Arizona is surprising at every turn to an outsider like me. The landscape of this state is vast and ever-changing and does not disappoint for the wanderer seeking natural and historical significance. And you find that and more in the Verde Valley. The area referred to as the Verde Valley follows the Verde River and comprises the areas south of Sedona and into the Coconino National Forest, north of Phoenix. This area is rich in history with ancient Native American tribal ruins and artifacts and plenty of wilderness to discover. Forests, canyons, rivers, desert and mountains are all represented here in the center of Arizona where is seems that worlds collide.
Man, did we have some adventure here. As you can tell from the pictures here, most of our experience was out on the trail. Shopping and the metropolitan life is for the birds. One of the coolest adventures in the Verde Valley was in the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness. Here, we hiked the Parsons Spring Trail which is accessible by traveling from the Tuzigoot National Monument. We only knew about this area after speaking with a park ranger at Dead Horse Ranch State Park where we camped. Otherwise, we would have never known the canyon existed. They say the dirt road leading to the Parsons trail is an easy drive and doesn’t require the use of an AWD vehicle. While that’s sort of true, I would say that a Jeep is highly recommended. Coming up the canyon to the trailhead gets really rough and rocky. A car will get you up there, but easy does it. And if it’s raining, forget about it.
In the middle of all the action is the city of Cottonwood. What a cool town! Cottonwood had everything you need from hardware to grocery stores, and of course a local brewery! It has a bustling local Main Street with shops and great food including one of our favorite Arizona stops, Bocce. Definitely check that place out.
Side note: If after much hiking and adventuring you find yourself in need of an adjustment, may I highly recommend a visit to Nelson Chiropractic. Jon knows what he’s doing and you’ll feel like you’ve been visiting his clinic for years.
No visit to the Verde Valley is complete without a day trip to the historic mining town of Jerome, only 11 miles from Cottonwood. Jerome State Historic Park is a must visit where you’ll learn all about the town’s history of copper mining and smelting, the rise and fall of it’s industrial period and how it became a town of only 500 residents today. After touring the mines, becoming a copper history buff and checking out the really cool kaleidoscopes at Nellie Bly (ironically located in the town’s most infamous brothel), make sure to grab lunch and a shake at the Haunted Hamburger.
Things we did and recommend for your enjoyment:
- Tuzigoot National Monument
- Hike the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness – Parsons Spring Trail
- Montezuma Castle
- Montezuma’s Well (free admission)
- Eat at Bocce in Cottonwood! (Tip: Do yourself a favor and order the Shrimp & Hot Peppers pizza!)
- Visit the Jerome Historic State Park and be sure to watch the theatre presentation, very educational and will enhance your visit to Jerome.
- Eat at the Haunted Hamburger in Jerome
- If you have kids and need to entertain them for awhile, go to Nellie Bly. It was a brothel in the late 1800’s, but very different now. We promise 😉
- Walk along the Verde River
Dead Horse Ranch State Park – REVIEW (4/5 stars)
In total we’ve stayed at 3 Arizona State Parks. I can say from experience that Arizona has campgrounds figured out. We’re impressed and they are exceptional at operating campgrounds throughout the state. As usual, there are no sewer hookups, but most parks have RV sites equipped with 20/30/50 power and water and, of course, a dump station nearby. TV over-the-air reception was very good and we had adequate data LTE coverage with AT&T. The sites are spacious and the views are great. In fact, we could see the city of Jerome and the Tuzigoot National Monument all from our campsite.
The state park is in Cottonwood. So, while you feel you’re way out in the wilderness, modern conveniences are about a 5 minute drive away. The park rangers on staff are incredibly friendly and happy to give you plenty of information to make sure that you enjoy everything the Verde Valley has to offer. The Verde River runs through the campground and is accessible by trails. And on that note, there is some nice family hiking opportunities within the park itself. Only negative about the trails is that most are also equestrian trails, meaning, always be looking down. There’s horse poop on them there trails!