Crown King offers rustic hospitality and rugged trails worthy of wander and exploration. About two hours north of downtown Phoenix, Arizona is a trail that has been extremely popular with off-roaders over the years. If you enjoy a challenging route with great Bradshaw Mountain views and ghost-town charm, the Backway Trail to Crown King should be on your shortlist.
Editor’s Note: Off-Road Destinations is a regular column about great, legal, places to put your off-road vehicle through its paces. If you have any good suggestions from places you have been, we would love to hear from you.
Crown King Backway Trail
The Backway Trail to Crown King is a Jeep Badge Of Honor Trail and features over 26 miles, one way in, of rugged terrain that gets a lot of traffic. But the rewards of challenging obstacles and 5,000 feet in elevation changes make for a thrilling adventure. Depending, of course, on trail traffic and skill level, the excursion should take up to six hours to complete. A five-hour trek is about the average.
OnX Offroad lists this trail as Crown King Backway, and rates as moderate with a 6/10 technical difficulty. Like most of Arizona’s wilderness treasures, the best time to visit is during the cooler seasons of Spring, Fall, and Winter. There is no permit needed to run this route.
Once in the small, tourism-supported town itself, there are interesting places to explore. Crown King was founded in 1875 as the gold rush saw adventuresome, would-be entrepreneurs spread across the Americas in search of fortune. The first claim was filed on July 1, 1875, by Rod McKinnon. Soon after, another 15 mines were founded, taking untold millions of dollars worth of the precious metal from the rocky terrain. Today, the town is home to about 150 people.
The Bradshaw Mountain Railroad served the town from 1905 to logistically move people in and out along with the large amount of gold. Most of the Backway Tail are the remnants of the commercial failure that saw the railroad close in 1926. It was a treacherous line for the many switchbacks and climbs.
Backway Trail To Crown King
During boom times, Crown King had a burgeoning population and some 500 structures including numerous businesses, boarding houses, and private homes. There were even two Chinese restaurants! The last mine closed in 1950. Few of those buildings stand today as the wilderness reclaimed its foothold. However, that does leave the mines, and some great hiking trails with interesting buildings to explore at your own risk. Visitors rate the area very highly and there are many annual events.
Now it is a very serene and isolated place to visit. Because of Crown King’s Elevation, Phoenicians who sweat through the three-digit temperatures of Arizona summers will enjoy the moderate weather which gets into the high 80s Fahrenheit with just 11-percent humidity.
At the end of the road, the old gold mining town still has a general store and a popular saloon — said to be a former brothel. If you plan to stay, moderately priced lodging at several motels can be found in nearby Prescott. However, there is an in-town option at the highly-rated Crown King Cabins Suites and Bunkhouse, which has quaint private cabins between $220-$300 per night depending on the season. This will require planning ahead to reserve vacancies — but it fills up fast. There are also private homes available on AirBNB and numerous camping options.
Backway to Crown King is not for the rookie off-roader. However, the trail rating is 7.5/10. Needless to say, the intermediate to expert off-roader will be rewarded with immense scenery, difficult terrain with camaraderie, and libation at the end of the day in one of Arizona’s oldest saloons.
For more information: VisitCrownKing.com