Coronado National Memorial

A trip to Tucson and Arizona’s southeast region would be incomplete without a visit to Coronado National Memorial, a nature preserve that includes a hike to the U.S.-Mexico border. 

According to the National Park Service, the memorial commemorates the Coronado Expedition of 1540-1542 and its lasting impacts on the culture of the Southwest and northwestern Mexico. “The clash of cultures and fusion of Spanish and American Indian traditions are still evident in the Southwest today,” the Park Service wrote.

Photo by Erika Lyon (

After checking out the visitor center and its exhibits, make a stop at Coronado Cave. It’s one of the few open, undeveloped caves in southern Arizona and features a 600-foot-long cavern that’s about 70 feet wide in most places. No permits are required, but you should be prepared for some moderately strenuous hiking into the pitch-black cave. 

In the temperate months, there are eight miles of trails that meander into the mountains and oak forests of the park, including that hike to the Mexican border. 

The Yaqui Ridge and Crest trails are part of the larger Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) that runs the entire state of Arizona, some 800 miles. A spur from the Joe’s Canyon Trail, hikers can take Yaqui Ridge the rest of the way to International Boundary Marker 102. In total, it’s about four miles round-trip. 

For an easier hike, head up to the Coronado Peak Trail at Montezuma pass, which is a relaxing 0.8 miles round-trip, offering sweeping views of Mexico, the San Pedro River and the San Rafael Valley to the west.