I imagine that when people hear or read “national monument,” they think of some statue, like the Lincoln Memorial, or a historic home, such as George Washington’s birthplace. In our explorations, we have been pleasantly surprised to learn that this is generally not the case.

Chiricahua National Monument, situated in the southeastern corner of Arizona outside of Willcox and near the New Mexico border, is a case in point. It has all the characteristics of a national park, just not its governmental protections (that’s a topic for another time).

Chiricahua (pronounced cheericawa) National Monument has an informative visitor center, miles of hiking trails, unique wildlife, a campground, picnic areas, horse trails (and parking for horse trailers), canyons, pinnacles, grottos, and incredible views. It starts around 5000 ft elevation, with its highest point near the 9800 ft mark. This year, 2024, marks its 100th year as a preserved and protected area, and it is worth one’s time to veer off the beaten path to visit.

This location is definitely on our do-again list. We didn’t arrive until the middle of a Monday afternoon because we made two stops on the way—one to view “The Thing” at a road stop off I-10 and the other to visit the Fort Bowie National Historic Site. At Chiricahua (named after the Chiricahua Apaches who used to consider this area part of their homeland), we took the 8-mile scenic drive to the top, walked the Massai Nature Trail, and hiked to the Echo Canyon Grotto. Dusk arrived quicker than we wanted, so we didn’t have a chance to check out other areas of the park (oops … monument) before we left.

If you travel to Arizona, put Chiricahua National Monument on your list of places to visit! [Another national monument we visited in Arizona in 2021: Southern AZ –  Ajo and Organ Pipe Cactus NM.]

Views around Chiricahua, NM:

Fort Bowie National Historic Site

Part of Army operations between 1862 and 1886, fighting against the Chiricahua Apaches for control over the Apache Pass and Apache Springs. Geronimo surrendered in 1886, and his people were rounded up and sent to Florida. It is sad to know this is part of U.S. history, but it is true nonetheless. The location is way off the beaten path, a couple of miles down a dirt road. Now it is mostly ruins, with a visitor center and the original flag pole.

The Thing

A roadside attraction off of I-10 in southeastern Arizona. Did aliens control dinosaurs? Were they responsible for the rise and fall of various civilizations? Were alien remains found in an Arizona mine? What if? An entertaining museum …