An old saying goes something like, “there is nothing new under the sun,” but apparently, whoever said that didn’t know Arizona was home to Chiricahua, a brand new National Monument.
The newest gem of the United States National Parks system is currently designated a national monument – on its way to full designation as a National Park – thanks to a recent unanimous U.S. Senate vote.
Chiricahua is as old as the continent on which it resides, the product of a massive volcanic eruption in what would become North America some 27 million years ago. Set in Southern Arizona, this distinctive collection of rock formations, or “Wonderland of Rocks” as it is commonly known, has been a source of refuge, inspiration, healing, and home for native tribes going back thousands of years.
About 12,000 years ago, the first Paleoindian tribes lived, hunted, and gathered here near the great rock formation nestled in the Chiricahua Mountains along Lake Cochise’s shores.
When the lake dried up, other indigenous peoples lived and thrived here for millennia to come.
Later evolutions in the geography and environmental habitats surrounding the Chiricahua led to advancements in settlements and eventually more of a focus on farming in the area that continued until settlers began making their way west into the region.
These remnants of long-ago communities are still being uncovered in various archeological expeditions in the area, unlocking the secrets of the far away lives of these resilient and complex tribes. Visitors and excavators find pottery, beads, arrowheads, and stone tools that can be dated back to these ancient tribes.
This incredible history is only one attraction luring the wild at heart to southern Arizona and the Chiricahua National Monument.
Like many areas in the rural southwest, Chiricahua is a hiker’s paradise, offering day hikes as easy as a stroll in the park to serious, rugged, mountainous terrain for those looking to test themselves against the elements.
It is essential that all visitors remember to pack plenty of water, apply sunscreen, and bring outerwear as the change in elevations can be sudden and can get chilly quickly.
Beyond the miles and miles of prime hiking territory, these trails and others are also open to horseback riding and other approved pack animals like mules and donkeys. Other activities include camping under the stars in the beautiful backcountry or visiting one of the many historic sites, including the Faraway Ranch, where visitors can glimpse the recent past and taste what life was like in the great, wild west in the early days of westward expansion. Or consider a leisurely drive around Bonita Canyon is the order of the day or a quiet picnic on a cool morning, taking in the stunning vistas surrounding the picnic grounds.
For visitors of all interests and adventures, Chiricahua, the soon-to-be newest member of the illustrious United States National Parks system, is a can’t miss destination!