|Coronado National Memorial
4101 E. Montezuma Canyon Rd.
Situated in oak woodlands on the southern edge of the Huachuca Mountains, the 4,750-acre park offers a scenic drive and overlook, hiking trails, and Coronado Cave. Montezuma Pass, reachable by automobile via a narrow mountain road, offers breathtaking views into Mexico and the San Pedro and San Rafael Valleys. At the Visitor Center exhibits and a 9-minute video tell the story of Coronado's 1540 explorations in Arizona and New Mexico, in search of the Seven Cities of Gold. Maps and books are on sale at the bookstore. The Visitor Center is open 9-5 daily, closed Christmas and Thanksgiving. 15 miles south of Sierra Vista on Route 92, take Montezuma Canyon Road. Free
The Coronado Memorial is a national park commemorating the first entry of Europeans into what is now the Southwest United States. Just twenty years after the conquest of Mexico by Hernan Cortes, rumors began to circulate of other cities to the north that were just as rich as the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City.) In 1540 Francisco Coronado led an expedition to try to find these cities. He and his men very likely entered the present United States across the land overlooked by this park.
Re-enactment photos courtesy of National Park Service Image Library
From Montezuma Pass, named after the Aztec king, you can see the San Pedro Valley, which they followed as far as the Gila River. Then they traveled north as far as the Pueblos of New Mexico and beyond before turning back, disappointed in their search for wealth. The Visitor Center features Spanish arms and armor of the time of Coronado as well as a video that describes the journey. There are numerous hiking trails as well as a cave to explore.
The scenic lookout at Montezuma Pass can be reached either by auto or by hiking Joe's Canyon Trail. Other hikes include the easy Coronado Peak Trail, the strenuous Crest Trail and the Coronado Cave Trail which rewards you with a cave to explore at the end. (Be sure to obtain a permit at the Visitor Center before exploring the cave.) The Crest Trail also serves as an access point to the Miller Peak Wilderness Area. See Hiking for more information on these trails.
The memorial is for day use only, dawn to dusk; there is a picnic area but camping is not allowed. Accommodations and full services are available in Sierra Vista. Pets should be kept on a leash and are not allowed on the hiking trails. Pets should never be left unattended in parked vehicles.