The Crest Trail is actually a system of trails, spurs and side loops that sits like an inverted “Y” on the central ridge of the Chiricahuas. To make the job of describing this trail network a bit more manageable, we have broken it up into three parts. The northernmost segment of the Crest Trail is the only portion which is outside the Chiricahua Wilderness. A variety of outstanding views is just one of the features you’ll find along this portion of the Chiricahua mountain range’s longest trail. It wanders through wildflower-carpeted meadows and dense stands of pine and fir as it winds along the backbone ridge of the Chiricahuas. The course it follows extends between a trailhead on FR 357 just west of the junction with FR 42D, and the northern boundary of the Chiricahua Wilderness near Flys Peak. Most people, however, access the trail from the main trailhead located on the west side of the loop road at the end of Rustler Park Campground. Barfoot Lookout on the summit of Buena Vista Peak provides marvelous views a short but steep climb from this trail’s northern end. If you come from the Rustler Park Trailhead, it is a little over 1.5 miles to views which include the dramatic profile of Cochise Head, the sheer bluffs of Barfoot Peak, Cave Creek Canyon and Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoons. Heading south from the Rustler Park Campground, the trail leads through forests draped with Spanish moss and carpeted with bracken fern. At Bootlegger Saddle, 1.4 miles from the campground, there are more good views and a number of connecting trails. From here it is about a mile to the northern boundary of the Chiricahua Wilderness. Centella Point, Chiricahua Peak and Flys Peak, are within easy distance along connecting trails. Even Monte Vista Peak, with its marvelous vistas, is a long but manageable day trip along the Crest.
Trail in good condition. June 2012
At a Glance
Pack and saddle stock are not allowed overnight in campgrounds.
Douglas Ranger District
Douglas Ranger District 520-364-3468
Directions: From Tucson, take I-10 east 81 miles. Turn right (south) on AZ 186 and continue for 23 miles. Turn left (east) on AZ 181 toward Chiricahua National Monument and drive 4 miles, then turn right (south) on FR 42. Continue up Pinery Canyon 12 miles to FR 42D. Drive about 2.5 miles to the Rustler Park Campground. The trailhead is located on the west side of the campground near site #6. Forest Roads 42 and 42D are gravel roads suitable for passenger vehicles. Open from April through November, they are not plowed and are usually closed following early or late season snowstorms. These roads are rough and dusty and may be muddy and slick after a rain.
Great views, several possible destinations, high country access, forested trail, campground trailhead. Best views are from Barfoot Lookout and Bootlegger Saddle. USGS Map(s): Rustler Park