Chiricahua National Monument

By Jeff Insel

My wife and I decided on a short 3-night getaway this week and selected Cochise county as we’d never been there and knew it would be a bit cooler weather. We wanted to explore the Chiricahua National Monument which was established in 1924. It is also called a Sky Island.

We wanted to stay at a B&B and selected the Dream Catcher B&B located about 13 miles from the Monument and central to other places to explore. This turned out to be a wonderful decision – nice rooms and a very hospitable owner who’s an excellent cook. Turns out a lot of the local wildlife visit the B&B – roadrunners, javelina, Coues deer and many birds and quail.

Dreamcatcher BB Sign
Coues Deer


Scaled Quail

We were lucky that there were very few vehicles on the road at any time of day so it was easy to enjoy the wide expanse of the valley and Chiricahua Mountains. The Chiricahua National Monument is very unique. Rising to 9,763 ft, the Chiricahua sky island is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals from four ecosystems that meet in this range. It is known for many species of birds. Since the early 1400’s, southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico have been home to the Chiricahua Apaches.

Pinion Jay

This Monument is the Land of Standing Up Rocks (as the Chiricahua Apaches called them). Its rock pinnacle origins began 27 million years ago when eruptions from the Turkey Creek volcano spewed ash over 1200 sq miles. These super-heated ash particles melted together, forming layers of gray rock called rhyolite. Cooling and subsequent uplifting created joints and cracks in the rhyolite. Eons of weathering by ice wedging and erosion by water enlarged the cracks. While on one of our hikes we saw A10 Thunderbolts flying overhead, from Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson.

Big Hand Rock
Chiricahua Mountains
Leaning rocks
Tree between rocks
Vertical Organ Pipe rocks
Rocks to the Sky
Rocks into the valley
A10 Thunderbolt

During our stay we endured high winds daily and temperatures ranged from a low of 37 degrees to a high of 72 degrees. Several days we observed a lot of dust devils in the valley just south of I-10 and along the Kansas-Settlement road.

Jeff Insel is a Photo Guide for Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.