Backway to Crown King, Arizona

Crown King, Arizona (Yavapai County)

Last Updated: 10/30/2020
4.7 / 5 ( 10 reviews )
Zoom in to see trails...
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 4-6
Length: 29.58 miles
Highest Elevation: 6441 feet
Duration: About 8 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: North
Nearest Town: Crown King
Nearest Town w/ Services: Crown King
Official Road Name: 74, 711, 192, 259
Management Agency: Prescott National Forest
District: Bradshaw Ranger District


Highlight: Backway to Crown King, Arizona
The highlight of the Backway to Crown King is the town itself and serves as a welcomed destination after a long day on the trail. Whether stopping for lunch or staying the night, it is well worth the time to check out the general store, saloon, and prospector mall. If you need supplies or a souvenir t-shirt, the general store is the place to go. It is also the place to go for Crown King's famous fudge. If you are looking for a cold adult beverage or a meal, check out the Crown King Saloon. Local musicians also frequent the saloon for good music. The Prospector Mall is also a great place to stop for supplies and a meal. Their breakfast is fantastic. There are also several cabins in the area that are available for travelers to spend the night. You can find any and all information about the services available in Crown King on their [website](


Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Lightly Modified 4X4 (Small Lift and Larger Tires)
The Backway to Crown King can be made to be as easy as you would like or as difficult as you would like depending on the obstacles you choose to try. The optional lines at waypoint 13 are the most difficult lines on the entire trail. There are sections of the trail that are nothing more than smooth forest service roads.

Technical Rating

Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 18" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 18" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 36" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.
Read more about our rating system

Community Consensus

0 votes
2 votes
0 votes
Spot On


The Backway to Crown King is one of Phoenix's most popular trails. Situated in parts of the Prescott National Forest travelers will definitely get a taste of what this state has to offer for scenery. The beautiful part of this trail is that it can be as easy or as difficult as needed but 4x4 is still required. If you plan on trying any of the optional and more difficult lines your vehicle and your 4x4 prowess must be adequate. The trail begins as an easy dirt road following along the northern borders of the Lake Pleasant Regional Park and through some secluded residential areas. After turning onto the Crown King Trail at Waypoint 6, the adventure has started. Gradually climbing to an elevation of 6441 ft before dropping into the town of Crown King, this trail offers tight shelf roads, steep rocky climbs with shelves, seasonal water crossings, and blind corners so please be careful. It is also very important to note that there is private property along this trail. Please respect all private property signs. At Waypoint 18, the road was recently routed down into the creek to serve as an alternate route around a private mining claim. The creek bottom is rocky but depending on weather and the time of year, this creek may have water in it. As such, obstacles under the water are not easily seen so please take care through this section of the trail. Also, please respect the miners’ wishes and do not enter into his property. It is also important to mention that in the winter months, depending on snow fall, the trail may not be passable. The snow can also create very dangerous situations on the narrow shelf roads. This is especially important after passing Waypoint 25. The descent past this point is on the north face of the mountain where ice and snow are the most treacherous. Please be prepared with the proper equipment, food, and water. Temperatures can also be very low so if you have to spend the night on the trail, please be prepared. If an overland adventure is what you are looking for, the Backway to Crown King can easily be connected to the [Senator Highway (FR 52)]( for a scenic trip to Prescott, Arizona. This trail is shared with all kinds of OHV users including: motorcycles, side by sides, quads, and 4x4's so please respect the rules of the road.
During heavy snowfall, this trail could become impassable especially nearer to waypoint 25 and beyond.


1. Trailhead (0 mi)
There is a nice wide shoulder here for airing down tires and disconnecting sway bars. The road turns to dirt at the Primitive Road sign.
2. Right Turn at Cow Creek Road (2.8 mi)
Turn right/north onto Cow Creek Road from Castle Hot Springs Road. There is a large staging area here on the right.
3. Veer Left At Y (8.6 mi)
Continue north on Cow Creek Road. Columbia Trail enters from the right/east.
4. Continue Straight (10.3 mi)
Continue straight at this intersection with Champie Road. Please be respectful of all private property signs.
5. Stay Left Over Cattle Guard (12.2 mi)
After crossing the cattle guard stay left and continue into the residential area. Please respect the signs and drive slowly.
6. Right Turn At Crown King Trail (14.5 mi)
The "Crown King Rock," is the noticeable landmark here. Turn right and continue onto Crown King Trail.
7. Optional Line To Right (15.1 mi)
There is an optional line here to the right. Easier to the left and more difficult to the right. Both lines converge to continue on the main road.
8. Optional Lines To Left (15.5 mi)
There are optional lines here to the left with varying degrees of difficulty. Easier to the left and more difficult to the right. Both options converge to continue on the main road.
9. Stone Chimney (16.1 mi)
No history on this stone chimney could be found but is certainly odd to see it here.
10. Optional Line To Left (16.7 mi)
Here is another optional line on the trail. This line is steep going with decent sized ruts. A mistake on this optional line could be catastrophic. It should only be attempted by skilled drivers with properly equipped vehicles. Both lines converge to continue on the main road.
11. Optional Line To Right (17.1 mi)
While the main road continues straight then bends to the right, the optional line here crosses the road and continues on going uphill for a very long obstacle, rejoining the main road above. While the second pictures shows where the optional line crosses the main road, the third pictures shows not only the length of the obstacle but also where it rejoins the main road.
12. Optional Lines at Y (19 mi)
There are two lines at this Y intersection. Both lines converge to rejoin the main road.
13. Option Lines At Y (19.1 mi)
The main road continues to the left here while the more difficult line is on the right. The line on the right is steep, off camber, with rocky ledges, and an exposed shoulder on the right. This line is for experienced drivers only with well equipped vehicles with good suspension articulation and traction aides. Both lines converge to continue on the main road.
14. Optional Line At Y (19.2 mi)
The more difficult line here is on the left while the easier is to the right. Both lines converge to continue on the main road.
15. Option Line at Y (20.6 mi)
The easier line is to the right where the more difficult line is to the left. Both lines converge to continue on the main road.
16. Optional Line At Y (21.4 mi)
The easier line is to the right. The line to the left requires good suspension articulation. Both lines converge to continue on the main road.
17. Burro John (22.2 mi)
The name comes from the topographical map and although no history could be found on this location, this spot is a great place to pull over for lunch or to simply take a break. It is a fairly large area which makes a perfect spot for large groups to stop. Now within the Prescott National Forest, the road is now numbered FR 711.
18. Right turn down into Creek (22.3 mi)
At this location, FR 711 has been routed down into the creek. A miner has exercised his rights to his claim here and as a result the road has been re-routed. Please be respectful of the private property signs along the way.
19. Private Mine to Left (22.5 mi)
This is the entrance to the mine located here. It is clearly marked with signs, please be respectful of the signs and keep out.
20. Fort Misery (23.4 mi)
Turn left at this Y intersection to find Fort Misery. Both roads converge on FR 711 to continue. Fort Misery was built by a man named Al Francis and is not to be confused with the Fort Misery, "Arizona's Oldest Log Cabin," at the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, Arizona. Fort Misery was said to have been named by it's builder either by the nearby Misery Spring or by the living conditions at the time; [Arizona Pioneer and Cemetery Research Project](
21. Optional Line at Y (23.6 mi)
FR 711 continues straight and bends around the corner to the right. The optional line here to the right converges with FR 711.
22. Car Over Edge to Right (24.5 mi)
A sobering reminder here on how things can go bad quickly on the trail. This car may very well be a new addition to the trail as it was not recognized as being there on the last trip to Crown King.
23. Memorial to Right (26.9 mi)
This memorial was placed here within the last couple of years to pay respects to a couple who lost their lives on the trail. The memorial was in very good condition and it was apparent that other fellow travelers have stopped to pay their respects.
24. Keep Right FR711/FR192 (27.1 mi)
FR 711 intersects with FR 192 here, FR 192 will be used to continue on into Crown King. FR 192 enters from the left. Keep right and follow the road uphill.
25. Highest Elevation (31.5 mi)
This is the highest point on the trail at an elevation of 6441 ft. The remainder of the trail is on a northern facing slope. In times of inclement weather conditions this is where the trail can become dangerous especially in the ice and snow. The trail now continues downhill towards the intersection with the [Senator Highway (FR 52)](
26. Continue Straight (32.2 mi)
FR 192 intersects with the Senator Highway (FR 52) here which comes from the left/northwest. There is a stop sign here. This is a pretty heavily traveled area now so please take care and stop at the sign before continuing on. Continue straight on FR 52 to continue on into Crown King.
27. Left On Crown King Road (33.5 mi)
FR 52 intersects with Crown King Road (FR 259) here. A left turn here will lead into the town of Crown King. This is a pretty heavily traveled area so please take care and stop at the sign before continuing on.
28. Left On Main Street (34.1 mi)
Turn left/north here onto Main Street to find the town of Crown King.
29. End of Trail (34.3 mi)
Welcome to Crown King! Parking can sometimes be difficult to find but please be respectful and find a designated spot along the road to park.

Directions to Trailhead

Travel west on Carefree Highway (Hwy 74) 11.5 miles to Castle Hot Springs Road at mile marker 19, Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Turn right and travel north 5.3 miles to 'T' intersection and turn left/west to continue on Castle Hot Springs Road.


There are primitive camping spots within the [BLM land area](, as well as around [Lake Pleasant] ( There are camping spots along FR 192, the Senator Highway, and Crown King Road. Please only use spots with existing fire rings. They are on a first come, first served basis. And please remember to [Tread Lightly](
Camping: Backway to Crown King, Arizona

Land Use Issues

No special permits are required.

Trail Reviews (18)

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
It’s my opinion that this trail is far more difficult than moderate 4. We found that the third rock obstacle at the hair pin bend by the creek at the old Ora bell mine was un passable with our jeep. Large boulders, steep bank turn. The whole trail has been very eroded away for long stretches and very eroded in that area. The monsoon rain and the SXS traffic have definitely taken a toll. The first time we made the “Back way to Crown king” trip was back in 2009 with our stock wrangler. We turned back this time with our well equipped lifted wrangler mainly because we didn’t know what else we’d find on the trail up ahead and we didn’t want to be stuck between the technical spots. We took body damage to our bumper and gas tank guard going over the first two. I don’t know if Yavapai county ever runs a grader on the trail but it could use some maintenance. My 2.5 inch lift and 35 inch tires and my level of experience wasn’t enough to pass Ora Bell. We saw a super nice lifted well equipped Gladiator with 40 inch tires make it though with little problem.
Social Media:
Status: Open
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On
Offroaded on:
There is some fun Optional Obstacles get you all Flexy There alot of fun, The Side by Side folks so close to a Major City our a Pain. Hamburgers & Beer made the Difference at the Top Great way to End a Day of Fun
Status: Open
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On
Offroaded on:
This is a great trail and a favorite of locals. The town of Crown King is really a jewel and a great place to hang out, camp, or grab a cabin for the night. As for the actual trail, I have done it twice exactly a year apart. The rains this year have added additional difficulty and obstacles but not so much as to change the trail rating. In the past, one of the last obstacles referred to by locals as "the wall" did not have a bypass. It does now, someone went in and cut one. Just north of the wall, however, is a rock formation that takes some creative steering and a good spotter, and can be every bit as difficult as the wall for some. This year, the trail has had a wash out from the rain that has narrowed the road at this obstacle. Last year, there was a truck stuck on it but SXS's were able to get around him. This year, that would have been impossible. If you're a veteran of this trail and haven't been up this year, you'll see exactly what I mean next time you go. After what last year were the last two obstacles, the trail has an additional one that isn't hard but again, first timers will likely need a spotter. It's literally up around the bend from the wall and washed out rock formation mentioned earlier. I do not remember it being there in 2020, indeed I told the party I was with once we cleared the narrow rock formation that it was smooth sailing from there. I was wrong. It's worth mentioning that this year, we did the trail on a Thursday and only saw one other vehicle. Last year, we went on a Saturday and there was a lot of SXS, Jeep, cycle, and atv traffic. We had two different stoppages that cost us about three hours on that Saturday. If you have the opportunity and a group of good off roaders, do this trail during the week if you can. Just bear in mind that the Crown King businesses close earlier or don't open at all during the week.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Went on 8/21/21 and wanted to check trail conditions after all of the recent rain. Trail is in good shape with all of the typical obstacles at the higher elevations. Very beautiful with the blooms due to the recent wet season. Would rank this trail as moderate for a larger side by side as there are only three somewhat challenging spots. Note that the saloon in town has a very limited menu currently but was good.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
One of my faves. Can get pretty dificult at times but nothing that can't be overcome with good tire placement from a 4x4 vehicle with some all terrain tires. definitely wouldn't go there solo.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The Prescott National Forest has rescinded the Horse Fire related road closures. Trails are now open.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
The Horse Fire NW of Crown King has led to temporary closures and restrictions on area trails.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Very scenic trail. It's pretty neat to start at Lake Pleasant and work your way up to higher elevations - there is just so much to see. There are also lots of obstacle off-shoots too for the daring that'll keep this interesting. Be cautious of the UTVs ripping up and down this trail. There are two rock ledges which you have to traverse which are no issue for SUVs and shorter wheel base vehicles but apparently my 2020 Jeep Gladiator was a tad long (136" hub-to-hub). Let's just say my rock sliders, skid plates, and muffler got a lot of action on those two ledges. It was a fairly narrow spot so not many options for a better line.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Pretty cool trail. It’s took us about 6-7 hours to complete. Would have been quicker but there was an accident that cause a huge line and traffic. Good thing the person was ok but probably added at least 1-2 hours of traffic. Being a narrow road, it was pretty sketchy. I was disappointed there were no water crossings, was hoping for some but the whole trail was dry. Not sure if that is typical for this time of year? This trail was very busy towards the beginning of the trail coming from lake pleasant. Lines of Jeeps waiting to hit the obstacles. But overall it was a great trail to run and the camping in crown king is worth it. The two obstacles that do NOT have bypasses were probably the toughest I’ve done. Took some effort to get over them and my buddy that drives a gladiator high centered due to the longer wheel base and got some damage to the underbody.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
My all time favorite trail! This time I went back and recorded all the obstacles on the trail. Some have been dug deeper, others are easier. Please watch my video for a walk through of all the obstacles. Some have no bypass and are not listed on other information sources.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Great trail. Very scenic but beware of long lines of vehicles that are not equipped for this road. (ie. pickup trucks without lockers and stock vehicles). Lockers are definitely needed to get over some of the waterfalls in the river section. This creates long lines of vehicles trying to get through. Went on a Saturday and it was extremely busy and took 5 hours when it should have been around 2. Just a warning but a great time was had by all. Well worth the effort to go.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I've ran this trail up and back several times, it's always a ton of fun. Very slippery when wet and can be crowded on the weekend but its always worth going. Most of the obstacles have bypasses but there are a couple that don't and can pose problems. The riverbed has some good size boulders and there is a 24" ish high "wall" after the riverbed that can cause high centering issues. My TJ doesn't have any problems doing everything (locked on 35's), my buddy has a mostly stock YJ on 35" tires (fully open), he bypassed some but overall made it fairly easily. Low clearance vehicles need to reconsider at the riverbed. Instagram Freedomjeeper
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
If you've never run this, it's night time and you're running alone you may want to reconsider. 2017 JKU, 34" tires leveling springs and seriously overweight with armor. Not bad the first 17 miles, amazing overlooks of the valley. Came upon the first of (unknown to us at the time) 3 obstacles. A good 2 foot rock shelf that has had it's approach chewed up from untold numbers spinning their wheels. Not wanting to turn back only being 9 miles from the end(according to the GPS), stacking rock's began. A little finesse and a lot of scraping and some excellent spotting we were over. We were aware that due to the approach this was a up only in our rig. Should have thought three times about it was the thought when we came up on number 2, same drill just add about 3 foot of air under the front wheel waiting to break over. Thanks again to my beautiful wife/ spotter, couldn't have done it without you. By the time we got to number 3 we considered ourselves experienced rock crawler's in a overland rig, lol. All in all a good but rough run but lesson learned, don't run alone into the unknown lot's of places to get into trouble. Beautiful county though.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This trail is an all day event so don't start out at noon and expect to make it back before dark... fyi. Moving on, a few of us did this trail on 2x4 & 4x4 Quads and 2-wheelers towards the end of the wet season. I'm gutsy but I don't think I would take a 2x4 during the rainy part of the year as the water can get moving in certain areas, especially the river bed by the mining camp. I'm a solid rider and it was a fun challenge getting past the river bed (Photo #1), but I'm thankful I had full skid plates or the frame would have taken some hits for sure. Anyway, on our way up we of course used most of the by-passes for the rocks crawls, but they are pretty short anyway so we didn't mind and sticking to the main trail is very passable (photo #4) even for stock 4x4 trucks or jeeps appropriate tires. If you do use the supplied map at the top of the listing everything will be smooth sailing until the turn at marker 24, where you have the option to go left (North) or right (East). If you do go "right" riding a Quad or 2-wheeler you had better be a skilled rider as that section (Photo #2) has the hardest portions of the trail even for the big boy toys. Trust me the photo is VERY deceiving! Taking the right trail at marker 24 is shorter for sure, but if you want to make Crown King without the white knuckles or damage to your vehicle, go back to the fork at marker 24 and keep heading north. This portion of the trail is much less traveled because of the extra distance but it's very passable even with stock clearance 4x4 vehicles and/or ATV/2-wheelers. I don't remember exactly but I think it adds a solid hour to the trip, but it's well worth it when in arriving at Crown King. I do have to mention it is very important to look for "spray-painted" markings on rocks walls or signage when you come to forks in the trail. At one point I wasn't sure which way to go until I found the markings on the back of a stop sign...LOL. The "longer" trail does have some really nice views (Pic #3) and overall it's a supremely enjoyable adventure. I'll update with some pictures of the trail markings the next time we go and possibly a downloadable "alternate" route map, but rest assured it's pretty easy to spot the markings even if it's your first time up.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
We went out and did this trail again yesterday. Amazing trail, we've done it 5-6 times, however, this was by far the hardest. A lot of running water, all passable, but very wet tires. Towards the end there was an obsticle that had a huge line and people were turning around. JL Rubi w/ 35s and we struggled to get up this. We went out in a JL Sport with 33s about a year ago and had no problems in this spot, so big difference.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This was an amazing trail. We did this trail on our way out of Crown King. This was the very first trail I've ever done and I took my STOCK '17 JK and husband took his '17 Tacoma TRD. It was a bit difficult in some areas. We were still on the trail after dark which was a kinda scary but so worth the experience. We will definitely be coming back soon.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Awesome day. We did this on Easter Sunday. Wife and son took stock '18 JL Sport. Did a couple of the obstacles. However, we did get stuck about 22-24 miles in going up the path and we really thought we were going to have to back down and turn around. Large rock in the middle of road. Got it stuck pretty bad at one point, but was able to get unstuck. Did a LOT of rock stacking and got up and over, after that no problems. About 2-3 miles before that there was a 2WD Tundra completely stuck on his rear differential. Had to jack him up and put rocks under to get him clear. I would not do this again stock, but we'll be getting a lift in the next few weeks and we'll be out there to do it again. Great drive!!
Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
What a perfect day!! The sky and clouds were amazing looking. We had a larger group that moved along pretty good. Some of the options where tougher than normal but we had no issues. Lots of side by sides on the trail. Over 20 so keep an eye out. The water in the stream was little but still there. All in all a great day.

Questions & Answers (6)

Q: Is there a trail from Table Mesa road to the start of this trail? Trying to put together a BOH run for all the trails in Arizona and throwing in Broken Arrow as a bonus. Great job on the write ups as always!
–Barry Dambrowski (09/07/2021)
A: Hi Barry, unfortunately, there's no trail that I'm aware of that takes you from the Table Mesa Recreation area over to the Backway. Long ago there was, but the Lake Pleasant Regional Park blocked it off. There was once a way to go past Tip Top Mine and cross Humbug Creek near the old mining settlement of Columbia. That crossed private property and I believe it is now gated. Hope you guys have a great time out on the trails. Leave us a trail review. We love those.
–Wade May (09/07/2021)
Q: How can I save for offline?
–Dennis (01/05/2019)
A: Hi Dennis, you can download the GPX file and follow the track and waypoints in your favorite GPS navigation app that has offline capability.
–Todd (01/05/2019)
Q: I'm grateful for the gpx file from the Phoenix area, but what about coming towards the trail from Prescott area? Do you know of a gpx file from that way?
–Dan (12/25/2017)
A: Hi there, check this link: It's my writeup for the Senator Highway. This will take you to Prescott or, Crown King if you reverse the route. Thank you for checking out Trails Offroad.
–Chad Chaney (12/26/2017)
Q: Are there any times of year that the trail shouldn’t be driven? I’m thinking about doing it sometime in January.
–Jackson Reynolds (12/06/2017)
A: Hello Jackson. In the past snow and ice can be heavy near waypoints 25 and 26. This is on the north face of the mountain and have been particularly slippery in the winter time. Not impassable if you are prepared. I wouldn't suggest you go alone either.
–Chad Chaney (12/06/2017)
Q: Is this trail passable in a stock height 2010 F-150 FX4 with BFG KO2's? Thanks
–Chase (05/18/2017)
A: you should be fine with a good spotter and placement.
–Rey Mendoza (12/26/2020)
A: Hi, there are a few places that you will want take your time and watch your wheel placement where 4x4 could be necessary. But I think you should be fine. The creek bottom near the mining is rocky but just take your time. Watch the video and have a look. You won't be taking of the optional lines most likely. Oh and watch for all the side by sides. Have fun and get some fudge at the crown king general store.
–Chad Chaney (05/18/2017)
Q: Since the trail was rerouted into the creek near the mining claim - how much of a pain has it become? I last ran the entire trail in November in a stock '15 Cherokee TH with little trouble, now I'm not sure I can traverse the new reroute.
–Ryan Burger (05/09/2017)
A: Hi Ryan, the detour down into the wash is pretty well marked with signs. The creek bottom itself is pretty rocky but not too bad as long as you take your time. The last time I was up there, there was about 18 inches of water flowing in it. Take your time and you should be fine. The exit can be a little tricky if it's wet. Just don't go alone.
–Chad Chaney (05/09/2017)

Writer Information

Wade May

Hi! I'm Wade. After 43 years as a pilot, split evenly between flying fighters for the Air Force and Boeing 737s for the airlines, my feet are firmly planted on the ground. Seems I spent a lot of my flying time looking out the cockpit window thinking, "Yep, I could drive that trail." My trips range from a few days to a month. Most are solo in my silver 4Runner named Bullit. We range over all the southwest exploring remote places and trying to get as much dirt under the wheels as possible. Occasionally I get in some hiking, backpacking, and bushcraft as well. My most ambitious overlanding plans include a trip to Tuktoyaktuk and Dead Horse. Sharing my experiences as a member of the Trails Offroad crew is a true pleasure. Hope to see you on the trail soon.
For individual use only, not to be shared.