Worth the Hike- Fort Bowie National Monument

Fort Bowie National Monument is located in the baking desert of Southeastern Arizona. What makes this such a unique National Park is the fact that you have to hike a mile and a half to get to the site. The National Park Service, in most cases, put the parking lot and visitor centers close to the actual sites. Even when the facilities and parking lots aren’t close, they are usually in temperatue climate zones, when a pleasant mile and a half walk is not that big of a deal. 
The fort was established in the 1860s, as a result of a couple of bloody skirmishes with the Chiricahua Apache. I asked the ranger at the site’s visitor center why the NPS had elected to separate the site and center from the parking area. He told me that the hike though the area gave people a good introduction to the harsh environment that had to be overcome by the soldiers staged at the fort. I was so glad I had started my walk around 8 AM, sine temperatures were in the 90s by the time I reached the fort around 9 on that day in early May.
The sight itself is mostly ruins, but getting a feel for the fort is not that hard through pictures and interpretive signposting. Also interpreted well are the 1862 Battle of Apache Pass and the ruins of the Butterfield Stage Station, part of the larger Butterfield Overland Mail route, which connected points east with San Francisco, one of the only ways of communication between the larger population of the East and the West Coast in the years preceding the Civil War.
On of the highlights for me was taking the secondary trail back to the parking lot. It leads up a hill and overlooks the sight from above, which gave me perspective on all the runs I had just spent a couple of hours walking around. Both trails highlight desert vegetation, which is part of such a unique ecosystem.

While a 1.5 mile hike may prohibit some from visiting, my advice would be to visit in the off-season, or start your hike early in the morning. Obviously, as with all hikes, make sure you carry enough water with you to avoid dehydration. There is a small road that leads to the visitor’s center, but it is really only for park personnel and handicapped visitors.

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