There was no international border in 1540, but this valley in southern Arizona is where Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition crossed into the U.S.A. His Spanish army marched north in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, discovering multiple pueblos (including Pecos) and establishing a route for missionaries to follow.
Coronado Cave, Montezuma Pass, Coronado Peak
The park does not actually contain a statue or large memorial to Coronado. It does have a steep three-quarter mile trail to a 600-foot long limestone cave bearing his name, which visitors can explore on their own with flashlights.
From the parking area at Montezuma Pass it is half a mile to Coronado Peak. This “sky island” at 6,864 feet in elevation offers excellent views north towards the Huachuca Mountains in the surrounding Coronado National Forest and south into Mexico. From there, Joe’s Canyon Trail leads 3 miles down to the visitor center and works great with a car shuttle.
The small but educational visitor center provides information on trails, the history of the Coronado expedition, wildlife, and the “I Hike for Health” program. Plus, you can dress up in replica Spanish Conquistador armor, which is very heavy.
Paved to the visitor center and a good gravel road the final 2 miles up to Montezuma Pass.
Coronado National Forest surrounds the memorial’s 4,750 acres, offering both campgrounds and free dispersed camping.
Explore More – Disillusioned by not finding the Seven Cities of Cibola, in which present-day state did the Coronado expedition turn around in 1541?