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Planning a trip to Coronado National Memorial caves

Photo by nps.gov

Looking for a completely different way to enjoy the beginning of 2016 outdoors? How about going deep into an underground adventure?

Sounds challenging, right? Well, grab your flashlight and let’s find out what are you made of! Every month the National Park Service helps people find new places to connect with nature, history, family, and friends, through the National Park Getaways Series. This National Park Service Program highlights a different National Park each month, to bring to the public’s attention the National Treasures within our National Parks. This month, Coronado National Memorial was chosen because of its rich cultural significance and astonishing natural beauty.

Visiting Coronado National Memorial

The memorial is situated in southeastern Arizona along the US–Mexico border. It exists to commemorate and interpret the influence of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition of 1540–1542. At the memorial, you can experience life as it was during that era. Practice the art of making tortillas by using imitation masa balls and a tortilla press or try on replica chainmail and helmets to feel what it was like to be a Spanish conquistador.

Underground Adventures at the Francisco Vasquez de Coronado memorial

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was born in 1510 in Salamanca Spain. He was only 30 years old when he began his expedition into what is now the American Southwest. Image from nps.gov

Underground Adventure

Do you want to challenge your fear of the dark? Need an adrenaline rush? Come explore the Coronado Cave!  Coronado Cave became part of Coronado National Memorial in 1978 when the park expanded its boundaries. It is a large cavern 600 feet long and in most places about 70 feet wide. It is one of the few open, undeveloped caves in southern Arizona. A little “scrambling” over slick rocks is required to descend to the cave floor. This hike is rated as moderate to moderately strenuous for the distance and condition of the trail leading to the cave entrance as well as the descent to the cave floor and exploration of the cave itself.

Be Prepared

In order to enjoy your caving experience, it is wise to be prepared for the hike to the cave entrance in addition to the cave itself. Here is a list of important items to bring with you on your caving adventure:

  • At least two sources of light – it is absolutely pitch black dark in the back of the cave and it would be difficult to find your way out without a light. Your smartphone is not a good idea. Your best option is a headlamp that will leave your hands free, as it lights your path.
  • Rent or buy gear for cave exploringGloves (touching cave walls and formations without gloves damages the cave and prohibits the growth of new formations)
  • Extra batteries.
  • A good backpack is essential to carry all your equipment.
  • Sturdy shoes or hiking boots.
  • A whistle.
  • Watch your head! A helmet is recommended due to loose rocks and low overhangs.
Tips for exploring the Coronado caves

A 40-foot descent over slick boulders is required to reach the Coronado cave floor
Photo by NPS.gov

Cave Safety

  • Never explore caves alone.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when should you be expected to return.
  • Caving can be difficult and technical — know your limitations and do not take risks beyond your endurance or comfort level.
  • Have an emergency plan.
  • Pay close attention to footing, in steep or technical situations maintain three points of contact (two feet, one hand; one foot, two hands).

You are ready to go deep into the underground by following these tips and safety rules. The only thing left is for you to build your courage up and enjoy this magnificent, thrilling adventure. If you dare…