I was heading home from a meeting at Chiricahua National Monument and I was looking for a trail that I could complete before it got dark. The Leslie Canyon Trail seemed like the best candidate. 3 miles roundtrip, up and back in a bit over an hour. It was a tease of a hike but it's always better to be hiking than not. Even when time and conditions aren't ideal.
Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge is located in the southern hills of the Swisshelm Mountains. The refuge was established in 1988 to provide protection for the Yaqui chub, Yaqui topminnow, and the Chiricahua leopard frog. The trail is easily found as the refuge is quite small (at least the east-west margin). I drove south on highway 191 to the town of McNeal, hung a left (east) on Davis Rd and followed the paved, and graded dirt road for 9 miles to the turnoff for Leslie Canyon (signed). Another 2 miles put me in the refuge and it was a short drive further to the very small parking area and trailhead. The parking area accommodates about two vehicles but there it is possible to park on the road without blocking traffic.
The trail follows Leslie Creek north north-west through the canyon along an old mining two-track. The trail is mainly in desert scrub and the catclaw and mesquite thorns were abundant. At about the one mile mark the trail crosses Leslie Creek and heads northeast into the hills. There are remains on an old mining claim here - a concrete foundation, an old stone foundation, and other mining paraphernalia. The creek is the home of Chiricahua leopard frog tadpoles and the endangered fish species mentioned previously. The southern extent of Leslie Creek (south of the trailhead and road) is closed to protect the riparian habitat.