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Chiricahua National Monument

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We recently visited Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona. It was on a whim. We needed a place to stay as we made our way east through the southwest and our National Geographic Adventure Atlas showed a green blob on the map. So, we went! And we were not disappointed. It was awesome! If you find yourself traveling through the southwest, we highly recommend stopping at Chiricahua National Monument!

General Info for Chiricahua National Monument

This park is located 35 miles southeast of the small town of Wilcox. It’s a little under two hours from Tucson and close to the New Mexico border. If you have four wheel drive and a vehicle with high clearance you may be able to take one of the unpaved roads out of the park when you leave to see something new. Otherwise, you’ll have to backtrack like we did and go out the way you came. The drive out there is remote so be prepared to lose a cell phone signal.

Visitor Center

There is one visitor center in the park. It’s located along Bonita Canyon Drive. It’s open 8:30am to 4:30pm.

Rules

There are bears and mountain lions in this park so store your food safely! There are food storage lockers located in the campground for those of you who are sleeping in tents. For more info on bear safety, head here.

Pets are not allowed on the trails. They must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet long.

Drones are not allowed.

You may not camp anywhere other than the Bonita Canyon Campground.

Rock climbing and bouldering is prohibited.

Bicycles are not allowed on any of the trails but you may ride them on the roads. Just beware of the limited shoulder.

Chiricahua National Monument Phone Number

520-824-3560

Park Website

www.nps.gov/chir

Best Things to Do in Chiricahua National Monument

Take a tour of the Faraway Ranch House

Step back in time by taking a tour that Swedish immigrants built. During the winter, when we visited, tours are only available on Saturdays and Sundays. They become more regular during the spring.

Go for a hike!

Best Things to Do in Chiricahua National Monument

One of the cool finds along the nature trail at Massai Point.

There are a number of trails to explore in Chiricahua National Monument. In fact, if you stay at the campground and hike along the Silver Spur Meadow Trail, you will actually end up passing the old Stafford Cabin as well as Faraway Ranch, mentioned above. The trail is nice and flat and crosses the creek a few times.

The Sugarloaf trail is another popular trail. It’s about .9 miles to the summit (1.8 miles roundtrip) and will give you a great view of the beautiful ‘rock wonderland’ below you. The summit of Sugarloaf sits at about 7,310 feet and is one of the highest points around.

For a more complete list of hikes at Chiricahua National Monument go here.

See a sunrise or sunset at Massai Point

Best Things to Do in Chiricahua National Monument

Sugarloaf Mountain in Chiricahua National Monument

If you are looking for a great sunrise or sunset, this is the place for both. If you arrive early enough (or want to stick around after the sun comes up), there are also some great trails up there! The short nature trail has some interpretive signs to help you learn a little bit more about the area and there are others which will take you down into a canyon or to a grotto.

Drive along the scenic Bonita Canyon Drive

This road is about 8 miles long and will take you through some beautiful scenery. Be sure to stop at all of the various pullouts. Some of our favorites include Organ Pipe Formation and Sea Captain.

Best Places to Stay in Chiricahua National Monument

There’s only one campground located in this park. The good thing is, it’s a great one.

Bonita Creek Campground

The campground has 26 sites and is open year-round.

RV’s are welcome but they must be 29 feet in length or shorter.

Checkout is 11am. The maximum number of days you can stay? 14.

There aren’t any utility hookups. Generators must be turned off at 8pm.

There is one group campsite! It can hold up to 8 tents and 24 people.

We didn’t have a reservation and actually showed up after the visitor center was closed, but we were able to find the camp host (her site was located near the Silver Spur Meadow Trailhead) and, with her help, figure out which sites were open. As luck would have it, there were two available sites!

To register late, we just then headed back to the self-registration board, paid the fee ($20 cash) and then slipped the money into the slot and brought our paper back to our site and hung it on the post.

If you can, we’d recommend securing a site online ahead of time. It’ll save you the hassle of driving back out if there aren’t any sites available. To make a reservation, go to www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.

Top Tips For Visiting Chiricahua National Monument

Best Outdoor Escapes in Arizona.

One of the hidden outdoor gems in Arizona.

Carry a detailed, topographic with you as well as a compass if you are going hiking or camping in the backcountry.

In addition to carrying the proper navigational tools, also be sure to bring enough water with you.

If you plan on camping, be sure to get a campsite ahead of time since there’s only one campground.

There are rattlesnakes in this park so watch where you put your hands and feet.

Beware of falling trees and rocks and flash floods. Things can and do happen quickly out here.

Cell Phone Service and Wifi in Chiricahua National Monument

Don’t expect a good cell phone signal in this park. We lost a signal on the way in, several miles before the entrance. There is no wifi at the visitor center or the campground.

We were unable to get a signal at Bonita Canyon Campground.

We were able to get a weak LTE signal at Massai Point.

Chiricahua National Monument Recap

If you’re planning on visiting Chiricahua National Monument feel free to pin or share this post for reference. There are so many unique things to do in this national park! We also love it because there weren’t that many people in the park. It’s rare to be able to go somewhere and feel like you have it all to yourself.

Have you been to this part of Arizona? If so, what’s your favorite things to see, do and eat? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below! We think it’s definitely one of the best parks in Arizona.

Like this? Check out our 20 gift ideas for under $50 for the van life adventurer or traveler in your life.

Authentic Asheville is a team of two. We’re digital nomads who work as freelance writers and photographers. We also design websites and are currently accepting new projects. Get in touch today if you think we’d be a good fit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park | Authentic Asheville

General Info for Big Bend National Park

Big Bend is located in the the southwest part of the big ol’ state of Texas. It’s remote so you’ll need to do a little planning in order to have fun, but it’s totally worth the drive. (Marfa and Marathon, where this tiny Target are located, are good places to stop the night before your Big Bend adventure.)

Tiny Target, Marathon Texas | Authentic Asheville

Pick up a few supplies from the tiny Target near Big Bend!

What’s so great about it? Well, for starters, it has both desert, mountains, the Rio Grande and over 800,000 acres (801,163 to be exact) for you to explore. In addition, it’s the 15th largest park in the NPS system!

Visitor Centers

There are 5 visitor centers in Big Bend:

Persimmon Gap
This visitor center is located at the northern most entrance to Big Bend.

Castolon is located on the west side near the Rio Grande but is closed in the summer (the store is open all year.)

Chisos Basin is centrally located and is one of two visitor centers with wifi. It’s also where the lodge is.

Panther Junction is also home to Park Headquarters.

Rio Grande Village is the eastern-most closed in the summer but like Castolon, the store is open all year. There is also wifi at this site.

Rules

There are bears and mountain lions in this park so store your food safely! For more info on bear safety, head here.

A fishing license is not required but a free permit is. They can be obtained at any ranger station.

Pets are not allowed on the trails or or on the river. They must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet long.

Drones are not allowed.

Though this area is rich with fossils and artifacts, you are not allowed to take or collects plants, animals, rocks or arrowheads. In addition, you may not dig to look for these items.

Border Information

Big Bend National Park | Authentic Asheville 2

Viewpoint of the Rio Grande in the southeast corner of the park.

Did you know that the deepest channel of the Rio Grande river acts was the international border between the US and Mexico? You don’t need a passport to go out on the river. Here’s what the NPS newspaper, the Paisano has to say:

“Passports are not currently required for river trips, but stepping onto the Mexican bank of the river, then returning to the U.S., constitutes an illegal border crossing. U.S. Border Patrol allows for exceptions to be made under emergency situations only, i.e., scouting, portaging or lining.”

To go across the border into Mexico

ou can use the Boquillas Port of Entry. It is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 9:00am – 6:00pm in the summer and 8:00am to 5:00pm in the winter. Passports are required for everyone however kids under 16 with US and Canadian citizenship can get across with just a birth certificate or another form of citizenship.

After going through the Port of Entry you can either take a ferry for a small fee or walk across. From there, you can walk to the nearby village which is about a quarter of a mile away or get a ride for another fee on a horse or in a car. Upon arriving in Boquillas you must check in with Mexican immigration. If you want to stay overnight you will need to apply for a temporary visa.

Big Bend National Park Phone Number

432-477-2251
432-477-2370 TTY

Park Website

www.nps.gove/bibe

Best Things to Do in Big Bend National Park

Float the river!

There are 245 miles of the Rio Grande that are available for recreation. Be sure to get a river float permit before getting on the water.

Check out a canyon!

We love Dog Canyon Trail in particular which is located at the northern end of the park.

Go birding.

Bring a pair of binoculars and get still. There are over 450 birds species in this park to see!

Visit the new Fossil Bone exhibit.

There are all kinds of dinosaur bones and fossils, posters and life size replicas at this exhibit. We think this is a great place to visit at the beginning of your adventures because it gave us an entirely new appreciation for all that we were about to see in the park! It’s also self-guided which means you can go as fast or as slow as you want. In addition to having information with which to learn more about the park, there are also picnic tables, a vault toilet and a short trail that leads to an overlook as well as a small fossil-like playground for kids.

Hike to Balanced Rock

There are so many great trails in this park. In fact, there are over 200 miles of trails in Big Bend. One of our favorites hikes (and most instagrammed) is Balanced Rock. Though you’ll have to drive down a dirt road for about 45 minutes to access the trailhead, it’s worth it! The view from the top is amazing and the rock itself is really cool.

Visit the Hot Springs

Big Bend National Park | Authentic Asheville 1

The old store near the trail head for the Hot Springs.

The trail to the hot spring is only a quarter mile long. It’s totally worth it! The hot spring is semi-contained in some rocks but the entire spring and sitting area is actually in the Rio Grande! Use caution at all times, especially when the river is high.

Big Bend National Park | Authentic Asheville 10

Caroline soaking her feet in the hot springs!

Look at petroglyphs!

A 2.4 mile hike (4.8 miles roundtrip) to the Chimneys will lead you to some petroglyphs. They are located on the southern most chimney, about 3 feet high on the rock and visible (with some squinting) from the trail. If you go up close to see them, be sure not to touch them since the oils from your fingers can damage them.

See a sunrise or sunset at The Window.

This is an incredible place to see the day begin or end. The mountains literally create a picture window that frames the landscape behind it (and in front of it) so beautifully. The light is just magnificent as well. It was one of the best places we’ve ever seen a sunset. Don’t forget your camera!

Stay up, look up and stargaze.

I saw four shooting stars while in Texas. The light pollution in Big Bend is very minimal so your chances are good!

Take a scenic drive.

In addition to 200 miles of trails, there are also over 200 miles of dirt roads to explore. Be sure to check the map and/or ask a park ranger about current road conditions before setting out. In general, improved dirt roads are typically accessible to regular vehicles (except during rainstorms). Don’t want to go off-road? No worries. There are many miles to explore on paved roads. We love the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive!

Best Places to Stay in Big Bend National Park

Campgrounds at Big Bend

There are four campgrounds to choose from in Big Bend.

Rio Grande Village RV

25 RV sites at $36 a night and $3 per additional person.

Water, electric, sewer, picnic table.

We camped at the campground in the Rio Grande Village. From the center of the park, (The Window), it’s about a 45 minute drive to camp. In addition, the site was level and made of concrete. We had access to a sewer and water hookup right at our site even though we didn’t need them. There were 3 showers inside the main building that cost $2.00 for 5 minutes of hot water. In addition, there were coin laundry facilities. The Rio Grande Village RV campground is open year round.

Rio Grande Village

This campground is located near the Rio Grande and the Rio Grande Village RV park.

100 campsites at $14 a night.

Flush toilets, water, picnic tables, grills.

There are also 4 group campsites available. You must reserve these ahead of time.

All campgrounds at the Rio Grande Village are open year round.

Cottonwood

This campground is a great base camp if you are looking to stay near the Santa Elena Canyon.

There are 24 campsites at $14 a night. None of these can be reserved.

There’s also only one group campground which must be reserved in advanced.

Chisos Basin

Big Bend National Park | Authentic Asheville 3

Sunset in the Chisos Basin.

This is an awesome campground for those who want to be centrally located and near some of the best trails including the Window. It’s also one of the most desirable campgrounds in the park.

There are 60 campsites at $14 a night.

There are 7 group campsites which must be reserved in advance.

Backcountry Camping in Big Bend

There are also numerous backcountry campsites that you have to hike to but that are free. You need a permit for them but they can easily be obtained at a visitor center. They range anywhere from a 1 mile hike to an 8 mile hike.

There are also several sites that you can drive to that are basically an open rock/gravel lot for you to park in. Campsites can be reserved from November 15 to April 15 by phone at 877-444-6777 or by going online to www.recreation.gov

The rest of the year, outside of November 15 – April 15, the campsites are first-come, first-serve.

Lodging in Big Bend

In addition to camping, you can also stay at the Chisos Mountain Lodge. There are 72 rooms. The rooms are a mixture of hotel-style, motel-style and cottages. All of the rooms are non-smoking. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Top Tips For Visiting Big Bend National Park

Carry a detailed, topographic with you as well as a compass if you are going hiking or camping in the backcountry. The map they give you at the entrance is not detailed enough.

In addition to carrying the proper navigational tools, also be sure to bring enough water with you. Though many maps show springs on them, carry your own with you in case they happen to be dry. There is free water at each of the visitor centers but there is a 5 gallon limit per person per day.

Bring your passport if you want to cross the border into Mexico.

The wind knocked the power out one night while we were visiting. We were told it wasn’t uncommon for this to happen. As a result, the gas stations weren’t pumping. Moral of the story: top off your tank and bring headlamps and extra batteries.

In addition to bears and mountain lions, there are also poisonous snakes in this park! Make sure you look before putting your hands and feet in places where you can’t see them.

Each person is limited to 5 gallons of water a day at the fill-up stations (visitor centers). Be sure to bring your own if you are worried about not having enough.

Cell Phone Service and Wifi in Big Bend National Park

We lost a cell phone signal miles before we even reached the park. We were able to get a clear signal in Marfa and even a pretty good signal in Marathon, Texas but after that it was 3G, 1x and non existent. Believe it or not, however, there’s wifi in Big Bend National Park.

For a wifi signal in Big Bend National Park, drive to the Chisos Mountains Visitor Center and the Rio Grande Village (it’s closed in summer).

Big Bend National Park Recap

If you’re planning on visiting Big Bend National Park feel free to pin or share this post for reference. There are so many unique things to do in this national park!

Have you been to Big Bend? If so, what’s your favorite things to see, do and eat? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below!

Like this? Check out our 20 gift ideas for under $50 for the van life adventurer or traveler in your life.

Authentic Asheville is a team of two. We’re digital nomads who work as freelance writers and photographers. We also design websites and are currently accepting new projects. Get in touch today if you think we’d be a good fit!

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