This drive starts and finishes with some great long-distance views. In between, it features a drive along an international border through a sea of grass so huge they filmed portions of the movie Oklahomahere. Heading south out of Sierra Vista, the Huachuca Mountains and their dramatic, exposed Reeftower above you to the west. You’ll cross that mountain range at the top of Montezuma Pass, in the Coronado National Memorial, where you’ll have a huge expanse of Mexico and Southern Arizona at your feet. From the pass, the drive drops into the immense grassland of the San Rafael Valley. Much of this grassland was part of an old Spanish land grant. A number of large and small ranches, both Mexican and American, still provide the main economic activity here. The sleepy little settlement of Lochiel, with its border crossing that has been closed since 1986, will scarcely notice your passage, even if you stop at the monument to Fray Marcos de Niza. That guide for the Spanish explorer Coronado is believed to have been the first European (in 1539) to set foot in what has since become Arizona. After that it’s on to the Patagonia Mountains and the gold mining boomtown-turned-ghost town of Washington Camp. At an unnamed pass just before you drop into Nogales and the end of the drive at the “Little Red School House” just to the north, there are more good views of the Atascosa, Baboquivari and Pajarito mountain ranges to the west.
At a Glance
|Current Conditions:||Border crossing by undocumented immigrants and illegal entry of those smuggling contraband into the United States is common in this area. Be aware of your surroundings, stay on designated trails, and report any suspicious activity to the Border Patrol, 800 BE ALERT or (800) 232-5378.|
|Closest Towns:||Sierra Vista, AZ
|Information Center:||Sierra Vista Ranger District 520-378-0311|
General InformationDirections: Drive south 17 miles out of Sierra Vista on Arizona Highway 92 to the Coronado National Memorial turnoff. Turn right (south) and continue through the Memorial, up and over Montezuma Pass to FR 61. Follow FR 61 all the way to Nogales.
Map showing recreational areas. Map Information