[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
On the road to Portal Arizona

Refuel in 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.

Portal Store Portal Arizona
This feels like an old Eagles album cover.

Hike in Chiricahua National Monument — “A Wonderland of Rocks”

Hiking in Chiricahua National Monument

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.

Chiricahua National Monument canyon view

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.

Chiricahua National Monument balancing rock
Trail in Chiricahua National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument canyon rocks


More Information on Chiricahua National Monument

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.

Here’s a great place to stay when visiting this national monument, about a half hour away, just across the New Mexico border.

— Last Visited April 2019 — 

2 Discussions on
  • WOW so much beauty in one area. Thank you so much for this post as I have never heard of this park…but you knew most people haven’t. Your photos as spectacular.
    I am adding this to the bucket list.

    • It’s cool, nobody there. Great for a half-day. Not a huge park, but great to add on when you’re down in that area.

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