register help
This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Chiricahua & Monte Vista Peak Loop, AZ

326 23 0
Guide 23 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Douglas
4.5 of 5 by 4
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 15.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,100 feet
Elevation Gain 4,300 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 36.7
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
8  2019-08-21 LJW
8  2016-06-04 DennisWilliams
26  2013-08-03 VolcanoCLMBR
9  2010-12-19 hhwolf14
59  2010-08-22
Saulsbury-Mormon Canyon Loop
20  2010-08-22
Saulsbury-Mormon Canyon Loop
38  2010-07-23 writelots
29  2010-07-22
West Turkey Creek Loop
Page 1,  2
Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,742 map ( 18,136 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Aug, Sep, May, Jul → 7 AM
Seasons   Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:01am - 6:25pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Southern Arizona High Life
by fricknaley

Likely In-Season!
In my opinion, the best warm weather hiking in southern Arizona is in the Chiricahuas. There are endless opportunities there. Here's a loop that incorporates some of the best in the Chiricahua Mountains: a great climb, temperature escaping altitudes, wildflowers, a great high-country ramble along the Crest Trail and bagging two of the major peaks in the range (one the highest, the other with a sensational lookout and unbelievable views). This is the sky islands at their best.

Start this loop from the Mormon Ridge Trailhead (#269) on the left side of the dirt road. The trail crosses over Turkey Creek, where we saw fresh bear tracks, then continues up. This trail will ultimately climb about 3,000 feet as it climbs and switchbacks up Mormon Ridge. Mormon Canyon falls down to the south, on the other side of the ridge is North Ward Canyon. This part of the trail is pretty tough. There are increasingly nice views, with spires projecting out on either side of the ridge as you look out. Around 2 miles in or so, you will pass an old Wilderness Boundary sign. There are streches, as you climb out of the oak forest and enter the pines, where you will pass through burned areas. After the burned areas, there is fantastic old growth pine forest, with moss covered pines and aspens peaking through. This is great. Finally, after climbing to over 9,000 feet the Mormon Ridge trail will dead-end at the Chiricahua Crest Trail. This is a little over 4 miles in.

Hang a left here and follow the fantastic Chiricahua Crest trail north for a little over 1/2 mile. There are sections of burn, sections not burned, and fantastic flowers/ferns along the way. There are increasingly wonderful views to the north, including out to the Dos Cabezos Mountains.

Finally, you will come to a saddle and major trail intersection. Hang a right and catch the Peak trail to the top of Chiricahua Peak. The trail is faint at times, as it climbs over and around some old burned trees, but never too hard to follow. At 9,757 feet the summit of Chiricahua Peak is the highest in the range. The views from the summit itself aren't the best, but that's not the point here. Small armies of aspens are claiming the peak from the burned pines and there are colorful flowers everywhere.

Head back down the way you came, and go back along the Chiricahua Crest trail back to your intersection with the Mormon Ridge. Now continue south on the Crest Trail and be prepared to be blown away. As you ramble along between 9,100-9,200 feet for about 2.5 miles along this trail, there are unbelievable views all down the range and major canyons. Nice flowers along the way. Fern forests everywhere. Rock spires protecting peak after peak. You will pass Paint Rock along the way. The best part of the hike is along this route. You will pass a signed intersection where Raspberry Ridge joins up from the left, keep going straight.

Finally, after nearly 3 miles you will come to signed intersection for Johnson Peak and Turtle Peak to your right. First, hang a left here and climb steeply for a short distance to summit the fantastic Monte Vista Peak (9,340 feet) with it's functional lookout and jaw-dropping panorama views of the Chiricahuas and far, far beyond. Definitely a place to spend some time. Head back down to the signed intersection.

Now follow the route towards Johnson Peak. In about 1.5 miles of steady descent through fantastic pine, then burned pine forest you will reach the last intersection. Here you hang a right and follow Morse Canyon trail down it's namesake canyon. This is a steep descent for about 2.5 miles to the end of Turkey Creek Road. This trail is easy to follow and covered by forest the whole way down. It's a nice, peaceful and secluded trail that loses a lot of elevation in a relatively short distance. It dead ends at the forest road, which dead ends at the trail. Follow the road back about 2 leisurely miles to your car.

Check out the Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. It would be insane to attempt this entire hike without prior experience hiking.

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

2006-07-09 fricknaley

    Coronado FS Details
    Saulsbury Trail #263, Mormon Ridge Trail #269 & Mormon Canyon Trail #352

    These three trails lead from the road up West Turkey Creek (FR 41) to the Crest Trail in the vicinity of Chiricahua and Flys Peak. Since their trailheads are all located fairly close together they offer a number of possibilities for loop routes into the Chiricahua Wilderness high country. Saulsbury Trail leads up the canyon of the same name to the north and east, then climbs up and out of the canyon and over Little Bull Mountain to its junction with the Crest Trail. This route offers good views of West Turkey Creek Canyon, Rock Creek Canyon and the Sulphur Springs Valley. It can be hot if you traverse it during midday.

    Mormon Ridge and Mormon Canyon Trails are both located south of Saulsbury and are aimed almost directly at Chiricahua Peak. Mormon Ridge is quite steep and many choose to follow it down, rather than up, if they use the trails to form a loop. Since it clings to the south-facing slope of Mormon Canyon, it can also be quite hot. These trails cross near the head of Mormon Canyon. From that junction, Mormon Ridge goes north toward Cima Park and Mormon Canyon goes south to Chiricahua Saddle. Both are points along the Crest Trail #270.

    These trails traverse a wide range of biologic zones. Starting out among plants characteristic of 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. Mormon Canyon Trail passes through a picturesque riparian area that includes a number of Rocky Mountain maples. Those who visit in autumn will want to pass this way and enjoy the fall colors.

    Attractions: High country loops, Canyon and mountain views, Biological diversity, Riparian area & Fall colors

    Notes: Saulsbury Trail is 4.4 miles long (4 miles in Chiricahua Wilderness); Mormon Ridge Trail is 4.5 miles long (3 in Wilderness); Mormon Canyon Trail is 3.4 miles (2.7 in Wilderness). All three of these trails connect to the Crest Trail #270.
    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 & Monte Vista Peak Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Randy and I decided to take advantage of the solitude of a weekday and hit the trail - and I had never done any of these hikes before. Randy said that a large storm had been parked over the Chiricahuas all of Wednesday, so it promised to be a nice wet hike, and we both packed for the monsoon storm that we were certain would come.

    We left Tucson at just after 5am, and it was cool and cloudy in the old Pueblo. We made it to the trailhead in Turkey Creek around 7am. The moment we crossed the first road bridge over the creek, we knew we were in for a treat. Water! Lots and lots of water!

    From our parking area at the campground, we struck up stream to the Mormon Canyon Trail, rather than taking the Ridge trail (mostly 'cause I'm just a canyon type of gal). On the way I was rewarded with not one but two gorgeous waterfalls on Turkey Creek - one over an old concrete dam and one natural cascade in a narrow bit of canyon. Both were roaring and swollen with the recent rain. With these gems so close to the camping area, I can totally see why this is one of Randy's favorite camping spots. The clouds seemed to be parked in for a while, so we had some perfect hiking weather ahead of us.

    The Mormon Canyon trail was in excellent shape, and was extraordinarily beautiful. While I imagine that the natural springs and perennial stream make this canyon particularly scenic year-round - with the extra moisture from the rain, it was an absolute show-stopper. A perfect lush cascading stream. It climbs steeply, but not insanely so. When it meets the Mormon Ridge trail, however, the clear, wide track turns into a tangles, chaotic obstacle-course which more closely resembles a timber pile than a trail. We went over, and under, and around, and over, and around, and under dozens of fallen, burned out trees, in the .7 miles between the Junction and Chiricahua Saddle on the Crest Trail. While it's a tangled mess, the trail is not terribly difficult to find and follow.

    At Chiricahua Saddle, we meet the Crest Trail and begin some clear sailing out along the high ridge. Although we were walking in and out of the burn area, the greenery remained lush and enthusiastic. Where the burn was, we get wildflowers, raspberries and amazing views - where the forest was untouched, there is a dense, wet wood with incredible fungi, mosses and ferns. Such beautiful country.

    We hiked past the base of Paint Rock, with it's striking red color and green mosses creating a palette that even Van Gogh would have envied. We pulled off the trail to the chute that leads up to the peak of the rock. Because I had the trail dog along, we elected not to climb too much higher, but enjoyed our lunch in an amazing spot that truly felt like we were protected from the rest of the world.

    The views from the stretch of the crest near Paint Rock are simply incredible. I had never been on this part of the trail before, and I was awestruck. While the barren fire scars were somewhat sad in terms of the obvious loss of biological diversity, the views that were created, and the geology that was revealed, is incredible. I began to realize that this might become one of my favorite hikes in Southern Arizona.

    At the junction with the Rapsberry trail we snacked on some still-tart rapsberries, which got us hyped up again and ready to keep on. We made the lookout at Monte Vista at about 2pm, and spent a very pleasant hour talking with the lookout, playing with the dogs and eating another snack. Finally, the building clouds convinced us to get back on the trail, so we started back down the very steady, if heavily-switch backed Morse Canyon Trail.

    About two-thirds of the way down the Morse Canyon Trail, Lilo perked up like she'd seen a squirrel and dashed into the woods. Just a second later, I heard Randy (who was ahead of me) call out "bear! bear cub!" I hurried up, but Lilo had already stopped before I had a chance to call her. Evidently she saw mama bear before we did, and she knew enough to be good and scared. She came straight back when I called, not looking back once. The mama bear scampered straight up a tall Douglas Fir when Lilo bolted - I've never been so thankful in my life. Baby bear had long since dashed up the hill out of sight. It all happened so fast, neither Randy nor I got a single photo of the drama. It's not such a loss, though, as I know I'll never forget the encounter. We'd just been commenting on the lack of wildlife in the area... I supposed that they were all at a conference. Now I know that the conference must have been about the bears, which is why mom and baby weren't invited. I hope that nothing bad was said about the pair - they were quite polite to us.

    The rest of the hike went down without incident - a smooth, easy trail back to the road above the campground. We found water again about three hundred yards above the trailhead, and stopped for a long moment to take a few last photos.

    On the way back to the car, we detoured to the main creek to throw our Wendy and enjoy the last of the beautiful weather. More than 12 trail miles, and we didn't catch a single drop of rain!

    About two minutes after we got back on the road, in the dry safety of Lil' Bit, it started to rain at last. Not hard - just a soft, delicate shower. We stopped at Ringo's gravesite, because again, I'd never been, and got rained on just enough that we felt like we'd been hiking in monsoon season in the Sky Islands.

    Life really is very, very good! :y:
    Chiricahua & Monte Vista Peak Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    With by buddy Philip for his first trip to the Chiricahuas... I think he was quite impressed. I sure was by this one. The weather ended up being great, though questionable at first. Almost stepped on a young rattlesnake at 9,200 feet. The lookout is currently being staffed by a very nice ranger, who seemed quite surprised to see us. She seemed to think this loop was a gem of the western Chiricahuas and I couldn't agree more.

    Most of the downed trees have been cleared on the Crest trail. There is still some scrambling to do on the spur to Chiricahua peak. As RedRoxx noted below, the intersections are all signed, though some are in rough shape. Overall though, route finding is no problem.

    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 / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    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 (FR 41). Follow this road 10 miles east to the Mormon Ridge Trailhead.

    These roads are rough and dusty and may be muddy and slick when wet. There is a flash flood danger at water crossings following summer and winter storms.
    help comment issue

    end of page marker