Chiricahua National Monument

America’s nation­al mon­u­ments have been under the spot­light late­ly due to efforts to both save and elim­i­nate a few of them. With over 100 Mon­u­ments spread across the coun­try you prob­a­bly haven’t heard of, we thought now would be a good time to high­light some of the least visited.

Chiricahua National MonumentChir­ic­ahua Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Arizona
The Chir­ic­ahua Nation­al Mon­u­ment in Ari­zona is a des­ig­nat­ed wilder­ness acces­si­ble by foot and horse­back. It con­tains rough­ly 17 miles of day-use trails for the intre­pid explor­er with var­i­ous forests, mead­ows and tow­er­ing rock pin­na­cles to wind through. Though ille­gal, we hear it’s also pop­u­lar with climbers; we don’t rec­om­mend tempt­ing fate or the author­i­ties with that one, though. Oth­er­wise, it’s a won­der­ful, unique mon­u­ment with fas­ci­nat­ing rock for­ma­tions and great hikes like the Echo Canyon Trailhead.

Aniakchak National MonumentAni­akchak Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Alaska
Ani­akchak Nation­al Mon­u­ment sees few­er vis­i­tors than even Cape Krusen­stern, aver­ag­ing less than 300 a year. Access to the park is not easy, requir­ing a com­bi­na­tion of fly­ing, boat­ing and back­coun­try hik­ing very few can com­plete. That, com­bined with a large num­ber of wolves and griz­zlies in the region make most poten­tial vis­i­tors weary of mak­ing an attempt. If you can hack it, you’ll be reward­ed with an exten­sive array of hik­ing up Vent Moun­tain along with sport fish­ing and epic raft­ing in the Ani­akchak Riv­er. The region is also home to the 2,000-foot deep vol­canic caldera to explore.

Organ Pipe Cactus National MonumentOrgan Pipe Cac­tus Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Arizona
Organ Pipe Cac­tus was most­ly closed to the gen­er­al pub­lic for 11 years due to it being con­sid­ered the most dan­ger­ous nation­al mon­u­ment in the coun­try. Its loca­tion next to the bor­der of Mex­i­co made it a prime stomp­ing ground for the drug trade, so hik­ing here was pret­ty unsafe. Now that it’s reopened, it pro­vides some of the country’s most scenic hik­ing trails. The sur­round­ing Puer­to Blan­co Moun­tains and Alamo Canyon con­tain dozens of hik­ing trails as well as camp­ing spots where you can spend the night. Organ Pipe is in the heart of the Sono­ran Desert and con­tains unique wildlife you won’t find any­where else; it’s the only place on Earth you can find the cac­tus for which it’s named.

Cape Krusen­stern Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Alaska
Cape Krusen­stern is one of the most remote regions in the Unit­ed States and is locat­ed along 70 miles of the Chukchi Sea in Alas­ka. Get­ting there is no easy task and only the most expe­ri­enced back­coun­try explor­ers should even attempt it. Once there, how­ev­er, you’ll find the 540,000-acre mon­u­ment is loaded with Eski­mo arti­facts dat­ing back 5000 years and plen­ty of natives still liv­ing in the region. The wilder­ness is as rugged as it gets with blis­ter­ing win­ter colds pre­sent­ing the biggest threat, but dur­ing the sum­mer months, it’s a great place to explore the rolling lime­stone hills and coastal plains pep­pered with lagoons. Cape Krusen­stern is also kayak­ing heaven.

Buck Island Reef Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Vir­gin Islands
The U.S. Vir­gin Islands are vir­tu­al­ly teem­ing with adven­ture, though not a lot of peo­ple choose to wade into the Buck Island Reef Nation­al Mon­u­ment. The region is a spec­tac­u­lar spot for those who enjoy spend­ing time on the water. The coral grot­toes are per­fect for snor­kel­ing through­out the day, while fur­ther off­shore there’s plen­ty to dis­cov­er for scu­ba divers at the two des­ig­nat­ed moor­ings. If you pre­fer to stay above water you’ll find great oppor­tu­ni­ties for hik­ing and bird watch­ing through­out the area.

Imag­ine zip­ping around a com­pact bike-friend­ly city with a huge 12,643-foot moun­tain shad­ow­ing you; cof­fee, farm-fresh food and beer-fill­ing sta­tions just min­utes apart. No, you’re not in Col­orado; you’re in the North­ern Ari­zona town of Flagstaff.

Long known to adven­tur­ers as a road-trip pit­stop or the clos­est air­port to Grand Canyon Nation­al Park, Flagstaff has def­i­nite­ly evolved into an out­doors des­ti­na­tion in its own right. Con­sid­er spend­ing 48 hours here to sam­ple the best of what the area has to offer. Then come back and make it a week.

What to do:

Humphrey’s Peak (Kachi­na Peaks Wilder­ness Area) has a 10-mile round-trip trail to the 12,643 ft. sum­mit, start­ing from Ari­zona Snow­bowl ski resort 14.5 miles north­west of down­town Flagstaff. A lit­tle flat­ter than Humphrey’s Peak is the Ari­zona Trail. It’s an amaz­ing trail with sev­er­al options in the area depend­ing on your pre­ferred distance.

Road Bik­ing
You could eas­i­ly bike from one end of the city to the oth­er on a com­bi­na­tion of trails and bike lanes. Many of the most pop­u­lar din­ing spots and busi­ness­es offer bike park­ing. Some even offer a dis­count for cus­tomers who arrive on non-motor­ized 2‑wheels. Here are some places to rent road, cruis­er or moun­tain bikes: Flagstaff Bicy­cle Rev­o­lu­tion, AZ Ped­al Tours, or Flagstaff Nordic Center.

Moun­tain Biking
The Flagstaff Nordic Cen­ter offers moun­tain bike rentals and coor­di­nates with a shut­tle ser­vice com­pa­ny to get you out to trail­heads. Sun­set Trail, just north of down­town, is the launch site for an 8‑mile round trip sin­gle-track chal­lenge from Schultz Pass to the sum­mit of Mount Elden. It’s at times steep and tech­ni­cal, and at oth­ers, fast and smooth with knock­out views.

Rock Climb­ing
Flagstaff Climb­ing offers day pass­es at both their climb­ing gym loca­tions, Down­town Crag and Main Street Boul­ders. The two gyms encom­pass 9,000 square feet of top rope, lead climb­ing and boul­der­ing ter­rain. They can also tip you off to where to go outdoors.

Head north on For­est Roads 245, 171 and 171B (closed in win­ter) to the Lava Riv­er Tube Cave. The cli­mate inside is a steady 42 degree Fahren­heit year-round, but you’ll need head­lamps and flash­lights, warm clothing/jackets and your own water. The road gates open in late-April, depend­ing on snow/mud conditions.

Adven­ture Course
Flagstaff Extreme Adven­ture Course is an ele­vat­ed obsta­cle course set in tall Pon­derosa pines out by Fort Tuthill Coun­ty Park. The course includes rope swings, scram­bling walls, hang­ing nets, wob­bly bridges and sus­pend­ed “sur­pris­es.”

Disc Golf
Head out to Thor­pe Park and Con­ti­nen­tal Park (Sports Com­plex E Old Wal­nut Canyon Rd) or to Ari­zona Snow­bowl Disc Golf course locat­ed at an ele­va­tion of 9,500 feet. The course starts and fin­ish­es at the Agas­siz Lodge, with a prac­tice bas­ket just out­side the lodge. The course is free, but there’s a dona­tion box on the way to the first hole.

Need to stretch? Check out The Yoga Expe­ri­ence. Locat­ed in down­town Flagstaff, their drop-in class­es com­bine ele­ments from the Anusara, Ash­tan­ga, Iyen­gar, Kun­dali­ni, Vinyasa Flow, and YOGAMAZÉ traditions.

Where to do it:

Wal­nut Canyon Nation­al Monument
Just east of Flagstaff, you can lit­er­al­ly step back in time, hik­ing among ancient pueb­los and cliff dwellings tucked into the walls just below Wal­nut Canyon’s Rim. It’s less than 90 min­utes to take in the major sites here. Between Memo­r­i­al Day and Labor Day, by reser­va­tion only, you can get in on back­coun­try hikes that vis­it some of the more remote cliff dwellings. The 3‑hour stren­u­ous Sat­ur­day Ledge Hike starts at 10am.

Pet­ri­fied For­est Nation­al Monument
Long day­light hours with some time left to explore? This is one of the few places in the world where you can see Late Tri­as­sic peri­od fos­sils and gor­geous pet­ri­fied wood. Locat­ed near Hol­brook, go hike the Red Basin Trail to view 200-mil­lion-year-old clam beds, along with rock spires, hoodoos, and petroglyphs—in Red Basin on an 8.5‑mile loop.

Grand Falls
Spring is the best time to see this pre­quel to the Grand Canyon on the Lit­tle Col­orado Riv­er. Locat­ed about an hour north­east of Flagstaff on the Nava­jo Nation just out­side Leupp, the 185 ft. water­fall looks enor­mous when it’s sea­son­al­ly flow­ing. The area is still worth see­ing even if the falls are dried up. Unless you have a 4WD or are on a moun­tain bike, though, plan to hike the last half-mile to the over­look and down to the base of the falls.

Wupat­ki Nation­al Monument
Wupat­ki Pueblo is the largest with­in this com­plex. A self-guid­ed trail begins behind the vis­i­tor cen­ter. This is a great alter­na­tive to the Pet­ri­fied For­est if ruined pueb­los are more your thing than fos­sils or falls.