NOTE: This trailhead is not directly accessible by vehicles. Montezuma Pass is 1.75 miles north at 31.35112° N, 110.28527° W and is the nearest practical access.
This passage is unique because you must start at mile 1.8 at Montezuma Pass and hike south in order to get to the beginning of the passage. To reach Montezuma Pass from the town of Sonoita, follow AZ 83 south 30 miles to its intersection with FR 48. Turn left (south) onto FR 48 and continue 5.4 miles to FR 61. Continue east 8.8 miles on a rough dirt road to a large parking area at the summit of the pass.
From Sierra Vista, travel 14 miles south on AZ 92 and turn right (south) on S. Coronado Memorial Road. Continue 8.3 miles, generally south and west, to the large parking area at the summit of the pass. Shortly after you pass the Coronado Memorial Visitor Center, the road turns to dirt and climbs to the pass via switchbacks. This road is narrow and curvy and is subject to vehicle trailer restrictions (24 ft.). Contact the Coronado National Memorial for more information.
Northern Trailhead: Parker Canyon Lake Trailhead
GPS Coordinates: 31.41946° N, 110.44206° W
Access: From the town of Sonoita, follow AZ 83 south 30 miles to its intersection with FR 48. Turn left (south) onto FR 48, continue 0.5 miles, and turn right onto South Lake Drive. Proceed 0.5 miles and follow signs to a dirt parking area near the AZT kiosk.
Trail Route Description
Passage 1 begins with a climb from the Mexico-U.S. border. This section takes you from grasslands to snow through a variety of temperatures and environments. You will travel through Coronado National Forest, up the spine of the Huachuca Mountains, and onto the first of several unique landforms known as “sky islands.” This term refers to an isolated mountain range that rises several thousand feet above the desert floor, resulting in dramatically different life zones from top to bottom. These mountain ranges become habitat islands that are separated from each other by the surrounding “sea” of desert.
This remote section is not easily accessible and requires an out-and-back hike from Montezuma Pass just to reach the official start of the trail at the border (adding 1.8 miles to the total distance).
At the southernmost point you have cholla cactus, agaves and expansive views of the San Rafael Valley – a unique Sonoran grassland environment. Your ascent continues along a rocky singletrack trail into the Huachuca Mountains, which are rich in cultural history, biodiversity, and inspiring views into Mexico’s northern state of Sonora.
The trail gains over 3,000 feet within the first six miles traveling from desert grassland to a conifer forest filled with fragrant ponderosa pines and Douglas fir trees. Here, in the higher elevations, it is not uncommon for snow to remain on the ground well into the spring months.
The trail continues to rise and fall for several miles across the high ridges of the mountains, before lowering into Sunnyside Canyon. From pine cones to prickly plants the trail now descends over 3,000 feet, and continues north towards Parker Canyon Lake and the end of this passage.
This first passage beautifully displays the pristine nature and unique biodiversity that defines the Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT).
Water should be found at Tub Spring (aka Bathtub Spring), Bear Spring, and Parker Canyon Lake (seasonal store; always lake). Seasonal water may be present in Sunnyside and Scotia Canyons. Check the online Arizona Trail Water Report for current information at https://aztrail.org/explore/water-sources/.
This area can be hot and dry. Bring plenty of water. All water along this passage should be purified prior to use.
Most of this passage is located within the Miller Peak Wilderness and Coronado National Memorial. Motorized and mechanized vehicles and equipment, including mountain bikes, are not permitted on the Memorial’s trails nor in the Wilderness.
Transportation is available from the Tucson airport to the Coronado National Memorial Visitor’s Center and Montezuma Pass from a variety of shuttle operators. Please visit the Shuttles page for more information.
Before using this trail, call for a report on current trail conditions which can vary with season, weather and maintenance status.
Dogs are not allowed on the southernmost 1.8 miles of the Arizona Trail within Coronado National Memorial (Coronado Peak, Joe’s Canyon and Yaqui Ridge Trails).
Overnight parking is allowed at Montezuma Pass as long as the driver does not occupy the vehicle overnight (no car camping).
For long-term parking, please contact Sierra Vista Self Storage (520-458-4400). They offer secure parking not far from the AZT’s southern terminus for $40/month.
Horses are not allowed on the southernmost 1.8 miles of the Arizona Trail within Coronado National Memorial (Coronado Peak, Joe’s Canyon and Yaqui Ridge Trails), however a special permit for thru-riders can be arranged. Please contact Park Staff to learn more.
Fronteras News Desk (November 23, 2022) by Alisa Reznick Environmental groups are watching closely to see how Arizona’s next governor, Katie Hobbs, will handle a makeshift wall of shipping containers the state is putting up along the border. The Ducey administration’s shipping container wall first appeared on federal land near Yuma earlier this year. Contractors began a similar project in October, along a remote stretch of U.S. Forest Service land in Cochise County. Emily Burns, program director with the Sky Island Alliance, says in Cochise County, crews are working seven days a week. "The containers now have been spread out almost three miles, from just west of Montezuma’s Pass where the Arizona Trail begins at the Mexico border. So they’ve made a tremendous amount of progress," she said. The project is costing the state around $95 million and is slated to use some 3,000 containers to cover 10 miles of federal wilderness land. Burns estimates some 700 containers have been placed and stacked so far, including some on steeper terrain where they can't lay flat. She says any space between the containers is being welded shut, too, so animals are not able to get through. Burns says wildlife cameras she...
Patagonia Regional Times (March 2022) by Robert Gay The first mile of the Arizona Trail (AZT), the much loved and well-trodden 800-mile path from Mexico to Utah, was closed in July 2020 when Border Wall construction began within the Coronado National Memorial at the Eastern edge of the San Rafael Valley. In that first mile of the Trail, starting at the Mexican border, hikers gain several hundred feet to the parking lot at Montezuma Pass. This first mile sets the stage for Passage 1’s ascent from 6,575 feet to 9,456 feet at Miller Peak, one of the most dramatic climbs of the entire trail. During the Trump Era, the 30-foot “tall wall” picked up at the west end of the 18-foot wall previously built across the San Pedro River Valley and had started up the steep slope in the Coronado Memorial when construction was paused by incoming President Biden’s 'stop-work order' of January 20, 2021. The tall-wall construction within the Memorial had also included a freestanding stretch of about 420 feet going west from Boundary Marker 102, the exact starting point of the AZT. Going further west across the San Rafael Valley to the Patagonia Mountains, no tall walls have...
KOLD TV (January 9, 2022) The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue crews confirmed they rescued an injured hiker on Sunday, Jan. 9. Officials said a 35-year-old man lost the Arizona Trail between Miller and Lutz Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains. While he was trying to relocate the trail, he slipped and fell approximately 20 feet, injuring his head, legs, ribs, and becoming unconscious. As the man waited for daylight to try to relocate the trail, he used his InReach device to contact authorities after he realized the severity of his injuries. An Arizona Department of Public Safety Tucson Ranger was called to assist. Shortly after a ground team arrived, the man received a medical evaluation and was flown to a hospital. To read the article online, click here.
KJZZ (January 3, 2022) by Alisa Reznick The Arizona Trail runs from the U.S.-Mexico border into Utah. But its southernmost point has been closed thanks to the Trump administration’s border wall construction. After more than a year of closures, it’s opened to hikers again on Dec. 31, 2021. Nestled in the Huachuca Mountains, the Yaqui Ridge trail overlooks Mexico. Matthew Nelson with the Arizona Trail Association says it’s a biodiversity goldmine where the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts meet, and a cherished portion of the larger Arizona Trail where hikers either start or end their journeys. "Beautiful biodiversity of trees, and then it dramatically drives down to the south, leaving the ponderosa pines, leading into juniper and piñon, and eventually like yucca, and agave and grasslands," he said. "Being able to stand on the trail and look out across this vast landscape, it’s this beautiful opportunity to kind of immerse yourself in nature, in the grasslands, borderlands, it’s like nowhere else." But that hasn’t been possible since the summer of 2020, when border wall contractors began hauling steel and using dynamite to dig into the mountain range. A lone, 200-foot segment of the steel bollard wall and miles of access roads are there today. Nelson...
The National Park Service announced on December 30 that the southernmost mile of the Arizona Trail will reopen again on December 31 after a nearly 18-month closure. “We look forward to reopening the first passage of the Arizona Trail (AZT) this week,” said Southeast Arizona Parks Superintendent Matthew Carroll. “During the spring hiking season, many begin their northward journey at Monument 102 on the US/Mexico border within Coronado National Memorial. "Visitor and contractor safety needs required us to close the Yaqui Ridge Trail during border wall construction and subsequent make-safe activity,” said Carroll. “Now that contractor activity will be suspended for three to six months, we can safely welcome visitors and AZT hikers back to this section of trail. The NPS appreciates the support of the Arizona Trail Association as we navigate this changing landscape.” “We are so delighted to hear the news that the AZT will again be a complete path from Mexico to Utah,” said ATA Executive Director Matthew Nelson. “Reopening the southernmost mile and providing access to the southern terminus has been a major priority since the closure was put into effect during the summer of 2020. We encourage everyone to hike from Montezuma Pass down to border monument 102 to soak up the serenity of the San Rafael Valley and witness the environmental devastation from border wall construction activities firsthand,” he said. To learn more...
Arizona Daily Star (December 26, 2021) by Danyelle Khmara Trail runner Lydia Jennings decided to celebrate completing her doctorate with a 50-mile run on the Arizona Trail. A member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and an environmental microbiologist, she also did the run to honor 50 Indigenous scientists. She planned to start at the U.S.-Mexico border and run north — a goal she was forced to change. The southern terminus of the Arizona Trail, which ends at the Coronado National Memorial, was closed a year ago as construction crews built a 200-foot island of border wall in the days before President Donald Trump left office. The trail is now set to reopen in the coming week, likely on Jan. 1, although the opening will probably be temporary, and trail advocates are concerned environmental damage from the wall construction will continue to be an issue. The Department of Homeland Security announced on Dec. 20 that it will address issues left by unfinished border wall projects across parts of the southern border, with a large majority of projects located in the Tucson Sector. Park officials have said no construction will take place at the southern terminus of the Arizona Trail for the...
KJZZ (April 26, 2021) by Michel Marizco There’s arguably no more divisive infrastructure project in the U.S. right now than this border wall I’m standing in the shadow of. I’m here with Kate Scott of the Madrean Archipelago wildlife center in Arizona’s Cochise County. We’re in the Pajarito Mountains west of Nogales where most of the work stopped on the border shortly after President Joe Biden took office. Border wall contractors left behind a mess in the middle of Coronado National Forest land. "Road construction done in a way without regard for the land," Scott says as we stand on the edge of a steep cliff, observing the chaotic junk pile left in the wall construction's wake. The dirt road leading up to the border was widened, the remnants of cliffs bulldozed over the side. Pieces of old vehicle barrier were pushed into canyons. Other heavy, broken pieces were left on ledges and used to form a welded together gate blocking access to the remainder of the border road. Broken and flattened culvert pipe scattered across the grasslands. "And everywhere that this was done, there has been created what I simply call mine tailings," Scott said. Under former President Donald Trump,...
WANE-TV (March 25, 2021) by Fernie Ortiz Rescue crews plucked a woman from the rugged Huachuca Mountains of southeastern Arizona after she broke a leg while hiking alone, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection news release. The Cochise County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team requested air support to get the woman to safety after she became stranded on a hiking trail that was over 7,500 feet in elevation on Monday afternoon. Initially, an Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter responded to assist, but there was no accessible landing zone in the mountainous terrain and dense forest. Additionally, 40 MPH winds made any landing impossible, the release said. Deputies then called agents with CBP’s Air and Marine Operations Tucson Air Branch, who responded in a UH60 Black Hawk equipped with a rescue hoist. The Black Hawk crew located the woman and crews on the ground and lowered an AMO Aviation Enforcement Agent Emergency Medical Technician to the mountain below. Video released by CPB shows the agent being lowered and contacting the local search and rescue team before they strap the hiker to a stretcher and hoist her up to the hovering helicopter. The Black Hawk crew stabilized the hiker...
New York Times en Español (16 de marzo de 2021) Por Simon Romero y Zolan Kanno-Youngs La prisa para construirlo duró hasta el último día del mandato del expresidente. El esfuerzo dejó secciones raras e incompletas de una barrera cuyo destino está ahora en manos del presidente Biden. Durante mucho tiempo, los excursionistas que completaban el Sendero de Arizona, una ruta de 1287 kilómetros que atraviesa desiertos, cañones y bosques, eran recompensados con una extensa vista de la naturaleza virgen en la frontera con México. Sin embargo, hace unas semanas, algo más resaltaba en este lugar tan inhóspito de las montañas Huachuca: un segmento solitario del muro fronterizo, que no está conectado a nada, en una zona en la que los inmigrantes rara vez intentan cruzar a Estados Unidos. “Allí estaba, este pedazo inacabado de muro completamente inútil, justo en este lugar mágico”, dijo Julia Sheehan, de 31 años, enfermera y exmecánica de la Fuerza Aérea, que llegó caminando hasta el lugar con otros tres veteranos militares que recorren el Sendero de Arizona. “Es una de las cosas más absurdas que he visto jamás”. El fragmento de muro de 400 metros forma parte de una serie de nuevos segmentos de barrera que hay lo largo de la...
New York Times (March 16, 2021) by Simon Romero and Zolan Kanno-Youngs A last-minute rush to build lasted through Donald J. Trump’s last day in office. The effort left odd, partially completed sections of a barrier whose fate President Biden must now determine. The sweeping view of undefiled wilderness on the border with Mexico long rewarded hikers who completed the Arizona Trail, an 800-mile route winding through deserts, canyons and forests. Then something else came into focus a few weeks ago at the forbidding site in the Huachuca Mountains: a lonely segment of border wall, connected to nothing at all, in an area where migrants rarely even try to cross into the United States. “There it was, this unfinished piece of completely pointless wall, right in this magical place,” said Julia Sheehan, 31, a nurse and former Air Force mechanic who trekked to the site with three other military veterans who are hiking the Arizona Trail. “It’s one of the most senseless things I’ve ever seen.” The quarter-mile fragment of wall is part of an array of new barrier segments along the border, some of them bizarre in appearance and of no apparent utility, that contractors rushed to build in the waning days of the Trump...
Temporary Trail Closure Due to a large Homeland Security based construction project along the US-Mexico border, the National Park Service is implementing public use closure at Coronado National Memorial, effective at 0001 hours on December 1, 2019. Pursuant to the authority contained in the 16 United States Code 3, and Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, sections 1.5 (a)(1), the following acts are prohibited within Coronado National Memorial. PROHIBITIONS: All visitor use, including driving, walking, and any access inside the described area. The closure will exclude all entry from the border fence and related project areas for public safety. See map for closure area. AREA DESCRIBED: This closure includes areas within Coronado National Memorial. The area south of the main park road from the east entrance to the picnic area. South of the picnic area, along the area south of Joe's Canyon trail, to the Yaqui Ridge trail south to the US-Mexico International Border. The trails, main park road, picnic area, and Montezuma Pass will remain open. Only areas south of the main park road, picnic area, will be closed to all foot, and vehicle entry for the duration of the construction project. PURPOSE: The purpose of this...
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced their plans today to construct two miles of border barriers through the Huachuca Mountains within Coronado National Memorial and across the Arizona National Scenic Trail. Beginning Monday, July 13 the southernmost two miles of the Trail will be closed in the interest of public safety during construction activities. Click here to send a pre-formatted message to your Congressional representatives. This project will significantly impact the southern terminus of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, transform the landscape, and forever alter the Arizona Trail experience. The border barrier project includes 30-foot-tall steel barriers filled with concrete, the installation of a linear ground detection system, and the installation of lighting, which will be supported by grid power and embedded cameras. In addition to a 100-foot-wide road along the border wall which will be frequently driven by Border Patrol agents, CBP will also build an access road down Yaqui Ridge that will be within 50 feet of the Arizona Trail. “The southern terminus of the Arizona National Scenic Trail is one of the most significant locations along the entire 800-mile trail,” said ATA Executive Director Matthew Nelson. “This is where the Arizona Trail begins, and where the dream...
Trail users should be alert at all trail junctions as signs may be occasionally damaged by bears, wildfires, or winter weather. South to north hikers must go left (not straight) at the Carr Peak Trail junction to follow the AZT.
The AZT along the AZ/Mexico border continues to be impacted by people crossing illegally into the United States. Many new side trails are being created by dispersed foot traffic and AZT users should avoid mistakenly taking these trails intersecting the Arizona Trail (sometimes the AZT is less distinct than these foot paths). Trail users may meet immigrants along this passage, especially near water sources, and although no negative incidents have ever been reported by AZT users, caution should be exercised when hiking and camping in the Huachuca Mountains. It is recommended to camp as far away from the trail as possible.