Part two in our exploration of Arizona’s National Parks.
We have discovered not only that there are a plethora of parks in Arizona, but that a good amount of them are perfect for day trips. National Parks are incredible preservations of nature, often highlighting a significant aspect of American culture and encouraging people to explore natural rock formations, caves, mountains, lakes, and forests.
The National Parks of Arizona have yet to let us down. We last visited the Coronado National Memorial where we learned about the Spanish and Mexican influence in our culture and explored a 600 foot deep cave. This time, we grabbed our passports and our friends and drove a few hours away to see some pretty spectacular rock formations.
Chiricahua National Monument
The monument was created in 1924. The Chiricahua Mountains are an inactive volcanic range surrounded by desert grasslands. The monument is in a particularly exquisite area that once experienced quite violent volcanic activity. The ash formed into rocks and through the passing of time, incredible rock formations, forests, and wildlife have created an ecosystem that is worth venturing out to see.
Our first stop was in the Visitor Center to stamp our passports. All of the National Parks should have a stamp station, and additionally should have passports on sale if you don’t have one already! Our friends J and M picked one up! The stamps always have the name of the park and the date you visit so it’s an awesome way to keep track of where you’ve been and have a memento that lasts a lifetime.
We spent a little time in the Visitor Center perusing their prickly pear jam selection, as well as learning about the local plant and animal life. Apparently the rocks of the Chiricahuas are called “rhyolite” and the monument was created to protect them.
We planned a three mile hike so that we could see many of the rock formations, which sometimes tower hundreds of feet into the air.
Echo Canyon Loop Trail
There is an iconic rock formation known as “Pinnacle Balanced Rock” that is probably the most photographed feature of the park. Unfortunately, it is over a seven mile hike to see it and this girl had not brought enough snacks (or let’s face it, leg muscles) to brave that trek.
However, the incredible and totally reasonable Echo Canyon Loop Trail worked perfectly with our 1:30pm arrival time and promised to show off the features of the park spectacularly well.
Beyond the rock formations, there are plenty of faults, lava flows, and other caves to explore along the route. Our friend J got extremely excited about the prospect of bouldering and quickly talked everyone into climbing on basically everything. Let’s just say, it took us a little over three hours to go three miles.
None of us could get over the rock formations. Everywhere you turned there was a valley of spires, balancing boulders, or tumbling caves and formations with jagged pieces. It was red and brown and orange. It was just stunning. I couldn’t put my camera away.
According to the National Parks website, the “Apaches called this place ‘The Land of Standing-Up Rocks,’” and one can see why.
This crevice was super cool! As we hiked down into a valley, we felt an incredible wind whipping through this formation. It was great to stand right in the opening and feel a fierce cold wind on a hot summer day in the desert.
This park is such a treasure.
We found some water! The summer monsoons have greened up the countryside and left their evidence in a little bit of running water through the mountains. We also spotted a snake at the bottom of this little creek.
We’re not sure what this plant was, but it was growing out of some kind of cactus and grew super tall. They lined one part of the trail.
Guys, I seriously suggest that you check out a National Park close to you. There are some seriously cool things in nature that are worth the time and effort it takes to see and experience them.
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Until next time,