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Tuscon & Southern Region
Coronado National Memorial
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Coronado National Memorial Wintery Montezuma Canyon credits NPS Photo - Palma
Although located in an arid and warm climate, the Madrean Sky Islands typically receive several snow storms every winter.
Coronado National Memorial Sunset From Montezuma Pass credits NPS Volunteer Ron Stewart
Sunsets from Montezuma Pass provide a beautiful opportunity to gaze out into the Sky Islands.
Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Monument credits Share the Experience, Xaveir Alfaro-Lopez
Coronado National Monument
Coronado National Memorial Wildflowers and Montezuma Peak credits NPS Photo / D. Bly
A field of wildflowers blooms in the grasslands, one of the many life zones in the park
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4101 West Montezuma Canyon Road
Hereford, Arizona   85615
(lat:31.3459 lon:-110.2538) map location

Phone: 520-366-5515
Email: park email button icon
?As a result of this expedition, what has been truly characterized by historians as one of the greatest land expeditions the world has known, a new civilization was established in the great American Southwest? reported the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 1939. ?To commemorate permanently the explorations of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado?would be of great value in advancing the relationship of the United States and Mexico upon a friendly basis of cultural understanding,? stated E. K. Burlew, Acting Secretary of the Interior in 1940. It would ?stress the history and problems of the two countries and would encourage cooperation for the advancement of their common interests.?

The site was first designated ?Coronado International Memorial? in 1941 in the hope that a comparable adjoining area would be established in Mexico. Despite interest by the government of Mexico, the Mexican memorial was never created; therefore, Coronado National Memorial was established by Harry S. Truman in 1952.
Nature of the Area
The Huachucas are one of nearly forty mountain ranges in the borderland region called ?sky islands,? for they stand like islands surrounded by a desert ?sea.? This series of mountains, arranged like stepping stones across the land, is often termed an ?archipelago.? Nurtured by a temperate to subtropical climate, the sky islands exhibit exceptional biological wealth. The Sierra Madre and associated ranges of southeast Arizona have been identified as one of three centers of megadiversity on our planet.

The memorial contains 4,750 acres with elevations ranging from 7,825 feet to 4,825 feet protects the Montezuma Canyon watershed, which drains most of the memorial into the San Pedro River to the east. Very steep mountain side slopes and nearly vertical cliffs and escarpments are typical of the northwestern portion of the memorial. The northern portion of the Memorial consists of a prominent ridge that generally trends west to east. Inside the park, this ridge is dissected with numerous canyons draining to the south and southeast into Montezuma Canyon.

The southeastern part of the memorial is a broad, gently sloping fan terrace dissected by numerous drainageways. Riparian zones are most distinctive in the main drainages, but what little permanent or semi-permanent water there is occurs in a few isolated seeps and steel cattle tanks.
History of the Area
Coronado's Seven Cities:

Early in the 16th century, Spain established a rich colonial empire in the New World. From Mexico to Peru, gold poured into her treasury and new lands were opened for settlement. The northern frontier lay only a few hundred miles north of Mexico City; and beyond that was a land unknown. Tales of unimaginable riches in this land had fired the Spanish imagination ever since Spain's discovery of the "New World".

Such was the situation in 1536 when Cabeza de Vaca and three tattered companions, sole survivors of the shipwrecked Narvaez Expedition, arrived in Mexico City after eight years of wandering through what is now the American Southwest. Everyone listened intently to their story of an incredible land to the north comprised of seven "large cities, with streets lined with goldsmith shops, houses of many stories, and doorways studded with emeralds and turquoise!" Antonio de Mendoza, Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico), was anxious to explore this new land to determine if the stories were true.

Though Fray Marcos' report was garbled and exaggerated, Viceroy Mendoza was convinced of the cities' existence. He promptly began planning an official expedition and chose his close friend, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, to lead it. Quickly organized, the expedition left Compostela, on Mexico's west coast, on February 23, 1540.

On July 7, 1540, they arrived at Hawikuh, south of present-day Gallup, New Mexico, and first of the fabled Cities of Cibola. But a major disappointment awaited the Spaniards. Instead of a golden city, they saw only a rock-masonry pueblo occupied by Indians who were prepared to defend their village. The pueblo, well-stocked with much needed food, became Coronado's headquarters through November.

While at Hawikuh, Coronado sent his captains out to explore the surrounding region. Hernando de Alvarado marched eastward past Acoma and Tiguex pueblos to Cicuye (Pecos) pueblo, near modern-day Santa Fe. It was here that they met "The Turk," a Plains Indian who astounded them with his tales of an unbelievably rich land further to the east, called Quivira. The Turk's stories renewed hopes among the Spaniards of finding the great wealth that had thus far eluded them, however, with winter approaching, further exploration had to wait until spring.

Upon arriving at Quivira, near modern-day Salina, Kansas, they were disillusioned once again. The villages before them were nothing more than primitive grass huts. When pressed for an explanation, The Turk finally confessed that the story of Quivira was nothing more than a plot conceived by the Pueblo Indians to lure the Spaniards out onto the plains in hopes that they would become lost and eventually die of starvation. In furious anger at having been so gullible and so easily led astray, the soldiers executed The Turk. Coronado and his men soonafter began their long grueling return march back home mired in bitter disappointment at having failed their mission

Coronado, his dreams of fame and fortune shattered, finally reached Mexico City in the spring of 1542. Ten years after his return, at the age of 42, he died in relative obscurity. He could not know, however, that his courage had set the stage for the larger-than-life saga of the great American West. The Indians' religions changed subtly to incorporate the teachings of the priests who accompanied him. Furthermore, he brought back knowledge of the once mysterious land and people to the north and opened a way for later Spanish explorers and missionaries to colonize the Southwest, developing the distinctive Hispanic-American culture we know today.
Day-UseHiking Trailyes

Coronado National Memorial is located near Sierra Vista


CORONADO CAVE TRAIL: 0.75 miles one way; Elevations 5230 feet to 5700 feet. The trail begins at the west end of the visitor center parking lot and ascends 0.75 mile up a steep, rocky slope to the cave entrance. Permits are required to enter the cave and must be obtained at the Visitor Center prior to the hike. Those planning to explore the cave should bring at least two flashlights per person.

CORONADO PEAK TRAIL: 0.4 miles one way; Elevations: 6575 feet to 6864 feet. Trail begins at Montezuma Pass. Quotations from the journals of Coronado's captains, posted at scenic overlooks along the trail, provide a glimpse into the minds and hearts of the conquistadors as they trekked northward along the San Pedro River. From Coronado Peak one is overwhelmed by the beauty of the San Pedro and San Rafael Valleys and the panoramic views of the desert grasslands.

JOE'S CANYON TRAIL: 3.1 miles one way; Elevations: 5230 feet to 6575 feet. The trailhead is 500 feet west of the Visitor Center on Montezuma Canyon Road at the picnic area turnoff. The trail climbs about 1000 feet in the first mile with scenic views of Montezuma Canyon and the San Pedro River Valley. After reaching the saddle at the top of Smuggler's Ridge, the trail continues westward with southerly views deep into the grasslands of Sonora, Mexico. Passing along the northeastern side of Coronado Peak, it joins with the Coronado Peak Trail, ending up at the Montezuma Pass parking area.

Yaqui Ridge Trail: 1.0 mile one way; Elevations: 6500 feet to 5925 feet. Descends steeply from Joe's Canyon Trail down to International Boundary Marker 102 located at the southwestern corner of the park. This trail is the southernmost point of the Arizona Trail. Please do not cross over fence into Mexico and remember what goes down must come back up.

CREST TRAIL: 5.3 miles one way to Miller Peak; Elevations: 6575 feet to 9456 feet at Miller Peak. The trailhead is across the road at the northeast end of the Montezuma Pass parking area. The trail climbs for 2 miles to the northwestern boundary of the Memorial. There it enters Coronado National Forest and continues along the crest of the Huachuca Mountains to the turnoff for Miller Peak, the highest peak in the Huachucas. The trail passes through an area that once saw much turn-of-the-century mining activity.

Joe's Canyon Trail and the Coronado Peak Trail are both part of the National Trails System and classified as National Recreational Trails. The Yaqui Ridge and Crest Trails are part of the larger Arizona Trail which stretches from the Arizona-Mexico border at Coronado National Memorial to the Arizona-Utah border.

Please do not harm or disturb any plants or animals, as all flora and fauna found in the Memorial is protected by federal law. Wood gathering and hunting are not permitted within the Memorial, nor are firearms unless securely stored to prevent their use.
Area Attractions
Coronado cave


Coronado Cave is located 0.75 mile from the Visitor Center up a moderately steep trail. A permit, free of charge, must be obtained at the Visitor Center before hiking to the cave. The cave is approximately 600 feet in length, 20 feet high and 70 feet wide with several crawl ways and passages, none of which is very extensive. Allow two hours for a leisurely, round trip hike and visit to the cave. Bring water, hiking shoes and two flashlights per person (no candles, flares or lanterns).

The cave has been called by several names including Montezuma's Treasure Vault and Geronimo's Cave. Legends claim that it was used by the Apaches as a hide-out when being pursued by the U.S. Army and in the late 1800's it was not uncommon to find arrowheads in the cave.

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Nearby Hotels

From the city of Sierra Vista continue south on Hwy 92 about 20 miles and turn right onto S. Coronado Memorial Drive. Follow Coronado Memorial Drive (it will turn into E Montezuma Canyon Rd) 5 miles to the Visitor Center.

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