Travel dates – April 11 – April 18, 2016
After staying for so long in Mesa, Arizona we headed north a couple hours to Cottonwood, Arizona to spend nearly a week. Cottonwood, Arizona is centrally located for exploring a lot of popular areas including Prescott, Jerome, Sedona, Tuzigoot National Monument and Montezuma National Monument. The first part of our week in the Cottonwood area we stayed at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. . . .
Let’s talk a little about Dead Horse Ranch State Park – it is a very nice state park! Our spot was level, the campground was clean and there were some great trails in the area. At $30/night our back-in spot had water and 50-amp electric.
This is the view from up on the hill behind our trailer and campsite at Dead Horse Ranch State Park – where there is a nice short trail with some nice views. There were 3 or 4 other Airstreams in our same loop while we were there.
There was so much to explore in the area that we didn’t spend near enough time in the state park but we did discover a beautiful set of lakes with lots of people fishing from the shore. If we were going to spend more time in the area we would have probably paid for fishing licenses and spent many an afternoon here!
Our first day in Cottonwood, we got settled into Dead Horse Ranch State Park early and we headed to the nearby Tuzigoot National Monument. It’s a short 10 minute drive away! Tuzigoot is an ancient pueblo, built by the Sinagua people between 1125 and 1400 CE.
It’s the largest and best-preserved Sinagua pueblo in the Verde Valley! The views from the pueblo are amazing. The visitor’s center is very well done with lots of artifacts and informational displays.
We toured this amazing location and the kids did the Junior Ranger program. We all learned so much.
Our second day in town we wanted to drive up to the historic town of Jerome, Arizona. An old copper mining community, Jerome is located in the nearby hills – just a 20-minute drive from Dead Horse Ranch State Park. We were excited to explore this town but started to get nervous as we climbed the very steep drive up to the town. The closer we got to town, the more narrow the roads got. Keep in mind we have a huge long bed Ford F-250. Our truck is awesome for towing our home like a champ but narrow roads aren’t very fun. At a couple points we had to completely stop to let other large trucks go by us. We weren’t enjoying ourselves . . . so we turned around! The views were breathtaking and if we had a smaller vehicle this would be something I’m certain we would have loved.
We decided to head to downtown Cottonwood instead and ended up walking around the main street. There are some cute shops and some highly rated restaurants.
After a few days at Dead Horse Ranch State Park we moved campsites to Verde Valley Thousands Trails Camping Resort just a short 15 minute drive away. I’m going to share more about that later! While using Verde Valley as our home base we continued to explore the area. . .
Just a 30 minute drive fromVerde Valley Thousands Trails is the beautiful city of Sedona, Arizona! I had heard it was gorgeous – but it was really unlike anything we have ever seen. We stopped into the local Whole Foods store and bought a hot Hawaiian pizza from the deli (just $12.99!) and some sushi and we headed to Coconino National Forest Crescent Moon Picnic Site for a picnic. To get into the National Forest it’s $10 for a day pass – but worth every penny – this place is breathtaking. We walked along the trail and found the perfect spot on some smooth red rock near the river.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch, dipped our toes into the river and walked across a small stream to explore the area.
The kids especially thought it was fun and exhilarating to jump across the rocks with the cool water flowing between their toes.
We were there on a beautiful sunny day and I can imagine this would be a very popular place on HOT summer days. The kids had so much fun and we practically had the whole place to ourselves!
After playing in the water we hiked through the nearby Red Rock area. The kids loved leaping across the smooth red rocks and we couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon outside in the sun with this setting!
About a 20-minute drive from Verde Valley Thousands Trails Camping Resort we also explored Montezuma Castle Monument! This National Park monument was surprisingly busy but worth the crowds! These ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings were built and used by the Sinagua people between 1100 and 1425 AD. When you walk down the hill toward the cliff dwellings they seem to pop out of the hillside and are incredible to see in person! You can no longer climb up and access the cliffs – they were closed in the 1950s to avoid further damage, but the Visitors Center has some great visuals about what it looks like inside.
The kids did the Junior Ranger program here and were sworn in by Teddy Roosevelt and a local park ranger. 🙂
One of our LAST days in the Verde Valley we drove an hour to Prescott, Arizona. We had heard many awesome things about Prescott and were looking forward to checking it out. We went first to Watson Lake for a hike and fresh air. This lake is gorgeous and there were a ton of trails in the area.
The views of the lake were gorgeous and I imagine it’s a hot spot for swimming on hot summer days. Not far from Sedona, the landscape was so different than the bright red rocks, but equally beautiful.
After our hike we went to the near by In-n-Out burger and had lunch! We don’t have an In-n-Out burger at “home” so it’s a new spot for us. The verdict is still out on the fries but the burgers were delicious and the kids got shakes that they loved.
And then we went to both Costco and Trader Joe’s and dropped some very shiny pennies . . . so that we could load up our fridge and pantry to prepare for five days at the Grand Canyon! More on that later of course.
So as you can see the Verde Valley area in Arizona is jam-packed with destinations and things to see. We could have stayed another week and not seen everything. There are hundreds of hiking and outdoor opportunities in the area and beautiful views about every direction you look!
Have you ever been to Cottonwood, Tuzigoot National Monument, Jerome, Sedona, Montezuma Castle or Prescott? I’d love to here what you did in the area!