backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

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desertdryad
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backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by desertdryad » Jul 03 2016 7:22 pm

Hi folks -

I'm looking to go somewhere in high elevations in a weekend or two, that is not to far from Tucson (say 2 - 3 hours). The less visited, the better. Have high clearance vehicles at my disposal, and drivers who know how to use 4wd, so that is not a limitation. We (my husband and I) were thinking of the Chiricuahuas, but I'm not turning up much other than what the National Monument offers, which doesn't sound like what we are looking for. Ideally, we are looking for a place to car camp at 8000 - 900 feet or so, that is primitive camping (NOT a campground per se) and not heavily used, with decent day hiking nearby. Tall order, I know; but does anyone have any suggestions? Thank you!

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big_load
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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by big_load » Jul 03 2016 7:39 pm

There are some nice places in the Chiricahua Wilderness. I don't know how this area fared in the fires since my visit, but it appears to have been hiked recently. I car camped near the Saulsbury TH.

http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=896

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by Tough_Boots » Jul 03 2016 7:44 pm

We car camped by Turkey Creek in the Chiricahua's not too long ago and we had some awesome dayhiking options. Check out the area by Mormon and Morse Canyons. Though you'd probably be car camping in the low 6,000's.
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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by jonathanpatt » Jul 03 2016 8:26 pm

The Crest Trail from Rustler Park south to and around Chiricahua Peak and some of its side trails including the loop around Fly Peak and out to Centella Point, plus spring access like Headquarters & Anita Spring all have been cleared by various volunteer crews in the past two months. Rustler Park is pretty ugly right now, though, and is a developed campground. I'd suggest camping at Barfoot Park instead. It's not an official campground with amenities, though it does have picnic tables and a spring nearby in the meadow. You can access the Crest from Barfoot Park directly via the Barfoot Lookout Trail (which isn't signed as such, but there is a "Trail" sign with an arrow at the southwest corner of the Barfoot meadow), or drive to Rustler or Long Park (4WD necessary for the latter) to get further south into the trail system.

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by cactuscat » Jul 03 2016 10:19 pm

Pinaleno's.
Where is the "dislike" button?

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by WanderingWildcat » Jul 04 2016 2:47 pm

I just got back from camping at Bonita Campground in the Chiricahua National Monument. No backpacking options as far as I could see. I hiked the Big Loop (Echo Canyon, Upper Rhyolite, Sarah Deming, Heart of Rocks, Big Balanced Rock, Mushroom, and Ed Riggs Trail). I'm not sure backpacking would be allowed in those areas, but I wouldn't want to risk it after the handful of rattlesnakes I encountered on my hike.

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by jonathanpatt » Jul 04 2016 3:06 pm

There is no backpacking/backcountry camping allowed in the Chiricahua National Monument. But the Monument is only a tiny part of the Chiricahua Mountains, the rest of which are in the Coronado National Forest, which does allow backpacking and dispersed camping.

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by cactuscat » Jul 05 2016 7:02 am

@WanderingWildcat
Nice place though, isn't it? :)
I went there recently for the first time and really enjoyed the campground, trails, and hoodoos.
Where is the "dislike" button?

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by big_load » Jul 05 2016 8:32 am

cactuscat wrote:Pinaleno's.
If I were in that general area, I'd definitely rather hike in the Pinalenos. That could be just because I've driven past them so many times on my way to the Galiuros without taking a detour.

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by Cheerycow » Jul 05 2016 4:38 pm

jonathanpatt wrote:The Crest Trail from Rustler Park south to and around Chiricahua Peak and some of its side trails including the loop around Fly Peak and out to Centella Point, plus spring access like Headquarters & Anita Spring all have been cleared by various volunteer crews in the past two months. Rustler Park is pretty ugly right now, though, and is a developed campground. I'd suggest camping at Barfoot Park instead. It's not an official campground with amenities, though it does have picnic tables and a spring nearby in the meadow. You can access the Crest from Barfoot Park directly via the Barfoot Lookout Trail (which isn't signed as such, but there is a "Trail" sign with an arrow at the southwest corner of the Barfoot meadow), or drive to Rustler or Long Park (4WD necessary for the latter) to get further south into the trail system.
This! Jonathan speaks the truth.
If Barfoot is too busy you can drive up the 4x4 road that departs the Rustler park area and goes up to Long Park. While it is not a large area there are a few places to set up a camp and then as Jonathan says, you have the entire high country system of trails to cover.

Don't Miss Centella!

Oops! I just saw that he mentioned the road to Long Park...sorry!
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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by Cheerycow » Jul 05 2016 4:40 pm

big_load wrote:
cactuscat wrote:Pinaleno's.
If I were in that general area, I'd definitely rather hike in the Pinalenos. That could be just because I've driven past them so many times on my way to the Galiuros without taking a detour.
I love the Cheeries but the Pinalenos just might be even more of what you are after.
"In the woods, too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child...in this wood, we return to reason and faith." R.W. Emerson

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by rwstorm » Jul 05 2016 4:43 pm

Hiking options are better in the Chiricahuas than the Pinalenos.
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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by jonathanpatt » Jul 05 2016 5:20 pm

For sure—the Pinalenos have some beautiful trails and camping opportunities, but most of the trails have steep elevation changes that drop off the side of the mountain (with a few exceptions—some small loops up top, and the first few miles of the Clark Peak Trail), but the creation of the road along the top before a hiking trail network could be established up there eliminated a lot of the longer distance high elevation hiking options that the Chiricahuas have thanks to the lack of a high elevation road beyond Long Park and the establishment of the Chiricahua Wilderness. So the Chiricahuas have a large Crest Trail network with many, many connecting trails. Somewhere around 250 miles of trail just in one range (not all connected to the Crest network)!

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by Cheerycow » Jul 06 2016 12:37 pm

jonathanpatt wrote:For sure—the Pinalenos have some beautiful trails and camping opportunities, but most of the trails have steep elevation changes that drop off the side of the mountain (with a few exceptions—some small loops up top, and the first few miles of the Clark Peak Trail), but the creation of the road along the top before a hiking trail network could be established up there eliminated a lot of the longer distance high elevation hiking options that the Chiricahuas have thanks to the lack of a high elevation road beyond Long Park and the establishment of the Chiricahua Wilderness. So the Chiricahuas have a large Crest Trail network with many, many connecting trails. Somewhere around 250 miles of trail just in one range (not all connected to the Crest network)!
Perfectly stated.
I sensed (rightly or wrongly) that just the perfect car campsite was the priority for the OP and those are a bit hard to find in the Chiricahuas. But I certainly agree that the opportunities for hiking along the Crest Trail are better than the Pinalenos. And more bears in the Pinalenos, right?
"In the woods, too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child...in this wood, we return to reason and faith." R.W. Emerson

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by RedRoxx44 » Jul 06 2016 3:47 pm

I was in Rucker canyon this past sunday. My take on the Chiricahuas-- most of the higher elevation trails have suffered recent burns so you will be hiking a lot in full sun, and it will be quite warm even at 8000K. Take an umbrella. The upside are great views and wildflowers. The bad, burnt and fallen trees. Car camping options for shade will be limited except at some of the lower elevation TH's.
Pinalenos some stellar car camping, and some quite secluded. Hiking is limited but you have more options in canopy and Ash Creek is a great trail with water and green lushness if you are needing that and loop hiking is not a huge priority.

Rucker campsites were pretty busy, but no one on the trail. Lots of tree fall, burnt areas checkered with the normal. Water with lots of algae. I blew off the connector out of the canyon and continued up the canyon. Better water there but lots of silt in places, the unburned trees may not make it if they are choked off in the canyon bottom. Nice tall walls but continuing was difficult with the amount of downed trees. It got pretty warm but I was saved by the thunderheads that formed and gave shade. Did see some dry areas in the canyon bottom still black with ash flow from some of the hill sides. Lots of ferns which was nice, but less of the columbine than before. The trail is gone in spots but it is cairned and not hard to follow.

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by jonathanpatt » Jul 06 2016 7:23 pm

The Rucker Trail was pretty well maintained at the beginning of the year but flood damage weakened a lot of roots and a bunch more trees came down since then, sadly. How much of the trail is gone, and did it look particularly new? A fair bit of new treadwork was done at the beginning of the year, so I'm curious if there's new damage or if it's still older portions that weren't maintained.

Barfoot Park at ~8200' is well-shaded—while it burned nearby, the immediate park area is still beautifully forested.

It's pretty common to not run into anyone on just about any trail in the Chiricahuas very far beyond the trailhead, aside from the South Fork Trail and occasionally the Crest Trail out of Rustler or Long Park. In four years of weekly hiking in the Chiricahuas, I've never once met anyone on any trail but those two, with one exception—I once saw another group a quarter mile away on high point of the Rucker Trail while I was on the Red Rock Trail further along the ridge.

Did you make it all the way to the Rucker Canyon Gates and the grottos? Those are pretty spectacular, especially the second, massive grotto.

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by azbackpackr » Jul 07 2016 2:47 am

Glad to be reading this good info, although the OP seems to be long gone.
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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by Cheerycow » Jul 07 2016 4:49 pm

azbackpackr wrote:Glad to be reading this good info, although the OP seems to be long gone.
Yes, excellent info in these last two posts. Thank you!

And we lovers of the Chiricahuas love an opportunity to discuss the place no matter the origin or impact of the original question! :)
"In the woods, too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child...in this wood, we return to reason and faith." R.W. Emerson

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by desertdryad » Jul 15 2016 7:01 pm

Actually... I am not long gone. Just had some 'life events' that kept me coming to the board - and I thought it wasn't going to be a thread with this much traffic! Thanks!! We are planning to 'go somewhere' next weekend. Im still torn between the Chiracahuas and the Pinalenos. My other half certainly will not appreciate hiking in full sun, that's for sure. And I know I do appreciate the relatively higher 'greeness' on the Pinalenos. (I'm a plant person/wanna be herbalist). Yet I do know the Pinalenos don't seem to have a lot of hiking options, at least, not on the maps. Still considering our options. I really appreciate the feedback, here!

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Re: backcountry camping with hiking nearby in Chiricuahuas?

Post by trekkin_gecko » Jul 15 2016 7:20 pm

plenty of hiking in pinalenos
look on traildex, the "find" button
select mt. graham wilderness area
hikes are listed
you can read description, triplogs and view gps routes for any hike

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