About: Rustler Park is a wildflower-carpeted meadow high in the Chiricahuas. Around the turn of the century, rustlers concealed stolen stock there while altered brands healed and pursuit cooled. Today, the meadow provides a cool mountain respite from the deserts below. Rimmed with Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine, the meadow is sprinkled with seasonal wildflowers.
Campsites at Rustler Park are scattered in the shade of tall trees along access roads that have been purposefully kept out of the meadow to avoid damaging fragile plants and soils.
Rustler Park is an excellent place to pursue birdwatching. Larger animals, including black bear, are frequently spotted here, too. Trails lead from the campground into the Chiricahua Wilderness and to other places of interest. The Crest Trail #270, is accessible via a trailhead in the campground’s outer loop, or by a 4-wheel drive road south of the campground entrance.
Fees: $10 (2011)
Restrooms: Vault Toilet
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 3 miles, then turn right (south) on Forest Road 42.
From Douglas, take US 80 two miles west to US 191. Go north on US 19135 miles to Sunizona. Take AZ 181 east, then north, for approximately 28 miles (stay on paved road) to FR 42. Continue up FR 42 (Pinery Canyon) 12 miles to Forest Road 42D. Turn right at Onion Saddle and drive approximately 2.5 miles to Rustler Park Campground.
Forest Roads 42 and 42D are gravel roads suitable for two-wheel drive passenger vehicles, though high-clearance vehicles such as pickup trucks or SUVs are recommended. Open from April through November, these roads are not plowed and are usually closed following early or late season snowstorms. Expect slick conditions after a rain.
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Now Closed because of Recent Fire!
I would love this little, high-altitude campground if it were still open but the recent fire has left too many doug fir and ponderosa widow-makers hanging overhead. The meadow has come back but the big trees are all dead. For those wishing to camp in the area anyway, there are a few, small flat spots off the road for dispersed camping in the last 1/2 mile before the fire closure.