“The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time,” said Thoreau in his 1854 book, Walden. He never saw Sedona. Sand dunes and seabed sediments were laid and then covered by more of the same over 300 million years ago. Under unimaginable compression, they became the sandstone we see today. A massive 3000-foot uplift 13 million years ago created the Mogollon Rim running from central New Mexico to western Arizona exposing the ancient sandstone layers. Walden’s gentle erosion took over. The ethereal beauty of Sedona’s many sandstone formations emerged. Today tourists from all over the world flock to charming and captivatingly scenic Sedona. Offroaders come too, running the many famous rocky trails in the area. Schnebly Hill Road is both a road and a rite of passage. The road itself is crowded and annoyingly bumpy on the descent from the Rim into Sedona. But the views always delight, all that red and buff sandstone formed into monuments ranging from massive to whimsical. Despite being a Jeep Badge of Honor Trail, Schnebly Hill Road is a once and done for many. But it is one that you need to do and will always remember, a touchstone of the community if you will. Thoreau never did Schnebly Hill Road. You should.
Located northeast of Florence, Box Canyon is a scenic trail that passes through a spectacular, narrow canyon with geological features and bright, colorful vegetation you wouldn't commonly associate with the desert, such as acarosporaceae fungi. Beyond the sheer, towering canyon walls, drivers can find petroglyphs, and historical stagecoach stops making this trail a truly unique Arizona offroad experience. A favorite amongst many offroad enthusiasts, this trail is a popular access point to many other trails within the Florence Junction area.
Located northwest of Lake Pleasant and traversing through three different life zones and multiple biomes, Backway to Crown King is a thrilling off-road adventure that offers a unique perspective on Arizona's rugged and beautiful landscape. This extremely popular 4-wheel drive trail is known for its challenging terrain, steep inclines, and narrow shelf roads. Obstacles, mines, and great views await as you climb from the Sonora Desert into the Prescott National Forest.
When you think of rugged off-road trails, you typically conjure up images of a trail in a land far away and not right near a major metro area such as just Phoenix, Arizona. New River is rugged and will have you feeling like you are in a remote part of the world rather than a quick drive from the Valley of the Sun. Stretching over 19 miles long across the New River Mountains and Mesa, you will feel enveloped inside the mountains and surrounded by saguaro and other cacti of the area. On a good day, you can cross the New River several times when it is flowing.
Dry Creek Road is an excellent trail for those looking for a nice hike ending in an amazing view. With easy access to landmarks such as Devil's Bridge, and Vultee Arch, you will surely not be disappointed! Another great perk of this trail is the historic Van Deren Cabin, which was originally homesteaded by Bill Fredericks, a local known for his "Good whiskey". In 1924 he sold the land to Earl Van Deren. Earl moved the north cabin from Sterling Canyon sometime between 1924 and 1929. Then in 1930 Van Deren decided to get married and constructed the South cabin and connected them with a common roof, creating a breezeway. The North cabin served as a kitchen, and the South cabin became known as the "Honeymoon cabin". During the 1940's, the cabins were used for two movies, "Riders of the Purple Sage", and "Blood on the Moon"
In 1863 the Bradshaw brothers, William and Isaac, came to Arizona from the declining goldfields of California. By 1864 they found gold in the forbidding mountains that would eventually bear their family name. Miners and prospectors flocked to the area despite the ruggedness of the mountains and the fierceness of the Yavapai natives, that still claimed the lands as their home. William, more an entrepreneur than a miner, laid out the Bradshaw Trail and started a ferry across the Colorado River at Ehrenburg, charging unsuccessful California miners a nice fee for access to the new goldfields of Arizona. Mines like Senator, Tip Top, Blue Bell, Tiger, and Ora Belle began highly profitable operations. Rod McKinnon located gold in July 1875 deeper into the Bradshaws than any find to date. The resulting Crowned King Mine became the largest operation in the Bradshaws and spawned the bustling town of Crown King. Crown King got its post office in 1888. Electricity and the telephone arrived in 1897, both still a rarity in Arizona. The Saloon was moved from Oro Belle board by board in 1906 and reassembled on the present site, which was at the time beside two Chinese Restaurants and the feed store. The upstairs featured seven cribs where the town's soiled doves practiced the world's oldest profession. It is now Arizona's longest-operating saloon. The historic photos lining the walls of the bar serve as a museum of sorts. The Bradshaw Mountain Railroad, a true feat of engineering, reached Crown King in 1904 via switchbacks and tall trestles. The railroad ceased operation in 1926 after the mines played out and most of the population left. The rail bed was converted into the scenic Crown King Road with its dual ghost towns of Bumble Bee and Cleator. Today there's only sporadic mining in the Bradshaws. But Crown King has become its jewel. With roughly a hundred full-time residents and perhaps a thousand that have cabins and summer homes atop the mountains, Crown King's population swells every weekend as offroaders and adventurers come to the mountaintop town for a taste of Arizona history. The Magic Bridge transports visitors from the desert below to the towering pines and cool breezes of Crown King. The saloon has live music most weekends. The general store sells a lot more t-shirts than mining pans these days. Campsites near town are filled with happy campers. Even with most of the gold gone, the mountains of the Bradshaw brothers remain full of treasures. Drive on up the iconic Crown King Road and see what you can discover.
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