Chuck Darwin, Eat Your Heart Out

Up at Dawn? Too Late: Tricks to Navigating Arizona's Wildest Outposts

Feb 1, 1999
Outside Magazine

Getting There: The Chiricahuas are hidden in Arizona's southeastern corner, a stone's throw from New Mexico and not far from old Mexico. The most convenient launching place for a Chiricahuas trip is Tucson; America West flies there from LA for $115 roundtrip, and from New York for about $400. Once there, rent a car from Dollar (800-800-4000), starting at $145 a week. A 4WD isn't mandatory, as most of the range's dirt roads are sedan-navigable except during torrential flash floods.
The best way to first see the range—trust me—is to leave Tucson two-and-a-half hours before sunrise. Head 135 miles east on I-10 to Roadforks, just over the New Mexico line, and then go south on U.S. 80. About 15 miles later the road goes through a pass and aims straight at Cave Creek Canyon. Pull over here and watch as the sun lights first the mountains and then the San Simon Valley in front of you. It's a sublime experience.

If you can't face life that early, head for Chiricahua National Monument instead by exiting I-10 at Willcox, 80 miles east of Tucson, and taking Arizona 186, and then Arizona 181, to the monument entrance (35 miles). Admission is $6 per car.
Lodging: At the monument, a 25-site campground ($8 per night) provides flush toilets and running water. Or bunk at Sunglow Guest Ranch in West Turkey Creek Canyon, 12 miles south of the monument (doubles, $65-$85; 520-824-3334). The rooms are modern, but the cookhouse dates from the 1870s.
Gearing Up: Spring temperatures in the Chiricahuas can range from 90-plus degrees at the base to below freezing at the top. Layer, layer, layer—and take a waterproof shell, as winter rains, and snows, sometimes persist into April. Grocery shopping opportunities become limited and more expensive near the mountains. Stock up in a hub such as Tucson, Willcox, or Bisbee. And gas up wherever possible—the closest station is 10 miles away in Rodeo, New Mexico. For last-minute camping gear purchases or rentals, try the Summit Hut in Tucson (520-325-1554).
For more information, call Chiricahua National Monument headquarters (520-824-3358) or visit the monument's Web page at

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