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I recently drove this trail in April of 1999. It had been about 7 or 8 years since I was last on it. I was surprised at how much trail erosion had occurred since my last trip. In these past years, I would imagine that this trail is seeing increased travel. I noticed a lot of motorcycles and ATVs
on the trail in April. I imagine that because of this increased traffic, the trail is breaking down more and more each time it gets a good rain. A number of years ago, I would have rated this trail a 4 or an easy 5. It is certainly a 6 or maybe a 7 now. The first 10 to 15 miles is easy. On the last portion of the trail, starting around waypoint 8 or 9, you will see more washed out portions of the road and an increasing number of large rocks becoming exposed.
My first trip on the trail was in a very stock '89 Jeep Cherokee and I had no trouble negotiating the trail. On the April '99 trip, I drove the trail with a stock suspension '98 Jeep Wrangler, limited slip rear diff, and 30"x9.50 tires. We had to stack rocks at one point in order to get up a rock ledge. My son spotted for me, since a misplaced tire would cost me about an 18" drop and I had nowhere near that kind of clearance under my front end. As it was, I caught the front transfer case after the front wheels settled down on the ledge, but the rear end hooked up and got me over. Closer to Crown King, the trail became more of a continuous rock-dodging driving course. A vehicle with larger tires and ground clearance will do better on the upper half of the trail. As time goes on, I would think that parts of this trail will continue to erode more and more. This will require a more capable vehicle and/or driver. Be aware that portions of this trail could easily become more difficult in a short period of time.
Trail Specifics- My '99 spring drive took about 7 hours. We stopped several times to take a few pictures and to have lunch. Plan on making a full day of it when you figure in the return trip back to I-17 via the Bumblebee Road (25 miles of gravel and then the freeway).
Appropriate Vehicles- 4x4 truck or SUV w/ limited slip or locker differential, ATV, motorcycle
Crown King is an old mining town located in central Arizona in the Southern Bradshaw Mountains at about 7000' altitude. Crown King is now known for the large number of summer vacation cabins that it supports. The Bradshaw Mountains run North-South through the central part of Arizona. A lot of gold and silver were mined through out these mountains during the west's gold rush era.
I ran this trail about 3 months ago with my then recently modified TJ (4.56 gears, lockers, lift, tires, etc.) I would still rate it the same although I was now able to do all of the optional sections of the trail! (there are 4 of them) A lot more fun too! You can make this run in less time if you don't stop to play around, take photos, have a picnic lunch, etc. After you get to Crown King, you can either go back the same way you came, or you can return to the Phoenix area via a county gravel road and the freeway. This return trip takes a couple of hours, depending on how the washboards are doing on the 25 miles of gravel road. On my last trip up, I pulled a high centered 4x4 vehicle off of the rock ledge located in the upper section of the trail (photo of ledge included, less truck). It was a 1/2 ton pickup with no lift. (hey, it had 4x4 on the side of it!) With the longer wheelbase, it high centered on the mid section of the frame after the front wheels were up and over the ledge. I had to pull him off the ledge, then go over it, and then pull him over the ledge with my TJ. (He was stuck damn good, as they say!)
I should also comment that if the trail gets wet, or worse yet, has snow cover (oh yeah, it is more than far enough up the mountain to get the last 2000' of elevation covered in snow), the trail rating would jump a notch or two. I have had friends turn back because of the snow.
Thanks to Stu Olson for the great review, directions and photos!
Going North on I-17 (from Phoenix), take Exit 233, which is the Carefree Highway, and go West. Proceed approximately 5.6 miles to the Stop sign, which is at the intersection of SR74. Turn right onto SR74 and proceed another 5.5 miles to the intersection of SR74 and Castle Hot Springs Road. Turn right onto Castle Hot Springs Road.