Description: Most of this route is easy to moderate, however there are a few difficult places that will challenge stock vehicles. These few obstacles have bypasses though, so you decide which way you want to go. The road is being systematically graded from the bottom up, but the top part of this trail changes after every winter season and even after each rain storm. In some places erosion has exposed more rocks and deep ruts have formed. Aggressive stock vehicles with good articulation can get up this trail with no problem, but you might have to skip one or two “fun hills” and take the easy route instead. This is a very popular trail on the weekends. Drive carefully and watch for ATVs and dirt bikes. On the way out of Crown King, if you take Crown King Road to Cleator and I-17, you’ll notice signs of recent wild fires and mud slides that followed.
Video: Watch video footage of the trail.
Time & Distance: The route is about 34 miles and takes 4 to 5 hours. Add to that a long drive to and from the trail. It’s a full day adventure from Phoenix.
Trail Conditions: Prescott N.F., Bradshaw Ranger District. Call (928) 443-8000. In winter, call Crown King General Store @ (928) 632-7911.
Directions to the Trail: Take I-17 to Cave Creek/Carefree exit 223. Head west on Hwy 74 about 11 miles. Turn right just past mile marker 19 on a major paved road.
View Backway to Crown King in a larger map for even more DETAILS!
Return trip: Turn right and follow Senator Hwy downhill to Crown King. From there, follow Crown King Road to Cleator and I-17. A long drive left on Senator Hwy goes to Prescott and Mayer.
Reset your odometer as you turn off Hwy 74. Follow paved road north until it reaches Castle Creek Road at 5.5 miles. Turn left, after which the pavement ends. Turn right at 8.5 miles following signs to Crown King. Bear left at 11.5 miles. Pass through private property before crossing usually dry Cow Creek at 15.2 miles. Continue straight at 16.2 where Champie Road joins on the left. Stay on the main road through a private residential area at 17.5. At 20.2 miles turn right on a lesser road. It’s marked with small painted boulders with arrows that point to CK (Crown King). The trail soon becomes rutted and steep. It splits at 22.4 then comes back together. Right is easier. Same thing at 23.9 but left is easier. Bear left at 24.7. Go either way at 25.9 miles. Bear right at 26.3.
Pass the “Burro John” Homestead on the left at 26.3 miles. A cattle guards marks the boundary of the Prescott National Forest at 26.4 miles. At 26.8 watch for remains of “Kentuck’s Place” on the left. A good place to stop for lunch is at Fort Misery, located in the clearing on the left at 27.4 miles.
Make an important right turn uphill at 30.4 miles onto FS 192. This narrow shelf road starts easy but deteriorates quickly. Probably the worst spot on the trail is reached at 31.2 miles. Stock vehicles may have to stack rocks here. A big water tank on the left at 31.3 marks the location of the Oro Belle Townsite and Mine. A high rock wall cut into the bank on the right side of the road is a wall of a hotel. Remnants of the mine can be found on the hillside above. Turn up the tight switchback on the left and follow a narrow shelf road above the water tank. The road climbs rapidly with beautiful views of the road below. The solid rock walls that support the road were built by stone masons over 120 years ago. Bear right at 34.0 miles. The road gets rough again before reaching the Senator Highway at 34.4 miles.
Get yourself and your TOY ready for the trip: Make sure both you and your vehicle are ready for your next adventure.
Before you venture out on your offroading trip you need to make sure you are prepared for emergencies. Even if nothing happens to you or your vehicle, you might come across someone who needs help. Short of always having your full-on Bug-Out-Bag with you, you should at least have some basic emergency items. It might seem obvious to some, but you should get yourself a tool box with appropriate tools and leather gloves, good first aid kit, fire extinguisher, set of jumper cables, emergency blankets (stored in heavy plastic bag – both are useful), flashlight, tow strap and some extra water. I would also suggest a recovery strap, a military folding shovel, heavy duty garbage bags, and a hand crank self powered weather radio. These items are not expensive, but they just might save your day.
Another thing you should definitely do before you leave is to save Joe’s number in your cellphone in case you find yourself in need of recovery in the middle of nowhere. Joe is the owner of Arizona 4×4 Off Road Recovery and has become a real hero to many in the Arizona offroad community. His number is (602) 697-8306.
If you’re ready for a next adventure and want to plan it right, check out some of these trail guides – Arizona has so many awesome destinations to explore!