Situated on several mountain ranges in southeastern
Arizona, the Coronado National Forest offers three major
historical sites and more than twenty recreation areas
The four forest areas in the extreme southeast section of
the state are all within reach of several centers: Benson
and Bisbee -- at the south end of the state -- are close
to forest tracts that straddle the Chiricahua Mountains
and the large section of the forest lying just north of
the Mexican border, between Nogales and Sierra Vista; and
Safford, which is close to the large northern tract in
the Pinaleno Mountains. Rose Canyon Lake and other nearby
recreation sites are near Tucson.
Chiricahua National Monument
This scenic park is located in the national
forest east of Benson and north of Douglas. It is
accessed from either the east or west side of the
Chiricahua mountain range. From the east, drive west from
Benson to either U.S. Route 666 or Arizona Route 186, and
drive south to Arizona Route 181.
From Douglas or New Mexico, take U.S.
Highway 80 south from Interstate 10 or north from
Douglas, and then turn west onto the sideroad that leads
through the village of Portal (ranger station) andthe
Historic sites include the Faraway Ranch
and Bonito Canyon. There is a campground in the monument,
as well as along the gravel road leading westward from
Highway 80 past Portal. There are interpretive trails and
guided tours of monument sites. For information, phone
For more information, go
Just outside the national forest boundary,
Fort Bowie is located at the northern edge of the
Chiricahua Mountains, northwest of the Chiricahua
National Monument. Visitors can stroll through the ruins
of the fort, which was constructed in 1862. It was a stop
on the Butterfield Stage route. The site is accessed via
a self-guided foot trail. To get there, drive south from
Interstate 10 from the junction just east of Bowie, or
northeast from Arizona Route 186 (9 miles north of Hwy.
The refuge of the great chief Cochise and
his Apache followers, who were chased into the high
granite reaches of the Dragoon Mountains, the stronghold
provides a fascinating glimpse of the days when Indian
wars dominated the scene in the Old West. The site is
operated by the National Forest Service (520-826-3593)
and includes a campground, picnic area, and hiking
trails. There are several other prominent historic sites
in Cochise County that commemorate the struggles between
the cavalry and the Apache, but Cochise's Stronghold
provides the best overview of those turbulent times.
U.S. Route 666 leads south from Interstate
10 and runs north from Douglas, on the Mexican border.
Just north of the community of Sunsites is a gravel road
that leads west to the Stronghold. If you're driving east
from Benson, another scenic route leads from Interstate
10, at the Dragoon exit. Drive east along this sideroad
to meet Highway 666 and drive south for another 8 miles
to the gravel road.
Coronado National Memorial
Located just north of the Mexico boundary,
south of Sierra Vista, the memorial commemorates the
explorations of Francisco Coronado and other Spanish
conquistadors in 1540. Operated by the National Park
Service, the memorial is open daily with a visitor
center, museum, and hiking trails. Montezuma Pass is a
spectacular scenic attraction. For information, phone
Recreation Sites South of Safford
Riggs Lake is at the end of a
partially graveled forest road which leads east from U.S.
Route 666, 9 miles south of Safford. Along this road are
three forest campgrounds: Arcadia, Shannon, and Riggs
Lake. The Riggs Flat Campground is farther to the
west. Mt. Graham (el. 10,717 feet) dominates the scene
here. There is a ranger station at Riggs Lake, 10 miles
down the road.
Rose Canyon Lake
Mt. Lemmon rises more than 9,000
feet from the desert floor, northeast of the city of
Tucson. At the end of a winding road is the area's prime
downhill ski center. Along the road are several forest
recreation sites. Sabino Canyon, close to the city at the
edge of the mountain's slopes, is a favorite haunt of
birders, photographers and hikers who often wade into the
river to see wildlife. Farther along the road are forest
campgrounds: Mound Basin, Rose Canyon and Spencer Canyon.
Rose Canyon Lake is situated near the end of the road,
before you reach the ski area.
Nearby Places of Interest
The Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum is in Willcox, a town situated on Interstate 10, east of
Benson. The museum displays memorabilia of the cowboy
movie star, one of the famous singing cowboy
entertainers&emdash;in a league with the other major
stars of the genre, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.
Fort Huachuca, in the town of Sierra
Vista, is a restored fort and museum of southwestern
military history. It's one of the few remaining active
army posts of the Old West. For information, phone (520)