It’s Cinco de Mayo and what better time to take a hike and indulge in a fabulous Tequila cocktail! No, it’s not a Margarita.  While a properly concocted Margarita is a great drink, there is another drink south of the border that is more popular, and really, more “Mexico”. Enter the Paloma, a drink everyone in Arizona should be drinking – it’s refreshing after a long day’s hike in the warm southern AZ sun!

So before we imbibe, we are going to hike the Joe’s Canyon Trail in the Coronado National Memorial.

Joe’s Canyon Trail – Coronado National Memorial

The site of Joe’s Canyon Trail – among other hiking trails – was designated the Coronado International Memorial on August 18, 1941, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s search for the Seven Cities of Cibola. Coronado’s expedition was one of the first major European explorations of what would become the United States.

The trail begins near the Coronado National Memorial visitor’s center and you will start your ascent almost immediately – starting at 5,231 ft. This hike is 6.2 miles of a moderate, but rocky, trail that will have you hiking to the Yaqui Ridge Trail, providing a steep, 1 mile descent to the US/Mexico border. You’ll know you’re there when you reach the International Boundary Marker 102. The old post marks the starting point of the Arizona Scenic Trail as well. It is a small detour that is well worth the extra hike.

Back at the intersection of the Yaqui Ridge Trail, Joe’s Canyon Trail continues northwest toward Montezuma Pass. The desert vegetation here is quite lush. There is a common misconception that Arizona is brown and just a desert – therefore the further south you travel, the hotter and “browner” it gets. This is oh so not the case. We just let all the tourists think this so more of our amazing outdoor locations don’t suffer the same fate as Havasupai, most of Sedona and Fossil Springs. You are traveling at a higher elevation in Coronado National Monument and the area of southern Arizona known as the “Sky Islands” where you can be at 2,500 feet at the base of the mountain and climb to over 7,000 to the top.

The final push to Montezuma Pass takes is another 600 yards to Coronado Peak, which, at 6,864 feet, is the highest point on the trail and the turnaround point for the hike. The peak offers 360 degree views of the vast amount of open and untouched land. You can see 75 miles into Sonora, Mexico as well as the Mule Mountains and the San Pedro River Valley below. While we never encourage drinking while hiking and you would be doing so at your own risk – this is a great spot to kick back with a cold beverage and take it ALL in.

Directions: From Benson, go south on State Route 90 for 31.7 miles to Hatfield Street in Sierra Vista. Turn left to stay on SR 90, which later becomes State Route 92, and continue 13.5 miles to State Route 83 (South Coronado Memorial Road). Turn right onto SR 83 and continue 4.7 miles to the Coronado National Memorial visitors center.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t be fooled by the hike being in Southern Arizona. The elevation of this hike is higher so the temperatures will be cooler.  It is a good hike from Spring through Fall but be aware of thunderstorms if you are hiking July through September as you will be exposed to lightning.
  • Be prepared for varied temperatures and always have your essentials.
  • Border hiking safety – While no area of the U.S.-Mexican border is completely free of the challenges of immigration and smuggling activity, Cochise County is far quieter than many border counties. With the lack of a large city in close proximity to the border, and the large and visible presence of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, this area feels miles away from the border news reports you might read.

Paloma Cocktail Recipe

  • Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Lime
  • 2 ounces Cruz Reposado Tequila
  • 1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • Jarritos Grapefruit soda
  • 1 lime wheel or wedge for garnish

Rim a highball glass with kosher salt. Squeeze the lime into a shaker and drop the lime wedge in. Add the tequila, grapefruit juice and simple syrup. Short shake with 3 ice cubes. Strain into a highball glass with ice and top off with grapefruit soda. Garnish with the lime wheel.

If you are in Mexico, this is the most popular Tequila cocktail and in many places you make it yourself. During dinner, the ingredients are placed on your table to craft your own yummy cocktail of Tequila goodness.

What does this have to do with Cinco de Mayo you ask? About as much as America’s celebrating Cinco de Mayo by drinking has to do with independence of Puebla, Mexico from France. But who cares right? As long as we are celebrating our friends in Mexico and honoring their history and culture. So raise your Paloma to Mexico. Salude!