The Best Hikes in Chiricahua Wilderness

334 Triplog Reviews in the Chiricahua Wilderness
Most recent of 93 deeper Triplog Reviews
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.
6.1 mi • 3,346 ft aeg
 This was the first part of what was to be a multi day trip in the Chiricahua mountains. After meeting Johnny Ringo I drove past the trail head on the main access road twice before noticing it. I parked my car on a pull out section, wasn't sure if I could but this was the best I could find. Hard to find is a recurring theme.

The Mormon Ridge trail is currently clear of any downed trees, but it is rugged and not marked well. It is also very faint in many places. Quite often I found myself double checking to make sure I was still on. It is pretty much straight up with only a few sections of switch backs. Really nice views as you get closer to the top. As you get closer to the top some older trails maps and triplogs say the trail veers right. I found and the Green Trails map I had confirmed it would veer left in a long switchback that eventually comes and meets the Crest Trail #270, the Chiricahua Peak trail and very close to the Anita Park/Spring trail. Some trail signs are on the ground,some very worn, so I was glad I had maps and GPS to assist with navigation once I reached that section.

Again, nice views, and you are definitely earning them with this straight up climb.

Additionally Anita Spring trail is marked but faint, and you will do some tree hopping to get to the spring.It was trickling,full of water, cold and refreshing. A tree fell right next to it to make for a nice seat while you enjoy.

The other trails I hiked ranged from good to terrible. The Crest trail was clear and easy to follow with signs at many junctions. However, take that with grain of salt and check your headings, I found myself not trusting them that much.

I spent the night near Ojo Aqua Frio spring but never looked for it as I had plenty of water from Anita Spring. There is a lot of dead fall in the area but there is also a wonderful site to camp on that is east of the Crest trail and looks directly west. Tent and hammock friendly.

Unfortunately,for me the weather turned bad that night. High winds, rain and the clouds just sat on me all day. After half a day it wasn't clearing I headed back down. Trying my luck I went via the Saulsbury Trail. This is just a bad trail until you get way down in the canyon and even then it meanders and is hard to follow. The lower portion has some orange flagging tape but eventually that person got lost too and stopped marking it. :) At the top, it went from obvious, to faint, to is this a game trail to where did it go? Using map, compass and GPS I ended up doing a bit of bushwhacking (the rain and fog did not make following this any easier). I even found remnants of other hikers as well, a fleece jacket stuck on some thorns. All told I went over, under or around 103 trees from top to bottom.

I understand the whole area is much like this due to the past forest fires and weather events. It was hard, and if looking for a challenge, these are your trails. Eventually, I will try to get back to finish the rest of my trip.

8.23 mi • 1,921 ft aeg
 The weather on Sunday was much colder than Saturday. Daniela and I started from Rustler Park in plenty of wind and fog. There was sporadic slushy rain on the way to Flys Peak. At the summit, we took a quick break sheltered under some trees, but no views as everything was in the fog. The plan was to continue to Chiricahua Peak, but after another half mile or so, I decided that it wasn't worth the walk over there since we couldn't see anything anyway, so we turned around. On the way back, we spotted one coatimundi, who climbed a tree next to the trail and threw some bark and loose branches at us while we took pictures. Daniela had never seen one before. Despite turning around early, it was still a pleasant hike, and I'll head back in a month of two to explore some of the other trails.
8 mi • 1,600 ft aeg
 Instead of the Month Vista loop, we went for the next closest peak, Fly's Peak. It was a beautiful trek in on the Crest trail. Fly's Peak trail was pretty ragged. The trail was faint and many downed trees obscured the path. I did plenty of hopping up and down off of logs. And my logs got plenty scratched from all the bushes. The peak itself is beautiful. We accidentally went down the section of the Fly's peak trail that intersects with the Crest trail about .5 miles past the first intersection for fly's peak.

This mistake was fortunate though. If you decide to climb Fly's Peak take the second junction for Fly's Peak. The trail is easier to find and free from fallen debris and thorny bushes. The ascent is also quicker than from the other side, if you're impatient like me
0 mi • 4,300 ft aeg
 We tried to drive out to this one today to enjoy the nice weather. Unfortunately looks like the area has recently seen some heavy rainfall. At 6 miles from the 181 on Turkey Creek Rd, we hit a large pool about 5 inches deep. Since we were driving a passenger car, we turned back. At the moment this hike is for larger vehicle or people who want to hoof it in
4.12 mi • 4,876 ft aeg
 Attempted to day hike Rucker Canyon Trail to Price Canyon Trail to Crest Trail 270C to Crest Trail 270D to Crest Trail 270B to Raspberry Ridge Trail. Rucker is in good shape till it turns and makes it's way to Price Canyon Trail. It becomes a bush whack with a trail fading in and out. This continues for miles till it arrives at the "junction" with Snowshed Trail (not sure where that was). We gave up after searching and backtracked. GPS highly recommended, all we had were updated maps.
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