Many people that have visited the Chiricahua Mountains in spring or summer have never been there during the winter season, which extends from late November through the middle of February. Winter is a quiet time in the canyons of the Chiricahuas, as the mountains take on snow and chilly weather sets in, and the number of tourists drops to just a few experienced folks. Even in the canyons, birders will be treated to roaming flocks of resident and wintering birds. Cave Creek, being pretty well sheltered from most harsh weather, can be easily visited during the winter months, and over the years has held many birding surprises, such as the occasional eared trogon.

The desert in winter, however, is unique. Most days are sunny and – except for windy periods – are quite pleasant for moving about. The views from Quailway Cottage, with its unique setting between two mountain ranges, remain spectacular during the winter months. With many clear (but cold) winter nights, star-gazing is unparalleled. Birdlife too is active. Many of the resident desert birds remain in their usual environments, although in smaller numbers, throughout the year. The numbers of species, however, is greatly augmented by wintering birds, especially waterfowl, raptors, and sparrows. In colder winters, many canyon and montane species move down from the Chiricahuas and roam the desert in small flocks. Winter is also the best season for viewing irruptive species such as evening grosbeaks.

Winter is also a good time to take trips in and around the Chiricahuas and to points farther west. The grasslands on the west side of the Chiricahuas and the playas to the northwest offer great opportunities to view wintering waterfowl, raptors, cranes and sparrows. Bisbee is another popular destination in the winter months and is less than a 2-hour drive from Portal.