DescriptionLying 22 miles south of Sierra Vista and 5 miles off SR 92, Coronado National Memorial was established to commemorate Francisco Vázquez de Coronado's exploration of the Southwest. The expedition, the first European venture across what is now the U.S.-Mexican border, began in February 1540 when the viceroy of Mexico sent young Coronado northward in search of gold from the fabled Seven Cities of Cíbola.
Coronado led an expedition of more than 1,400 soldiers and natives as well as 1,500 animals. Five months of hard travel brought the party not to the gold of the fabled cities but to the rock and adobe pueblos of the Zuni Indians near Zuni, N.M. After traveling as far east as central Kansas, the expedition gave up its search and retraced the route to Mexico in 1542.
Although they never found the city of gold, Coronado and his men found the Grand Canyon as well as many Hopi, Zuni and other villages. Besides paying tribute to Coronado's journey, the memorial's 4,750 acres provide a natural habitat for a variety of plants and animals.
The park, at the southern end of the Huachuca Mountains, is mostly oak woodland sprinkled with yucca, cholla and bear grass, which bloom from April to August. The mountains and canyons harbor wildlife ranging from bobcats to golden eagles. Three miles west of the visitor center, an overlook provides a sweeping view of the San Rafael Valley, the San Pedro Valley and the San Jose Peak in Mexico.
An alternative to driving to the pass is the 3-mile-long Joe's Canyon Trail, which begins near the visitor center. A half-mile hiking trail, with benches for resting and exhibits explaining the significance of Coronado's expedition extends from the pass to Coronado Peak. The visitor center has a 14-foot-long window wall for viewing birds and wildlife. Picnic facilities are available dawn-dusk.
The visitor center is open daily 8-4; closed Christmas. Free. For further information contact the Visitor Center, Coronado National Memorial, 4101 E. Montezuma Canyon Rd., Hereford, AZ 85615; phone (520) 366-5515.
Things to SeeCoronado Cave