Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chiricahua Peak

Chiricahua Peak via Rustler Park
Chiricahua Wilderness Area
Coronado National Forest
Cochise County, Arizona
Mileage - 11.77
Time - 4:24
AEG - 2,712ft

Southern Arizona is home to some of the most unique and diverse mountain ranges in the Southwest known as "sky islands."  Named after the Chiricahua Apache Indians, this towering range rises high above the desert floor with the peak gaining over 5,000 feet of prominence, ranking it 4th on the top 100 list of prominent peaks in the state. 

I was eager to return to the Chiricahuas after a trip to the National Monument two years ago on this very same Thanksgiving weekend.  This trip would be a little more ambitious in terms of hiking, reaching two high points in the Chiricahuas and checking two more prominent peaks off the list; Chiricahua and Cochise Head.  I chose to drive, so Matt and Ben met at my place around 5:00am Friday morning for the 4.5 hour drive to the Rustler Park trailhead in the Coronado National Forest.  Just outside the national monument on AZ 181, we headed South on the surprisingly smooth Pinery Canyon Road to FR42/FR42D to reach Rustler Park at 8,300ft. 

At 10:00am we began hiking South along the Crest Trail #270 towards our first destination; Flys Peak (above right).  Even though there is extensive damage from the 2008 fire, the trail is in pretty good condition and very easy to follow.  It's sad to see the forest destroyed, although the views are now opened to see for miles in every direction.  Just beyond the wilderness boundary sign we made our approach toward the summit of Flys Peak.  It was a tough climb, and an off-trail scramble at times, but the view was worth the effort.  We signed the register and dropped down the Southern slope of Flys to re-connect with the Crest Trail to reach our final destination.  Chiricahua Peak is one of those anti-climatic summits with the entire peak being covered with trees and brush.  The real significance was knowing we reached the highest point in the county at 9,759ft.  On the return it was the crest trail all the way, and the three of us made it back to the car quickly so we could set up camp in the national monument before dark.

Silver Peak (Far Right)
Matt, Boone, and Ben on the Crest Trail
A glimpse of Cochise Head from the Crest Trail

Park Ranger told us there was an estimated 400-500 black bears in the Chiricahuas


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