Old Black Canyon Highway

Black Canyon City, Arizona (Maricopa County)

Last Updated: 12/09/2021
3.3 / 5 ( 3 reviews )
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Typically Open: Year Round
Length: 3.48 miles
Highest Elevation: 2105 feet
Duration: About 1 hour, 30 minutes
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Black Canyon City
Nearest Town w/ Services: Black Canyon City
Official Road Name: 9982
Management Agency: Bureau of Land Management
District: Hassayampa Field Office


Highlight: Old Black Canyon Highway
Before Arizona became a state, a stagecoach ran from Prescott's booming metropolis to the tiny hamlet of Phoenix along a rough and bumpy trail through the eastern foothills of the rugged and wild Bradshaw Mountains. The stage ran twice a week, and the trip took a day and a half. Stagecoach service ended in 1917 as motorized vehicles became more common in the 48th state. The section of the road north of Phoenix became known as the Black Canyon Highway. By the 1970s, Interstate 17 replaced most of the Black Canyon Highway. Today some paved and a few unpaved sections of both the stagecoach road and the Old Black Canyon Highway still exist. This trail is a segment of the original stagecoach road. Passing through a pristine Sonoran Desert landscape with hillside forests of stately saguaros and impressive views of the Bradshaw and New River Mountains, Old Black Canyon Road provides a time capsule escape into historic Arizona. While the driving won't be as bumpy as in stagecoach days, the extremely narrow shelf roads, hairpin switchbacks, and steep climbs and descents will generate some white knuckle steering wheel grips, contrasting vividly with the occasional glimpses of traffic zipping smoothly along Interstate 17. The trail lies almost exclusively in the 11,500 acres BLM administered Table Mesa Recreation Area, a popular destination on weekends. So pack a lunch, air down, and take a trip through Arizona's history on the Old Black Canyon Highway. Stop by historic Rock Springs afterward and reward yourself with a slice of their famous pies. You will have earned it!


Route Information

Technical Rating


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1. Trailhead (0 mi)
The trailhead has a large area for staging your group and airing down. Don't miss the turn to the trailhead or you will be back on Interstate 17 headed south.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Phoenix

Take I-17 north to exit 242. Turn left/west and cross back over I-17 turning left/south on Old Black Canyon Highway. Proceed south .6 miles, passing the famous Rock Springs Cafe, to where the road ceases to be two lanes and turns into the on-ramp for I-17 South. Turn right across a cattle guard to the trailhead.



Trail Reviews (4)

Questions & Answers (1)

Q: Do you think a current gen Tacoma would make it though this trail? Additionally, is running it backwards an option, or will there be too many issues with “oncoming” traffic?
–Ryan Burger (09/20/2018)
–Richard Shaw (12/15/2019)
–S.J. Hollist (09/21/2018)

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 when travel restrictions permit. Sharing my experiences as a member of the Trails Offroad crew, instructing at Overland Expo, and hosting the Gaia GPS Offroad podcast are true pleasures. Hope to see you on the trail soon.
For individual use only, not to be shared.