Buckeye, AZ Winter Drives
There Are Some Fabulous Winter Drives Near Buckeye
January 1, 2022
When I saw the Whoopsie Trail on http://www.trailsoffroad.com, I knew I had to go there. Who can resist a name like that? It's called the Whoopsie because of all the twists and turns and ups and downs it has. This is a high-clearance vehicle road. It can get rough out there, especially after a rain. This is a great winter off-road adventure because it is west of Buckeye.
As a matter of fact, I talked John into swinging by to look at Gillespie dam again because I just love the way it looks. Gillespie is on the Gila River, and it was breached years ago but there is still a good-sized body of water there and the breached dam looks awesome, as does the bridge. On the map, I have the dam circled. As you can see, you can skip the dam and go through Arlington, but what's the fun of that?
After leaving the dam, head north on old US 80 and turn west on Agua Caliente Road. It's well marked. This trip requires some navigation, and I recommend downloading the Gaia app to your phone. If you have an All-Access membership in Trailsoffroad.com, you can get detailed information on tons of wonderful trails. I also have a subscription to Gaia, and the two sites work together beautifully.
Download Trails To Gaia
You can download trails to Gaia, then use the Gaia app to stay on the right trail. It marks the downloaded trails with a colored line, and as you travel, you can see where you are at all times. It is fantastic. After a few miles on the Agua Caliente Road, you turn onto the Arva Caliente Road and the Whoopsie is about six miles from there.
Great Place Names
We took a lot of little side trips off the trail to see old wells and to see if we could see any sign of quail. One well in particular was interesting – from the road you can see a couple of big white tanks, and if you drive over there, you'll find an old windmill down in the wash, plus some old tank structures and remains of rock walls.
There is also a big corral and Mochi had a great time running around in there. We also saw a mule deer buck along the road. It's a fun day, and the names of the places in the area are great: Yellow Medicine Hills, Fourth of July Butte, Montezuma Head, and Face Mountain to name a few.
Get Out And Mosey Around
The map doesn't show the Whoopsie Trail. You turn onto Arva Caliente right at Fourth of July Butte and go about four miles to Whoopsie and make a right onto it. It shows as a Jeep Trail on the Topo Maps app. On the Topo Maps screenshot, the turn onto Whoopsie is the red car icon on the left. The coordinates are 33.29420 N and 113.19225 W.
After the Whoopsie, you end up on a nicely graded road that you can take north and make your way to I-10. It's an all-day drive when you do it that way, but it's lots of fun. We always bring a ton of water and a nice lunch and snack, and we do get out and mosey around a lot.
When we got to that graded road, I noticed that the map showed a couple of natural arches a short distance away, one of which was called Royal Arch. I really wanted to see that, but it was way too late in the day for it after the Whoopsie Trail, so we went back a couple of weeks later.
This area can be confusing even if you have great online and paper maps. I got us off track the day we went looking for Royal Arch, but since we have a Jeep, I was able to find a road that would take us up to connect with the right road. It was a great trip though, because we found a lot of bench markers and found a couple of the Game and Fish's game water catchments. We also found an old Maricopa County monument from 1918. The mountains in this area are just incredible and it was a great drive.
The Long Way
We went in off ofthe same road that we came out on when we did the Whoopsie. We took the Harquahala Valley Road south (the Salome exit but go south) went straight south to Guadalupe Road, went west to 531st Ave, and took that south to the Arlington Clanton Well Road. The roads we got lost on were rough, and it was definitely the long way to the Royal Arch. There is a much shorter way, but you will still need a 4x4 to get to the Royal Arch because it is behind a mountain from the main road, so not visible unless you take a little side trail.
Simply take the Hovatter Road south off I-10 (exit 53) and follow Hovatter quite a long way (over ten miles) until you see a road to the east marked 04. Hovatter goes through mostly flat territory, but at one point you come close to a mountain all by itself. This is Coyote Peak. At this point, road 04 is almost exactly three miles south.
Arch Is Easy To See
Once you turn onto 04, the road gets hilly and bumpy with several very rough spots. You need to have this area downloaded to your Topo Maps app because I didn't see a number on the turnoff, but you can clearly see the arch on the map and there is a single dotted line going to it on the right off 04. When we went there, since we came from the south, we tried to take a similar road east to the arch road from Hovatter and the darn thing was nearly invisible. We had a heck of a time. Anyway, once you find the road, watch to the west – the arch is very big and very easy to see, and there is a spur that will take you right to the base of the hill and you can climb right up to it if you want. Mochi and I spooked a big horn ram when we went up there!
There is another arch right off the side of Hovatter road that is a little way south of where Royal Arch is, and apparently a lot of people see that one and they think it's Royal Arch. I saw several websites with misinformation on them. The one you can see from the good road is much less imposing and is called Conflagration Arch. After seeing the two arches you can just head back the way you came.
We Love This Area
We are in love with this area with its rugged mountains, arches, caves, springs, and fun places to explore. We went back another time and took the road that goes between Signal Mountain Wilderness and Woolsey Peak Wilderness and found a beautiful spring and red spotted toads. I'll have to save that story for next time. Meanwhile, have a blast out there finding those arches and riding the Whoopsie Trail.
As Always, Safety First!
As always, safety first – make sure you have the right equipment and plenty of water. We carry a satellite phone as well, and we always tell our kids where we are going and when we'll be back. Be safe and have fun!