Local hiking offers big rewards

For active retirees who live in Sierra Vista there are no end of possibilities to keeping fit and healthy.

One of the most popular pastimes for local residents is hiking, and it is easy to see why.

When you hike the mountains of Cochise County it won’t just be the elevation climb that leaves you breathless.

Your reward for traversing the trails of picturesque peaks will include endless vistas into neighboring Mexico, views across rock formations thousands of years in the making, and a panorama of craggy outcrops once home to a Southwest legend.

No matter which of the county’s ranges you choose to visit, there are out-of-this-world landscapes just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.

Here are our top five picks for the best hikes with amazing views.

Joe’s Canyon Trail, Huachuca Mountains

6.2 miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate/difficult

Elevation: 5,300-6,864 feet

Magnificent vistas stretching far into Mexico and the San Pedro Valley can be savored along much of this hike.

As we marveled at the scenery before us, it was easy to picture 16th century Spanish explorers winding their way across the grasslands in search of mythical cities of gold.

Today, the region is a hiker’s treasure trove of arid desert, rugged mountains, and wildlife spotting.

The trailhead begins near the Coronado National Memorial visitor center and winds steeply up through the canyon, along Smuggler’s Ridge and up to Montezuma Pass, which affords one of the most spectacular views in the region. You can also choose to start the hike at the pass.

Our tip – if the 6.2 mile round trip sounds daunting, and you have access to two vehicles, leave one at the visitor center and drive the other up to the pass to enjoy the rigorous, downhill hike.

Visit www.nps.gov/coro/planyourvisit/hiking.htm

Perimeter Trail, Huachuca Mountains

7.4 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation: 5,661-6,495 feet

This trek along a contour of the Huachuca Mountains offers nothing but sweeping views to appreciate.

The Perimeter Trail, also popular with mountain bikers, has minimal steep climbs and affords a continuous outlook over the San Pedro Valley.

We started at the Carr Canyon Trailhead where the path crossed a pretty mountain stream, headed through grassland and took us on a short climb to an expansive landscape of rolling hills and blue skies.

The stresses of every day life literally melted away as we enjoyed the cool breezes and boundless beauty around us.

Hikers can also start their journey at the other end of this trail at Miller Canyon.

Visit www.visitsierravista.com

Cochise Trail, Dragoon Mountains

10 miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation change: 5,000–6,000 feet

Surrounded by a labyrinth of granite rock formations jutting above forest and scrubland, it’s easy to see why Chiricahua Apache Chief Cochise chose this as his hideout as he evaded U.S. Army capture.

There is something mystical about this former home of Cochise, for whom the county is named and who is believed buried in the Dragoon Mountains.

This enjoyable hike took us through the heart of Cochise Stronghold, where boulders tower defiantly over Arizona oaks, pinyon pine trees, desert yuccas, and tall grass.

The scenery here is otherworldly and the trail winds past imposing ravines, across mountain springs, and along shaded gullies. We could almost hear the chants of the Apache tribes on the gentle canyon winds.

You’ll find the start of Cochise Trail at the Cochise Stronghold campsite.

Visit www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coronado/recarea/?recid=25334

Guindani Trail, Whetstone Mountains

4.2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

Elevation: 4,750-5,620 feet

While parts of this hike at Kartchner Caverns State Park can be strenuous, we forgot every challenging step when we reached the slopes of the Whetstone Mountains.

For much of this hike we were guided through a rocky canyon surrounded by desert landscaped-covered hills.

A steep climb out of the canyon was well rewarded when we took in the majestic scene that awaited us.

We felt like we were on top of the world as we gazed across the valley floor as far as the eye could see. Thankfully, it was downhill from there.

Our tip – if you have the time and energy, take a tour of the caverns for a truly memorable day out.

The start of the trail is signposted once you enter the park.

Visit www.azstateparks.com/Parks/KACA/facilities.html

Echo Canyon Loop, Chiricahau Mountains

3.3 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Elevation: 6,784-6,330

Located at Chiricahua National Monument, this hike should typically take about two hours. But be sure to plan more time for the numerous photo opportunities.

The exhilaration of this hike began with the drive into the park as we passed jaw-dropping scenery punctuated with soaring pillars of rock as tall as skyscrapers.

This memorable hike had us staring in absolute wonder across spectacular geological formations millions of years in the making.

We walked through rock corridors, passed natural grottoes, and gazed in astonishment at gigantic boulders seemingly balanced precariously on towering pillars.

Around every corner is another breathtaking panorama waiting to be discovered and captured on camera.

The trailhead is located at the Echo Canyon Trail parking area, 5.5 miles past the visitor center.

Visit www.nps.gov/chir/index.htm

Want to find out more about living in beautiful Sierra Vista? Call (520) 458-6940 for a free information packet.