Coronado Cave

Montezuma's Treasure Vault - Geronimo's Cave

Useful Information

Location: 40 km west of Bisbee. At the southern end of the Huachuca Mountains, on the United States-Mexico border. I10, exit on Arizona Hwy. 90 south to Sierra Vista, south on SR 92, turn east on Coronado Memorial Highway SR 93, 8 km to the monument. 1.2 km hike to the cave entrance.
Open: All year daily 8-17, last cave permits issued at 16. Closed on Thanksgiving, 25-DEC. [2005]
Fee: Free, but a permit from the Visitor Center is required. [2005]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave Permian limestones.
Light: none, two torches per person required.
Dimension: L=182 m, T=20 °C.
Guided tours: self guided, D=2 h. V=5,741/a [2005]
Address: Coronado National Memorial, Coronado Cave, 4101 E Montezume Canyon RD, Hereford, AZ 85615, Tel: +1-520-366-5515, Fax: +1-520-366-5705.
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1540 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his expedition first entered the present U.S.A. here, in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola.
26-JUL-2006 rainfalls destroy trail, cave closed.
31-JUL-2006 park staff evacuated from the area.
JUL-2007 cave trail reopened.


Coronado Cave is a nice wild cave, which is not wild at all. A visit is rather easy, but it includes several crawls. Old clothes and two lamps per visitor are necessary, helmet, gloves and kneepads a good idea. A permit from the Visitor Center of the Park is required. The cave is reached on a 1.2 km hike from the Visitor Center, which leads steep uphill to the cave entrance.

The cave entrance is rather small, partially blocked by large boulders, so it is necessary to climb over the huge rocks. The cave has only a single main passage of 182 m length. The floor is sandy and level, inside the cave are no difficulties except some crawls. The passage is up to 7 m high and 25 m wide, where it widens to form chambers. The cave has several formations, the most prominent is the sentinel of the cave, a huge symmetric stalagmite standing in the center of the last chamber, an almost circular widening of the passage.

Coronado National Memorial is primarly a historic site. The first major exploration of the American Southwest by Europeans was made by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado's Expedition in 1540. Coming from Mexico he tried to find the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. He never found his personal El Dorado, but discovered the Zuni, Hopi, Apache, the Pueblo Indians along the Rio Grande River. He even reached the Grand Canyon.

The park is also famous for the nature, oak woodland with a variety of plants and animals. Yucca, Cholla, Beargrass, Bobcats and Mountain Lions are quite common.

In 2006 the cave had to be closed after a week of rainfalls which meant 40 cm of precipitation, an enormous amount for the dry, semi arid climate of Arizona. At first the plark staff was glad to receive rain after a week of zero precipitation, and the desert started to green and bloom, the animals were coming out of their caves to mate. But on 31-JUL-2006 flood like rainfalls of 20 cm in one day caused dangerous water crossings and rock slides and the park staff was evacuated from the area. The trail to the cave was destroyed as debris covered it, like most of the trails of the park. During one year the trails were cleared, the last one with the most heavy damages was the cave trail, which was finally cleared in summer 2007 and reopened.

Coronado National Memorial invites you to explore Coronado Cave as we open a temporary trail on August 24th, 2007! The trail to the cave has been closed since July 31, 2006 due to extreme flooding and mudslides. National Park Service and Student Conservation Corps trail crews have been working since May to reconstruct the trail, replacing washed out steps and realigning the path so it is less susceptible to flood damage. Because of the realignment the trail is slightly longer than it used to be. The trail is approximately 2.0 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 500 feet. Because there is still some construction work occurring on the trail near the cave, visitors are asked to pay close attention to areas that are flagged off and to use areas of the trail that have been re-routed around the work zones.

Beginning at the visitor center, the trail to Coronado Cave offers not only a great hiking experience, but also an opportunity to do a little underground exploration. The limestone that houses Coronado Cave formed about 250-300 million years ago when Arizona was covered by a shallow sea. Limestone is made of the broken shells and skeletons of ancient corals, sponges, shellfish, and other creatures. Coronado Cave is about 600 feet in length, 20 feet high, and 70 feet wide with several crawl ways and passages, none of which are very extensive. The cave includes numerous formations including stalagmites, stalactites, columns and scallops. Geologist examining the scallops estimate that at one time as much as 50,000 gallons of water per minute flowed through the cave from east to west!

Allow two hours for a leisurely hike and visit to the cave. A free permit is required to visit the cave and can be obtained at the visitor center. Bring water, hiking shoes, and one flashlight per person - two if exploring alone. Candles, flares and lanterns are prohibited.

The trail is expected to be fully complete later in the fall.

The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.

Text by Maggi Daly, Coronado National Memorial, (2007). With kind permission.