Backpacking trips near Tucson

May 5, 2004
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Backpacking trips near Tucson

Backpacking trips near Tucson
Question: What would you suggest for a Thanksgiving backpacking trip in southern Arizona or New Mexico? I'll be flying into Tucson if that helps to pinpoint the area. I have a week to spend there.

I don't know the area at all, but my backpacking partner is familiar with it. I'd like to know about the climate and trail conditions at that time of year, too. Also, do you know the area's regulations concerning fires?

Tina Treadwell
Portland, ME
[email protected]

Backpack over volcanic rock and through aspen forests in Arizona

Adventure Adviser: Chiricahua National Monument and the surrounding Coronado National Forest is an amazing wilderness area approximately 120 miles southeast of Tucson.

Chiricahua is comprised of incredible volcanic rock formations that have heavily eroded, leaving them standing like pillars guarding the wilderness. But the most amazing fact about this area is that you can hike through five different biological zones from cactus deserts to the "sky islands" where you'll find spruce and aspen forests.

Though there's occasional snowfall in November, temperatures usually remain a pleasant 64 degrees during the day and drop to 36 degrees at night. But that's in the monument. Where you'll likely backpack, plan on temperatures 10 degrees cooler.

Within the monument itself, there are few long hiking trails, but the neighboring Coronado National Forest offers 111 miles of trails, including the Crest Trail that will take you to 9,796-foot Chiricahua Peak, the highest point in the range.

I'd like to recommend a specific hike, but your best bet is to get a hold of the Chiricahua Mountains Trail and Recreation Topo Map (scale 1:62,500) available at most Tucson hiking stores and at the Chiricahua National Monument.

The entry fee to the Chiricahua National Monument is $6 per car, but there's only one campground there ($8 per night). The bonus is that it has running water and heated toilets year-round.

The Coronado National Forest has both primitive and established campsites, but you won't find running water at either. No permits are needed for backpacking in the forest, but for more details, call the Forest Service's Douglas office at 520-364-3468. For information on the Chiricahua National Monument headquarters call 520-824-3560, extension 104.

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