Chiricahua Mountains Expedition

Join Wildlife Biologist, Ethnobotanist, Naturalist, & Wilderness Survival Instructor Vincent Pinto for a Naturalist Expedition into the largest of Arizona’s famed Sky Islands. During this exciting 3-day expedition you’ll have an opportunity to discover this remote and stunning landscape, including a number of fascinating habitats – from arid Chihuahuan Desert flats, into deep canyons, and up to soaring peaks with incredible views.


Vincent has been exploring, researching, and studying the Chiricahuas since 1990 and intimately knows this spectacular Sky Islands Mountain range.  Rather than visit the busy tourist spots, Vincent will guide you to unforgettable natural areas rich in flora and fauna, as well a geologic history.

dsc09870This exciting Ravens-Way Wild Journeys experience is intended to introduce you to the Chiricahua Mountains, including:

  • Geology
  • General Ecology
  • Plant Communities
  • Stream Ecology
  • Plants
  • Birds
  • Reptiles & Amphibians
  • Mammals
  • Wildlife Tracking
  • Butterflies & other Invertebrates
  • Ethnobotany
  • Wilderness Survival Skills
  • Human History
  • Conservation issues in the Chiricahuas



Traveling slowly, Vincent will lead an exciting exploration to a number of distinct and species-rich Chiricahua habitats by day, hoping to see interesting flora, fauna, and fungi.  Plant communities that we’ll visit include:

  • Marshes
  • Swamps
  • Chihuahuan Desert
  • Grasslands
  • Desert Arroyos
  • Chaparral
  • Madrean Evergreen Woodland
  • Canyon Riparian Forest
  • Pine Forest
  • Montane Meadows


Given its proximity to Mexico, the Chiricahuas host an impressive biodiversity, with many species at the northern terminus of their range. Such “Mexican Specialty” wildlife species include:

  • Elegant Trogon
  • Buff-breasted Flycatcher
  • Short-tailed Hawk
  • Montezuma Quail
  • Whiskered Screech Owl
  • Arizona Woodpecker
  • Magnificent Hummingbird
  • Mexican Chickadee
  • Painted Redstart
  • Jaguar
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Madrean Fox Squirrel
  • Twin-spotted Rattlesnake
  • Sonora Mud Turtle
  • Striped Plateau Lizard
  • ….& more!

To increase the chances of seeing all the local wildlife, Vincent will keep the walking pace slow most of the time. Occasionally, there will be times when  you will have to pick up the walking pace up a bit in an effort to stay on schedule. The terrain will vary with some ups and downs and a few steeper hills, but never any real mountain climbing. Be prepared for some elevation changes, as we drive between various destinations.   Elevation changes within any one walk will be minimal – several hundred feet at best.  Walking at the highest elevations will be accordingly slower, allowing all to go at a reasonable and safe pace. Vincent always adjusts the pace to the group’s needs and abilities.

Included in your itinerary is a visit to Raven’s Mountain Nature Sanctuary, which Vincent has owned and managed since 1993.  The preserve is situated on a dramatic foothill with a 600′ elevation change and Portal Peak looming over it at 8,500′. These 50 acres of Grasslands and Chihuahuan Desert Scrub support a variety of species and represent an important, local habitat link for a variety of native plants and animals.  Vincent has worked tirelessly over the years to remove nonnative species and to protect this vital wildlife habitat.

Along the way you will also have an opportunity to enjoy a brief stop by the Chiricahua Desert Museum, which showcases various rare reptiles in particular.  The natural history book selection at the museum is impressive, as are the birds at their outdoor stream and bird feeding stations.


After each day of wilderness explorations the group will enjoy a hearty dinner together at the Southwestern Research Station, followed by an Evening Program.  The first night Vincent will focus primarily on Astronomy during a Starry Safari Tour of the spectacular sky.


The very dark skies of the Chiricahuas present world-class Astronomy opportunities. Vincent will lead the group on a short walk to an area with good open skies where he will guide you through the visible heavens, including:

  • A constellation tour
  • The visible planets
  • Any meteors
  • Navigation by night
  • Ancient sky stories and mythology

The second Evening Program will focus mainly on Owls and other nocturnal species.  Arizona is home to 12 species of Owls, many of which can been seen and heard in the Chiricahuas.  During our April 2016 expedition detected 5 Owls species – an impressive number:

  • Whiskered Screech Owl
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
  • Elf Owl
  • (Mexican) Spotted Owl

Wildlife Biologist & Owl Researcher Vincent Pinto will not only help you to find and identify Owls, he’ll also discuss their natural history, including diet, nesting ecology, and potential predators.  Beyond Owls, the group will also have a good chance of seeing and hearing other nocturnal species, including:

  • Common Poorwill
  • Mexican Whip-poor-will
  • Mountain Lion
  • Bobcat
  • Coyote
  • Grey Fox
  • Northern Raccoon
  • Ringtail
  • Black Bear
  • American Badger
  • Coues Whitetail Deer
  • …and more!

After each afternoon Naturalist Saunter ends, you will also have some free time to relax, freshen up, or explore even more on your own prior to dinner at the SWRS. Given that the Southwestern Research Station is situated directly in the heart of the Chiricahuas, you need merely to step outside in order to immerse yourself in Nature!


The Chiricahua Mountains are renowned not only for their biodiversity, but also their spectacular rock formations, and multi-varied rocks and minerals. Therefore, during your comprehensive Naturalist’s Saunters we’ll also search for a wide range of fascinating geologic features in the area.  Throughout this unique experience, Vincent will also frequently cover Ethnobotany – the human uses of native plants – including species useful for food, medicine, tools, fire-making, shelter, dyes, music, and more.  In addition, Vincent will look for and opportunistically Track local wildlife whenever you encounter their prints or other signs. Fascinating Day & Evening Nature Programs await you in this secluded and pristine wilderness!


For those interested in keeping track of what we see each day, Vincent will provide a detailed recap of the wildlife spotted via species lists at each dinner.  At the conclusion of your Chiricahua Nature Expedition, RWWJ will e-mail you a final and complete list of wildlife, including: Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Butterflies, and other notable Invertebrates.

For example, in early April 2016, a very impressive species list was recorded during the 3-day Naturalist Expedition:

  • 105 Birds
  • 9 Mammals
  • 2 Reptiles
  • 5 Butterflies

To view the species list recorded in April 2016 Click: 2016 List.

To view the species list recorded during the expedition that Vincent led at the end of March 2017,  click:  2017 List  .

The species list includes:

  • 81 Birds
  • 7 Mammals
  • 2 Reptiles
  • 9 Butterflies
  • 28 Wildflowers

To view the species list recorded during the expedition that Vincent led at the end of March 2018,  click: 2018 List .

To view the species list recorded during the expedition that Vincent led at the end of March 2019,  click: 2019 List


During your Chiricahua Nature Expedition you will have multiple different lodging options in the area. We will provide further details once you make your reservation.


The Tuition for 3 full Day & Evening Programs with an expert Wildlife Biologist, Professional Birder, Naturalist, Ethnobotanist, Wilderness Survival instructor, and Amateur Astronomer as your guide is $900 per person, and it is paid directly to RWWJ by check.


1. Please be advised that every Participant needs to complete a WAIVER & REGISTRATION Form. To download please click:  RWWJ REGISTRATION FORMRWWJ WAIVER FORM

Please include any pertinent medical issues and current medications, as well as valid Emergency Contact information on the Registration Form.

2. Please send both Registration Forms back to us along with your Tuition check to:


P.O. Box 393

Patagonia, Arizona, 85624

There are endless options to discover in the Chiricahua Mountains to new and exciting locations that promise very different expeditions. Join RWWJ for a very unique experience, and a memorable, fun, and informative expedition to the breathtaking Chiricahua Mountains!


I had just moved to Arizona, when I went on the Chiricahua Nature Trip with Vince. In three days we covered so very much–nature walks, birding, plant identification, astronomy, tracking–as well as seeing the most unique rock formations. My favorite experience was when Vince used his bird calls to bring a tiny owl into the tree above our heads. Amazing. Vince’s encyclopedic knowledge of so many areas of eco-biology and his stories about his own nature experiences are very interesting and educational. I learned so much and so thoroughly enjoyed myself that I have planned another nature trip with him this year.
Margalis F.,Green Valley, AZ.
My three-day trip with Vincent to the Chiricahuas was an awesome adventure and learning experience. The mountains are so diverse and beautiful. Vincent is very passionate and so knowledgeable about nature. There was so much to do and learn – owling stargazing, plant identification, geology, etc. He tunes us into nature. It was such a fun and learning experience that I am returning again with Vincent in 2017.
Linda W., Alaska
I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how much I enjoyed the Chiricahua Mountain trip last year. Being so new to SE Arizona, this trip really helped me to start to understand the Sky Islands and their flora and fauna. Thinking back to those 3 days I have to say that it was a wonderful experience in so many ways. The pace was just right and the learning opportunity was excellent. Of course, being a birder, the 100 plus birds we saw was a delight as well. I have to add that staying at the Southwest Research Center was a pleasant surprise. The accommodations were very comfortable and the food was excellent. Of course, the opportunity to be so close to nature really can not be measured. There is such a peace to the soul when you are there.
So – needless to say – I am looking forward to the next trip in March. I’ve been looking forward to it for some time.
Barbara D., Green Valley, AZ.
 I thoroughly enjoyed the Chiricahua experience and learned a great deal. Not having Vincent’s encyclopedic mind, I will never remember all the plant names! But it is such pleasure to have my attention drawn to them, their special qualities and uses. In the same way, I loved learning new things about insect, reptile, bird, and mammal identifications and behaviors. Last but not least, it was fascinating to learn more astronomy, geology, and geography.
Vincent always goes to extra lengths to be sure each and every person is more than satisfied on these nature adventures. Our trip through that gorgeous territory along Rucker Road is the most recent example of his going the extra mile to please!
Thanks so much to both of you for the wonderful Chiricahua experience; Vincent for sharing your knowledge and the pleasure of your company, and Claudia for such perfect planning. The accommodations and meals at SWRS were just right. We only wish you could have been with us, Claudia!
Kathy W., Green Valley, AZ.

I want to thank Vincent and Claudia for making our recent sojourn in the Chiricahuas such a wonderful adventure. Although Kathy and I have been there several times, we saw and experienced so much more with Vincent’s guidance. I really liked seeing the various mortar pot locations at Bread Rocks as well the walk to them with explanations about the plants along the way as well as the bird sightings. I especially liked sampling some of the edible plant varieties—something I would not try on my own! Although I have hiked in that area, each days walk took us to a new place to me with lots of discoveries from birds to plants to geological formations. Our night of stargazing was very informative and despite getting only a few return owl calls, I thought Vincent’s herding of the hooded skunk up the canyon road was a show not to be missed. The SWRS has very nice accommodations and the food was great! I would go back there again. The whole package was a very positive experience. Vincent is extremely knowledgeable and has a great ability to change the course of the planned activities to accommodate the weather and the folks on the trip.

Kudos to you both for putting this together. Thanks again for a wonderful few days in the Chiricahuas.

Mary Lou B., Green Valley, AZ.


Bill and I spent the dinner hour just now going over maps and reminiscing about the wonderful experiences we had on the trip to the Chiricahuas. Have to admit that we had no idea what to expect. But it turned out to be quite a lovely adventure. We especially enjoyed seeing your land and hearing some of the challenges and victories that land has brought to you. And it was such a delight to hear the pigmy owl answering Vincent on day 3. So many high spots. Wonderful trip!

Thank you for such a unique and memorable adventure. We loved it!

Pat and Bill M., Green Valley, AZ.


On behalf of our research group – we want to thank you Vincent for an unforgettable Birding, Biodiversity & Photography experience in the Chiricahua Mountains! Our group highly appreciated your depth and breath of knowledge in so many different Natural History disciplines, the intimate knowledge that you have of the area, your passion for education & conservation of the unique biodiversity of the Sky Islands region, and your willingness to adapt both to our specific research interests and the vagaries of mountain weather! We will certainly return during Monsoon season again to further explore this gem and learn from you! Thank you for the work you do Vincent ! Wishing you continued success!

Steve G.- NY, Samuel F. – MA, David P. – MA, Jeremy I. – NY, Michael M. – NY, Jona S. – NY.


Vincent, un milione di grazie per la meravigliosa e indimenticabile esperienza naturale nelle montagne del Chiricahua! il nostro gruppo vi ringrazia per la settimana di intenso apprendimento che abbiamo avuto con voi. Sei una vera enciclopedia sulle questioni rilevanti della conservazione e dell’ambiente! Che fortuna averti trovato! Torneremo l’anno prossimo per continuare a conoscere con voi la biodiversità delle Sky Islands. La tua passione per l’educazione e la conservazione delle ricchezze del mondo naturale è esemplare! inoltre, per tutti noi, passare una settimana con voi è stato un piacere. A presto Vincenzo!

Enzo A., Luca M., Emiliano R., Mattia M., Abramo P. – Italy


Vincent, nous te remercions pour une expérience naturelle extraordinaire dans les montagnes Chiricahua! Nous sommes tous très impressionnés par votre connaissance approfondie de l’histoire naturelle ainsi que par les zones sauvages de la région. Nous souhaitons seulement que nous aurions pu rester plus longtemps. Une semaine à explorer avec vous la splendide biodiversité de la région Sky Islands n’est certainement pas suffisante.  Merci beaucoup de nous avoir éduqués et sensibilisés à tant de défis de conservation différents. Nous reviendrons!

Manon, Jules, Chloe, Emile, M – Bordeaux, France


Thanks for a great trip in the Chiricahuas! VIncent talked with us for two straight days, identifying every bird call and song, every tree and shrub, and every lizard, butterfly, and mammal, and provided historical and geological context for how all the species depend on one another to form this amazing ecosystem. It was a lovely adventure in a rich and unique montane environment. Vincent was able to pivot on where to visit on a windy day, so we could still find plenty of birds despite the wind. I hope to return to the Chiricahuas and take another trip with Vincent!

Emily A. – Altadena, CA


Birding with Vincent was FANTASTIC!  We went on three half-day tours with Vincent in April 2022. My 86-year old mother had been wanting to go birding in the Sky Islands for years so off we went. Vincent is so knowledgeable that not only did we see more birds than we could possibly have imagined but we learned all about each one and its place in the ecosystem. Vincent seems to know everything about the natural world that he enthusiastically shared with us. Vincent is also patient. He never seemed to tire of our questions about anything and everything we saw and never seemed impatient when we asked for the tenth time what that bird was and it was a yellow-rumped warbler. Being the leader of our little group of an 86-year old, a 70-year old and a 60-year old, what I appreciated most was Vincent’s kindness and thoughtfulness in tailoring our trips to the group. He chose locations, times of day, and itineraries that fit our interests, skill levels and levels of fitness. He was always willing to change plans in the middle if we needed to. We felt like we had a friend who was taking care of us. The trip could not have happened without Claudia. She is the one who coordinates everything and I really appreciated her responsiveness, her organization and her ability to get us all moving in the right direction. Her instructions and packing lists were very helpful and she was super-easy to work with. If you’ve ever looked out the car window anywhere in Arizona and said to yourself, “I wonder what that is?” I HIGHLY recommend that you spend a day with Vincent. You’ll walk away with a whole new appreciation of all the creatures and plants that live around you.

Linda, Paul & Judy – WA