By Adam Triplett ’10
“Get Bent” and “allergic to pavement” are common expressions in the small town of Crown King, tucked away in the Bradshaw Mountains north of Phoenix.
Be prepared for somewhat of a bumpy ride on the way in; there is no pavement within 30 miles of the city, the closet paved roads are Lake Pleasant road to the south and the I-17 to the east. The easiest way into the town is Crown King Road off of the 17, but there is a slightly more scenic path which requires not only a more capable vehicle, but also more driving skill.
The back road to Crown King, as it is called, is a 34-mile dirt trail consisting of water crossings, rock obstacles, tight turns and steep inclines.
It is often traveled by dirt bikes, quads, a variety of UTVs (utility terrain vehicle) and OHVs (off-highway vehicle) consisting of jeeps, trucks and yes, even the occasional Hummer. If you plan on taking this trail to get to Crown King go with a group and be totally prepared.
The slightly easier way into the town is the 26-mile dirt road that connects to the I-17. The exit to access the road is called Bloody Basin Road, exit 259. After the exit take a left and follow the road.
On the road itself you will quickly pass through the town of Bumble Bee, which was originally set-up as a way point between Prescott and Phoenix in the late 1800s.
The next town on the road is Cleater, coming off the 17 it will be on the right side of the road. You’ll know you’ve reached the town when you see a single building; that is the Cleater Saloon and General Store, the only building in the town that consists of less then 20 people.
Once through Bumble Bee and Cleater there will be a series of switchbacks and several blind turns passing through small canyons cut into the rock. My advice: just keep it slow and watch for other cars; dust trails are easy to see to spot oncoming traffic. There have been a lot of accidents where people were either going to fast or not paying attention and ran off the road.
Going off the road here means rolling down the mountainside.
Warnings aside, Crown King is nestled away in the tall pines of the mountainside and is a nice, quiet getaway.
In the center of town along the main road I’d suggest stopping and getting a bite to eat in the bar; the hamburgers and french fries are delicious.
If you’re not quite hungry enough for a burger the general store is just a hundred feet or so from the bar and has a wide variety of novelty t-shirts, key chains and most importantly, fudge.
They have several varieties of fudge in the general store ranging from M&M to peanut butter.
Expect this to be a full day trip.
Starting from where the I-17 meets the 101 it’s about an hour drive to exit 259 (Bloody Basin road).
If you plan on taking the back road make sure to plan enough time for anything that may occur; expecting four to five hours is a safe guess.
If you want to camp the night there are several camping spots in the area or there is another trail connecting Crown King to Prescott which has some beautiful and scenic camping spots, but this time of year there can be a good amount of snow on the trail.