Corbitt's National Parks
    Coronado
                National Memorial


                  



1941: Coronado International Memorial

1952: Coronado National Memorial

Size: 4,750 acres

2012 visitors: 97,579

Stamp: Yes


Rating (1-5):

About the Monument

This Monument in southeastern Arizona celebrates the path taken by Coronado as he searched for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. Coronado left Mexico's west coast in February of 1540 and traveled through what is now Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. He returned, disappointed, to Mexico City in the spring of 1542. Although he didn't discover gold and wealth, Coronado's journey did open the Southwest to colonization and development.

What You're Going to See

Well, not much. This Monument celebrates a path travelled 460 years ago by 350 Spaniards, some priests, over a thousand native allies, and several servants and slaves. Nothing exists to mark their passage, so this is a classic "imagination" Park. The scenery is dramatic and offers a view of the San Pedro River valley to the east (see main picture), and the San Rafael valley to the west (below right). Be sure to visit the 6,575 foot Montezuma Pass; although the road is unpaved for a short distance, it's well worth the drive.

There is a 0.75 mile hike up to Coronado's cave. This is an enjoyable hike, with some good scenery along the way. The cave is great for novices, dusty and not too big. There are openings at both ends, so complete darkness is difficult to find. Flashlights are required. There is one stalactite and two or so stalagmites, and voices echo nicely. But know this - the visitors center, at the start of the hike, is one mile above sea level. It's a 680-foot-hike, so don't be surprised if you need to take frequent breaks.

Personal Observations

For me, as a fan of seeing "something" at National Parks, Coronado ranks low on the must-see list. There is generic nice scenery, the cave, a viewpoint at Montezuma Pass, the visitors center, and nothing else. We drove to Coronado from I-19 and Tumacacori; that's 40 miles of graded dirt and gravel roads. It took us nearly three hours, with a few stops along the way. The short grass prairie was impressive; I'd never seen anything like it in Arizona. It was also cool to realize how close we were to Mexico. Because there's no fence, an inadvertent right turn would send us across the border.

The Visitors Center did have one neat feature kids would love. There's a box full of Conquistador equipment for them to try on, mostly chain mail and helmets and shields. Our kids were surprised at how heavy it was. You can get your Passport stamped there.

If you can plan your trip a few months in advance, look into getting tickets to Kartchner Caverns, a world-class cave system. It's run by the State of Arizona, so there's no stamp for your passport, but the reviews are glowing, and it's right on your way to Coronado.

Getting There

From Tucson, travel east on I-10 for 42 miles to Exit 302. Go south on highway 90 for 30 miles to Sierra Vista, jog east on highway 90 for 4 miles or so and then go south on highway 92 for 16 miles to the Coronado Memorial Rd.

Nearby Attractions

About 40 miles northwest is Tumacacori National Historic Park. 60 miles to the north is Saguaro National Park. 30 miles due north is Kartchner Caverns State Park. 60 miles to the northeast is Chiricahua National Monument, and 10 miles beyond that is Fort Bowie National Historical Site.

Visited December 2003.

Additional Photos