Take the short but moderately challenging trail from Crown King Road just past Cleator to the top of the historic DeSoto Mine. Take the optional and more difficult trail as it continues 8.2 miles to Senator Highway.
Where to go:
Because this trail starts halfway along Crown King Road, you will need to stage for that ride and drive 15 miles to the start of this trail. 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.
The trail departs Crown King Road just over 1 mile west of Cleator. Stay to the right as you pass through the Yavapai County Maintenance Pit. The trail gets rough and a little tippy around 1.0 mile. You’ll do a small set of switchbacks and arrive at a gate at 1.5 miles. Pass through the gate, making sure to close it behind you. The trail gets easier up until 2.7 miles when it goes right past a corral. It becomes slightly more difficult as it begins to climb.
Stay straight at 3.25. To the right is the difficult trail that continues on to Senator Highway (read more later on). The trail makes a sharp left at 3.4 miles and a right uphill at 3.5 miles. At this point, there will be several tailing piles off to the left. This is also the site of the tramway that connected DeSoto Mine to Middleton, a small railroad siding along the Bradshaw Mountain Railroad. If you stop here, you can make out Crown King Road far below you to the south. The trail reaches a horizontal adit of the DeSoto Mine as it turns sharp left at 3.6 miles. Consider stopping here to see the entrance but don’t enter. We were able to see water in the bottom of the mine when we were here. Stay to the left at 3.8 miles where a difficult mining road goes right.
From this point on, the trail rapidly climbs to the top of the mine completing numerous rough and tight switchbacks. At 4.4 miles the trail ends. Straight ahead, you are treated to incredible views of the southern and eastern Bradshaws. Off to the left are the vertical mine shafts. Use extreme caution around this area. Rocks can easily shift and because of the mining in this area, things may collapse. Observe from a safe distance. When you’re done at the top of the mine, head back down the way you came. If you have a seriously modified vehicle, you can continue to the left back at 3.25 miles where a difficult trail works its way to Senator Highway. If you are happy with seeing DeSoto Mine, head back to Crown King Road via the route you came in on and either continue to Crown King or head back to Bumble Bee. If you are continuing to Senator Highway, read below.
Continuing to Senator Highway: This rough trail leaves DeSoto Mine trail at the junction at 3.25 miles. The road heads north and begins to work its way west through the Bradshaws. There are several difficult hills that require lockers and 4-wheel drive and possibly even a winch. The most difficult hill begins at 1.5 miles after the mine, which rapidly climbs and then descends a serious hill. The trail enters a creek at 4.0 miles before climbing another difficult hill. After this, the trail gets easier and finally reaches Senator Highway at 8.2 miles. We haven’t completed this portion of the trail yet, but based on research and what we’ve heard about this trail, this is rated an ‘8’ or ‘9’, meaning it is only for experienced offroaders in a capable vehicle.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
The trip from Crown King Road to the top of DeSoto Mine is only 10 miles round trip. It will take about an hour to complete the trail. This portion of the trail is rated a ‘6’ mainly because of the tough climb at the end. This trail is fairly rocky and you can expect some Arizona pin-stripping. The full trail to Senator Highway is rated an ‘8’ to ‘9’. It has several very steep hills and crosses several washes that can have water in them. Allow for several hours to complete this full trail and travel in a group or turn around if you don’t think you can make it.