DescriptionIn southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, Coronado National Forest's 12 widely scattered sections cover 1,780,000 acres. Named for Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, who journeyed through southern Arizona in 1540, the forest's varied plant and animal life reflects the area's extremes of elevation: Flat deserts of cacti and paloverde give way to rugged, heavily forested mountains known as the Madrean Sky Islands that are covered with oak, juniper, pine, fir and spruce, depending on the elevation.
Within the forest's boundaries are five fishing lakes. Mount Lemmon, northeast of Tucson, is one of the southernmost ski areas in the continental United States. More than 1,100 miles of trails offer hiking opportunities.
Madera Canyon, nestled in the Santa Rita Mountains, is a popular bird-watching spot with more than 200 species, including hummingbirds, woodpeckers and swallows. Hiking trails, a nature trail, picnic areas and campgrounds complete the area.
Scenic drives include Swift Trail in the Pinaleno Mountains (Mount Graham), Ruby Road in the Tumacácori Mountains, Onion Saddle Road and Rucker Canyon Road in the Chiricahua Mountains and SRs 82 and 83. The winding 28-mile Sky Island Scenic Byway begins at Tanque Verde Road in the desert just outside the Tucson city limits and extends to the top of Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Pullouts provide opportunities to observe the contrasts of the lower and upper regions.
Legend has it that Cochise's grave is somewhere within the Cochise Stronghold Recreation Area in the Dragoon Mountains. A natural rock fortress, the stronghold is where the Chiricahua Apache leader hid from his enemies. Camping and picnicking are permitted, and interpretive trails are available.
Picnicking and camping fees range from $10 to $20. Day pass $5. Further information can be obtained at district offices in Douglas, (520) 364-3468; Nogales, (520) 281-2296; Safford, (928) 428-4150; Sierra Vista, (520) 378-0311; and Tucson, (520) 202-2700; or contact the Supervisor, Coronado National Forest, Federal Building, 300 W. Congress St., Tucson, AZ 85701; phone (520) 388-8300.
Things to SeeWhipple Observatory