When we live in this part of the country, we enjoy finding interesting places to camp with an RV and whatever toy you have to venture out with from your temporary home base. Last time we wrote about the Crown King area. This time we take you to the Mingus Mountains, located between Prescott and Jerome, Arizona.
As our winter home is now in Prescott Valley, AZ, we'll start here. We head towards Jerome on Rt 89A which quickly takes us into the Prescott National Forest and the foothills of the Mingus Mountain range. Prescott Valley lies between two mountain ranges, the Mingus and the Bradshaws.
A bit of a back story. My folks have lived in PV since 1976 while we have been New Englanders most of our lives. Decades ago, on New Years Eve day, my dad said, "let's take a hike on Mingus." So, dad and I, along with my two children, did. We parked our car at the trailhead and started walking along the trail. About an hour in, I sensed dad was nervous. We were lost and the sun was lower in the sky. We saw large cat prints. The majesty and breadth of the mountain, one minute glorious, suddenly became ominous. Hours later we found our way out by following the sounds of traffic and leaving the path we were on. It was an experience we will never forget. We respect this mountain range and have learned to always prepare for the unexpected.
Continuing along today's journey, once in the Prescott National Forest, you'll come to a lookout area on the right. Take that right and head up the dirt road. This takes you to Mingus Lake. About one mile before Mingus Lake there is a gate. At the time we were exploring, in March, that gate was still closed for the season. BUT there was a road off to the right that was open so we took it. This road leads to Cherry, Cottonwood and Mingus Springs.
We were now in an area of beautiful pines and well-maintained dirt road, easily navigable by an RV.
Sporadic dry camping spots are tucked into the pines on each side of the road. Even in March we saw a few campers with evidence of their ATVs or dirt bikes enjoying the gorgeous spring weather and environment. To camp in this area opens a world of adventure.
The road to Jerome, for example, through the Mingus mountains, is an experience by itself, winding mountain roads, tarred and well maintained. Much of it still without guardrails. Jerome, once a copper mining town built into the side of the mountain, is now a popular tourist area. It's called 'The Largest Ghost Town in America' and 'America's Most Vertical City'. Much of the history is maintained, ghost stories abound. The Jerome Grand Hotel is our favorite place to stay and has been featured on "Ghost Adventurers". Other spots we enjoy are the Haunted Hamburger and the Mile Hi Grill. Note, if you've got a big rig it won't be easy going through the narrow winding tourist filled center of Jerome with it. Better to go around the mountain heading to Cottonwood.
Getting back to the Mingus Mountain trail we were exploring. When we visited this camping area the first time we decided to see where this dirt road led. When we reached a juncture and we looked to the left and to the right, we made an uneducated decision to go left (Allen Spring Rd.) which ended up on the other side of that mountain, in Cottonwood. We regretted that choice quite a few times along that journey, so please think strongly and have the right toy or dirt bike or Jeep as we did. Do NOT take this road if you don't have a solid suspension vehicle with high enough clearance or a regular motorcycle. But if you DO have the right toy, have fun!
On another trip to this area we took the road to Mingus Springs. That was very nice and kept us in the forested area. Some challenging dips and rocky areas but nothing like the road we took that day.
We drove higher and higher. Every once in a while there was a spot one could turn around if needed. That was comforting so we slowly ventured on, white-knuckling the steering wheel, laughing at every bump and dip, respecting the mountain side cliffs with no guardrails of any kind. After miles and miles of this we reached the summit and saw 4 motorcyclists on the side of the road. We asked them where this road led. "Cottonwood, but it's a pretty bad road. We're deciding whether to go or not ourselves. BUT you have a Jeep so you should be OK." Encouraged by this, we decided to venture on.
It was almost an immediate transition from a pine, forest to a rocky low brush environment. We were now overlooking the Verde Valley. There were no turnarounds on this steep one-lane 'road'. We were committed. There was no backing up or turning around. We were thankful not to meet any oncoming vehicles until we got closer to Cottonwood.
Laurie takes the photos on our journeys but she had to start doing something else at this point. When the road would turn into a pile of large loose rocks, she'd get out and literally place rocks under the tires so we wouldn't hit bottom. Our Jeep Liberty doesn't have the clearance we really should have had so we were truly inching our way forward much of the way down on this side of the mountain. There was one point, I said "Laurie you need to walk ahead to that corner. Is this REALLY the road??"
It took us 3 hours to come out in Cottonwood.. As we got closer we met ATVs from the Cottonwood side taking tourists up. So, if you'd like to explore some of this very rugged terrain you can find others to take you up and leave the driving to them!
We took the highway from Cottonwood back to Prescott Valley and gave 'Louise' a much needed bath as a thank you!
Would we do it again? You bet!