As the CEO and Co-founder of Sonoran Trails I get to go out and experience remote travel and camping as I document best routes, places to visit and where to stay. As a result, I’ve been told countless times by people that they’d love to experience camping and exploration but do not know where to go. They don’t have the gear, equipment, stuff…they don’t know what to do, or how to do it. They’re just stuck in that rut of, “It’s just too much!” Well, I can relate. I succumbed to the overlanding bug in 2007, but a few years into this affair, in 2010, I was with my then three year old heading out. I was nervous. The walking, talking embodiment of nervous. I had never taken a child out, my gear was rag tag (perfect for me), and I…well…had a 3 year old…daughter! I understand your dilemma and still do. Since then I’ve matured in my ability to explore, and then camp while doing it. Since that time, my daughter and I have been on countless excursions deep into the Sonoran Desert where we were off the grid.
My business partner and I scoured the Baja Peninsula for 3 weeks, traveling from Phoenix to Cabo San Lucas and back, living on the beaches, Dos Equis, and fish tacos along the way. I overcame my fear of escaping like this by simply doing it. Now, after several years, I’m offering a few tips and tricks guaranteed to help you do the same. And, if you got the kiddos, I’ll make you look like a hero in the process! By the time you finish this guide you’ll be on solid footing to take the kid, spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, whomever, out and about and look like a boss while doing it! Here we’ll discuss one of our favorite trips.
Where To Go?
Grand Canyon/Williams/Jerome/Prescott/Crown King
You want a great escape? Wait’ll ya’ get a load of this! This trip will get you north in the Arizona summer months to escape having your eyebrows melt to your forehead in the Valley of the Sun, with a slow roll back to Phoenix where you can turn in your Sonoran Trails Jeep Camper. My favorite way to explore is to get as far away from my starting point as I can on the first day. In this case, it’ll be the Grand Canyon. And if you haven’t seen it, there’s nothing quite like a run up to the South Rim. Camping is available inside or just south of the park entrance at Ten X Campground. With good timing you can catch a sunset; which, by the way, is God’s way of further humbling mankind. Check out Kolb Studio, Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, and the Yavapai Geology Museum (this place is really cool!) – but use the shuttle service to get around! Much easier! Let’s notch our belt here and move on…
Head south on Hwy. 180 and into Williams. This is where the Grand Canyon Railway originates and is another chance for a great meal at any one of the diners in town. There’s a neat downtown area to explore. After Williams, head south on South 4th street, also Hwy. 73, and it evolves into the old South Perkinsville Road. This multi-hour dirt road will bring you the back way into Jerome with incredible views as you descend. And remember, the great thing about vehicle-dependent travel is you can stop when you want! Tired of driving? Find an off-the-beaten path and a fire ring and set up camp! Need a nap? Pop up your Roof Top Tent and grab some shut-ey! Hungry? Pull over, let the kids run around and fix ’em lunch!
In Jerome you are set to check out this funky mining town with a hint of the supernatural. Parking can be a challenge so be patient. The towns rich mining history unfolds as you walk the downtown area. There are a variety of foot tours offered so get in one of those before you leave. After Jerome, Highway 89A is a great trek into Prescott where you must have a brew in one of the famous Whiskey Row establishments. The courthouse is front and center and set under a natural canopy of trees. Restaurants and shops abound so explore until your heart’s content. After you roll out of there with a full belly, head south on South Mt. Vernon which will turn into Senator Highway, FR 52. This dirt road of several hours will lead you all the way into the epic community of Crown King, named after the Crowned King Mine. There are only a few places to dine here and you will be in the mix of Razors, 4×4’s, 4-wheelers and dirt bikes. Crown King Saloon, Prospector’s Mall, and The Mill all offer great fare set among tall pines, cool breezes, and incredible atmosphere.
There is a plethora of camping around Crown King and on weekends, if you stick around, the Crown King Saloon usually has a band. Don’t feel like camping, there are options to rent cabins as well. Following this adventure, you’ll head down the hill on Crown King Road; but you have one more stop. Cleator, Arizona. This town emerged after Murphy’s Impossible Railroad started coming through the makeshift mining town. Bristling with the General Store and, “Bar”, it’s not to be missed. Recent renovations have turned it into the, “Cleator Yacht Club”, complete with dry-docked boats and jet skis in the back creating makeshift tables, sitting areas, and an old rickety pontoon boat serving as an out of place stage. You may even catch the local band playing but if not, it’s still a required stop with great people.
Crown King road continues east and intersects with U.S. I-17 just after you pass through Bumble Bee. In about 20 minutes you’re back at Sonoran Trails HQ, the vehicle is checked in, and you walk away with incredible memories guaranteed to help you make the best scrapbook ever.