John and I have traveled a lot of the back roads of Arizona. But this road trip was a first for us. We took the back road between Prescott and Crown King, called Senator’s Highway. There are many ways to get to Crown King, some easier (via the freeway), some harder, like the nasty notorious back road – which I hope never to take again!
Senator’s Highway is the old stagecoach route built in the late 1800’s. It was the road that connected the many mineral mines like Bode Mine, Bradshaw Mine, and Crowned King mine.
Arizona actually had 4 capitol cities before settling on Phoenix as it’s permanent capitol. Back in 1864, Prescott was it’s capitol…. then in 1867 it moved to Tucson… in 1879 back to Prescott… until finally moving between Prescott & Tucson to Phoenix in 1889. The old Senator’s Highway connects Prescott all the way to Phoenix.
This old two track stage coach road is a seemingly endless meandering, incessant switchback of a road. It took us 5 hours to get all of the 37 miles between Prescott and Crown King, and that was in our modern vehicle. There’s a story that airplanes overhead can see the road at night because of all the glittering glass left over from the broken booze bottles that passengers would throw overboard when they would get liquored up for the tortuous trip.
Not only does it host gorgeous views and grand vistas, it is also home to one of the oldest still standing stage coach stops, Palace Station. Palace Station is still used by the Forest Service as quarters – off limits to the public.
While it was a slow going road, it was well graded and a beautiful drive, well worth the trip… and a wonderful day’s adventure.
Each National Park has it’s highlight. For Yosemite it’s El Capitain; for Yellowstone it’s Old Faithful. Some may argue their favorite sites for each park… or favorite of the Parks. One of my favorites is Mesa Arch. I always think Mesa Arch is in Arches National Park… but it’s actually in the Park across the street Canyonlands.
But it’s not Canyonlands or Arches National Park I want to share. It’s actually ‘The Road Less Travelled’, the White Rim road. We saw this road from an overlook, and thought… now that’s where I want to go. I wonder if we can camp there?
Well the answer is .. yes, you can camp there… with a permit and reservations made a year in advance. Apparently it’s a much coveted trip… 100 miles in total of decent, sometimes rough dirt road that runs ‘beneath’ the park that ordinary folk see. I wasn’t even aware that such a back dirt road inside the park existed. So we got a day pass and embarked on a grand adventure.
We felt like explorers seeing the park for the first time. We were ants amidst there giant canyons. It was like a John Ford film with stagecoaches baring the elements. The landscape was vast and humbling. It really made you realize how small we are in this great big magnificent world.
Photos can’t do the grand majestic landscape justice.
Along the way we saw few cars, but a number of bicycles making the trek. Then we saw this little ram munching away on the side of the road, which was a real treat for me.
Next time we’ll have to make reservations and take the entire road. Since it’s a slow road, they say it takes 3 – 4 days to complete the 100 miles. This seemed like the best kept secret around to us… now that we know it’s here, and have tasted it’s beauty, we’ll be back for the whole experience.