Crown King Road
Gradually climb to the historic town of Crown King along an easy and scenic road. Pass through old mining towns and follow the old rail bed of the Bradshaw Mountain Railroad on this popular weekend getaway. Once in Crown King, extend your day or weekend by taking numerous other trails through to Prescott or up to Towers Mountain.
Where to go:
From the I-17/Loop 101 interchange in Phoenix, head north up I-17 for 33 miles. Take exit 248 (Bumble Bee/Crown King) and turn left. Follow Crown King Road for 1.9 miles to the end of the paved road. Staging is along the paved road and at numerous places along the first 3-4 miles of the trail.
After the initial 1.9 miles of pavement, the road turns to dirt as it heads north. The wide road climbs gentle grades and has numerous washboards for the next 3 miles. Cross over a single lane bridge over Bumble Bee Creek at 4.0 miles. Pass through the town of Bumble Bee at 4.9 miles. Slow down because people still live here although on the welcome sign, you will notice cattle outweigh people here.Cross several dry washes and continue left around a blind turn at 6.2 miles. Stay straight at 9.5 and 10.3 miles as the roads to the right lead to Cordes (good way to extend your trip).
Off to the left at this point is what’s left of the Hidden Treasure Mine. The road sweeps right and then goes left at 11.3 where lesser roads continue straight to more houses. The road crosses over a cattle guard at 11.6 miles as it drops downhill towards the Golden Turkey Mine. The trail then turns back left as you cross over a single lane bridge and cross into the Prescott National Forest. The Golden Turkey Mine has a few foundations that can be accessed via a rough trail off to the left at 12.5 miles.
Crown King Road continues to climb uphill as it passes by more mines on both sides and comes to a high point at 13.0 miles. The trail then briefly drops as you approach Cleator at 14.0 miles. Ignore private residential roads as you pass through the small town of Cleator which has a general store and bar off to the left in “downtown”. From this point on, the road roughly follows the Bradshaw Mountain Railroad bed, also known as Murphey’s Impossible Railroad which operated from the 1890s to 1926. You’ll see several road cuts, switchbacks, and even places where trestles once spanned if you look carefully on the way up to Crown King.
West of Cleator, the road continues to gently climb and pass through several single lane portions of road. Stay straight at 15.2 miles where the difficult DeSoto Mine Trail departs to the right. At 16.8 miles the road turns sharply left and crosses a bridge. Off to the right at this point, way up on the mountain, you can see what’s left of the DeSoto Mine. Off to the left just up ahead is a clearing where Middleton once stood. There was an aerial tramway that hauled ore from the mine down to the railroad to be transported. The road winds more as it climbs higher into the Bradshaw Mountains. Stay straight 18.9 miles a lesser trail to the right leads to the Swastika Mine. At 19.5 the trail turns 180 degrees to the right as you begin climbing the first switchback. A series of switchbacks was used by the railroad to help the train climb into Crown King as it passed through Crazy Basin. Another sharp turn to the left at 20.4 miles.
After the first switchback the views off to your left improve dramatically. After more one land bridges and narrow road cuts, you arrive at the second switch back at 22.8 miles. Turn sharp right. Another sharp left at 23.3. Off to the left at 24.7 is a nice pull off with incredible views as well as access to hiking/mountain biking trails. The trail passes a USFS helipad to the left at 25.2 miles. The trail gets narrower from this point on, crossing over a one lane bridge at 26.5 miles as you suddenly entire the pine forest. Turn right and end in downtown Crown King at 27.1 miles where there is food, lodging and gas available.
In Crown King: easily extend your day by visiting the General Store, the historic Saloon (moved piece by piece from nearby Oro Bell Mine), or the Prospector Mall all in “downtown”. For more trails, consider the Towers Mountain Loop that leaves from Crown King, Senator Highway, which continues all the way to Prescott, or the trail to Horsethief Lake. All of these trails are great ways to spend a day or weekend up in the cool pines.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
This trail is just under 60 miles round trip but is easy for its entire length. Allow for 1-3 hours to complete the trail from Crown King and back. Allow for more time for stops. This is also a very high-traffic road. Expect to stop frequently to allow people to pass. The trail is rated a ‘1’ because it remains wide and graded almost its entire length. While the road surface has washboards, high clearance isn’t needed as passenger cars frequently make this trip.