As the population of Southern Arizona grows the established, official, recreation opportunities in Ironwood Forest National Monument are bound to grow - but for now the map is wonderfully empty - a few major roads and a sparse spiderweb of smaller, sometimes questionable, dirt tracks. I love the destinations I have been to in IFNM - but even more I love the emptiness, looking at photos I long for the feeling of being nowhere in middle of unbroken desert.
It is a beautiful day to be in the desert - mellow temperatures, light clouds, a nice breeze; cactus, early spring flowers; good company and a fun hike to the summit of Ragged Top. Ragged Top is probably the most recognizable landmark in Ironwood Forest National Monument - the distance to the top is short, but between the beautiful terrain, interesting views, elevation gain and loose steep not-always-even-a-faint-trail it is likely to take longer than you would expect to gain the summit.
Without an official trail network, and only a handful of well known sites, you won't find extensive hiking information about Ironwood Forest National Monument - but the beautiful desert landscape invites exploration and several roads thru the Monument provide copious starting spots if you are adventurous. Some links:
- Ragged Top – Summit Hut Blog - Searching for 'Ragged Top Hike' will bring up plenty of relevant and useful results but this classic post is a great starting point.
- Hike Ironwood National Monument, Arizona - Backpacker - Good ideas for a few additional hiking destinations.
- Friends of Ironwood Forest - Consider supporting the Friends of Ironwood Forest if you care about this amazing place, they do great work for the Monument!
- History - Friends of Ironwood Forest - The Friends of Ironwood Forest have a number of good resources on their site but this page is a favorite of mine - you won't find roadside displays or visitor center in the Monument so easy to find details about the history of the monument are appreciated!
- Natural History, Archaeology, and Cultures of Southern Arizona’s Ironwood Forest - Bulletin of Old Pueblo Archaeology Center Tucson, Arizona - linked on the Friends of Ironwood Forest History page above but also linked here because this publications from the Home - Old Pueblo Archaeology Center is an incredible resource for learning more about the Monument.