Day Trips For November
Take Advantage Of The Lovely Weather Now
This is the absolute perfect time of year for a day trip in the desert – the weather is usually fantastic in November, and if there are any colors to be seen, this is the month for desert trees to change color. I’ll give you some ideas for an off-road trip, a train ride, one for high-clearance vehicles, and one for passenger cars. How’s that for variety?
Off-Road: China Dam
This is a cool place to visit north of Lake Pleasant on Humbug Creek. I saw photos of it in one of my off-road books and John and I decided to check it out. To get to the dams, take Castle Hot Springs Road to Cow Creek Road and go up Cow Creek Road for about 3-1/2 miles until you see a sign on the right saying next services 47 miles.
There are two roads to the right — one goes straight up the hill and one goes around to the right. Take either one of them — they meet up on the other side of the hill. In about half a mile the road has a Y with one part going north and one part going to the right. Take the road that heads north (straight).
The Drive Is Fun
In about another half mile take the road to the right. About a quarter mile after that the road splits in a Y. Keep left. It’s less than two miles from there to the creek, and you can drive right down to the water. The road is not that bad, but I wouldn’t try it in a passenger car, especially the part that goes down into the creek. There is a nice parking area up on the top so you can walk down if you want.
The only problem you might have is early in the trip when you have to cross the Humbug near the north end of Lake Pleasant. If the lake is really full it might be impossible to cross. But if you can, the drive is lots of fun – just after you cross the end of Pleasant, the road goes through thick trees that form a tunnel over the road. It’s gorgeous.
A Great Place For Photos
The dam has a big breech that the creek flows through, and it’s a great place for photos. You’ll need to do a little walking down stream and keep an eye out behind you and to the left – pretty soon you’ll be able to see the rock wall of the dam. You can walk right down and even go inside the dam if you like. If you want to, you can probably squeeze in a trip to Fort Tule as well, but you will definitely need an off-road vehicle for that. Just Google “off-road to fort tule” and you’ll find out how to get there.
Train Trip: Verde Canyon Railroad
We took the Verde Canyon Railroad with a couple of friends one fall and it was spectacular – the train follows the Verde River for much of the way, and the fall colors in the canyon were absolutely gorgeous. We also saw deer, a bear (!), javelina, cliff dwellings, and
Abraham Lincoln (see photo). The train goes over some great bridges and through a tunnel, and since you can be on an open-air car, there are lots of opportunities for photos.
Bring A Camera
The ride is about twenty miles and goes to Perkinsville, then comes back to Clarkdale. It takes about three and a half hours. A first-class ticket is $99 and includes living-room style seating with big panoramic windows. You’ll snack on skewers, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, and brownie bites, and bottled water is available. All the cars connect to open-air viewing platforms, and that’s the part I liked best. Bring a jacket in case it gets cold, and be sure to bring a camera! Go to verdecanyonrr.com to book a seat. They have all kinds of packages.
High-Clearance Vehicle Ride: Chino Valley To Perkinsville, To Jerome
Honestly, this is one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. We got onto the Perkinsville Road at Chino Valley. It sort of blends into FR318A after a bit and gets nice and curvy along the northern border of the Woodchute Wilderness. Keep an eye out for Perkinsville Road again – it T’s straight north from FR318A. You can actually go all the way to Williams on the PerkinsvilleRoad, but we stopped when we got to the one-lane bridge across the Verde River.
This is where Perkinsville was, but now it’s a private ranch and access is blocked. However, there is plenty of room to park there, walk around, play in the river, and take pictures. Then we drove back down Perkinsville road the way we came, but when we got back to FR318A, we turned left toward Jerome instead of heading back to Chino Valley.
Along the way we stopped at a variety of cattle tanks, and we had lunch at the overlook that has a bench with a gorgeous view. And I do mean gorgeous – the road towards Perkinsville goes across a high mesa and you have amazing views of the red rocks close to you, with the San Francisco Peaks behind them. The peaks had snow on them when we went. The views are to die for.
The river at the bridge is gorgeous too, and we had a fantastic day trip on these roads. We ended up in Jerome near the Jerome State Historic Park, and then took highway back to I-17. Seriously, if you want amazing views, take this trip. I can’t believe I missed out on it all these years. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Passenger Car Day Trip: Bagdad To Prescott With Skull Valley And Granite Basin Lake
Granite Basin Lake Just Outside PrescottWe took our teenaged granddaughters on this trip and they loved it! Original plan was to have breakfast in Bagdad, but we found out that the restaurant there is closed on Mondays. So keep that in mind. Bagdad is a little mining town and very pretty. Across the street from the restaurant is an open field and next to it are a bunch of old mining carts and things. We saw a roadrunner there, and he was eating a coral snake.
To Get To Bagdad
To get to Bagdad, take Interstate 93 to Highway 97 (it’s about halfway between Wikiup and Wickenburg). Highway 97 takes you to Bagdad, then Highway 96 takes you to Hillside, where you get on the Bagdad Rd/Yava Rd to Kirkland Junction.
Skull Valley Store Front
The countryside is beautiful along these roads and at one point a little ways past Hillside there is a giant duck off the side of the road. Park and take a short walk out to this enormous boulder that is painted to look just like a duck. It’s a kick! From Kirkland Junction you head north on the Kirkland Junction/Skull Valley Road – don’t you love the names? There is cool old store front in Skull Valley that makes a great backdrop for photos. Now the road is called Iron Springs Road and it takes you through Iron Springs and you end up entering Prescott from the northwest.
Granite Basin Lake
As we got near Prescott, we noticed a sign that said Granite Basin Lake. We had never heard of it before (BTW, watch for the dinosaurs on the south side of the road near the turnoff for the lake). We decided to check it out and we were very pleasantly surprised by the beautiful little lake. We hiked a short trail around the west side of the lake, then went around the other way. There is no trail that goes all the way around the lake, but there are lots of trailheads around there.
If you go below the dam, you’re in for a real treat, especially if the lake is full and water is coming over the dam. It’s beautiful and cool and green down there, and the dam looks like a huge rock wall from an ancient city. When the water is coming over the top, it’s misty and beautiful. The girls were enthralled and took a ton of photos.
A Delightful Day
Once we left the lake we drove to Prescott and had a delicious lunch, then headed for home. Altogether a delightful day.Take advantage of the lovely winter weather and the gorgeous scenery in Arizona this November by trying one of these trips. I think you’ll have a blast.