[PORTAL, ARIZONA] — Chiricahua National Monument is one of the least visited national parks in the United States. When I heard that fact I said “I am definitely in.”
You can see why, tucked into this vast, barren southwestern corner of the US, you’re not “going through” here on the way to somewhere else, you came here for a reason. And so did we.
This is the high desert down here, with elevations starting around 5,000 feet and going up to 7500 ft inside the park, so it’s a lot cooler than the surrounding flat desert.
On the road to Portal Arizona
Portal is the gateway to the southern side of national monument, with its own funky lodge/grocery store/bar/restaurant right at the foot of the park’s looming mountains. Here is where you stock up on your essentials in their very spartan grocery section (but you’d be better off to shop at a big grocery store in a larger city before coming to this corner of the world.)
They have a decent restaurant and big outdoor patio where eery sunset all the lodgers and campers come to dance a jig to a cover band. This feels like and Eagles album cover.
This feels like an old Eagles album cover.
Known as”A Wonderland of Rocks, Chiricahua National Monument is a geological wonder. Formed when a giant volcano spewed lava all across this region and time, wind and water slowly eroded all the lava until it formed these endless towers of hoodoos and toadstools.
It’s a relatively small national park, with 8 miles of paved roads that lap through the park and 17 miles of trails, you can visit it all in a day. Hiking in Chiricahua National Monument is pretty easy. There’s one big loop that circles the park in about 3 miles, the perfect length for any hike, with very little elevation gains.
The park is spectacular, but also “monotonously beautiful” with pretty much the same type of scenery throughout. You really don’t need to spend more than a couple of hours here. The park is also known as a birder’s destination.
Would I get on a plane and fly to Tucson, then drive two hours to this small park? No. But if you’re in the area, it’s a perfect day hike. Combined with a stay at the very cool Painted Pony Resort/ranch from my other post and now you’re talking.
Here is the National Park Service page for Chiricahua National Monument. And a Plan Your Visit page. The Trip Advisor reviews and suggestions on the park and the official Arizona state tourism page on the park. And this is a really good overview page of the park, with descriptions of hikes, vistas and sites.
— Last Visited April 2019 —
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