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Big Loop - Chiricahua National Monument
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mini location map2015-09-30
27 by photographer avatarAZWanderingBear
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Big Loop - Chiricahua National MonumentTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 30 2015
AZWanderingBear
Hiking9.71 Miles 3,140 AEG
Hiking9.71 Miles
3,140 ft AEG
 
1st trip
We were up at dawn on day 4 of our 8-day SE AZ road trip. The night before we'd been chastised by the camp host at Bonita Campground for taking a shower. Apparently no water was allowed to touch the ground inside the campground. We were also not to tie anything to a tree or use the sink in the rest rooms for anything beyond washing our hands. She said we should have brought a lot of baby wipes if we planned to camp and then returned to her 40-foot motor home and ran the generator all night. With a quick breakfast we headed out to the Echo Canyon trailhead, conspiring along the way on the best method for stealth showers.

Started the Big Loop counter clockwise, so down Echo Canyon trail. Doesn't take too long to get to the grottoes. The rhyolite formations are reminiscent of the Fairyland Loop at Bryce in a way. We were all smiles and anxious for what might be ahead. Wall Street was impressive and then we descended into the cool of Echo Canyon. Progress was slow as we took time to ooh and ahh and photograph everything.

Hit the Hailstone Trail and could see across the canyon where we'd be gaining back the elevation we were losing. The Upper Rhyolite turned us back west with several stream crossings. Soon we began the slow slog up the Sarah Deming trail along the west side of the canyon of the same name. While it was a steady uphill, there was shade and the grade was such that we made good time until the last hundred yards or so. The last bit of scrambling brought us back up on top of the formations and right to the beginning of the Heart of Rocks Loop.

The Heart or Rocks Loop is a geologic playground. The trail requires a bit of scrambling and can be difficult to follow at times. We did notice that back in the day someone had painted red footprints on the slick rock areas. While worn, these were still faintly visible at just the right time to keep a careful trekker on the trail. A majority of the named formations are along this trail. Signs point out the more famous -- Duck on a Rock, Punch and Judy, Thors Hammer, Pinnacle Balanced Rock, etc. We took a lunch break amongst the rhyolite formations. On our way back out of the Loop we heard voices and ran into the only hikers we'd see during the entire hike -- a group of ladies who were going clockwise and thus opposite us.

Turned east on Big Balanced Rock Trail and paid homage to its namesake. This trail was level and moderately scenic. We moved quickly. I'd kept the Inspiration Point Trail as a way to extend or shorten the total hike. If we were doing well, then it was out to the point. If we were dragging then we'd blow it off. We didn't even stop to discuss it and turned to the point. The hike is pretty flat. This area was burned years back, so there's not much to see until you hit the end. Then it is just pick a way you want to scramble out to enjoy the view and take photos down the length of Rhyolite Canyon. It was truly inspirational.

The only thing left was Mushroom Rock Trail and then Ed Riggs back to the trailhead. We were tiring and we descended along Mushroom Rock knowing we'd have to climb again right at the end of the hike. It was still pretty, but the heat and the climb made us ready to be reminiscing on how great the day had been as we sipped a cold one back in camp.

With high spirits and high fives we topped out at the parking lot. Definitely the highlight of our days in the Chiricahuas.
Geology
Geology
Rhyolite
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Echo Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Hunt Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Sarah Deming Canyon Medium flow Medium flow
Nice flow down in the canyon

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Totem Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
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AZWanderingBear's
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