In this scenic trip, gradually climb uphill into the Bradshaw Mountains to end at a living ghost town, Crown King. On your way you follow much of the Prescott & Eastern Railroad line and pass through historic mining area and cities.
Crown King Trail is reached by taking exit 248, Bumble Bee, off of the I-17. You take a paved road for 1.2 miles until you come to a ‘T’. From here, turn right onto Crown King Rd. Staging for this trip, can be found off to the right (at the beginning of the trail near a enclosed pipe line) or to the left after a bridge at 4.3 miles. At 5.05 miles you pass through the heart of Bumble Bee, was a stage stop back in its heyday. Turn sharply left at 6.2 miles, watch for oncoming traffic. Continue straight at 9.5 and 10.3 as roads lead right to Cordes. Optional left off trail at 9.9 miles leads to the Hidden Treasure Mine, however the road is pretty rough and there is not too much too see. Turn left at 11¼ miles to continue on the trail. Straight leads to the Bradshaw Mountain Ranch. Begin going downhill at 11.6 miles and cross a bridge entering into the Prescott National Forest. Mining remains to the left are those of the Golden Turkey Mine. This site can be reached easiest by turning left at 12.5 miles, however, the trail is rocky and narrow so use caution. Turning right at 12.85 miles takes you to the St. Johns mine, which offers you a good view of the trail. At mile marker 14, you pass through the town of Cleator, a small town with some rich history. Cleator was a train stop back in the early 1900’s and after the trail reaches Cleator, it begins to follow much of the old Bradshaw Mountain Railway known as Murphey's Impossible Railroad. It was built in the late 1890's and was dismantled in 1926 due to the collapse of the mines. After a few one lane bridges, you reach the turnoff for the DeSoto Mine Trail at 15½ miles on the right. At 16.9 you pass the ghost town of Middleton, which was the powerhouse for the DeSoto. A tramway led from Middleton all the way the mountain to the DeSoto Mine. Parts of the tramway can still be seen off to right of the trail. Turn sharp right as you ascend the first switchback at 19.55 miles. Again, turn sharply right as you ascend the second switchback at 21.85 miles. At 23.9 miles, the road turns sharply right, but the train continued straight. You can see the cut in the rock up above. A collapse tunnel at 24.65 shows the path of the train into Crown King. At 25.3, pass a USFS Helipad and cross a bridge at 26.55 miles entering into Crown King. Once in Crown King, ride through the pines and turn right at 27.1 to enter Main Street. Crown King, 4,000 feet above the start of the trail is a literally cool place to visit.
The town of Crown King is a very small town but the people are very friendly. Some good places to stop are the General Store, The Saloon that was moved piece-by-piece from Oro Belle in the late 1800's, or the Prospector Mall, a small souvenir store modeled after the building that stood there over 100 years ago built by the Bradshaw Mountain Railroad for storage.
The trail (as of December 2009) is in good condition although washboards make the trail a little bumpy. The 27 mile ride to Crown King can be completed in under an hour.
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