Chiricahua Formations: The Heart of Rocks

Camel's Head, one of the formations on the Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Camel’s Head, one of the formations on the Heart of Rocks Loop Trail

In my last post I talked about hiking to the Big Balanced Rock in Chiricahua National Monument.  If you like the Big Balanced Rock, you’ll absolutely love a trail that starts only yards from that rock formation: the Heart of Rocks Loop Trail.  Only 1.1 miles long (which will up your mileage to at least 9.3 miles), there are more amazing formations, awesome views, and incredible rocks in that single mile than in the rest of what you’ll see in the rest of Chiricahua’s trails.  Because it’s not very long (but so fascinating), I thought I’d make this more of a picture-post than normal…so…enjoy the pictures!

 


 

The Heart of Rocks trail junction is just beyond the Big Balanced Rock.  Turn down this; after about 0.1 miles the trail comes to a Y junction.  Since the trail is a loop, you can go either right or left.  I’ve always gone left; I think this offers some of the best views of the formations, so I’ll describe the loop as though you’re walking it clockwise.

 

The Heart of Rocks Trail quickly descends into a wooded section.  The first formation you’ll come to is Pinnacle Rock, a slightly taller version of the Big Balancing Rock:

 

Pinnacle Rock, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Pinnacle Rock

 

It’s not exciting compared to others on the loop, but it’s a nice introduction to say, “You’ve arrived!!”

 

The trail then squeezes through a narrow set of rocks, which requires a little scrambling.  It’s not difficult; just an obstacle to be overcome.  Coming through this narrow place, The Old Maid appears:

 

The Old Maid, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

The Old Maid

And soon afterward, The Camel’s Head:

 

The Camel's Head, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

The Camel’s Head

Looking back at The Old Maid:

 

Looking back at the Old Maid, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Looking back at the Old Maid

Then Thor’s Hammer:

 

Thor's Hammer, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Thor’s Hammer

All of these have been marked with very nice signs.  However, some rocks looked to us like physical objects.  Like, after passing through a second passageway in the rocks (no scrambling required this time), we discovered a formation that looks a lot like an Egyptian Pharaoh:

 

The Pharaoh, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

The Pharaoh

Or some very realistic looking Camels:

 

Camels, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Camels (see the hump?)

Continuing around the loop, you can look out over the Heart of the Rocks area…I call it a “Fun View” because there are so many interesting rock formations that look like everything from a space alien to a turtle:

 

“Fun View” over the Heart of Rocks area

The next named rock formation is Punch and Judy, so titled because it looks like two people looking at each other:

 

Punch and Judy, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Punch and Judy

As the trail rises to top a hill, there are some nice views across the valley full of rock formations, such as this one:

 

Nice view from the Heart of Rocks Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Nice view

The next formation is a really cool one…Duck on a Rock:

 

Duck on a Rock, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Duck on a Rock

Another unnamed formation, as you round a corner, is the Fire Chief:

 

The Fire Chief, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

The Fire Chief

The last of the named formations are the Kissing Rocks.  I guess this one got its name because the two rocks are leaning against each other:

 

Kissing Rocks, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Kissing Rocks

But one more view awaits those with good imaginations.  Looking across the Heart of Rocks area, there are many rocks with lichen on them.  One of these has lichen in the general pattern of the Mona Lisa…really!

 

A Mona Lisa in Lichen, Heart of Rocks Loop Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

The “Mona Lisa”

The trail dips into the woods, then, quite suddenly, you’re back at the Y junction.  Turn left to return to the Big Balancing Rock Trail Junction…and be on the lookout for next week’s post about the Sarah Deming Trail and Upper Rhyolite Trails (which will begin to take you back up to your vehicle)!

 

Round Trip Trail Length: The shortest RT trail is 9.3 miles (15 km).  RT loop (including the Heart of Rocks Trail) is 9.5 miles (15.3 km) (though my GPS came out saying 8.7 miles (14 km))

Highest Elevation: 7,480 ft. (2,280 m) (Echo Canyon Parking Area)

Lowest Elevation (on loop): 5,900 ft. (1,798 m) (Sarah Deming Trail / Rhyolite Trail Junction)

Net Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,680 ft. (512 m)

Facilities: Primitive restrooms at the Echo Canyon Trailhead – otherwise, none.

Fees: $5 per person fee (age 16 and older) to enter Chiricahua National Monument, valid 7 days. America the Beautiful (Interagency), Senior (Golden Age), Access (Golden Access), Volunteer, Military, and Chiricahua Annual Passes also accepted – however, note that these only cover the pass holder and three other individuals (we ended up having to pay for one extra person; unlike some parks, these staff members seem serious about enforcing this (but they were very nice, all the same!)).  Update: The entrance fees to Chiricahua have been eliminated, so you can now visit for free!

 

Trail ★★★☆☆

Road ★★★★☆

Signs ★★★★★

Scenery ★★★★★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

 

Key GPS Coordinates for the trail to the Big Balanced Rock

A visual map of the entire loop...the Heart of Rocks Trail is the small circle inside the larger circle, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

A visual map of the entire loop…the Heart of Rocks Trail is the small circle inside the larger circle

Heart of Rocks Trail Junction: 31.99459N / -109.32260W (31° 59′ 40.5234″ / -109° 19′ 21.3594″) (6,792 ft.; 2,070 m)

Pinnacle Rock: 31.99551N / -109.32316W (31° 59′ 43.8354″ / -109° 19′ 23.376″) (6,825 ft.; 2,080 m)

Old Maid: 31.99601N / -109.32337W (31° 59′ 45.6354″ / -109° 19′ 24.1314″) (6,868 ft.; 2,093 m)

Camel’s Head: 31.99607N / -109.32327W (31° 59′ 45.8514″ / -109° 19′ 23.7714″) (6,861 ft; 2,091 m)

Thor’s Hammer: 31.99684N / -109.32301W (31° 59′ 48.6234″ / -109° 19′ 22.8354″) (6,860 ft.; 2,091 m)

Egyptian Pharaoh: 31.99739N / -109.32278W (31° 59′ 50.6034″ / -109° 19′ 22.0074″) (6,857 ft.; 2,090 m)

Camels: 31.99727N / -109.32208W (31° 59′ 50.172″ / -109° 19′ 19.4874″) (6,839 ft.; 2,084 m)

Fun View: 31.99714N / -109.32195W (31° 59′ 49.704″ / -109° 19′ 19.02″) (6,851 ft.; 2,088 m)

Punch and Judy: 31.99679N / -109.32114W (31° 59′ 48.444″ / -109° 19′ 16.1034″) (6,885 ft.; 2,098 m)

Duck on a Rock: 31.99682N / -109.32027W (31° 59′ 48.5514″ / -109° 19′ 12.9714″) (6,906 ft.; 2,105 m)

Fire Chief: 31.99627N / -109.32052W (31° 59′ 46.5714″ / -109° 19′ 13.872″) (6,883 ft.; 2,098 m)

Kissing Rocks: 31.99591N / -109.32085W (31° 59′ 45.2754″ / -109° 19′ 15.0594″) (6,857 ft.; 2,090 m)

Mona Lisa View: 31.99594N / -109.32080W (31° 59′ 45.384″ / -109° 19′ 14.88″) (6,851 ft.; 2,088 m)

 

The gpx file for the Chiricahua Heart of Rocks Loop can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

Download GPS File File size: 208.5 KB Downloaded 80 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

 

Getting to the Echo Canyon Parking Area

Chiricahua National Monument trail map, Arizona

Chiricahua National Monument trail map

From I-10 in Arizona, take Exit 340 in Willcox.  Head southeast (left if you’re coming from the east, right if you’re coming from the west) on Fort Grant Road/W Rex Allen Drive for 1.1 miles (1.7 km).  Turn right onto AZ-186 E (signs will point toward Interstate 10 Business).  After 0.7 miles (1.1 km), turn left to continue on AZ-186 E; drive 31.4 miles (50.5 km).  Turn left onto AZ-181 for 3 miles (4.8 km), then continue on E Bonita Canyon Road for 7.3 miles (11.7 km).  Turn right, following the signs for Sugarloaf and Echo Canyon; take an almost immediate left into the Echo Canyon Parking Area.

 

If you’re coming from the visitor center, turn left out of the parking area and drive 5.3 miles (8.5 km) to the turnoff for Sugarloaf.  Turn right here, then take an almost immediately left into the Echo Canyon Parking Area.

 

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