Visiting Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona.
When you take a road trip across the United States, there are always places that sound interesting but might be a gamble in visiting. You might get to where you're going and be disappointed OR you might discover an incredible gem and love it. That was the case with our quick stop at Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona.
After our visit to Yuma my goal was to get to Santa Fe, New Mexico as quickly as possible. Since we don't like long days of driving and I tend to get pissy from being in the truck too long, we decided to crash at the Arizona Sunset Inn in Wilcox, Arizona for the night.
I'm so glad we did!
Chiricahua National Monument is amazing.
As we made our way to Wilcox from I-10, we noticed a LOT of snow on some of the mountains. This was shocking given we had just left the amazing sunshine and 85 degree temperatures in Yuma that morning. I was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. Apparently this was not the right decision for our destination!!!
From summer to winter in a couple hours.
Chiricahua National Monument is 36 miles southeast of Willcox along Highway 186. It's a beautiful and relaxing drive filled with open breathtaking landscapes and mountain scenery. The only problem this particular day was there was heavy snow and wind during parts of the drive ... and part of my anatomy started to pucker. Neither Donetta or I like to drive in harsh weather conditions and we were heading to a mountain. GULP.
The drive into this national monument was fantastic but by the time we arrived at the visitor center, the snow was really coming down and it was 32 degrees. Needless to say this guy had to make a quick change in clothing if I was gonna survive the day. Two minutes later after being butt naked in the truck, all was well with the world. At least I thought.
Oh hell no! We have to drive up a mountain?
Another aspect about traveling full time is we've been to quite a few mountains, which is awesome when you're at the base looking in awe. It's another thing when you gotta drive up the mountain after having a near death experience at Pikes Peak and Glacier National Park.
Mountain driving is not our jam and I now suffer PTSD from some of our adventures. This is no joke.
So here I am, snaking my way up 9,759 feet to Chiricahua Peak. On a blizzard like day. At 32 degrees. And I'm terrified of driving in mountains. Think of the absurdity here as an Army Infantry guy who has no fear playing with explosives or wants to encounter a Grizzly Bear in the wild is having a meltdown in his pickup truck. Ain't life fun?
The good news is we both made it to the top and were rewarded with a magical experience.
Reaching the summit of this drive opens up to an amazing landscape of trees, rock formations, and mountains in the distance. You will marvel at it all, and if you don't, you have no soul. :D Even though it was brutally cold and snowing, there were no regrets from this adventure.
Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona is a must see.
The entire park is worth driving through and taking at least a few hours to visit. There was probably more to see and hiking trails to enjoy, but we had to get back to Wilcox for much needed relaxation. And a drink to calm my nerves.
We both agreed that we will be going back at some point regardless of our mountain fears. It was that freaking awesome.
Willcox is also a small gem.
Some of the coolest places we have visited have been small towns. Jerome and Bisbee, also in Arizona, were two of our favorites. Willcox is now on that list as well.
The town is small and quaint, but it offers a selection of bars, restaurants, antique shops, and even a small movie theater. We had dinner at Big Tex BBQ and a margarita at La Unica Restaurant & Tortilleria. Both excellent places. Our hotel crash was at the Arizona Sunset Inn which was very clean, updated and comfortable.
Donetta and I didn't get to spend much time hanging out in Willcox, but we look forward to returning some day. If you're making the drive to Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona or just passing by on I-10, we recommend stopping here for the night.