One of the most beautiful hikes in the Southwest of the USA: the Big Loop Trail. The day tour leads through the “Wonderland of Rocks” of the Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona – USA. It goes over Echo Canyon, Inspiration Point and the Heart of Rocks through a fascinating rock landscape. This good 16 km long and quite strenuous hike, which invites again and again to photo stops, is my personal favorite in the southwest of the USA.

The trail course is in this composition probably the most demanding route, which offers intensive insights into the Wonderland of Rocks of the Chiricahua NM. Especially at the end of the tour there is a very strenuous climb back to the starting point of the tour.

Narrow rock passages alternate with spectacular viewpoints

The trail starts at the Echo Canyon Parking Area. After only about 100 meters the trail leads into a collection of fantastic rock formations. Narrow rock passages alternate with spectacular viewpoints into the canyon. The trail winds through the middle of the rock labyrinth. After about 1.4 km of steady downhill, you emerge from the rock maze into Echo Park an area with a dense stand of large Douglas fir and Arizona cypress.

Soon the Echo Canyon Trail turns into the Hailstone Trail. This leads relatively level along the slope and offers an exposed view of the valley and the Wonderland of Rock opposite, where our tour will take us later. After about 3.5 km, the trail branches off onto the Mushroom Rock Trail (alternatively, you can return to the trailhead via Massaipoint).

The Mushroom Rock Trail now leads us, through a dense forest, again steadily uphill. If the forest is not too leafy and green, you can catch a glimpse of the eponymous Mushroom Rock.

Big Balance Rock – incredible balancing act of nature

After reaching the top of the mountain range via the trail, there is a turnoff to Inspiration Point. This detour has no major climbs and is not too long. At the end of the trail, you have a good overview of the valley and a long view all the way to Chosice Stronghold. If you forgo this detour or are back at the turnoff, you continue on the Big Balance Rock Trail to the stone sculpture that gives it its name.

There are many such formations in the park – but this one is the most worth seeing because of the size and the tiny footprint.
Almost 7 meters wide and about 8 meters high is this mighty boulder.

Heart of Rocks – a sculpture garden

Only a few meters behind this spectacle we continue directly into the Heart of Rocks. The circular walk is an absolute highlight – at every corner there are stone formations worth seeing like the Kissing Rocks or the Duck on the Rock. With photo stops, this short detour therefore takes longer than the approximately 1.5 km suggest. The trail is a bit narrow and steep in parts, but good to walk. In no case should you skip this loop trail.

Now we continue on the Sarah Demings Trail. This trail offers some more views of the Dragoon Mountains, before it quickly descends into the valley. After a while, the Upper Ryholite Canyon Trail branches off, bringing us back to the Echo Canyon Trail. The combination of the two trails is a bit strenuous as it is steadily uphill. Fortunately, though, many sections are in the shady forest. The last section leads us once again through Echo Canyon which shows many new perspectives from this running direction.

Big Loop Trail
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