3.7/5 (6 reviews)
Payson, Arizona (Gila County)
Last Updated: 12/29/2022

Trail Information


In his 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens compared London and Paris and spawned the phrase, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Crackerjack is like that. The best of times comes early on Crackerjack. The winding trail passes through juniper, pinion, and sycamore forests, broken at intervals by towering grey and red stone bluffs. Campsites sit near the broad dirt road. A concrete bridge set just at water level with no side railings eases you across the humorously splashy East Verde River, lots of places to picnic or camp nearby. Someone's tow strap became a rope swing over a deeper pool. If your windows are down, you'll likely hear laughter, and smell someone's barbeque grill. The trail climbs along the river's canyon's northern wall, offering glimpses down into the river's rocky course, passing its namesake mine along the way. And then, after the intersection with Cedar Flat, Crackerjack's mood changes. The best gives way to the worst. Turning away from the picturesque river, the trail tightens on itself, snakes uphill, begins to make your suspension groan, and tosses passengers and loose cargo from side to side. There is little space between the bowling ball-sized embedded rocks. Rock shelves barricade the passage at intervals. It seems never to end. But it does. Just as in Dickens' novel, there is redemption at the end. And satisfaction, too. It was the best of roads. It was the worst of roads. But now you are through both.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

Trail Reviews

3.7/5 (6)
Rated 5/5
Visited: 03/14/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

We combined Doll Baby Ranch, Cedar Flat and Crackerjack Mine into one loop. (In that order). Both crossings of the Verde River were about 24” in depth. The crossing at Crackerjack (FR209) has a concrete bottom all the way across but there is currently a fair amount of sediment built up on the western side. We had no issues. There are currently several other small creek crossings on the way out to hwy 87. Older reviews make it sound like the trail from WP 1-10 is easy and only really becomes challenging beyond WP 10. I have no doubt this was the case however it is not at the moment. The entire trail is now moderate. There are large ruts in certain corners, steep grades, and a precarious shelf section to pick through. (We took photos after we got through the section but were too focused during) I question how much longer that shelf section will remain passable. Still nothing a high clearance stock 4x4 shouldn’t be able to negotiate. The views are tremendous as well. My parents took my siblings and I on on this route some time around 2000-2001. Maybe it was the old Ford F150 but I remember this trail being more rocky and challenging at that time. During the summer the concrete river crossing had maybe an inch of water on it.
Official Crew
Visited: 07/09/2021

Trail is now open.
Official Crew
Temporary Closure
Visited: 06/22/2021

The Forest Service has temporarily closed this trail in response to the Backbone Fire.
Visited: 06/13/2021

We ran this trail yesterday. The first section is just a groomed forest road, but very beautiful and scenic. We then took Cedar Creek trail all the way to the creek. We walked around a bit there. Lots of shade and a good spot to take a break. We headed back up Cedar Creek and turned off on to Horse Thief Tank Rd FR 1665. This is a very tight and fun trail. It crosses a creak that leads to a rock waterfall that would be beautiful when it flows. It then heads up a steep and challenging hill. I’d rate it a 5. Good obstacles with some loose gravel. We made it up in 4 low. The trail leads to the top of a mountain with beautiful views. This is an out an back trail. We took Cedar Creek Trial back to Cracker Jack Trail and looped back north. This portion of the trail is also groomed but there are some rock ledges you can have some fun with. It ends at the 87. There’s a small pullout there big enough for one vehicle to stop and air up. All in all a fun and beautiful trail. If you take Horse Thief Tank trail expect some AZ pin stripping. The other portion is wide. Have fun.
Rated 3/5
Visited: 05/30/2021

We've run the trail from the trailhead out to Point 10 before ... continuing on the Cedar Flat trail (FR 209A) to exit out on Baby Doll Road. That makes an easy and very scenic trail ride. This time we stayed on FR 209 to loop around and return directly to Hwy 87. Unfortunately, there has been bull dozer active on the trail from point 10 to point 12. Yep, the ledges at point 12 are no longer ledges, but merely bumps. The rest of the trail has not been disturbed and makes a fun run. The rock conditions along this trail are constantly changing ... from red, to white, to black volcanic stone.

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