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Arizona for the Hiker’s Hiker: Trekking the Chiricahua Mountains

Program Number: 2105RJ
Start and End Dates:
3/10/2013 - 3/16/2013; 3/6/2016 - 3/12/2016; 4/3/2016 - 4/9/2016;
Duration: 6 nights
Location: Willcox, Arizona
Price starting at: $1,048.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Walking/Hiking; Natural History Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 18; 6 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 6 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Concealed in the Chiricahua Mountains of remote southeast Arizona are some of the best-kept secrets of the serious American hiker. Here, insulated from the crowded trails of the Grand Canyon by 450 miles of mountains and desert, immerse yourself in a hiker’s paradise where seldom-trodden trails climb through five undisturbed life zones, from the grassy scrublands of the desert up through the rarefied air of mountains thick with Douglas fir. From your base in the cowboy town of Willcox, hike tranquil trails known only to those who seek adventure in places left alone by the common tourist, discovering native wildlife, birds on their migratory odysseys and rich geology, Native history and frontier heritage.


• Uncover the wonders of “sky islands.” Isolated by contrasting lowland environments, these mountain habitats support endemic species and unique ecology.
• Be transported back in time to the frontier period at Fort Bowie and the homestead at Faraway Ranch.
• Learn about the Arizona ranching industry of the modern day and of yesteryear, and get a taste of Western culture with musical entertainment by a local couple.

Activity Particulars

Hiking up to six miles. Elevations from 5,000 to 8,000 feet.

Date Specific Information

3-6-2016, 4-3-2016

Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.


Willcox is a bit of the old west, a cowboy town that celebrates its famous son. Rex Allen, the actor, singer and songwriter, was born and raised here and has a museum named after him. For those who aren’t cowboy inclined, the area is also a birdwatching paradise. This high desert region of southeastern Arizona also offers good hiking and biking.

Hotel in the ranching town of Willcox.
Meals and Lodgings
   Willcox Quality Inn
  Willcox, AZ 6 nights
 Willcox Quality Inn
Type: Hotel
  Description: Pool located in the courtyard. Lounge and restaurant on property.
  Contact info: 1100 W. Rex Allen Drive
Willcox, AZ 85643 USA
phone: 520-384-3556
  Room amenities: Refrigerated rooms, color TV's and telephone in rooms.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Additional nights prior: $65.00 Notify reservationist you will be participating in the Geronimo Road Scholar program to obtain favorable rate.
  Check in time: 3:30 PM
  Additional nights after: $65.00 Notify reservationist you will be participating in the Geronimo Road Scholar program to obtain favorable rate.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Check in at 3:00 PM. You will be staying at Willcox Quality Inn that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after lunch (1:00 PM). You will be staying at Willcox Quality Inn the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Free parking @ hotel for duration of program. No covered parking - parking on paved surface.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Willcox, AZ
  Nearest city or town:  Willcox, AZ
  Nearest highway: Interstate 10
  Nearest airport:  Tucson International Airport
  From End of Program
  Location:  Program concludes after lunch
Travel Details

Willcox AZ


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Geronimo Educational Travel Studies
phone: 520-432-5534
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


1.25 - 1.50 hours 




85 miles


Geronimo will offer one pick-up at the Tucson Airport at 4:00 PM MST on the first day of program and will return to the Airport by 4:PM MST on last day of program. Round trip shuttle cost is $150.

Driving Directions
  New Mexico Follow I-10 to Willcox. Take Exit 340. Willcox Quality Inn is located at 1100 W Rex Allen Drive.
  Tucson, AZ Willcox is aproximately 80 miles southeast of Tucson. Allow approximately 1 1/2 hours travel time. Take I-10 east to Willcox and get off at Exit 340. From the off ramp the Willcox Quality Inn will be visible. The address is 1100 W. Rex Allen Drive.
Elevation Note: Hotel is located at an elevation of 5000 foot. Field trips to elevations as high as 7000 foot.

Equipment Requirements: Required Equipment: Well broken-in, ankle high, light weight hiking boots. Shorts & Long Trousers. "T" shirts or long sleeve shirt (spares should they get wet) to wear on hikes. Thick Socks. Wind breaker jacket (Poncho or waterproof coat may be needed on some hikes). Broad Brim Hat and Sun Block. One quart (minimum) size water bottle. Small 1st aid kit (hike leaders will carry a large 1st aid kit, but cannot issue any medication, including aspirin. Day pack or rucksack. Desirable Equipment: Hiking Stick. Binoculars. Sandwich Box. Camera. Small Umbrella. Not Pad and Pencil. Western Bird Book. Sketch pad for those with artistic ability.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Welcome to Willcox, home to famed cowboy, Rex Allen, and gateway to the Chiricahua National Monument. Willcox owes its initial existence to the Southern Pacific Railroad which first chugged through the area in 1880.
(Sunday, March 10)
 Arrive To: CHECK-IN at 3:00 PM. The Road Scholar Registration table will be in the vicinity of the check-in desk. Your on site packets may be picked up at the Registration Table and you will receive instructions about group travel to a local restaurant for dinner.

Take this time to gaze upon the majestic Chiricahua Mountains where the group will hike the many scenic trails this week.

 Dinner: DINNER served at 5:30 PM at a local restaurant. Participants will be transported as a group from the Hotel to the restaurant. The group's first meal will be Mexican cuisine. The restaurant is family owned and the food prepared fresh daily.
 Evening: ORIENTATION at the Hotel. Following dinner the group will return to the Hotel for program orientation. This will be a time to review the week's activity, answer any questions, learn about emergency procedures and have a formal welcome from staff. There will be some interaction activities to serve as a means for introductions. We are prepared for a week of great fun, memorable hikes and some great lecture programs.
Accommodations: Willcox Quality Inn
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Fort Bowie, a national historic site, was established in 1862 by the U.S. Cavalry as a post during the bitter struggle between Anglos and Apaches in Arizona. Chief Geronimo surrendered near here, effectively ending the Indian wars in the Southwest.
(Monday, March 11)

Note: Apache Pass is a guided hike describing historical events of the area surrounding this once important military outpost. During the 1860s-80s, Apache war parties terrorized SE AZ. Round trip loop trail of four miles with elevation gain and loss of 900 ft.

 Breakfast: 7:00 AM BREAKFAST served at Willcox Quality Inn. Begin the day with a hearty breakfast. Participants will have a number of choices of healthy breakfast foods and beverages. Immediately following breakfast vans will transport participants to the scenic Chiricahua Mountains for a day of hiking.
 Morning: HIKE FORT BOWIE PARK to trailhead. A Park Ranger will lead the group on a tour of Fort Bowie. Learn about the lonely isolation that the soldiers experienced while stationed at Fort Bowie. The two hour hike from Fort Bowie to the trailhead will take us past the original Fort, Apache Springs, the Chiricahua Apache Indian Agency, an Apache Wickiup, the post cemetary and the remains of a Butterfield Stage Coach Station.

LECTURE on "The History of Apache Pass & Apache Springs" will be presented prior to commensing the Fort Bowie Tour and hike to the trailhead. The history of Apache Pass (named after the Apache Indians) began with the spring—it was a watering place in the harsh desert of what became southern Arizona. Indigenous peoples were dependant for their survival on regular access to water holes, so the spring at Apache Pass was a natural stopping place.

The modern history of Apache Pass began with the great Apache leader Cochise, who, along with many of his followers, favored the area around the spring as a camping spot in winter and spring.

 Lunch: TRAIL LUNCH. Take in the unique beauty of the area while enjoying a nuitrious trail lunch prepared at the Hotel kitchen.
 Afternoon: TAKE A WALKING TOUR of Historic Downtown Willcox. Visit the Rex Allen Museum and the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Stroll down historic Railroad Avenue and on the corner you’ll come across another old adobe building, The Willcox Commercial. Built in the early 1880s, it is the oldest continually operating store in Arizona. When Geronimo had a craving for sweets, he went to the Willcox Commercial to buy his sugar. He didn’t trust the white men but he knew how much a pound felt and before purchasing the sugar, he would balance it in his hand to feel the weight of it. Geronimo was determined not to let any clerk cheat him.
 Dinner: 5:30 PM DINNER served at local restaurant. Tonight the group will have the opportunity to experience more of the local cuisine.
 Evening: 6:30 PM "Chiricahua Sky Island" video presentation.
Accommodations: Willcox Quality Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Visit Maple Camp where a small grove of maple trees straddle the banks of the South Fork which is actually a tiny rock strewn stream in the Chiricahua Mountains. It is a surreal and beautiful area.
(Tuesday, March 12)

Note: South Fork Trail follows a stream bed that is lined with Cut Leaf Maples. Round trip distance is six miles with elevation gan and loss of 800 - 1000 feet.

 Breakfast: 7:00 AM BREAKFAST served at Willcox Quality Inn. You will have a choice of a number of healthy and nutritious breakfast items.
 Morning: HIKE TO PORTAL/CAVE CREEK CANYON. . Hike to Maple Camp. A beautiful area, Cave Creek Canyon on the eastern slope of the Chiricahua Mountains is home to a varied selection of flora and fauna. One of the best places to enjoy the area’s ecology is along the South Fork Cave Creek. Accessed by a nice, easy trail, this drainage bottom makes for a wonderful outing.
 Lunch: TRAIL LUNCH - Take in the majestic beauty of the area while enjoying the packed nutritious lunch prepared at the Hotel.
 Afternoon: HIKE CONTINUES IN CAVE CREEK CANYON. The Chiricahua Mountains of Southeastern Arizona rise from the desert floor to an elevation of nearly ten thousand feet. This fascinating area offers magnificent views of beautiful vistas, imposing canyon walls, and mysterious caves.

We will enjoy a stop at Portal Peak General Store for a shopping experience in a small country store located along the banks of Cave Creek.

 Dinner: 6:00 PM DINNER served at a local unique restaurant. Tonight the group will have a relaxed evening as we dine in a train dining car! The cuisine tonight will be some real western bar-b-que with all the fixins.
 Evening: 7:00 PM "ASTRONOMY IN AZ" presentation/lecture. Tonight's program will be presented by an Astronomer from Mount Graham National Observatory located in Safford AZ. Mount Graham Observatory is an operations and maintenance group whose mission is to provide quality logistics support services to the astronomical research community. The Observatory is affliliated with the University of AZ Department of Astronomy.
Accommodations: Willcox Quality Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Cochise Stronghold, a rugged natural fortress was, for some 15 years, the home and base of operations for the famed Chiricahua Apache Chief, Cochise. Cochise and about 1,000 of his followers, of whom some 250 were warriors, located here.
(Wednesday, March 13)

Note: The trail follows the route into the Dragoon Mountains used by Cochise to hide and protect his people from other warring tribes and the U.S. Army. Round trip is 6 miles with elevation gain and loss of 1100 feet.

 Breakfast: 7:00 AM BREAKFAST served at Willcox Quality Inn. Enjoy an early breakfast with a choice of many tasty nutritious foods. Depart Hotel for a hike in the Chiricahua Mountains.
 Morning: HIKE COCHISE STRONGHOLD TRAIL to VALLEY VIEW. Within the Stronghold is a hiking trail that goes from the East Cochise Stronghold Campground, over the "Stronghold Divide" and down into the West Stronghold Canyon. This trail was originally an Indian trail and is approximately 4 miles long one way.

As you hike the trail listen to the whispers of those from long ago and enjoy the superb views of the canyon.

 Lunch: TRAIL LUNCH Imagine those who walked these trails in years past as you relax and enjoy the lunch prepared by the Hotel kitchen this morning.
 Afternoon: TOUR THE AMERIND MUSEUM & ART GALLERY enroute to our Hotel. Founded in 1937 by William Shirley Fulton, the Amerind Foundation is a private nonprofit anthropological and archaeological museum and research center dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Native American cultures and their histories. Located in spectacular Texas Canyon in the Little Dragoon Mountains of southeastern Arizona, the Amerind houses one of the finest private collections of Native American art and artifacts in the country
 Dinner: 6:00 PM DINNER at a local restaurant. We have had a busy few days so it will be nice to have dinner at the Hotel tonight. Set back, enjoy the feast and company of your new friends.
 Evening: 7:00 PM "GEOLOGY OF SOUTHEASTERN AZ" lecture. Tonight's program will be presented by a geologist retired from the University of AZ. Six major ash flows and a capping rhyolitic volcanic flow make up the Rhyolite Canyon Formation in the Chiricahua Monument region. Tonight we will learn about the unique geology of this area.
Accommodations: Willcox Quality Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Echo Canyon Loop is an amazing trail that takes visitors on a fantastic tour of the amazing hoodoos and rock formations that make up the Chiricahua National Monument.
(Thursday, March 14)

Note: Chiricahua's National Monument Echo Canyon Loop trail winds through the spectacular spires and balanced rocks in this unforgivable area. Loop trail distance of 3.5 miles with elevation gain and loss of 400 feet.

 Breakfast: 7:00 AM BREAKFAST SERVED at Willcox Quality Inn. Choose from a number of tasty and nutritious breakfast foods.
 Morning: HIKE ECHO CANYON TRAIL At the Chiricahua National Monument a “Wonderland of Rocks” is waiting for you to explore. The trail begins on the Echo Canyon Trail, which immediately begins a gentle descent towards Wall Street. Wall Street is an wonderful display of gigantic boulders, though which you will hike for about one mile, as the trail takes you further and further down into Echo Park. Soon, you will leave the hoodoos behind and find yourself in a lush, riparian canyon. There is one small creek crossing, and then the trail will begin to climb gently out of the canyon.
 Lunch: TRAIL LUNCH prepared by Hotel kitchen. Take in the ambience of the area while visiting with new friends.
 Afternoon: TOUR FARAWAY RANCH & take a walk to the Buffalo Encampment.

The Chiricahua Apaches took refuge here during hostilities with whites, and after Geronimo surrendered, in 1886, Bonita Canyon was settled by Swedish immigrants Neil and Emma Erickson. Their daughter and her husband turned the homestead into a guest ranch and worked to make the area a national park. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge designated the area a national monument. The homestead was named Faraway Ranch by the family. The property was sold to the National Park Service in 1979, and it became a historic district within the monument.

 Dinner: 6:00 PM DINNER SERVED. Tonight dinner will be served at a local restaurant. Compare the ethnic dishes tonight to the dinner served on the first night of our program.
 Evening: "DO YOU REALLY KNOW WHO YOU HAVE BEEN HIKING WITH THIS WEEK?" We are in for an evening of fun as you participate in an exercise to better get to know those you are spending the week with.
Accommodations: Willcox Quality Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Hike Heart of Rocks trail (7.5 miles) or Sugar Loaf Trail (2.5 miles) with side trips.

Tonight special entertainment is a local musical group.

(Friday, March 15)

Note: Participants may hike the Heart of Rocks Trail (7.5 miles) with an elevation gain of 880 ft. or choose the shorter Sugar Loaf Trail (2.5 mile) hikethat is one of the highest points in the Monument.

 Breakfast: 7:00 AM BREAKFAST served at Willcox Quality Inn. Your choice of a number of tasty and healthy breakfast foods.

The Heart of Rocks is a huge badland of fanciful rock formations. The trail cuts through the badland in almost maze-like fashion taking convoluted twists and turns through narrow slots and openings in the rocks.

The entire loop provides a wide variety of terrains. Hike through quiet, shaded valleys, deep in woods and pass open plateaus with the "big" views. The elevation of the trails range from 5,980 feet to 7,010 feet.

The entire trail system is within the Chiricahua Wilderness Area and is therefore pristine. There are no impacts from grazing or logging. No evidence of civilization besides the trail and the signs. Notice the silence, except for the occasional (and inevitable) plane, the occasional call of a bird.

The Heart of Rocks trail begins eight miles from the park entrance at Massai Point.

A mile-long descent from the trailhead takes you into a deep, shaded canyon. Creek beds trickle with running water in the spring, but remain dry much of the time after June.

Cross through the Pygmy Forest, so named for the short, stumpy Chihuahua pine and Arizona cypress that grow in the shallow, rocky soil.

Lack of moisture contributes to the stunted growth of the trees, which look more like big pine bushes, with branches that grow sideways instead of up.

Leave the main trail just beyond Big Balanced Rock for a short side trip into the Heart of Rocks area. Here, the hike begins to take on the feel of an outdoor museum. Follow the footprints painted on the path alongside strange and wonderful rock formations.

The way back to Massai Point is much quicker - almost all downhill except for the last mile climbing out of the canyon.

 Lunch: TRAIL LUNCH - This will be our last trail lunch of the program. Tomorrow's farewell lunch will be served at a restaurant.
 Afternoon: SUGAR LOAF TRAIL Hike - Sitting atop the heart of Chiricahua National Monument is 7310 foot Sugarloaf Mountain. This prominent peak, which stands in a sea of volcanic hoodoos, can be seen for miles. This short hike provides sweeping views of the Monument and surrounding areas.

The Sugarloaf Mountain Trail passes through a short tunnel that was blasted through the cemented volcanic ash of an ancient hoodoo. Beyond the tunnel, the trail traverses a steep slope covered in angular boulders, broken off from the low cliffs above the trail. Soon the trail rounds the mountain to the drier, southern slope. The Heart Of Rocks area comes into view now, amid the manzanitas, yuccas, and plentiful beargrass. On the southern horizon, the rolling, green, 9000 foot summits of the Chiricahua peaks form a backdrop against the Monument's countless rock totem poles. The mosaic pattern from 1994's Rattlesnake Fire is clearly visible among the peaks. The trail now makes a switchback here, and plows through a row of manzanita bushes, before arriving on the northeast corner of the windswept summit. The historic one room fire lookout, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's, greets you here. Roam around the mountain top, and take in the 360 degree views. From the top of Sugarloaf Mountain view the Bonita Canyon watershed, Cochise Head, and the Dos Cabezas Range to the north.

 Dinner: 5:30 PM DINNER at Willcox Quality Inn. Enjoy a special meal tonight followed by musical entertainment.
 Evening: MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENT by local talent.

This will be a fun evening to relax and enjoy some local musical entertainment.

Accommodations: Willcox Quality Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: HIKE TO DOS CABEZAS, once a stage depot and partial Ghost Town where gold and silver were once mined.

Visit Lake Cochise where many winter migratory birds take up residence from Oct to Feb.

(Saturday, March 16)

Note: Hike past several abandon gold mines to a remote spring on a gravel road with an assent of approximately 500 feet.

 Breakfast: 8:00 AM BREAKFAST SERVED at BW Plaza Inn. Enjoy a relaxed nuitrious breakfast.
 Morning: HIKE to DOS CABEZAS once a gold mining town. View Lake Cochise where many winter migratory birds spend the winter.

Dos Cabezas is a partial ghost town 14 miles southeast of Willcox. While only a few residents remain today, the town was once a thriving center for surrounding mines and cattle ranches.

Dos Cabezas, where Ewell Spring is located, was the next dependable source of water west of Apache Spring. A stage depot was built here, and in the late 1870s gold and silver were found in the Dos Cabezas Mountains. The resulting town took its name from the two peaks above the spring. Dos Cabezas is the Spanish name for "Two Heads".

Willcox Playa (Lake Cochise)

This giant lake bed south of Willcox covers 50-60 square miles. The playa is usually dry, but after heavy rains it becomes a shallow lake. Mirages may be seen on the surface in summer. As many as 10,000 sandhill cranes and smaller numbers of ducks and geese winter here from October to about late February.

 Lunch: GRADUATION LUNCH served at Willcox Quality Inn. The program week of stellar hikes, majestic scenery, interesting lectures and fun entertainment and comradarie concludes after lunch.

Thank you for joining Geronimo Educational Travel Studies LLC and Road Scholar for a learning adventure. We hope to see you again soon.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

The Fox and the Whirlwind: General George Crook and Geronimo, A Paired Biography

Author: Aleshire, Peter

Blood Brother

Author: Arnold, Elliot

Mountain Islands and Desert Seas: A Natural History of the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands

Author: Gehlbach, Frederick R.

Into the Far Mountains: A Western Story

Author: Grove, Fr4ed

The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Negro Cavalry in the West

Author: Leckie, William H.

Tombstone's Epitaph

Author: Martin, Douglas D.

Ancient Ruins of the Southwest: An Archaeological Guide

Author: Noble, David Grant

A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert

Author: Phillips, Steven J. and Patricia Wentworth Comus

Bob Sharp's Cattle Country: Rawhide Ranching on Both Sides of the Border

Author: Sharp, Robert L

Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1933-1960

Author: Spicer, Edward H.

Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo and the Apache Wars

Author: Roberts, David

Flowers of the Southwest Deserts

Author: Dodge, Natt

Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest Uplands

Author: Elmore, Francis H.

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