Coronado National Memorial was created in honor of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s exploration of the Southwest. The memorial is a great spot for history buffs, hikers and nature lovers. It covers 4,750 acres of natural habitat.
Coronado set out in 1540 in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola (Gold). His expedition was the first European to cross the United States and Mexico border. The expedition included 1,400 soldiers and 1,500 animals. In 1542 after many months of travel, Coronado gave up his search of gold. The journey had taken the group up to Kansas, where they retraced their trip back to Mexico.
Even though gold was never found, Coronado did see many things. The Grand Canyon, Indian tribes (Hopi and Zuni) and the Rio Grande River were just some of his discoveries. This memorial park was established in honor of his expedition.
The Coronado National Memorial is located at the southern part of the Huachuca Mountains, within sight of the San Pedro River Valley. Oak woodlands surround the memorial park. Visitors will find a variety of plant life such as yucca and beargrass. Unique animals also live in the park. Bobcats and eagles roam the area.
The visitor center should be your first stop when entering Coronado National Memorial. The center is also a museum. It has displays of authentic 16th century armor, weaponry and Spanish replicas of cultural items. Visitors can also try on period costumes in the center. At the visitor center you will find a nine-minute video on the story of Coronado and his expedition. The center also has maps and books for sale. Here you will learn about the variety of activities you can do during your visit. The visitor center/museum offers so much you will likely need to plan on a couple hour stay.
If you are interested in hiking, you can stop by the visitor center for a run down on the various hikes in the area. Hiking trails range from an easy 0.4-mile hike on the Coronado Peak Trail. This hike is very special because it has benches near the path, along with markers telling about Coronado’s journey. Or you may want to take the 5.3 strenuous hike to Miller Peak.
Many visitors take the driving tour. By taking Montezuma Pass, travelers will experience a scenic drive and overlook. Montezuma Pass is at an elevation of 6,575 feet. This trip can be done by car, only by way of a narrow road. The trip offers spectacular views of Mexico and the San Pedro and San Rafael Valleys.
Those visitors who like caving will enjoy the natural limestone cave in the park. The Coronado Cave is down a steep trail, approximately ¾ of a mile from the visitor center. Once you are at the cave, you will discover two large chambers and several tunnels that lead out from the chambers. The cave is in its natural state. You will not find guardrails or lighting. If you want to see the cave, you will need to get a free permit from the visitor center and you must bring a flashlight. Visitors that would like a tour of the cave will need to call and make arrangements in advance. You should plan on two hours to take in the cave and the hike down and up.
The most popular time of the year to visit the memorial is January through April. The off-season is from September to December. You will find in the summer months thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence, especially in July and August. The wintertime can be cold. The memorial has had snowfall in the winter season.
The visitor center at the Coronado National Memorial is open daily 8:00 to 5:00 pm. The memorial is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission is free. Pets are not allowed on the hiking trails and are not to be left unattended in parked vehicles. If you would like more information on the memorial, you can call 520-366-5515.
You can get to the Coronado National Memorial by taking Highway 92 south out of Sierra Vista or Fort Huachuca for approximately 20 miles. Then take Coronado Memorial Road to the park. You will see signs for the memorial. The memorial is 5 miles off of Highway 92.