Coronado Cave – Coronado National Memorial

Naco, AZ

The day after hiking to Coronado Peak we returned to Coronado National Memorial for a visit to the Coronado Cave.  The cave has been called by several names, including Montezuma’s Treasure Vault and Geronimo’s Cave.  Legends claim that it was used by the Apaches as a hide-out when being pursued by the U.S. Army and in the late 1800’s it was not uncommon to find arrowheads in the cave.

A half mile trail leads up to the cave entrance

The Coronado Cave is one of the few caves in areas maintained by the National Park Service that you can explore without a guide.  A park ranger does leads a hike into the cave on Saturday mornings but, since we will not be in the area on Saturday, we decided to explore it on our own.

The final climb to the entrance

We arrived at the entrance just as two young guys were climbing out.  They said that none of the small side caves inside lead anywhere.  They had spent considerable time and effort crawling in to each one, and the dust and dirt covering each of them attested to their efforts.  One of them asked if there was water available at the visitor center.  Apparently they were in need of water, but they did have some liquid refreshment in their packs.  As we  were about to descend into the cave, one of them pulled out a bottle of beer, removed the cap, and began enjoying it as he and his buddy rested before heading back down the trail.  When we got into the main part of the cave, we could also smell the evidence that they were smoking (cigarettes!) in the cave, a no-no on the park rules.  Ah, the stupidity of youth!

One of the young hikers climbing out of the cave

The entrance to the cave requires scrambling about twenty-five feet down a rocky slope to the cave floor.  The cave interior extends 600 feet in length, with 20 foot high ceilings.

Ready to enter

Climbing down into the cave

Looking back up toward the entrance

A cheerful spelunker

The cave has several interesting formations.  The most prominent is the sentinel, a huge symmetric stalagmite standing in the center of the last chamber.

The Sentinel


The cave includes numerous formations including stalagmites, stalactites, columns and scallops.  Although today it is dry, geologist examining the scallops along the walls estimate that at one time as much as 50,000 gallons of water per minute flowed through the cave from east to west!

We picked a great day to visit Coronado Cave.  Outside the weather was cold, windy, and rainy.  But inside it was dry, calm, and 68 degrees!

We are now approaching the end of our two week stay in the Bisbee area.  Turquoise Golf and RV Park  in the little town of Naco is a great place to stay, even if you don’t golf.  While it is right on the Mexican border, the place is swarming with Border Patrol vehicles and we always felt safe.  And nearby Bisbee is a town that is very interesting.  While a nearby grocery store has a small Starbucks stand, we really enjoyed visits to the Bisbee Coffee Company.  It’s located right in the center of Old Bisbee and is a great place to sit and watch the odd mixture of people walking by the coffee shop window.

Bisbee Coffee Company


Be sure to put Bisbee on your list of “must visit” locations!

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28 Responses to Coronado Cave – Coronado National Memorial

  1. You guys are having all the fun! I am so curious about that area of Arizona. I didn’t even know there was a cave!

    • placestheygo says:

      Ruthi, from our reading, there are several caves in this area that can be explored but this one is the only one that it is easy to access. The two fellows that came out as we arrived were headed up the road to explore another cave. This whole area is so interesting.

  2. pmbweaver says:

    No way…ever…would I go in that cave alone. It is beautiful inside though. We did visit Carlsbad Caverns but this cave looks a lot more intimidating. You two are way more adventurous than we are.

    You two can smell out a Starbucks from miles away!

    • placestheygo says:

      I never gave a thought to there being any danger in going into the cave since the park tells you about it. I was just excited to explore by ourselves. I was glad that my claustrophobia didn’t bother me at all.

      We did smell out the Starbucks but only went twice as we both enjoyed the coffee shop in town.

  3. Sheila says:

    You are a brave lady. I’am not sure I could have gone in the cave. I am glad you two are having a great time; that’s what retirement is all about. I can tell you, we would love the coffee shop and the people watching. Safe travels to your next adventure.

    • placestheygo says:

      Sheila, as I said to Marsha, I never thought about any danger. I just wanted to explore alone. It was nice to see the two guys come out, though, and tell us all was good and the formations in the back were really cool.

  4. Nancy says:

    You both were very brave to go into that cave. I think I would have gone in after you both came out okay. HA HA HA The reason I would be so frightened is that my sweet, sweet man saw a mountain lion not to long ago come out of a cavern. It was not a bobcat… which would be scary too.
    You got some incredible shots! Beautiful!
    AND yes… BISBEE is fabulous! Remembering the phrase… Keep Bisbee weird!

  5. Jodee Gravel says:

    I don’t do well in closed in spaces but that cave looks pretty sweet. Just big enough to have interesting formations and small enough that I could maybe see the sun through the entrance. The 20 foot ceilings would be a plus! Your pics are great and I love that you got to see it alone. Local coffee spots are usually the very best, and I’m surprised there’s a Starbucks even in the grocery store in Bisbee – not nearly weird enough 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Jodee, you could only see the light at the entrance as you descended into the cave. We then turn the corner around a rock ledge and the light was gone…total blackness.

      It seems that most towns have a Starbucks in their grocery store which really surprised us but we have very glad to see it:)

  6. Sherry says:

    Love your header picture and the really fine pictures inside the cave. I’m surprised that the park lets people in there alone given the vandalism that occurs in people breaking of pieces of formations for “souvenirs” and having to leave their names all over everything. I would love to go into that cave and have for sure put this area and that cave on my list. I think I’d prefer not to visit right after a pair of smokers though.

  7. jimandbarb says:

    Those caves are very cool! And even better that you can tour them without a guide. How would they be for someone who is slightly claustrophobic?

    • placestheygo says:

      I am claustrophobic but slowly overcoming it. I was surprised that the cave didn’t bother me at all. It is quite large and the ceiling is high. You never feel like you are in a tight space.

  8. What a neat cave adventure! I am surprised it isn’t all roped off and monitored by anyone…cool!

  9. A cave? We did not know that. Since we like caves, and we have not explored much in that area like you have, we will spend as much time there next time around. Love that header!

  10. Ah, beautiful Bisbee, one of our favourite places. Like you we’ve spent many a happy hour at the Bisbee Coffee Company watching the world go by. Have fun.

  11. LuAnn says:

    I too am surprised the cave is left open for anyone to explore on their own. It seems this could lead to the destruction of the formations. I have to admit when I began reading this post I wondered about little critters that may wander in, given this cave is not monitored on a regular basis. Another neat adventure! 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      I felt the same way, LuAnn. I was worried about the destruction to the formations. I guess since it isn’t a live cave they aren’t worried.

      Thank goodness I didn’t think about any dangers until after. I was just so excited to go in all alone. It was such a neat experience.

  12. Gay says:

    What a great adventure! You even looked like a real cave explorer with your flashlight. I would love to give it a try…I usually get the hibby-gibbies!

  13. Laurel says:

    What a blast you’ve had in and around Bisbee! You’re making me miss the town, and we were just there a couple of weeks ago. The Bisbee Coffee Company has the best Mexican coffee — and the people watching is superb. 🙂 We’ve never been to Coronado NM, and I’d love to do the hike, but I’m not so sure about the cave — thanks for providing the tour since I don’t like being underground. Cool photos!

  14. Pam Leonard says:

    Never explored a cave without a guide, looks like fun!

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