Our Spring 2015 Trip South – Cottonwood Az. Attractions

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Hot air balloon above our camp


We are still just south of Cottonwood Az. at a BLM site. We had a couple of days with isolated showers, with cooler temperatures but not jacket weather, very pleasant. We have taken time out of our relaxed schedule to visit several interesting historical sites in the area.

Montezuma’s Castle


Cliff dwellings  along beaver creek, not sure why it’s called  beaver creek, it seems none of these critters live here, or maybe its a different species of beaver that I am thinking of.


The lime stone cliffs conveniently had naturally eroded large caves that allowed for easy  construction of primitive housing above the valley floor. The theory is this location allowed for semi-air conditioning for the inhabitants, cool in the summers and exposed to the winter sun for warmth, as well as security for the many families that lived there. It was inhabited for several hundred years. Apparently much of the Verde river valley had many such villages 1500 years ago.

Although the structure is no longer accessible it is worth the $5 entry fee. I wouldn’t try to take a large RV into this attraction.


It is located a couple of miles off I-17, you pass Cliff Castle Casino that as usual offers free overnight RV parking.

Montezuma’s Well


Located just north of Montezuma’s Castle it’s a natural deep well under a decent size lake that supplied a never ending supply of fresh water flowing at the rate of several million gallons per day. The well was a central point for the area inhabitants.


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Another archaeological discovery that was unearthed in the early 1900’s. Built on a small hill overlooking a large 2000 acre agricultural area. The citadel was composed of some 100+ rooms, each 200 sq. ft. room housed one family.

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A re-built room that was home to a family


The crops in the area apparently would support 6 to 8 thousand people at its peak.

After several hundred years the inhabitants migrated to other areas, the theories are, climate change causing drought, soil depletion, conflicts or a combination of these. At the $5 entry fee it’s worth a look.

Jerome (billion dollar town)
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Jerome, pictured from the valley floor


Just west of Cottonwood, Jerome is an old copper mining town built on the side of Cleopatra mountain almost 2000 feet above the Verde valley floor. In it’s heyday the town supported some 15,000 people, with only 500 remaining it has transformed into a tourist destination with boutique shops, restaurants and artisans. Its view alone is worth the 5 mile drive from Cottonwood.

Verde Canyon Train
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The old verde canyon train engine


This may have been the best scenic experience in the area, but the cost of $65 and up per person seemed a touch expensive for a 7 mile train ride, oh I guess 14 miles if you count the return trip. I checked the route on the map and it looks more that 7 miles?

They call the Verde river canyon the other Grand Canyon? The train route is from Clarkdale, just a few miles north of Cottonwood, to Perkinsville.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park

Not sure what the horse died from but could be the water from the Verde river, very dirty. I hope it is just the spring run off?

Located a few miles north of Cottonwood a state park that offers day use, river access, hiking and camping, although the price of the camping seems high without a pass of some sort $25 & $30 per night, we used their RV dump $15.

I discovered later that the Cottonwood fairgrounds has dry camping and a RV dump. I didn’t see a posted price so I think the dump is free? It’s located just off highway 89A on the way to Jerome. The Giant gas station at the corner of 260 & 89A offers free dumping, a sign states non-potable but it’s supposed to be city water.

Another Great Ride
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Cheryl, Parker and Lynda, I asked them to smile.


Friday was the first clear day after a couple of partly cloudy cool days with isolated showers, so it was perfect for riding, cool and no dust.

We headed out on an OHV trail 361 just across highway 260 from where we are camped. The trail started out as before with a couple miles of gradual climb into the hills. Once in the hills the terrain got steeper and more rugged. We probably hit the 6000 ft. elevation with great views of the valley. The trail traversed the foothills to the southeast this time through denser bush with the occasional tree that looked to be of a pine or fir variety, strange to see after being used to the creosote & other not so impressive vegetation.

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Downtown Cherry


Of course going for an ATV/OHV ride is not about the destination although Cherry seemed like an interesting destination. I got the idea from a happy hour conversation with some new acquaintances that invited us over.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of RVing, is meeting new people, from different states and provinces and even sometimes from different countries. Most of us are in the same boat…. or I guess the same situation. Looking for a new adventure.

All of us RV travelers have picked out a new destination and even though we may have done some research and have a preconceived idea or picture in our mind, more often than not our new temporary home is quite different. Like the picture in my mind about this BLM area. I thought this area to be remote flat desert sand. It’s quite the opposite, close to town with no sand and plenty of green, a nice change from the desert.

The Verde river Valley from a mountain on the opposite side of the valley

Usually we have some idea of what attractions or sites may await, but there is nothing like someone’s opinion who has actually been to or done what you may be considering.
The best way to research is to start chatting with your neighbors, they will likely fill you in on the area attractions.
Anyway we’re having happy hour with our neighbors and I ask if there is any OHV riding here. Tom says yes just across the road (260) lots of trails and says you must see Cherry and check out the Hayfield Draw staging area. That’s how I picked up a map of the area.


We followed trail 361 with various off shoots that looked promising but opted to stay on the main trail. Eventually we came to a sign that said Cherry 5 miles. Shortly after we hit a well traveled gravel road (#75) and soon we were winding our way down into a small green valley home to downtown Cherry. We must have hit 7 thousand feet or more because the elevation of Cherry is over 5.
I was expecting a small hamlet with a store/bar where we could have a drink and an ice cream.
I’m still not sure what Tom was thinking when he recommended Cherry, the joke’s on us I guess.

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Downtown Cherry volunteer fire dept.

This small village had a bed & breakfast, fire hall, grave yard ……….oh and an art studio by appointment only, go figure. The few houses by their look were mostly vacation properties, you could tell by all the signs forbidding entry…..I’m not sure what it means when the sign says, “we don’t call 911 we call the ambulance” with a pistol in the background.

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The most interesting attraction was the small grave yard, some head stones from the early 1800’s when most seemed to live only into their 40’s or 50’s. The barking dog was the only give away that this was not a town of ghosts.

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Creepy even during daylight

Again as with beaver creek, I am not sure how Cherry got its name, didn’t see any cherries or even the trees, although the valley seemed filled with large cottonwoods. We soon concluded our visit and retraced our 2 hr route back to camp.


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The two tailed swallowtail one of Arizona’s state symbols


The way back was uneventful except for an amazing monster butterfly a wing span of 6″ that did not want to leave the seeping water on the trail.
The OHV and ATV trails in this area are definitely better than average and the temperature has been perfect, warm enough that its cool when moving and tolerable when stopped.

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Cheryl taking a picture of the Verde River valley from trail 361

I am not sure if I have mentioned this before but if you are planning some wilderness traveling you should take some precautions.
1. Don’t travel alone, on an ATV or similar vehicle. You are able to travel substantial distance in a short time that could take you many hours to retrace on foot.
2.Safety gear – good walking shoes, dress in layers, take a coat, helmet & gloves, first aid kit. Don’t go for a tour too late in the day.
3. Map & GPS (extra batteries) – and set way points along the way especially at intersections. Take note of land marks. Use colored ribbon to mark the trail.
4. Extra gas, tool kit, tow rope, tire repair, slime puncture seal, and/or plug kit, air pump, flashlight.
5. Water, snacks, dust mask.

All of the above items are available on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca and if you click the appropriate site I will receive a small commission that will help pay my costs for this website.

I have created a list of things you may  need for RV travel Click here to check it out.


I hope you find this article helpful and interesting. If you have any comments or suggestions I would love to read them.

Thanks for visiting.

Gord B.




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