Noah Austin

In the Chiricahua Mountains, the hoodoos, balanced rocks and hiking trails of Chiricahua National Monument get most of the attention. But “attention” is relative: On average, only about 150 people per day enter the monument, placing it among Arizona’s least-visited National Park Service sites. The southeast side of the Chiricahuas, on the opposite corner of the range from the monument, gets even fewer visitors — and Price Canyon Road is an ideal way to experience a part of these mountains that few people ever see.

From State Route 80 northeast of Douglas, head northwest on Price Canyon Road, which initially is a wide, smooth dirt and gravel path. The steep-walled peaks of the southern Chiricahuas loom straight ahead; to their left, you’ll see Limestone Mountain, which sits between the Chiricahuas and the smaller Pedregosa Mountains to the south. The road passes a ranch, then curves to the north, giving you a view of rounded foothills beneath the taller peaks.

Around Mile 3, on the right, you’ll pass some of those foothills, followed by a hill studded with granite boulders, as the road curves to the west, then the north. Within a mile, you’ll dip through a wash and find a slightly rougher road on the other side, and a mile after that, you’ll pass a grove of small oak trees. Oaks are a common sight in the lower elevations of this range, as are yuccas, agaves and prickly pear cactuses.

You’ll enter the Coronado National Forest at Mile 5.5, where the road officially becomes Forest Road 317 and narrows a bit as it continues north. A few hundred yards to the east, you’ll see a line of relatively tall trees, which are nourished by a creek that parallels the road. And straight ahead is another lovely view of the peaks — one that’s accentuated by the tall grass along the road.

The route curves into a forest dominated by oaks at Mile 6.5, just before you reach a “Y” intersection. To the right is the Price Canyon Ranch, but you’ll go left to stay on Price Canyon Road, which winds past larger and larger oaks, along with impressive agaves and yuccas. This stretch is rougher and narrower than previous ones, with plenty of ups and downs, but be sure to stop at Mile 7.3 to take in the hillside of countless agaves thriving beneath granite outcrops on the left side of the road.

From there, you’ll need to exercise some patience, because the road gets very rough as it crosses several more washes in a thick forest of mostly oaks, junipers and yuccas. That continues until Mile 8.4, when you’ll come to another “Y.” This time, the right fork leads into Brushy Canyon, but you’ll again go left and, after another rough and rutted quarter-mile, exit the forest into a large clearing that’s worth the effort it took to get to it.

Here, the tall peaks of the Chiricahuas stand guard over a meadow that’s filled with windblown grasses and ringed by oaks and junipers. If you look closely, you might spot a few hoodoos on the nearby hills. This is an ideal spot for a picnic lunch, and it’s also the stopping point for this drive. The road ends a couple of miles away, at the Price Canyon Trailhead, but the last stretch is too rough for anyone not driving a Jeep or an ATV. If you have one of those, buckle up and get ready for more incredible views. On this side of the Chiricahuas, you probably won’t have to share them with anyone.

tour guide 

Note: Mileages are approximate. 

Length: 8.6 miles one way (from State Route 80 to scenic clearing)
Directions: From Douglas, go northeast on State Route 80 for 32 miles to Price Canyon Road. Turn left (northwest) onto Price Canyon Road, which later becomes Forest Road 317, and continue 8.6 miles to the scenic clearing.
Vehicle requirements: A high-clearance vehicle, such as an SUV or truck, is required, but four-wheel-drive is not necessary in good weather.
Warning: Back-road travel can be dangerous, so be aware of weather and road conditions. Carry plenty of water. Don’t travel alone, and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
Information: Douglas Ranger District, 520-364-3468 or