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The Best Hikes in Chiricahua Wilderness

334 Triplog Reviews in the Chiricahua Wilderness
Most recent of 98 deeper Triplog Reviews
9 mi • 1,813 ft aeg
Last hike in the Chiricahuas. Lower elevation, so a little different flora and fauna.
Severe run off following the Horseshoe fire has changed the landscape near the creeks and wiped out the trails in places. We didn't complete our planned loop because of route finding issues, but it was still a very nice beautiful hike.
The purple flowers with yellow centers are going to seed. The seeds are similar to fox tail. They get into your clothing and drive you nuts. We removed many hundreds of them during and after hiking.
This hike is worth repeating now that we've had a chance to research the route.
Excellent first trip to this part of the Chiricahuas. Thanks to Randy and Kelly for helping put this together. :)
9 mi • 1,813 ft aeg
coffee and breakfast with randy while we packed up camp
randy suggested a loop for john and i to hike on our way out monday
turkey pen - rock creek - saulsbury
we set out on turkey pen trail around 0800
nice enough trail except for these little flowers that had thousands of seeds that stuck to our clothes
could have done without that
we saw several turkeys run across the trail - john should have a photo
navigating from a photo of randy's fifty year old map, i thought we had to go further north to hit rock creek, when we were already on it
could have just continued east to connect with saulsbury
there is a trail up a drainage where we were looking, but it has been destroyed by flooding
not the correct route anyway
we decided to retrace our steps back through the stickers
nice enough hike, but a little frustrating
would like to go back someday to complete the loop
nice country out there
again, saw no one else
lots to do from west turkey creek: more trails and different combinations
we'll be back!
13.5 mi • 4,227 ft aeg
Second day of our Chiricahua trip. Main goal was to hit the high point of the range, Chiricahua Peak, and add on extras as we had time and energy.
We started with a short bushwhack from camp to the Mormon Ridge trail. As we gained elevation the views opened up and were fantastic.
After a bit we crossed a talus landslide area about a hundred yards wide. There were no cairns or obvious signs of a trail on the other side. Taking the best looking possibility proved to be wrong. An hour later and after half a mile of difficult bushwhacking, we finally found the trail again.
Once we got to the Crest Trail we made our way up to Chiricahua Peak. Views are limited from the top. On the way to Paint Rock, the views back towards the peak are impressive.
It took some route finding to get through Paint Rock, then it was on to Monte Vista Peak. We got rained on by our own little private cloud that followed us all the way from Paint Rock to Monte Vista Peak. We took a break under the porch of the cabin at Monte Vista until the rain slowed.
We decided to skip Johnson Peak on the descent since we were running behind schedule and it was still raining. The descent down Morse Canyon was on nice tread in big forest. Not overgrown like most of what we had been hiking on all day. Great way to end a tremendous hike. :)

Wildflowers
Extreme above 8500 feet.
13.5 mi • 4,227 ft aeg
this looked like a solid loop with two peaks, right from sycamore campground
got going around 0800 or so after coffee and breakfast with randy
cut straight up the hill to mormon ridge
nice trail with good views, right up until where we lost the trail crossing an avalanche/rock field
took us a long time to find it again, with plenty of bushwhacking and climbing around on loose rock
"someone" forgot to import the pieces to this loop, which would have been helpful ](*,)
trail found, we continued to the crest trail, then north to the chiricahua peak trail
took a little break on the high point, then retraced our steps to chiricahua saddle
headed for monte vista peak, with another route finding adventure near paint rock
the crest trail was very overgrown and hard to find in places
lots of sharp raspberry bushes and other pointy vegetation
it would have been nice to have shin guards
got a few sprinkles and then some light rain
at the peak, went partway up the tower then took a break under the cabin overhang until it stopped raining
steep descent down turtle mountain and morse canyon trails, finishing with a road walk
enjoyed the loop and fun to do something new
was surprised at how little traffic the trails seem to get - we saw no one all day
my phone died on monte vista peak, so i used @dixieflyer's stats for the remaining mileage
14 mi • 4,790 ft aeg
Day 1 - Climbs, thorns, snakes, bears, oh my

My first day actually started on Mt Lemmon, about 5 miles away from the Marshall Gulch trailhead. I woke up early, hiked out, and made the drive over to the Chiricahuas. As I turned on to Noland Road from the interstate and approached the Chiricahuas, I knew that this was going to be a special place. It was a beautiful day and the road was in great condition. As I got close to Portal, Cave Creek crosses the road and was flowing nicely which gave me comfort that the various creeks would be running. My original plan was to start at Herb Martyr Campground and hike up Greenhouse Road to Greenhouse Trail and, ultimately, end the night at the cabin near Cima Park. I had gotten a later start than anticipated, though, so wanted to see if I could drive up Greenhouse Road a bit to knock off a mile or more and at least 500 feet of the elevation gain on the first day, as it was a big climb. For the most part, Greenhouse Rd is in good condition and could be made by any SUV. It's tight in some sections and there's a chance you might get some pin stripes, but it's in good condition until about a mile in. I also saw a small bear in one of the clearings, but he didn't try to get in my way. Smart bear. At that point, the road crosses Greenhouse Creek and it gets a bit bouldery. I didn't have much an issue with my lifted outback but I did have to reposition some rocks in a couple of spots and had some tire spinning. Fearing it would get worse, when I saw an area that looked ok to park for a few days right at the creek crossing, I figured that was good enough and I'd start the hike from there. Turns out the rest of the road after crossing the creek to the actual TH is like the first part and just fine for any SUV probably, so the only part of that road I would say really needs clearance or AWD/4WD is that section that is about 1000 feet long.

It was about a half mile to the trailhead and while it was just a half mile of forest road, it was interesting: two groups of deer spotted, old bear scat mixed with still steaming bear scat, one snake (signs of what's to come). Once to the actual trail, I could see that this was going to be an interesting climb. As I started what would ultimately be 2700 feet of gain, I could sort of kind of see the trail but I mostly saw vegetation. It was thick, but mostly soft grass so not the worst thing in the world. Then I saw another rattler. Well, to be fair, I never actually saw this one, I could just hear it right off trail. After backing off and giving it a few minutes to see if it would move... it didn't. So, I climbed up the hill to the right a bit in waist high grass hoping I wouldn't find a friend of his and let him have the trail. As I made it to the wilderness boundary and the approximate 15 million switchbacks, the vegetation only got thicker and there was little sign of trail in most spots. If anyone wants to frame me for murder, I left about 5 gallons of blood there so I'm sure you can figure out something. I would not recommend this trail in shorts and this is coming from a guy who only hikes in shorts, overgrown trails and all: this felt like nearly an off trail excursion in a lot of areas.

Eventually, I made it to the Winn Falls viewpoint which was flowing quite nicely and I could hear loudly even from that distance. Loud enough that I almost stepped on yet another black rattlesnake because I couldn't hear it's rattle. Noped out of there real quick and got back on "trail", anxious to get the last bit of climbing out of the way. Eventually the trail meets up with Cima creek and what bit of trail you have disappears almost entirely to brush and deadfall. This next mile to the cabin took almost an hour as I figured out the best path but was an enjoyable hour if nothing else. Cima Creek was flowing beautifully and there are tons of little slick rock waterfalls and fun little chutes that it flows through to keep things interesting. I made it to the cabin around 7:30 or so, set up my tent, and started a small fire to relax by for a little bit before bed. The forest service has carved a couple of big logs as benches which left a ton of good firewood making it easy on me.


Day 2 - Fog, snakes, snakes, snakes, aspens

I woke up early to the pitter patter of rain and looked outside to see the entire area covered in fog and some fierce winds. What I thought was rain was actually moisture collecting on the trees above me and then being blown off by the wind. This made for some great horror movie vibes but did get me thinking about my plan a bit. Originally, I had planned on hiking north on the crest trail this day and making a 10 mile loop, ending back in the same spot or maybe another mile or two south. After checking the weather report again, it looked like things were only going to get worse in this area that day and night so I made the decision to hike on down Snowshed to drop some elevation and just play it by ear. I made this decision in the great forest service outhouse by the cabin. Truly fantastic.
The first few miles were brutal with the wind whipping the trees into my face but also beautiful. I dipped down to Anita spring real quick to check it out and then I climbed up Chiricahua peak to be met with... well, nothing. I couldn't see anything more than a few feet in front of me due to the fog. Don't worry though, because there was another black rattlesnake in the trail. Joy. This one gave me fair warning, though, which was nice of him. The wind and fog continued until hitting Aspen saddle where the trail starts to turn East. Of note, there is some good camping at Aspen Saddle that is tucked away in the trees; I took a break behind the treeline to get out of the wind and they did a great job of blocking it. I went south on crest to check out eagle and juniper springs and right at the trail split, it seemed like a light switch was thrown and the fog dissipated and the wind died down to a much more manageable level. The views from here to Herb Martyr are just absolutely insane and I found myself stopping often to take pictures/record/stare. Eagle spring is somewhat sketchy to get to; it seems there's been a lot of erosion and it's a fairly steep path with lots of small rocks. I scooted it on my butt. Juniper was a lot easier to get to and it just off the trail. There are three catchments, all have seen better days, but all had water of one variety of algae or another. I refilled here and while it still had a slight brown color to it, it tasted fine.
Guess what else I saw here? I guess black snakes gotta drink, too, because it was just handing out on the rock where a seep is coming through. We were pretty far from each other, though. I asked how it's family was, it didn't answer which I thought was rude, but whatever.
The next few miles are more just descending, beautiful views, and stopping when you hear a rattlesnake next to you to see where it is and realizing it's 6 inches from your foot on the side of this mountain making you an olympic track star. Sounds monotonous, but this one wasn't black like the rest, so it added a little spice.
Eventually I made it to Herb Martyr trail which was a nice change of pace. Well, the pace was still DOWN but now we're in green trees instead of rocky mountainsides. I was able to move much faster on this section and was making the plan to just pick a spot at the campground potentially for the night. I knew when I was getting close: the scent of hot dogs and burgers could be smelled from a mile out. I eventually made it there around 6. I found a spot right outside of the campground by the creek that had obviously been used for tents before and just pitched mine, which became more interesting than it should have. Halfway through, I feel someone smacking my back. I turned around ready for anything to see... a 12 year old boy. Who was immediately mortified and let out a small, "I thought you were my dad", before running away. No, small child, I don't believe I am. That was the first person i saw since setting out the day before, though. Then I checked out the vault toilet in the campground. Review: 5 star. Think they had cleaned it for labor day as it was spotless, the toilet paper was fresh, and it smelled like lysol.

Day 3: Just a quick 1.5 mile hike out along forest road. Nothing special but still a pleasant area. Found a family car camping right near mine which surprised me but it's a beautiful spot, so I get it. Drove out to the National Monument for some more hiking.

Final Thoughts: This is an absolutely beautiful, phenomenal, amazing, and remote area. It's also extremely rugged, tough, and affected by fire. These factors result in a trail that at times is trying to throw you off the mountain due to erosion and, other times, trying to separate your legs from your body with the vegetation. I also saw more wildlife in this one trip than I have seen on many trips combined including two bears, a scorpion, snake after snake after snake, a couple coatis, 6+ herds of deer, and all sorts of birds I haven't seen before. I would recommend the area and these specific trails to anyone wearing pants in decent physical condition and I will be going back soon.
5.9 mi • 1,438 ft aeg
I did the full loop in one day leaving from the South Fork TH, branching off onto the Burro and then dropping down back to the top of South Fork and back.

It's important to know that large parts of the Burro Trail are almost completely burned out/lost. At times there are some slightly uncomfortable maneuvers in order to bridge the gap--i.e. scree ground at a steep angle leading down a steep cliff. Other times the catclaw has completely grown in. In short, it's a rough trail right now... and no trail in many places. As you get up to snow line, that gets even worse. It didn't look like anyone had been up there for a long time. So, there's no trail for the snow to lie horizontally on. Which means, there's no visible trail. I ended up pounding my way through hundreds of yards of icy snow. If I didn't punch a hole in the snow, I would have slid down and off a cliff. Often I had to go up steep inclines, on the ice, just to get to safer ground. Then finally dropped down a gully, through the snow, to get back onto South Fork. Once on South Fork, it was a cake walk.

Moral of the story, this trail is not at all maintained. And is a bit of a bear to get through. That being said, lots of beautiful views and indefinite solitude.
18 mi • 2,300 ft aeg
Car camped at Barfoot Park on night 1. Beautiful dispersed campsite next to a meadow, totally empty on a Saturday night in early October.

Lazy start Sunday morning after sleeping in and taking our time packing up, didn't get going until almost noon. Parked at the trailhead just outside the entrance gate to Rustler Park, currently it is $8 to park at the trailhead, but I displayed my Coronado National Forest recreation pass which covers the parking fee.

Hiked 42D to Long Park since it's shorter and more shaded than the first stretch of the Crest Trail. Encountered some "hunters" near Long Park shooting across East Turkey Creek Canyon toward the opposite ridge, which would be the wilderness boundary. We stopped and watched them for a minute, concerned and slightly perplexed that they would be shooting across a very large canyon. Guy claimed they spotted a deer on the opposite ridge, about 800 yards away :? I don't hunt so I am not familiar with hunting best practices, although I do fully support responsible hunting for anyone who eats meat. That said, 800 yards seems a bit wild, and if they are lucky enough to hit at that distance I imagine a kill shot would be unlikely, and more likely that they would disable the animal and then probably never find it if they actually attempted to retrieve it.

Crest Trail was in good shape the entire way, as expected. Wear pants if you have sensitive skin, as the vegetation can get scratchy and slightly overgrown, but nothing that clings to you like locust or catsclaw. Tons of aspen along the trail framing wonderful views to the west. Climbing out of Cima Park there were some incredible scenes of late-summer wildflower blooms intermingling with autumn-hued aspens. I've never seen a juxtaposition like that before. Thank you, record-breaking monsoon.

That evening we set up camp at Anita park under a young aspen grove. From Anita Park it's a short hike with a couple hundred foot drop to Anita Spring where there was plenty of water. That evening hiked a bit of the Monte Vista Peak trail to get some nice views to the northwest over Chiricahua National Monument and Dos Cabezas.

The next morning we hiked Chiricahua Peak for sunrise. The views are mostly non-existent, but you might as well bag it while you're there. On the hike out we checked out Cima Springs, Booger Springs, and Bear Wallow Springs. All had plenty of water.

Cima Springs: Didn't realize there was a spring box at Cima Springs until reviewing past triplogs today, but we observed a nice trickle in the canyon near the FS cabin in Cima Canyon with small pools that one could easily grab water from. Sweeping with the filter bag for a Sawyer squeeze filter could be challenging. Camping near the cabin looks great, and the Greenhouse Trail from the crest to the cabin is beautiful and in great shape.

Booger Springs: The trail to Booger Springs is overgrown from Round Park, but easy to follow. There are 2 catchments about 20 feet from each other, both had water, the farther upstream catchment has a cement cover that is difficult to remove.

Bear Wallow Springs: Cement cover over catchment has handles, so much easier to move than Booger Springs. Plenty of water, gorgeous canyon around the springs.

Bear Wallow Trail and Centella Trail were the prettiest of the weekend. Bear Wallow Springs is very lush, as is the Centella Trail approaching Fly's Park. Didn't do the side trip to Centella Point this time, although we've done it before and it is probably my favorite spot in the Chiricahua Wilderness. We got rained on pretty hard while hiking Bear Wallow and Centella Trails. Unpleasant since I forgot my rain gear (although I had my pack's rain gear), but it did saturate the vegetation which certainly made things prettier.

Wonderful trip into one of my favorite areas of the state. With the endless trails and reliable water sources, Chiricahuas are kind of a hidden backpackers paradise.
5.01 mi • 3,133 ft aeg
After five weeks of work with Wild Arizona and the Douglas Ranger District of the Coronado National Forest's Youth Conservation Corps crew, the full length of the Saulsbury Trail has been restored with several miles of rebenched tread, dozens of deadfall trees cut, and extensive corridor brushing and widening. Come check out and enjoy this beautiful trail while it's freshly maintained and in better condition than it has been in a decade post-Horseshoe II fire!
17 mi • 4,756 ft aeg
First exploration of the Chiricahua Wilderness! A fun adventure with my brother, whom I'd not seen in more than a year. Hopefully this log will be helpful for anyone seeking to plan a backpack into this area. There doesn't seem to be too many HAZ logs for these parts.

Here's a breakdown of our trip:
Day 1: Car camp at Herb Martyr Campground
Day 2: Hike up Herb Martyr Trail, dry camp at Pine Park (near Snowshed Trail junction)
Day 3: Camp at Anita Park
Day 4: Camp at Cima Cabin
Day 5 Hike out on Greenhouse Trail

Day 1
We drove from Phoenix to Portal on a Saturday afternoon. We car camped at Herb Martyr Campground. It was about half full (ie 2 other groups). There are some nice open walk-in sites, bear-proof trash cans and a toilet, just no running water.

Day 2
We started our hike from the campground parking lot on the Herb Martyr Trail (which is marked "Basin Trail 247" at the TH). The hike takes you up into the mountain at a steady pace. Our goal was to dry camp at Pine Park, just 3 miles, but 2200 feet in elevation gain. We each carried 6L of water and it took us 2.5 hours. Set up camp and enjoyed time soaking in the views and the sunset.

Day 3
We continued on Snowshed Trail on our way to the Crest Trail. This section of the wilderness was badly burned in the Horseshoe II fire in 2011. It is very exposed, hot and dry, but being between 8000-9000ft elevation the breeze kept us cool enough. We planned to fill up water at Deer Creek, which seemed to be running slowly, but I misread the map and thought it wasn't the right spot so we kept going. Skipping the spring would haunt us a bit later as we started running low on water after last night's dry camp.

At the trail junction on Snowshed Saddle, we attempted to find Aspen Trail #246A to take us around Aspen Peak on the northeast side, but we couldn't find the trail amongst all the young aspen trees. Rather than go all the way around to the southwest side, we opted just to go off-trail straight up and over Aspen Peak and down to Aspen Saddle.

From Aspen Saddle we ran down to Headquarters Spring, which I had read on a local blog was fairly reliable. But alas, the spring was bone dry. Rather than trying our luck at Ojo Agua Fria (an extra mile round trip), we opted to go over to Anita Park and see if we could find water at Anita Spring. As luck would have it, there was a perfectly nice cool pool of water waiting for us at Anita Spring. Thrilling.

We opted to camp at Anita Park that night, next to a nice young grove of Aspen Trees that gave us protection from the wind, which eventually died down. The camp spot was also pretty safe as far as any potential treefall from the many dead ponderosas in the area. Total for the day ~6 miles (Pine Park to Anita Park w/ spring hunting).

Day 4
Leaving Anita Park we took the Crest up to Cima Park. There are some incredible views on this section of trail. At Cima Park we took the Greenhouse Trail down, attempting to find Cima Spring and a potential place to camp on our last night. Where Cima Spring is marked on the map, there was a spring box but it was dry. We continued on maybe just 0.5 mile further and came to a couple idyllic forest service cabins with an amazing camping area, fire ring, clean pit toilet and spring box full of water. It was set in an unburned section of pine forest, which is fairly rare in this area. What a find! We camped here, of course. We also enjoyed a nice day hike up to Round Park for lunch.

Day 5
We finished off the Greenhouse Trail and a bit of primitive road hiking to finish the loop to the car at Herb Martyr. Greenhouse Trail is only about 4 miles but it drops about 3000 feet. There is a neat viewpoint of Winn Falls, which were dry this time of year (late May) but I'm told are often icy and running in early spring.

Overall, this is a really cool place, as long as you are OK with hiking up steep mountains, scrounging for springs at times (as we do in AZ) and walking through some pretty heavily fire damaged areas. We experienced tremendous solitude -- after leaving the campground on Sunday we didn't see another soul until returning to the car on Wednesday. That was pretty special.
14.6 mi • 4,100 ft aeg
The road all the way to the end of Turkey Creek Road (FR41) was in good shape. If care is taken (or you have a rental), a passenger car could make it. However since rainfall has been scarce this year, in wet years, I’d go with at least a high clearance vehicle.

There’s not much unburnt country left to see in the Chiricahua’s but this loop maybe your best option to see some of the remaining forest of old. We went further on this trip but we did the entire loop. We started up Mormon Canyon which had a little water in the lower sections. There’s a lot of big pines to see here but this trail needs work. Especially in the last part of the canyon creek (dry) prior to the switchbacks that you’ll have to hike up. There’s also a short stretch of numerous downed small diameter dead trees in the final push to were this trail meets the Mormon Ridge trail in a saddle. Route finding maybe a challenge in these parts so you may want to bring a GPS track 👎

Our plan was to spend the night on Chiricahua Peak so we headed up Mormon Ridge from the above mentioned saddle. This stretch was easy to follow but had some downfall to contend with. Parts of this section burned moderately but this stretch is recovering with some dense Aspen stands and a small part of the old forest still survives.

The next part of our trip was on the Crest trail and my description will sound a little confusing. The Crest is a Y shaped trail and I recommend looking at a map. We hit the Crest partially in the southwestern leg of the Y which heads towards Monte Vista Peak. In about 100’ you’ll come to another trail junction in another saddle. Going left (east) here takes you below the southwest and south sides of Chiricahua Peak and towards the southeastern leg of the Y. This section will give you a feel of what the Chiricahua’s used to look like and is easy to follow. We crossed over this south side crossover and reached the southeastern leg of the Crest trail which leads to Sentinel Peak. Go left here (north) and shortly you’ll arrive at the Ojo Agua Fria Spring junction. At this junction is were you’ll need to hike up the faint to non-existent trail to get to the peak. Its simple, just hike up the obvious ridge if you can’t find the trail.

The peak is a dry camp so we needed to get water before we hiked up the ridge to the peak. From past trips I knew Ojo Agua Fria Spring which is just to the east had a good chance of having water. Its not the easiest to get to, its signed but tricky to follow. Once at the spring we found it to have a surprisingly strong flow rate of about 2 GPM. For those of you reading this years from now, this year has been historically abnormally dry. It is a little plunge off the Crest trail to get to this spring. My advice is to follow the sawed logs and be alert for a couple of switchbacks. We didn’t check the closer and nearby Headquarters Spring.

In the morning we descended the north side of Chiricahua Peak on a well maintained trail. This leads to the third leg of the Y which heads north toward Anita and Rustler Parks. The descent off the peak is packed with Aspen and I saw no signs of dreaded New Mexican locust. We were also treated to the golden color of fall time Aspens here.

Overall it was nice to see pines coming back on the Crest and elsewhere on this backpack. There’s not a mighty forest of pines coming back but there’s a good amount. The Aspens are also coming back and most of the forest around the peak except the north side have survived the previous fires (for now).

We made it back to the Mormon Ridge trail and headed down to the saddle were the Mormon Canyon trail connects. Its a little tricky at the saddle but just follow the ridge down for a minute and you’ll pick it up. Its easy to follow from here but is getting overgrown in area’s. Its exposed to the sun so I don’t recommend hiking up this trail. The 2 trailheads are about 3/4 mile apart and the road walk sucked. Its possible to avoid the road walk by hiking cross country.
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