Known as the Wonderland of Rocks, this traditional haunt of Cochise and his Chiracahua Apache band was declared a preserve in 1924. See geology at its finest: gravity-defying rock formations, a natural bridge, and a volcanic hailstone ledge. A two-hour drive, but worth the trip. Wildlife viewing and trails abound.
Named one of the top 10 caves in the U.S., Kartchner is an extraordinary living cave. Under the management of Arizona State Parks, visitors can enjoy an interpretive center, nature walk, hiking trail and two guided cave tours. The Rotunda–Throne Room cave tour is available all year around; the Big Room is only available from October 15 to April 15, as it serves as a nursery roost for bats during the summer.
In the mid-16th century, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his soldiers marched from Mexico into the San Pedro Valley searching for the Seven Cities of Cibola and its fabled gold. The National Park Service operates the 4,750-acre Memorial Park; it’s also the beginning of the famous Arizona Trail, with outstanding hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities. While at the Memorial, explore the Coronado Cave. This cave is perfect for folks who would like a caving experience without rappelling, squeezing through tiny passageways, or belly crawling. Legend has it that Geronimo used the cave as a hideout in the late 1800s.
Be sure to include Montezuma Pass (elevation 6,575 feet), just a 15 minute drive from the Memorial Visitor Center. Allow 2 hours. Daylight picnic area; no overnight camping. 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily, closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hwy 92 East, 14 miles; right (south) onto to South Coronado Memorial Road (milepost 334), 4 miles to the Memorial. 800-288-3861 or 520-366-5515 (National Park Service).