We’d been waiting for a month for road construction at the Chiricahua National Monument to be completed before visiting. With time running out, we took a chance that a spot would be open at Bonita Canyon, the monument’s campground. Arriving at 8:30 am Monday morning did the trick, and we scored the only open spot in this tiny campground, #1 for $12 a night.
After a quick stop at the Visitor Center to discuss hiking options with the ranger, we departed for Echo Canyon, a little more than 3 miles one way. Most of the trails in the Chiricahuas were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s. While uphill the whole way, they are graded in such a way that it did not seem too difficult. Their quality craftsmanship stands as a testament to their skills even today.
The scenery was so astounding that we just kept going up the Lower Rhyolite, then Upper Rhyolite trails, on through the Grottoes and all the way up to Massai Point. Most visitors ride the shuttle up to Massai Point and then walk the 5 miles back down to the Visitor Center. The road was still closed to construction, so we trekked both ways.
At the top, the weather started to turn really cold, the wind picked up. Sure enough, snow started falling in the Ed Riggs trail section and then hail hit us through the stretch known as Hailstone. We all but ran the trail back down the Rhyolites to the Visitor Center and finally to the campground, freezing all the way. We were sorely unprepared but made a vow to do better in the future.
A six-mile hike turned in to more than ten, but we can’t wait to go back in our next trip to the southwest.