The views from Cherry Road include
rolling hills, a verdant valley and a
quaint country lane.
© Nick Berezenko
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Editor's Note click to expand
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Cherry RoadAlong with breathtaking views of the Verde Valley, this scenic drive features the most perfect tree-lined country lane in the state.
By Roger Naylor
The great thing about existing off the beaten path, as the town of Cherry does, is that residents and scenic-drivers have to take an unbeaten path to get there. That means driving scenery-rich Cherry Road.
Named for the cherry trees that grew along the adjacent creek, Cherry sits in a pine-scented basin at the crest of the Black Hills. The town once served as a stage stop between Fort Whipple in Prescott and Fort Verde in Camp Verde. Buffalo Soldiers and others also used the route to travel between posts. A few mines sprang up late in the 19th century, but nothing that resembled a mother lode.
Most far-flung mining towns fade into oblivion after the ore plays out, but Cherry transitioned into a tranquil little oasis for ranchers and homesteaders. Today, it seems virtually untouched by the passing of time — the kind of spot you drive through once, yet think about for years afterward, especially on late-summer evenings while stuck in traffic.
Starting among the rolling hills near Dewey, the meandering dirt road dips in and out of wash bottoms and begins a gentle climb. By dirt road standards, this is a freeway, easily navigated by passenger cars. After a couple of miles, drivers are inexplicably treated to a respite of pavement.
A 3-mile stretch of orphaned asphalt leads to bigger timber as juniper and scrub oak trees surrender to a cluster of ponderosa pines. A few scorched trunks are remnants of a prescribed burn. Seclusion demands a proactive fire policy.
The pavement vanishes as suddenly as it appeared as you make your way into downtown Cherry. Watch for dogs taking a middle-of-the-road siesta. Then take a moment to savor the most calendar-perfect, tree-lined country lane in the state.
The town (population 50 or so) includes one business: Cherry Creek Bed & Breakfast. Travelers looking for a peaceful getaway can call off the search. Innkeepers Boyce and Lynn Macdonald, Cherry residents since 1976, offer an idyllic cottage engulfed all summer long by Lynn's vibrant flower gardens. Breakfast is served outside in good weather, which, at an elevation of 5,300 feet, means most of the year.
As you wind onward, a scattering of houses peek through dense chaparral. One gets a sense of a friendly but private community, where quiet earns unqualified respect.
The landscape broadens once you pass through town, with scratchy green hills tumbling away in all directions. The road then takes a downward tilt, descending 2,000 feet to the floor of the Verde Valley, most of which occurs in a 4-mile stretch of switchbacks and tight curves unprotected by guardrails.
Pull over to ogle breathtaking views across the valley to the crumpled cliffs of Sedona and the San Francisco Peaks rising beyond. As the road levels off you'll pass the trailhead for Grief Hill. And yes, that rutted, rocky ribbon plunging from the high country used to be the main thoroughfare in these parts. Count your blessings.
Cherry Road ends at State Route 260 between Camp Verde and Cottonwood, not far from Sedona and Jerome, which are supremely scenic in their own right. That said, don't be surprised if your thoughts continue drifting back to a placid speck of a town along a tree-crowded country lane.
Tour Guideclick to expand
Note: Mileages are approximate.
Directions: From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to Exit 278. Turn left onto State Route 169 and drive 5.5 miles to Cherry Road and turn right. It's 6 miles to Cherry, and another 11 miles to State Route 260. Beyond Cherry, there are several switchbacks and mountain curves, and the road is not protected by guardrails. This section should be avoided when wet
Vehicle requirements: Accessible to all vehicles.
Lodging: Cherry Creek Bed & Breakfast, 928-632-5390 or www.cherrycreekbnb.com
Information: Prescott National Forest, 928-443-8000 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott
Travelers in Arizona can visit www.az511.gov or dial 511 to get information on road closures, construction, delays, weather and more.