The beginning of the Arizona Trail (AZT) at the Mexico border can only be accessed by hiking 1.9 miles down from the Montezuma Pass Trailhead. Enjoy views into the grasslands of the San Rafael Valley and San Jose Peak in Mexico.
ON THE TRAIL
Follow the Yaqui Ridge Trail as it switchbacks up the hill and comes to a junction for the Coronado Peak Trail in 500 feet. Coronado Peak is where Flagstaff math teacher Dale Shewalter, “father of the AZT”, was when he got the idea of a trail that would connect Mexico to Utah. Coronado Peak is not part of the AZT, so take the left fork. If you have extra energy to burn it is a fun 0.8 mile/330 feet ascent with 360-degree views and interpretive signs about the Indigenous people of the area and Coronado’s 1540 expedition to find Cibola, or the Seven Cities of Gold.
There is a brief climb for 0.3 miles, then the trail descends through grasslands and Gamble oak. The peak that dominates the view is San Jose Peak in Mexico (8858’). In 0.4 miles, reach the junction with Joe’s Canyon Trail, which goes left down to the Visitor’s Center you passed on your drive up. The AZT takes a right and the trail goes west then curves south.
The trail begins descending via a series of switchbacks in 0.3 miles and another switchback in 0.4 miles. It continues descending past rocky outcroppings made of Glance Conglomerate. This rock was made from small mountains being eroded, which filled the valley with rocks of varying types and sizes. Over time, the sediment and inclusions were compacted into what you are seeing today. Keep your eyes open for Coatimundi, raccoon-like creatures with a long tail. They run in packs and can be seen on the hillside in this area.
THE SOUTHERN TERMINUS
UPDATE: As of June 2020, the southernmost two miles of the trail (from Montezuma Pass to the international border) are closed in the interest of public safety due to border barrier construction.
If you’re here in March or April, you might see an AZT thru-hiker beginning their journey northbound. In November-December, you may see an AZT thru-hiker completing their journey southbound. The seasons for thru-hiking are determined by weather conditions, they follow Spring northbound from Mexico and Fall southbound from Utah. Return back the way you came.
For more information on the 800-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail, visit aztrail.org
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
*Note- no dogs are allowed on the trails in Coronado National Memorial, no fees to enter, open every day except Christmas.
Trailhead: Montezuma Pass Trailhead (Last 3.3 miles are graded dirt, suitable for passenger vehicles)
GPS coordinates: 31.35112° N, 110.28527° W
Arizona Trail Passage: #1 Huachuca Mountains
Trailhead Elevation: 6,575 feet
Round-trip length: 3.9 Miles
Elevation gain/loss: 900 feet
Why go: Southern Terminus of the AZT at Border Monument #102, views into Mexico
Nearest Gateway Community: Sierra Vista (22 miles)
Sirena Rana Dufault is the author of the forthcoming book, “Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail,” which will be published by Wilderness Press. For more information, visit trailsinspire.com