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2105
Arizona

Hiking Southeast Arizona’s Sky Islands & Chiricahua Mountains

Go off the beaten path and explore the Chiricahua Mountains, where you’ll hike alongside experts and learn about native wildlife, ancient geology and the region’s frontier story.
Rating (5)
Program No. 2105RJ
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,899
Arizona

Hiking Southeast Arizona’s Sky Islands & Chiricahua Mountains

Go off the beaten path and explore the Chiricahua Mountains, where you’ll hike alongside experts and learn about native wildlife, ancient geology and the region’s frontier story.
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,899
Length
7 days
Rating (5)
Starts at
1,899
Program No. 2105RJ

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climate
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Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Mar 12 - Mar 18, 2023
Starting at
1,899
Apr 16 - Apr 22, 2023
Starting at
1,899
Sep 24 - Sep 30, 2023
Starting at
1,899
Oct 22 - Oct 28, 2023
Starting at
1,899
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Mar 12 - Mar 18, 2023
Starting at
2,309
Apr 16 - Apr 22, 2023
Starting at
2,309
Sep 24 - Sep 30, 2023
Starting at
2,309
Oct 22 - Oct 28, 2023
Starting at
2,309

At a Glance

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.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Spirited
Long, often 12 hour days. Hiking between 4 and 8 miles daily over varied terrain. Elevation gain/loss between 800 and 1100 ft each day. Elevations of 5,000-8,000 feet.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Uncover the wonders of the “sky islands,” isolated mountain habitats that 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.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Steve Marlatt
Steve has a bachelor’s in Wildlife Management and a master’s in Environmental Education. He first worked in a variety of positions in research, range and recreation for New Mexico Game and Fish, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. He then switched gears to work with another type of wildlife and spent the next 27 years teaching Middle School science! He recently retired so that he could spend more time hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and birding in his long-time home of Southeast Arizona.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Steve Marlatt
Steve Marlatt View biography
Steve has a bachelor’s in Wildlife Management and a master’s in Environmental Education. He first worked in a variety of positions in research, range and recreation for New Mexico Game and Fish, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. He then switched gears to work with another type of wildlife and spent the next 27 years teaching Middle School science! He recently retired so that he could spend more time hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and birding in his long-time home of Southeast Arizona.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest Uplands
by Elmore, Francis H.
Ancient Ruins of the Southwest: An Archaeological Guide
by Noble, David Grant
Flowers of the Southwest Deserts
by Dodge, Natt
The Fox and the Whirlwind: General George Crook and Geronimo, A Paired Biography
by Aleshire, Peter
Into the Far Mountains: A Western Story
by Grove, Fred
Blood Brother
by Arnold, Elliot
The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Negro Cavalry in the West
by Leckie, William H.
A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert
by Phillips, Steven J. and Patricia Wentworth Comus
Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo and the Apache Wars
by Roberts, David
Mountain Islands and Desert Seas: A Natural History of the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands
by Gehlbach, Frederick R.
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7 days
6 nights
18 meals
6 B 6 L 6 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Willcox, AZ
D
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Willcox

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing an up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. You may wish to take some time to gaze upon the majestic Chiricahua Mountains where we will hike throughout the program.

Dinner: Arriving by van to a local family-owned restaurant, we’ll have a nutritious and freshly prepared buffet meal with soft drinks, milk, coffee, tea, water.

Evening: Orientation. 6:45 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Led by our Group Leader and hiking experts during our hikes throughout the program, we will encounter sites rich in historical, cultural, and natural significance. Transportation throughout the program will be provided primarily by passenger vans, unless otherwise specified. Hiking poles are recommended. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. The remainder of the evening is at leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Historic Downtown Willcox
Willcox, AZ
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Willcox

Activity note: Driving approx. 66 miles total for the day; about 1.5 hours. Hiking/walking approx. 6.5 miles total throughout the day; about 6.5 hours total on our feet. Fort Bowie National Park hike is approx. 5.5 miles roundtrip; about 5.5 hours total; elevation gain and loss of about 600 feet; rolling hills. Walking approx. 1 mile in Willcox; about 1 hour.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast buffet featuring a variety of healthy choices including milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Setting out via vans, we will travel to the scenic Chiricahua Mountains for a day of hiking in Fort Bowie Park. From the trailhead, a Park Ranger will lead us on an interpretive field trip of Fort Bowie National Historic Site. As we walk, we’ll learn about the history of the Butterfield Overland Trail, which ran through this area from 1857 – 1861, through background facts and anecdotes. Our three-hour hike will take us past the original fort, Apache Springs, the Chiricahua Apache Indian Agency, an Apache Wickiup, the post cemetery, and the remains of a Butterfield Stage Coach Station.

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll enjoy nutritious sack lunches prepared by a local restaurant as we enjoy the unique beauty of the area.

Afternoon: At the conclusion of our hike, we’ll transfer to Historic Downtown Willcox for a walking field trip led by a local historian and president of Sulphur Springs Valley Historical Society. Strolling down historic Railroad Avenue, we’ll learn about such landmarks as the restored 1880 Southern Pacific Depot, the Headquarters Saloon (where Warren Earp was killed), and the Willcox Commercial – one of the oldest operating stores in Arizona. We’ll conclude the walking portion with a visit to the Chiricahua Regional Museum where our expert will show us around the informative displays.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy a plated meal featuring local cuisine, with soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll then return to the hotel with the remainder of the evening at leisure.

DAY
3
Chiricahua Mtns. Silver Peak Trail, Ecology, Apache History
Willcox, AZ
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Willcox

Activity note: Driving approx. 161 miles roundtrip; about 3 hours. Hiking approx. 4.5 miles roundtrip on Silver Peak Trail; about 4 hours; some moderately steep sections; elevation gain and loss of about 1,400 feet. Be sure to bring sun protection and plenty of water.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Immediately following breakfast, we’ll load our vans and transfer to the Portal Firehouse’s meeting room where a local wildlife biologist will talk about the ecological significance of the Cave Creek area and the efforts that have been taken to protect the region. To get a closer look at this region on the eastern slope of the Chiricahua Mountains, we’ll set out for a day of hiking along the Silver Peak Trail, which climbs out of Cave Creek Canyon, past the Finger Rocks formation, and into the adjacent Silver Creek Canyon. The Portal, AZ area is ecologically rich and hosts a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Lunch: As we take in the majestic beauty of the area along the trail, we’ll enjoy a nutritious lunch prepared by a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Our hike will continue back on the Silver Peak Trail while gazing at the Chiricahua Mountains of Southeastern Arizona, which rise from the desert floor to an elevation of nearly ten thousand feet. Complete with expansive views, towering canyon walls, and a wealth of caves, we’ll have plenty to keep our senses occupied as we return to the trailhead. Next, we will transfer via vans for an afternoon field trip at the Chiricahua Desert Museum. The museum’s live exhibits include over 60 species of wildlife and feature some of the rarest animals, as well as those of threatened and endangered status, native to this Chihuahua Desert. While here, a museum docent will share details about some of the amazing reptiles housed here, before allowing time for independent exploration. Afterwards, we’ll then make our way to the Rodeo Community Center where a local historian, who is also a retired county sheriff and president of the Cochise County Historical Society, will share fascinating stories of the Chiricahua Apaches and Geronimo. He will also talk about the methods he used to locate many of the actual historic sites where Geronimo met with General Crook and General Miles.

Dinner: At the Rodeo Community Center, we’ll be treated to an outdoor cowboy BBQ meal, with lemonade, tea, water included.

Evening: We’ll then return to the hotel. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

DAY
4
Cochise Stronghold, Amerind Museum, Geology Presentation
Willcox, AZ
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Willcox

Activity note: Driving approx. 109 miles total; about 2.5 hours. Hiking approx. 6.5 miles roundtrip; about 4 hours; some moderately steep terrain; elevation gain and loss of roughly 1,100 feet.

Breakfast: Early hotel buffet.

Morning: After arriving at the trailhead, we’ll set out to hike Cochise Stronghold Trail to Stronghold Divide. 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. The oak and juniper lined path also has a large number of beautiful rock formations. As we hike, we’ll listen to the tales provided by our hiking leaders and imagine the whispers of those from long ago that are embodied in the superb views of the canyon.

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll enjoy lunches that were prepared by a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After heading back down the Cochise Stronghold Trail to the trailhead and completing our hike, we’ll transfer to the Amerind Museum for a field trip to see and learn about the impressive collection of Native American art and artifacts. After a short introduction about the museum given by an Amerind docent, we’ll then enjoy time for independent exploration. The museum was founded in 1937 in the Little Dragoon Mountains of Arizona’s Texas Canyon as a research center committed to the preservation and study of indigenous cultures. Following our field trip at the Amerind Museum, we will set out onto the grounds for a walking presentation on the geology of Texas Canyon given by a geologist, who is also the retired head of the Arizona Geological Survey and known for having a unique and easy-to-understand teaching style.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy a plated meal in a beautiful setting, with soft drinks, coffee, tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Pinaleno Mountains, Lady Bug Trail, Stafford, Gila Valley
Willcox, AZ
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Willcox

Activity note: Driving approx. 147 miles; about 3.5 hours. Hiking approx. 5 miles total; about 4 hours; moderately steep hiking, almost all downhill, multiple switchbacks down to pass below.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Transferring from the hotel, we’ll make our way to the Discovery Park Museum and gather in a meeting room for a brief presentation given by a fifth-generation Gila Valley resident. Our expert will talk about the history and management of the Pinaleno Mountains, and focus on the early human history of the mountain. After a short break, we’ll engage in another short presentation, this time by a Safford Ranger District staff member, about wildfires on the mountain and the recovery efforts that are put in place to rejuvenate the environment. Then, we’ll board the van for a field trip to the Pinaleno Mountains, the highest of the “Sky Island Mountains” in southeastern Arizona with the high point, Mount Graham, topping out at 10,724 feet. We'll make our way up the mountain approximately 700 feet to the trailhead via Swift Trail (Arizona Highway 366). Upon arrival at the Shake Trail starting point, we’ll begin making our way down the mountain from a mixed conifer forest all the way to an upper Sonoran Desert habitat. Numerous vantage points along the way will give excellent views of the Sulphur Springs Valley and the other Sky Island mountain ranges in the area.

Lunch: In a scenic area along the trail, we’ll have packed lunches and an opportunity to take in the ambience of the area.

Afternoon: We’ll continue hiking down Shake Trail to the lower trailhead where we’ll meet our vans, then drive to the neighboring community of Safford where we will return to Discovery Park and enjoy time for independent exploration. Discovery Park contains a number of exhibits relating to science and culture of the Gila Valley, from mining and agriculture to space exploration.

Dinner: At a favorite local dining area in Safford, we’ll have plated meals with soft drinks, milk, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll then return to the hotel. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

DAY
6
Hike the Wonderland of Rocks, Chiricahua National Monument
Willcox, AZ
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Willcox

Activity note: Choice of activity – Driving approx. 93 miles roundtrip for both activities; about 2 hours total. Hike 1: Hiking approx. 7.5 miles roundtrip on Heart of Rocks Trail; about 7 hours; roughly 750 feet of elevation gain, followed by a 1,400 foot descent. Hike 2: Hiking approx. 4 miles roundtrip to Massai Point, about 5 hours; mostly downhill, roughly 1,400 foot descent, many rock steps.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Our Group Leaders will outline the details for two different hiking routes for today and the group will divide into smaller groups based on personal hiking preference. After choosing which hike you’d like to go on, the groups will transfer to the trailheads to begin. Hike 1: The Heart of Rocks Trail begins with a mile-long descent from the trailhead into a deep shaded canyon with running water and short Chihuahua pines, stunted by a perpetual shortage of water. As we continue, we’ll see Big Balanced Rock and take a side trip following the footprints painted on the trail to the picturesque Heart of Rocks area. We’ll enjoy wandering through the peculiar geological formations throughout the area before making our way back to the Visitor Center. Hike 2: Beginning in the same area as the Heart of Rocks Trail, Echo Canyon Trail meanders through the “Grottos,” an area in which the trail builders have carved a route through the spires and cliffs that make up the Echo Canyon area. Wall Street, a section of the trail that makes its way between close rock walls and boulders, is a beautiful showcase of the land’s geological features. Making our way away from the hoodoos and farther down into Echo Park, we’ll descend into a lovely shaded canyon. After crossing a small creek, we’ll then make our way up and out of the canyon, through Rhyolite Canyon, and back to the Visitor Center.

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll enjoy the spectacular views as we relax and enjoy the packed lunches that were prepared by a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Both groups will continue on their respective hikes until reaching the vans at the bottom. We’ll rendezvous and return back to the hotel.

Dinner: At a local dining facility, we’ll enjoy catered plated meals during a special evening. Coffee, tea, water included; feel free to bring other beverages on your own.

Evening: A local naturalist and popular storyteller will join us at our dinner location to perform an evening of interesting tales and songs.

DAY
7
Muleshoe Ranch Preserve, Program Concludes
Willcox, AZ
B,L

Activity note: Choice of activity – Driving approx. 60 miles roundtrip for both activity choices; about 1.5 hours total. Hike 1: Walking approx. 4 miles roundtrip in Bass Canyon; about 3 hours; rolling hills, approx. 250 feet in elevation change. Hike 2: Walking approx. 1 mile roundtrip on Muleshoe Nature Trail; about 1.5 hours; canyon floor, approx. 100 feet in elevation change. Hotel check-out by 1:15 p.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Our Group Leaders will outline the details for two different hiking routes for today and the group will divide into smaller groups based on personal hiking preference. After choosing which hike you’d like to go on, the groups will transfer to the trailheads to begin. Both trails begin and end at the Muleshoe Ranch Headquarters. Hike 1: Setting out along the Hot Springs Wash Loop Trail, we’ll begin following an old 4-wheel-drive road until it comes to Bass Canyon. From here, the trail departs from the road and follows along a beautiful stream with numerous sycamore and cottonwood trees before arriving at Hot Springs Canyon. We’ll follow the route along the canyon bottom until it intersects the Muleshoe Nature Loop Trail, which we will take back to the ranch headquarters. Hike 2: For those desiring a more relaxing final morning of the program, the Muleshoe Nature Trail makes a gradual loop down Hot Springs Canyon and provides numerous spots along the way to enjoy the peacefulness and scenic beauty of the area.

Lunch: At the conclusion of our hike, we’ll enjoy sack lunches prepared by a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We’ll then return to the hotel and check out. This concludes our program. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.