Echo Canyon Loop is one of our favorite hikes in Chiricahua National Monument. This trail in the southeastern corner of Arizona offers plenty of photo opportunities for Alan and just enough hiking to satisfy the active boomer in me. Plus it puts us in the scene rather than looking at it. From my report on visiting the pyramids in Cairo, you already know how I feel about that. Oh, and did I mention it’s an off-the-beaten-path Arizona experience?
Unfortunately, on May 8, 2011, the human-caused Horseshoe Two fire damaged much of the landscape. Bonita Drive is currently closed above the campground but hiking trails are open and accessible from the visitor’s center. Hikers are advised to watch their footing due to fire damage. The photo essay that you see here is our tribute to Echo Canyon Loop Trail and the former beauty of the Chiricahuas. May it return to us soon.
From the visitors center, drive up Bonita Creek Drive to Masai Point for an inspiring view, then turn the car back downhill to Echo Canyon Loop Trailhead. Echo Canyon Loop Trail, a 3.3-mile-round-trip hike, winds through the Grottoes and Wallstreet. A park brochure suggests taking the two-hour hike counter-clockwise to avoid a hilly ascent back to your car. We highly recommend that option. Another choice is to catch the park shuttle (currently not operating due to fire damage on the road) to Echo Canyon Loop Trailhead and hike the 4.2 miles back down to the visitor’s center.
The Apache called the Chiricahuas the Land of the Standing Up Rocks. After all, it was their territory, they could call it anything they liked. To me the formations look like stone soldiers marching down a mountainside.
Along the trail, boomers will discover unusual rhyolite formations like these two stone columns leaning against each other. For now, the green trees are probably gone.
At some points, Echo Canyon Loop Trail travels between the rocks. On our visit, a forested green hillside populated with more stone formations was just around the corner. Today? We just don’t know.
Alan and I are not likely to give up on the Chiricahuas. In fact, we hope to visit the “Wonderland of Rocks” later this year when we return to Arizona. If you have time, take a drive down to this part of the state. The bed and breakfasts, restaurants and local tour operators need your business. As the Arizona Daily Star reports, the Chiricahuas are greening up.