South Fork #243

South Fork Trail

Birdwatching is the main attraction of this trail, and the elegant trogon with its bright crimson breast and long, coppery tail has been added to many a birder’s life list along the banks of this pleasant little stream. The trail follows the stream, crossing and re-crossing it, as it wanders through a riparian forest of walnut, sycamore, and cypress. Apache, Ponderosa and Chihuahua pine can also be found here as well as Douglas-fir and Arizona madrone. Even if you aren’t a birdwatcher, you’ll have a hard time not noticing the variety of brightly colored species of birds that can be sighted in this diverse environment. In addition to trogons, there are blue-throated hummingbirds, painted redstarts, red-faced warblers and a whole host of other colorful characters. The list of species that have been seen in the Chiricahua Mountains numbers well over two hundred. Many of them can be seen along this trail. If you put down your binoculars periodically, you’ll have more time to enjoy the picturesque cascades and shallow pools of South Fork. And in October, the gold and scarlet leaves of Rocky Mountain maples add another dimension of color to the scenery, especially in the vicinity of Maple Camp (1.6 miles from trailhead). Above Maple Camp, the trail continues to follow the stream in the shadow of some huge cliffs before heading up a side canyon toward the high country. The climb here takes you through aspens and Douglas-fir, past Burnt Stump Trail #366, to a junction with the Crest Trail. From here, it’s a little over a half mile to the summit of Sentinel Peak, the site of an old lookout.


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At a Glance

Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: Motorized and mechanized vehicles and equipment, including mountain bikes, are not permitted in Wilderness. This trail is not recommended for stock.
Operated By: Douglas Ranger District

General Information


From Tucson, take I-10 east 139 miles to US 80 (you will cross the New Mexico border to get to this intersection). Turn right (south) and drive 28 miles, then turn right (west) on the road to Portal, 7 miles. Drive west on FR 42 approximately 2 miles to the South Fork turnoff, turn right (south) and continue 1 mile to the South Fork trail, which begins where the road is blocked. All roads are suitable for passenger vehicles.


Day Hiking

World class birdwatching, Elegant Trogons, blue-throated hummers, Pleasant stream, riparian forest, Fall colors. 6.6 miles of this 6.8 mile trail are within the Chiricahua Wilderness. Heavy to Maple Camp, moderate beyond Access to the high country USGS Map(s): Portal Peak
Elevation desc 5,360 - 8,800 feet
Difficulty Level: More Difficult


Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Area/Length : 
6.8 miles

  Elevation : 
5,360 feet - 8,800 feet