A lot of people love going on adventures. Often times they are small—making a run to the gas station for ice cream, only to find that they’re closed and instead of admitting defeat, you run all around town searching for your favorite treat. Sometimes the adventures are quite large—a honeymoon to Maine or an Alaskan cruise.
When it comes to adventures, Will and I really enjoy National Parks.
Will used to work for the Utah Conservation Corps, which means that he lived and worked outdoors while working conservation projects around the state. I say this to impress upon you how much he loves and is accustomed to backpacking, camping, hiking, and the great outdoors. He grew up in a state that has Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches, to name only a few.
I grew up in a family that loved camping, albeit most of the time in a tent-trailer. “Glamping,” some might call it. My sister and I begrudgingly joined in on hikes and it wasn’t until after college that I started to love them.
I took a trip with my family to the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina a few years ago and found some National Parks Passports at their visitor center. The passports are like any passport, except that they’re to National Parks, not to other countries. Every National Park has an visitor center and a stamp station for the passports.
Being of limited means, I eyed the passports longingly and then left. A couple years later, I took Will back to the same spot and we each picked up a passport, deciding that our new life goals were going to be filling them up with stamps.
Arizona, we are happily discovering, is FULL of National Parks for us to explore.
The Coronado National Memorial is one beautiful contribution to the National Parks community. Located along the border of Arizona and Mexico, it climbs up from the valley and into the Huachuca Mountains. Conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado conducted the first expedition into the southwest in 1540 and the memorial serves to recognize the ties that bind the United States and Mexico. Check out this website if you want to learn more about the “journey of conquest filled with exploration, wonder—and cruelty” that the europeans and Aztecs experienced.
Interestingly to myself and William, the memorial was established on November 5, 1952. He and I met on November 5, 2016, so it’s always a date that sticks out to us. (If you want to read about how we met, click here)
The Visitor Center
Our first stop was, obviously, to stamp our passports.
The visitor centers has a small exhibit that mostly talks about the blending of cultures, emphasizing food and spices and highlighting the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos). They also have a cute little book store!
God bless the Spanish for brining coffee and cacao beans.
There are no entrance fees for Coronado National Memorial, by the way, so it’s a super easy trip! It’s only half an hour from Sierra Vista and has a couple hiking trails and a lot of picnic tables.
Coronado Cave Trail
Unlike our recent trip to Bisbee, we were smart enough to do a little bit of research before we visited the park. We discovered that there is a cave trail leading to a 600 foot deep cave that hikers are welcome and encouraged to explore. You don’t need a permit, but it is encouraged for explorers to get information at the visitor center.
The trailhead is just a short drive from the visitor center and it’s a half mile hike up the mountain. See—THIS is why I’m working out five days a week. So that I can climb half a mile up a mountain and survive! Haha! (I’m only half joking, by the way.)
Also, more advice—Arizona is HOT. If it’s going to be in the mid to upper 90s, don’t hike after 10am. We were lucky that it was only about 89 degrees that day and therefore we had until about 2pm to get all of our hiking in. Heat stroke is real, people!
The Coronado Cave
600 feet long, about 70 feet wide at most spots, and home to a select few stalactites and stalagmites, this was one of the coolest caves I’ve ever been in (without a tour guide).
Literally. So much fun.
We climbed down the rocks (pictured above) and then took a few minutes to get our flashlights situated before heading in deeper.
It is PITCH BLACK inside of that cave, y’all. Will gave me the head lamp and he used a flashlight. I was surprised at how massive the cave felt, especially with our limited light sources. We climbed all around and explored a lot of side tunnels, but mainly kept to the real deal. It was so much fun! And a lot cooler than outside in the sunshine, that’s for sure.
At one point we turned off all of our lights to just sit in the dark. It was nuts. I couldn’t handle it. I just kept picturing the creatures from the movie The Descent and had to turn my head lamp back on.
After a proper adventure and exploring all of the nooks and crannies, we climbed back out feeling excited and accomplished. The half mile hike back to our car felt like nothing.
After spotting some deer who were crossing the road, we got back in the car and drove the winding road up to the Coronado Peak to sneak some views of the canyon before we had to head home.
The valley is definitely greener than normal because of monsoon season. I’m not complaining, though. Apparently they get to experience all four season at Coronado. I would love to see this place with some snow.
Honestly, we have nothing but good things to say about the Coronado National Memorial. We had a great time! We’re super glad that we looked it up ahead of time, otherwise we would not have been prepared for the cave trail. Ending the trip with a windy drive up the mountain followed by a view of the valley was perfect.
Do you like exploring caves or do you get freaked out by the dark?
Until next time,