Central Arizona Scenic Drives Guide
Beaver CreekThis drive through Beaver Creek country, northeast of Camp Verde, offers history, rock art, hiking and spectacular views. The route, suitable for passenger vehicles, begins on Beaver Creek Road just off Interstate 17. The first nod to the region's history takes place at the Montezuma Well section of Montezuma Castle National Monument. The ancient Sinagua Indians formed a thriving farming community there beginning about A.D. 900. A short walk uphill along a paved trail takes you to the well that provided the Sinagua with much-needed water, but that isn't the only water in the region. Hike down the hill's back side to lush Wet Beaver Creek, where water spills over terraced boulders that are shaded by sycamore and ash trees. A few miles down the road from the well, three popular trails – Bell, White Mesa and Apache Maid — lure hikers. From that point, the road travels across several one-lane bridges and a country boarding school to the V-Bar-V Heritage Site, where after a short half-mile hike, visitors can see more than 1,300 petroglyphs depicting everything from snakes to humans with walking sticks. From there, drive past the M Diamond Ranch through rolling hills and flat-topped mesas back to State Route 260 that connects to I-17.
Tour GuideRoute: From Interstate 17 at McGuireville, Exit 293, turn right onto East Beaver Creek Road and drive 4.2 miles through the towns of McGuireville and Rimrock to the entrance to Montezuma Well. The pavement ends here and the road becomes Forest Road 119. Past Montezuma Well, continue for 3 miles to the intersection with Forest Road 618 and turn right onto FR 618 (paved) and drive another 1.9 miles, past the parking area for the three trails to the entrance of the V-Bar-V Heritage Site. There, you'll find a modified T-intersection with a small desert island in the middle. Turn right there to go to V-Bar-V. From that intersection, travel 3.8 miles south to the M Diamond Ranch and from there, drive another 7.2 miles to State Route 260 and turn right to go to Camp Verde and I-17.
Prescott to SeligmanIf you like roller coasters, then you're in for a heck of a ride through these Central Arizona highlands. Granite Mountain anchors the beginning of the route along Williamson Valley Road in Prescott. This handsome, but wild country is filled with creeks, peaks and canyons, where you'll want to keep an eye out for pronghorns, elk, mule deer, javelinas and even mountain lions. On the first third of the journey from Prescott, the road is paved, but thereafter, a graded dirt-and-gravel road demands a leisurely pace. The road winds for 70 miles to Seligman, passing landmarks such as Indian Hill, a site with ruins that date back hundreds of years, Walnut Creek, and the Juniper Mountains, where dense forest gives way to the open range. At the end of the road sits the little town of Seligman, which has made a name for itself as a living memorial to glory days of Route 66.
Tour GuideRoute: Begin in Prescott at Sharlot Hall Museum, 415 W. Gurley Street. Drive west on Gurley .2 miles to Grove Avenue and turn right (north) onto Grove. Continue for 1.2 miles to Iron Springs Road and turn left (west) driving 1.3 miles to the intersection with Williamson Valley Road, also signed Yavapai County Road 5. Turn right and head north for 70 miles to Route 66 at Seligman (just north of Interstate 40).
Rock Springs to CordesDuring Arizona's Territorial era, rough-hewn prospectors called the Bradshaw Mountains home. This rugged country of jumbled boulders, steep cliffs and craggy canyons provides a backdrop as dense stands of saguaros, creosotes and palo verde trees hug the foothills leading to the mountains. It's fitting that the roads that travel through this country are primitive. But starting the trip with a hearty slice of apple pie at Rock Springs Café will give travelers the mettle and energy they need to follow this 21-mile route. Begin on the Interstate 17 frontage road along the west side of the freeway. At Black Canyon city, the old road turns into Maggie Mine Road at the Black Canyon greyhound racetrack. The pavement soon ends and you'll need a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle because for about 5 miles, the road climbs over three steep hills. The road climbs the east flank of Black Canyon before joining Bumble Bee Road, which offers a little smoother ride. Passing through the old town of Bumble Bee, drive another 3 miles to the intersection of Forest Road 259, where you can turn left and continue on to the mountain town of Crown King (be aware this route have several switchbacks and some precipitous drops along the side of the road) or turn right and follow the road to Cordes, which leads back to I-17.
Tour GuideRoute: From Phoenix, follow Interstate 17 north to Rock Springs, Exit 242 and turn right (west) to Black Canyon Highway. Follow the road north to the intersection with Maggie Mine Road next to the greyhound park. Continue north for 5 miles, where the road intersects with Bumble Bee Road. The route continues north to Forest Road 259. Turn right onto FR 259 to go to Cordes. (You can also turn left to drive into Crown King and then backtrack to the intersection, but beware of the switchbacks as you travel along the mountain road). From Cordes continue north to State Route 69 or east to Interstate 17.
Horseshoe Reservoir to the Middle Verde RiverIndulge in the color and beauty of nature on this scenic drive to the remote middle stretches of the Verde River. Located on the outskirts of metropolitan Phoenix, this back road drive gives adventure a new definition. Enjoy the wet terrain as you pass through Seven Springs — a delightful, little-known oasis — and indulge in the 40-yard-wide flowing Verde River. Roll past lush cottonwoods, sycamores, ash and mesquite trees along road that is only accessible with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Tour GuideRoute: From Phoenix, take Cave Creek Road northeast to Forest Road 24. At the intersection of Cave Creek Road and FR 24, turn left (north).After about 9 miles, you'll reach Seven Springs. Continue for 17 more miles on FR 24 to Forest Road 269. Turn right (east). Take FR 269 for 12 miles to the Verde River. Leaving the Verde River, backtrack on FR 269 to FR 24 and continue west on 269 (Bloody Basin Road) for 27 miles to Interstate 17 (Milepost 259). Turn left (south) for a return to Phoenix.
Handy access to Cave Creek Road in Phoenix includes:
Additional Information: Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, 480-595-3300; www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto.
Heber to Mogollon RimIf you're interested in taking a not-so-average drive, the Heber to Mogollon Rim route will fill your imagination with mystery, terrestrial life, lynching and beautiful women. This scenic and spooky drive is a great backcountry trek that is most popular from April through November. Learn the mysterious history of the area along two historic trails — one a famous military road, the other a cattle route dating from the 1880s. Your journey eventually ends along this road, but the amazing stories ranging from the three men who were mysteriously lynched to the ranch full of beautiful women and a world famous UFO abduction, will keep you trucking along. The back road from Heber to the Mogollon Rim may require a high-clearance vehicle.
Tour GuideRoute: Start on State Route 260 in Heber, just west of Milepost 304. Turn south onto Black Canyon Lane, which eventually feeds into Forest Road 86. Follow it through a small residential area and you will break out toward the Rim. About 13 miles after turning onto Black Canyon Lane, you'll come to the signed turnoff on the right for Black Canyon Lake, a short distance off FR 86. Leaving the lake, continue west-southwesterly on 86 for about 2 miles (if you reach Forest Road 300, you've driven too far) to the junction with a primitive road called Spur No. 9 for a brief side trip. Back on 86, continue a short distance to the junction with FR 300 and turn left (east). About 12 miles from the 86-300 junction, turn left (north) onto Forest Road 125 and continue for about 5 miles through Phoenix Park and onto Forest Road 124. Turn right (east) on FR 124 and go 3.75 miles to Forest Road 146. Turn left (north) and drive 3 miles to State 260, about 10 miles east of Heber.
Additional Information: Apache Sitgreaves National Forests, Black Mesa Ranger District, 928-535-7300; www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf.