravel road in Pinery Canyon, so it was nearly 10 pm before we pulled into Rustler Park. Since the park is officially closed for the season, we pitched our tents in the parking lot.

David and Patrick have converted to ultra lightweight backpacking (David is officially "past tents"). So in the morning our partners disappeared up the trail at a jog. During the next three days, they would log nearly 24 miles -- all of it above 8000 feet. Dennis and I trundled off with 37 pounds of dead weight apiece.

Our only other backpack in the Chiricahuas was Horseshoe Pass in October, 2004. A fire devastated 27,000 acres in the Chiricahuas in 1994 and there are many reports on HIKEAZ and elsewhere of downed trees, poor trail conditions and marauding bears. We did not see any evidence of bears on the main trail -- the deposits were obviously horse pucky and not bear scat. And while there were plenty of downed trees, the trade-off was stupefying views in all directions.

The Crest Trail takes off from 8300 feet and never drops below 8000. Although there was minimal climbing compared to most of our hikes, we were keenly aware of the +6000-foot difference in elevation.

At 1-1/2 miles, there's an unnamed park with a lovely meadow, a big fire ring and a rocky knoll with great views to the west. Above this point, the trail alternates between patches of dense pine forest and naked ridges littered with the bleached bones of burnt timber. But aspen have taken hold in the burnt areas, and on this bright and windy day their leaves were dancing a jig.

We stopped for lunch at Round Park, 3.4 miles out. The trails to Bear Wallow and Booger Spring take off from this park but are barely visible from the main trail.

We reached Anita Park about 1:30 pm. Although we'd only hiked 4-1/2 miles, we decided to make it a day. I wrote in my journal while Dennis practiced for the Bear Rope Toss Olympics.

We were carrying nine liters of water but since we weren't sure the springs were running, we topped off our tanks at Anita Spring, a steep 1/8 mile below Anita Park.

Just before sunset we scrambled up the hill to watch the sun set. Although there's no sign of it today, Dennis remembers that 30 years ago the flat spot at the top of the hill was a helipad. Do you remember when there fire towers and forest rangers, and when you could actually call the Forest Service and get information on the latest trail conditions? Then you must be older than dirt!

From the ridge, we were able to contact Patrick and David by radio. They were making their way back to Juniper Spring, having hiked all the way to Sentinel Peak. They reported that Price Trail is in good condition, but Sentinel Peak is "dismal." They bushwhacked back down the mountain with night falling and more than 12 miles behind them.

I underestimated the temperatures by about 10 degrees. I was figuring on 30s at night and 60s during the day. But Anita Park is at 9500 feet, and daytime temps tottered around 50 degrees. There was a hard frost overnight, the wind continued to howl, and the naked trees cried out for their long needles and their warm sap.

The following morning, liberated from our backpacks, we sauntered over to Chiricahua Peak and then took a side trip to Ojo Agua Fria. This trail was quite steep and in very bad condition. There was a trickle of water in the stream but the spring itself was totally obscured by downed timber. There was bear and big cat scat near the stream. The only thing to recommend this trail is the geode "factory" that litters both sides of the saddle between Chiricahua Peak and Snowshead Peak with peculiar egg-shaped stones.

The sun was warm, the winds were finally calmed, and the views were superb from the exposed ridge. We followed it around all the way to Juniper Spring -- the perfect spot for lunch and a bird bath.

A few minutes later we encountered the only other hikers we would see this weekend -- a group of five sturdy souls our age or older halfway through a 13-mile day hike from Herb Martyr Dam to the Crest and back via the Greenhouse Trail.

Meanwhile David and Patrick followed the Raspberry Ridge Trail to Monte Vista Peak, which
David says was the highlight of their trip.

We circled around the south side of Chiricahua Peak toward Chiricahua Saddle, but turned back when the trail began switchbacking steeply toward the southwest. A GPS would have helped.

Back at Anita Park, we were joined by Ruth who had driven up that afternoon from Phoenix, and later by Nick and Christie, returning from Chiricahua Peak. Ruth had backpacked in three boxes of wine, but we were almost was too cold to drink it!

Awakened at an unseemly hour by some homeless guy with the bivvy sack and a tarp, we slowly made our way back to Rustler Park, with a side trip to Cima Cabin.

Some 30 years ago, Dennis and Tom and Kit and a lost dog named "Beauregard" took shelter in this cabin from a violent thunderstorm. The wooden chair where Dennis spent the night is still in the same corner.

In summary, the Crest Trail -- fire damage and all -- is still one of the best long-distance treks in southern Arizona. Full story and photos at ... _crest.asp

Permit $$
Information is listed below

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 Rustler Park CG Trailhead
From Tucson, take I-10 east to Willcox. From Willcox, head south on AZ Highway 186 for 33 miles. Turn left (east) on AZ Highway 181 toward Chiricahua National Monument and drive 3 miles, then turn right (south) on FR 42 (Pinery Canyon Road). Continue up Pinery Canyon on FR 42 for 12 miles to the junction with FR 42D (Rustler Park Road), at Onion Saddle. Turn right and drive about 2.8 miles on FR 42D to the signed parking area for Rustler Park Trailhead on the left.

Forest Roads 42 and 42D are gravel roads suitable for passenger vehicles. Open from April through November, they are not plowed and are usually closed following early or late season snowstorms. These roads are rough and dusty and may be muddy and slick after a rain.

2009-08-11 Preston Sands writes: There is a sign at Rustler Park TH indicating that trailhead parking is $5.00, as of 8-9-09. It was not there last October.

2009-09-22 Vashti writes: Campground fees are currently $10/night, and the trail head parking is listed as $5/night on the sign.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 243 mi - about 4 hours 28 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 134 mi - about 2 hours 53 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 387 mi - about 6 hours 34 mins
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