Heather and I often find ourselves on a trail somewhere when a new year rolls around. In 2009, we celebrated only our second New Year’s Day together hiking the Pinnacle Peak Trail in Scottsdale. It was a hot, 85 degree morning, and her twin sister, older brother, and niece made the trek with us. In 2014 we did a Caribbean cruise over New Years, and once we got to port the next day, we hiked Gros Piton in St. Lucia. How many people do you know go on a relaxing cruise only to exhaust themselves on a strenuous excursion? That’s us.
This year, 2018, we spent the holiday at my parents in Sierra Vista, and the plan was to leave our 2-year-old daughter and 8 month old son with them so we could hike to the top of Miller Peak, the highest point of the Huachuca Mountains. We were up before sunrise and making good time on the highway, but just as we approached the unpaved section of Carr Canyon Road, we were met with a locked gate and a sign indicating the road to the trail head was closed. Great. And the sun was not even peeking out yet.
Plan B. We diverted our attention to another section of the Huachucas and decided to hike Joe’s Canyon Trail, a 3-hour round trip hike from the Coronado National Memorial visitor center to Coronado Peak. The hike was very pleasant as the morning was cool and the sky clear…until it started getting warmer and we had to shed layers! The combination of moderate switchbacks, a steady climb, and almost no shade got us sweating off those calories needed for our new year’s resolutions!
Did I mention we brought 2 of our dogs? Harley and Maverick are our golden retrievers, and we take them hiking when we can. We had brought plenty of water, and the dogs helped us shed that weight quickly as we hiked to the peak.
Coronado Peak is a lookout point and an interpretive site for the Coronado Expedition that took place in the region during the early 1540’s. From the lookout you can see panoramic views of Coronado National Forest to the west, Mexico and Sierra San Jose to the south, the San Pedro Valley to the east, and Miller Peak to the North. You can also see the border wall spanning for miles and miles looking east towards Bisbee and Douglas. To get to the lookout atop the peak, you can drive to a parking lot at Montezuma’s Pass and do a steep and roughly 3/4-mi hike to get to the lookout…
…or you can do as we did and hike the 3.1 miles from the visitor center. Joe’s Canyon Trail ends at a junction near the trail head of the Coronado Peak trail. We were almost to that junction when we came across the Yaqui Ridge Trail, a 1-mile spur to the US/Mexico border. We thought, what the heck, and thirty minutes later we reached the monument at the trail’s end. It is also the southern terminus of the Arizona Trail.
After taking photos we returned to the JC trail and eventually made it to the lookout. It was still before 8am, and we shared the private views together for several minutes before heading back down the trail. As we were leaving we could see the backside of Miller Peak and the trail head at Montezuma’s Pass leading up to it, and along the way back down the mountain we talked about how it would be cool to hike all of the sections of the Arizona Trail. We already knocked out a small section right?
And so there in Coronado Monument we began our own expedition.
Miles hiked: 9.7
AZT miles logged: 1.9