On this ride, take a moderately easy and short trail ride to important historic sites along a historic stagecoach trail. Visit the site of the Oatman Massacre, where the Oatman Family was massacred by Indians in February of 1851 while traveling to California. Visit there gravesite as well as Painted Rock Petroglyph’s Site. This trail is loaded with history and great scenery.
How to get there: To get to this trail, you’ll want to head west on I-10 towards Gila Bend. From the West Valley, it is just over 55 miles taking the I-10 to Highway 85 to Gila Bend. Once in Gila Bend, continue another 30 miles west to the town of Sentinel, AZ. Take Exit 87, Agua Caliente Rd. and head north. After about a mile and half, Oatman Road will be visible off to the right. The entire trip is 87 miles and will take just over an hour and a half from the Valley. Staging can be found immediately on the left once on Oatman Rd.
The trail: Begin heading east on the wide and graded Oatman Rd. to begin the trail. Just after ¾ of a mile, the trail begins to swing northwards. The trail continues to head in a north – northwesterly direction. Stay left where the trail forks at 3.5 miles. The road continues on, twisting and turning in some places and narrowing in some places as well. At the 9 mile mark, you’ll come to the first turnoff, to the actual site of the Oatman Massacre. This is marked with a rock cairns (another word for stacked rocks). Bear left onto the lesser trail at 9 miles. The path is rougher and lightly traveled and can be difficult to follow at times. Stay left at the first fork while staying right at the second major fork. We found it easiest to follow the cairns, which were decently visible all the way to the massacre site. You’ll arrive at the massacre site after roughly 1.5 miles. At the site is a sign commemorating the massacre site, which occurred as the Oatman Family were traveling up a hill on what would later become the Butterfield Stage Route on February 18, 1851. You also check out the stagecoach trail, just east of the sign. This too is definitely neat to check out and we even found evidence of stagecoach travel (wheel scratches on the rocks). When done here, travel another 1.5 miles back to Oatman Rd. Continue left, turning back onto Oatman Rd. At 12.4 miles the trail roughens as it begins to descend towards the fertile farming land. The trail gets easier as it crosses a sandy area and then enters a farm. A sharp left turn at 13.8 marks the entrance to private property. While the trail is open to the public (we saw no signs to the contrary), it is best to respect the farming land and leave it alone. Any Arizona or Houston criminal defense lawyer will tell you that trespassing is not worth the risk, especially if you are unfamiliar with a state's civil and criminal trespassing laws.
The next side trip comes just after the 14 mile mark. Turn left here to get to the Oatman Family Grave. The trail heads west through fields, then turns left and immediately back right at 14.4 miles. The trail continues to wind and at 14.9 miles, goes left where the Oatman Grave is located. The grave is tucked in behind some trees here, but shouldn’t be too hard to find. Head back once again to Oatman Rd. via the way you came. You should get back to the main road at about 15.8 miles. Continue straight (or right if you don’t take the side trip) and follow the road along the outskirts of the farm. The trail will then cross the usually dry Gila River at 16.5 miles. Stay straight at 17.4 miles, where private road goes to the right. At 17.7 miles, you should reach the edge of the farm, where you will turn right to continue on the trail. Continue on this lesser traveled road until you reach Rocky Point Rd. at 18.8 miles. From here, turn right and head south. The trail turns left at 19 miles, just after passing the Oatman Flats Ranch (private property) and crosses the Gila River again. At 20.4 miles, the trail enters farmland once again. We saw no signs warning of private property, so as long as you stay on the public road (marked by power lines) you should be fine. Stay right at 22.5 miles where the road becomes paved as it heads towards the Painted Rocks Petroglyph’s Site. At 23.6 miles, turn right and at 23.8 miles, reach the parking lot for the petroglyph site.
Roundtrip, this trail is 47 miles long with all the side trips. If you need to shorten the time, consider just seeing the massacre site and the grave, this will make the length about 30 miles round trip. If you do the full trail with all the side trips, expect it to take about 4 hours. The trail is mostly easy, becoming more difficult near the Oatman Massacre Site as well as it descends toward the Gila River. The trail is made up of mostly volcanic rock, which was the first time we rode on such terrain, but it was enjoyable, definitely a unique experience.
Overview of the Oatman Massacre Trail.
Turnoff's for the Oatman Massacre Site and the Oatman Family Grave, each marked by a white dot.
Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site
at the end of the trail.
Status: Open | Trail Type: Out & back | Length: 47 miles round trip | Approx. Time: 4-5 hours