Chiricahua National Monument is located 120 miles southeast of Tucson. It is famous for the enormous collection of odd shaped rock pinnacles that populate the higher regions of the park. They are examples of “sky islands”, an isolated group of mountains without foothills.
This landscape is the remains of a massive volcanic eruption that occurred about 27 million years ago. The event is referred to as the Turkey Creek Caldera Eruption and is estimated to be close to 1,000 times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. After the eruption, erosion over eons shaped these formations.
The Chiricahua Mountains were part of the traditional homeland of the Chiricahua Band of the Apache Indian nation. In 1886 Swedish immigrants Neil and Emma Erickson settled in Bonita Canyon, a part of the mountains. They raised cattle and planted vegetables and fruit trees. Eventually they turned their property into “guest ranching”. They provided horses to ride and offered trail tours. This property is now called Faraway Ranch Historic District.
Their oldest daughter, Lillian, ran the business. She later married a man named Ed Riggs who promoted the area as a tourist attraction and possible National Monument. He succeeded. In 1924 Chiricahua National Monument was established. In 2008, the Chiricahua National Monument Historic Designed Landscape, covering roughly 80% of the National Monument, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There is an eight mile paved scenic drive and seventeen miles of hiking trails in this National Park. The elevation ranges from 5,124 feet at the entrance to 7,310 feet at the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain. The Echo Canyon Trail and the Heart of Rocks Trail offer spectacular views of balanced rocks, spires and pinnacles.