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Coronado Cave Trail
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mini location map2014-11-14
3 by photographer avatarBenTelly
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Coronado Cave TrailTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 14 2014
BenTelly
Hiking0.75 Miles 470 AEG
Hiking0.75 Miles
470 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I've resisted Coronado Cave long enough. I really don't know why I've been putting it off. It may be its relative popularity, the reports of vandalism, the shortness of the trail. Well, enough is enough...

Coronado Cave (also known to locals as Montezuma's Treasure Vault and Geronimo Cave - names that predate the establishment of Coronado National Memorial) is a limestone cave that stretches 600ft into the base of Montezuma Peak. This craggy pinnacle looms over the trail and is in view for the majority of the hike up to the cave entrance. The geology of Coronado NMem is complex, chaotic, and curious. Sedimentary, Metamorphic, Igneous - it's all here. Long ago, a substantial limestone layer was lifted from the depths of the earth by a major volcanic event. The result is a superheated, tangled, beautiful mess of rock jutting out of the southern Huachuca range. This layer is where Coronado Cave was formed and is still forming.

The trailhead for the cave trail is located .25 mile past the visitor center (west). There is a small parking area near the TH, if it is full there is parking available at the visitor center. The trail climbs approx 500ft in .5 mile and although short, gets the blood pumping. The descent down to the cave floor from the mouth of the cave is probably the most difficult section. It is not a true scramble but the slope is steep and rocks are slick from use. Without a flashlight it's difficult to go very deep into the cave. The park (and numerous caving groups) suggests two sources of light per person, and never explore a cave solo. "Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos, kill nothing but time".

The old description states that one must obtain a free permit at the visitor center before hiking and entering the cave. Regulations have changed and about 6 years ago the park stopped requiring a permit. There are obvious pros and cons concerning this arrangement. It allows hassle-free access to the cave, a freedom to explore that is not often allowed in limestone caves. However, a permit free system comes with a dark side, one that people must find strangely seductive. I'm referring to the unexplained need for people to vandalize an underworld marvel. Graffiti is sadly a common sight throughout the cave, especially in the hidden alcoves and side tunnels. I will never understand the desire to leave one's name on everything. Perhaps it is akin to a dog pissing all over it's perceived territory. Well, to those who might dabble in this type of activity I say - please, stop pissing on our collective heritage.

Before the NPS assumed management of the cave the cavern was well known and routinely looted of it's natural and cultural history. Stalactites and stalagmites were broken off and taken home as souvenirs. Ancient stone projectile points were hunted and removed as well. I can't help but feeling robbed. It's as if essential passages have been torn from the story of Coronado Cave.

Alright, I realize this report has taken on a somber tone. The truth is that the cave, with all it's bruises and scrapes, is beautiful. Larger cave formations have withstood the beatings and are still awe-inspiring. NPS staff, resource management teams, geo-corps and SCA interns have been working hard to clean and restore the cave and their efforts do not go unnoticed. At the back of the cave I sat in complete and utter darkness, listening to the occasional water droplet fall from the ceiling onto the cave floor; an encouraging sound signifying the cave is still alive, still forming.
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11 Photosets

  2014-12-05
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  2014-11-14
  2014-11-13
  2014-10-31
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  2014-10-02
  2014-09-23
  2014-09-19
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