Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

Fun Times Await In The Center of Arizona

The geographic center of Arizona is about 55 miles ESE of Prescott, and the closest town hall to that location is that of Camp Verde. There is a bronze plaque to that effect in Rezzonico Park, placed there by the Arizona Professional Land Surveyors.

The park in on Montezuma Castle Highway in Camp Verde. In fact, there is a ton of stuff to see and do in and around Camp Verde, including Montezuma's Well, Montezuma's Castle, and Tuzigoot National Monument.

If you like the outdoors, you will love the Camp Verde area. In addition to the kayaking, fishing, and swimming that the Verde River offers, there is Clear Creek just down Highway 260 to the east to FR 626.

Clear Creek Campground

The Clear Creek Campground is in the Coconino National Forest and has a large day use parking area as well as the campground. There are 18 single-unit sites and one group site that you can reserve. There are no reservations for the single sites and it's a popular place, so be there early.

The sites have tables, fire rings and grills, drinking water and vault toilets. Tents, motor homes, and trailers under 32 feet are permitted but there are no utility hookups. There is a seven-day stay limit and the single sites are $16 per night.

There may not be hookups in the campground, but right across the highway from the campground turnoff is a big RV park with a store and Laundromat. The Zane Grey RV park also has gas and electric, free wi-fi, horseshoes, and corn bag toss.

They have 57 sites and are open all year. You can get more information at their website: http://www.zanegreyrvpark.com.

A Beautiful Little Stream

Clear Creek is a beautiful little stream. Birdwatching, hiking, and fishing are some of the main activities. Bring an ultralight spinning rod and some small inline spinners or peahead jigs and small Power Grubs to fish for smallmouth bass and sunfish.

If you prefer live bait, both those species are suckers for worms. Go to the Arizona Game and Fish website at http://www.azgfd.gov for information on fishing licenses.

There are trails along the edges of the creek so that you can explore as far as you like, and the campground and creek are shaded by huge trees. It really is a gorgeous place.

Some Great Hikes Nearby

If you camp at Clear Creek, it makes a good base for several beautiful hikes that are not far away. The trailhead for the West Clear Creek Trail is on FR 618, which you would have passed on your way to the campground from Camp Verde. Take 618 and drive 2.3 miles to FR 215, then continue 4 miles east on FR 215 to the Bull Pen camping area where you can park.

This trail is the only maintained and marked access to the lower part of the West Clear Creek Canyon Wilderness. The downstream area is a popular place for fishermen and people out for a good time because of the clear pools, slide rocks, and the shade trees that make the red-rock canyon a delightful place to spend the day.

The trail has some strenuous areas and you'll cross the creek several times. If there is a lot of runoff, the trail can be impassable. This trail is almost 8 miles long, and once you get to the end you have to turn around and come back - it's an all-day thing if you decide you want to do the whole trail. Bring a lot of water! This probably isn't a hike for small kids.

If you do have little ones with you, they will absolutely love the creek and the campground and the trails along the stream. There is even a rope swing down by the day-use parking lot.

Montezuma's Well

Kids will also love a visit to Montezuma's Well. To get there, take I-17 to exit 293 (4 miles north of the exit for Montezuma Castle). Continue through the towns of McGuireville and Rimrock, following the signs for four miles to the entrance to the Well. There is no fee and it's a really cool place.

Take a very short hike up the hill on a paved path. At the top there is an observation platform that lets you see the whole Well. It's actually a circular body of water that is constantly fed by an underground aquifer.

There are cliff ruins around the sides of the Well. There is another path that goes down to the water level and lets you see more ruins. It's nice shady place to sit for a bit and watch the ducks and birds.

When you climb back out, take the trail around the rim and make sure you take the little side trail to see where the water comes out. You'll end up in a little canyon where you can walk down the path to see the water coming right out of the side of the hill and down a 1,000-year-old irrigation ditch and into the creek. Kids will love this place; I guarantee it.


Another cool little side trip is Tuzigoot. This reconstructed hilltop pueblo shows an ancient village built by the Sinagua people. There is a little museum here and a shop. The fee is $5 for adults 16 and over. Kids under 16 are free.

For Seniors, A Super Deal

By the way, if you are 62 or over, you seriously need to visit a National Park office and get an Interagency Senior Pass. It only costs $10 and is good for your lifetime. The pass is honored nationwide at all Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Fish & Wildlife Service sites charging entrance or standard amenity fees and it gets you and up to three other people in free.

If you are driving in, it covers everyone in your vehicle. Not only that, but for an extra $15 you can get a sticker that lets you park and launch at all the Tonto National Forest Lakes for a calendar year free. Since it costs $10 for a vehicle and boat each time, this is a great savings. Check it out at http://www.fs.fed.us/passespermits/senior.shtml.

Tuzigoot is one of the places that the pass gets you in for free. So is Montezuma Castle. In addition to getting in for free, Senior cardholders receive a 50 percent fee discount at campgrounds, developed boat launches and swimming sites and for specialized interpretive services. It's a super deal!


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