Backway to Crown King

Location: North of Phoenix, west of Interstate 17.

Difficulty: Moderate.

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.


Crown King WEATHER


Remember: trail conditions, fire restrictions, weather, and land ownership change constantly so everyone must take responsibility for themselves, both for their safety and complying with all laws. Please understand that means YOU.


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 rig ready for the trip: Make sure both you and your vehicle are prepared 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 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 the number to Arizona 4×4 Off Road Recovery in case you find yourself in need of recovery in the middle of nowhere. Their 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!




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12 thoughts on “Backway to Crown King

  1. ttrottier says:

    I just drove it last month, there was a section about a mile long that had a severe washout, it was passable and there was a back hoe in use rolling large rocks around. There are a few rock outcroppings in the trail, keep your tires on the high parts and you shouldn’t scrape. I never did and I drive a 2012 Toyota Tacoma quad cab 4×4 TRD. Keep in mind it is a rather long drive, bring water a few beers and a lunch, there are a lot of places to stop and the views are fantastic. Fill your gas tank too, there is no station until you get to Crown King and it is about 2x the going price, which seems like a deal when you need it. We stopped where the road goes around a cattle guard, it was overlooking a canyon. The first time I drove this my stomach hurt for days afterward. It was in an old ’91 Jeep that was a bouncy 4 banger with leaf springs. The Toyota is much smoother. Have fun, take your time, be safe.

  2. laulau8310 says:

    Great stuff! this will be my first trail, just want to make sure there is a bypass for every obstacle,,driving a 2010 jeep wrangler Sahara… thanks!

  3. ross7262 says:

    About 10 miles out of crown king a miner has totally damaged the backroad into the forest to go to crown king don’t waste your time trying to drive to crown king from lake pleasant its obvious the miner/land owner blocked the road on purpose unless you have a crazy rock climber I promise don’t waste your time I just wonder why the city or state hasn’t done something about this.

    • aristodemus1 says:

      I second this. I made the trek on 05/30/2017 and essentially reached a dead end at the amateur mining site. The guy has diverted a stream and covered the trail with river rocks/boulders and my F150 was too long to navigate a gnarly S turn with large boulders dictating the path. Had to back out (which was a fun experience) while that guy was no doubt laughing his ass off.

      As to your question, I’d guess that either the county/state/BLM officials dont know about it or can’t/wont go back there to do anything about it.

      • ev1687 says:

        Yeah it’s a dick move. I was up there last week on my dirt bike and they “diverted” the road through a river bed with nothing but beach ball size rocks. Not fun. Needless to say coming back down from CK I quickly “diverted” my bike through their section. Don’t think they were too happy about it but neither is the land they are tearing up.

        • swobo says:

          Do you guys know exactly where this is (GPS coordinates)? I’ve got a reliable connection at the BLM.

          • georgejamison says:

            Tried to ride this today on my dirt bike. The rocks in the wash at the placer mine got too big for me, so I turned back. The guy was in his trailer and waved, but I think it was to say “Good luck, sucker.” What he’s done to restrict access is BS and whichever branch of the government is responsible for the trail should intervene.
            The gps coordinates on the creek across from the trailer are:

  4. thddude says:

    Just made the trek on 6/3/2017 in a stock Jeep with 32″ tires and my buddy had a tacoma trd with 2″ lift. We both made it all the way without getting remotely close to getting stuck. Scraped the skids a couple of times but that was it. The trail goes through a miner’s private land and he is nice enough to leave the gate unlocked so people can pass through. You just have to drive through the wash to get to the next leg of the trail. Quite rocky and a tough trail in parts but it is a lot of fun. Air down for all the rocks and I recommend not going alone but you will likely see at least a few other vehicles on the trail.

  5. chefbmac says:

    July 27th 2017
    First time taking my new Willy out to play… Got to mile 22-ish and came up to a locked gate… Wasn’t sure if there was an alternative route so I turned around. Still fun though.

  6. gpndavid says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for the detailed description of this trail. We arrived from Alabama to visit the area and explore some trails in our 2014 Grand Cherokee Overland. We loaded a picnic and some gear and headed out following these directions. We had to adjust for a slight mileage difference, but hitting the described landmarks gave us confidence. There were a few tough spots and we were glad we had steel rocker protection and 31 inch tires. We met some new friends along the way and shared a beverage at the top. A great trail with varied plant life and several landmarks.

  7. mboardma says:

    My buddy and I just made this drive on 11/17/18. I have a 1979 CJ5 with a 4.5″ lift and 33×12.50 tires. He has a 2006 Jeep Wrangler Sahara with a 4.5″ lift and 35s. As several have mentioned here, the miner still has the road blocked through his property, so you have to drive through a narrow, rocky wash to get to Crown King. There are also a few steep ledges you need to get up, so you need some high ground clearance to get through these areas. Several stock Razors, ATVs, trucks and Can Ams turned around at these spots. It took us about 4 hours to get there, and we drove back on the gravel road from Crown King to I-17, to Phoenix, which took about 2 hours.

  8. randell says:

    So the difficult level of this trip reads as Moderate; lessons have been learned. Yeah my buddy and self made this assault on the backside; from the miner’s creek detour to the rolling into Crown King, there must have been 4 more places that my experience told me ‘Time to turn around’. I couldn’t believe we were up the narrow creek-bed, with my friend the driver bouncing up around the bend to check it out, but he returned saying we could probably make it. The majority of the next 3 hrs, my head was many times out the window to give my driver updates on the proximity of boulders and rock walls and such. (note: Toyota ’18 off-road model 3″ lift and 33″ tires – called my friend for this.) All I’m saying is that I still can’t believe we made it; coming up out of one creek, the solid-rock blocks were close to a yard on sides. Thanks to the piss-ant miner – and I’ll be honest and say I’d cheat and take his road – though I wouldn’t do a 2nd ride unless it was a side-by-side. My driver is a pro and his wheels are the best; that was crazy good!

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