Dead Horse Ranch State Park
The developed portion of Dead Horse Ranch State Park covers 423 acres. The 3,300 foot elevation accounts for the mild temperatures that are ideal for camping, mountain biking in the Coconino National Forest, hiking along the Verde River, canoeing, picnicking, fishing, or just wading in the cool water.
A six-mile reach of the river is known as the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area. Its unique ecosystem, the Cottonwood and Willow riparian gallery forest, is one of less than 20 such riparian zones in the world. Life along the river changes with the seasons, giving visitors a glimpse of the numerous species of raptors, neotropical migrants, resident songbirds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park offers a variety of bicycling opportunities for all levels of riders. Beginning road cyclists will find relatively flat paved roads with only a few gentle climbs and large parking areas perfect for practicing basic skills. Beginning mountain bikers will find a place to hone new skills on the trails adjacent to Red-Tail and Cooper's Hawk campgrounds.
Experienced roadies can use the park as a launching point for rides throughout the Verde Valley. Intermediate to expert mountain bikers will find fun and challenge on the Dead Horse Ranch Trail System's "Thumper Loop". Download a map of the Dead Horse Trail System (PDF document 220 KB PDF). Because the park is so close to Sedona, mountain bikers from all over the world come to Dead Horse Ranch to camp and use the park as a staging area for rides on the Red Rock trails of the Coconino National Forest. No other campground in the Verde Valley offers shower facilities - virtually a must after a full day on the trail!
Camping Cabin Loop: Eight one-room log camping cabins are available at Dead Horse Ranch by reservation. They are tucked away from the other campgrounds, making them an ideal getaway for a weekend or for the week. The cabins are variably furnished with a full size bed, a bunk bed, table & chairs, dresser-drawer, ceiling fan with overhead light, and electricity. Campers must supply their own linens. Each cabin also has a barbecue and picnic table outside, plus a small individual fire ring. Family-style shower facilities are only a short walk from all of the cabins. There is an electrified ramada with barbecues that can be shared by cabin guests.
Raven Loop: A 23 site group campground available by reservation. The loop contains modern restroom facilities providing hot water & showers, a large ramada, and group fire ring. Most sites can accommodate 2 camping units. Maximum Group Size: 46 Units.
There are over 100 large RV sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. Most of the pull through sites can accommodate 40-foot motor homes and truck & trailer rigs up to 65 feet, and include potable water and 30/50-amp service. All campsites may be used as non-electric sites simply by not plugging into power. Generators are prohibited. All loops include modern, ADA accessible restroom facilities providing hot water & showers and are free to registered campers. There is a stay limit of 14 nights in a 30-day period.
Climbing sites may be available; please contact park services for more information.
The trails in this system are in Dead Horse Ranch State Park and in the Coconino Natinal Forest. Trail users, the Dead Horse Ranch Trails Coalition, Arizona State Parks Rangers & Volunteers, and the Forest Service have worked together to develop and manage this system for you enjoyment. Bring extra water and get an early start in the summer months. Trailheads are located north of the lagoon area or at the end of Flycatcher road.
Dead Horse Trail System: A 7.3 mile loop. Shared-use. Begins & ends at Dead Horse Ranch and extends onto the Coconino National Forest. The loop consists of 3 legs; Lime Kiln, Thumper, and Raptor Hill. The Lime Kiln leg follows a portion of the historic Lime Kiln Wagon Road. Originally the Lime Kiln road provided access to a Kiln that was constructed in the 1800s. The Kiln was used to burn limestone to create lime used as an ingredient of the mortar needed to construct fireplaces and chimneys. Soon after the construction of the kiln, the road was extended and used as a route between Sedona and Jerome. The remains of the kiln can still be seen beside the trail. The loop is a favorite ride for mountain bikers. Average mountain bike time is approximately 1 hour to complete the loop. Also learn more about Share the Trail and the Lime Kiln Trail.
Forest Loop: A 0.5-mile loop. Shared-use. Circles around and through a diversely forested area and provides river access by way of short narrow side trails. Starts and ends in the River Day Use Area.
Canopy: A 0.25 mile ADA accessible trail looping under a Freemont Cottonwood tree canopy giving park visitors with limited mobility an opportunity to get off the beaten path. Excellent for bird watching and wildlife viewing. Starts and ends in the River Day Use Area.
Mesa: A 1-mile interpretive loop trail. Circles the top of the hill west of the Red-Tail Hawk Campground and provides scenic views of Mingus Mountain, the Verde Valley, and Dead Horse Ranch. The trailhead is located on the west side of Roadrunner Road south of Red-Tail Hawk Campground loop.
Tavasci Marsh: A 1-mile trail. Shared-use. The trailhead is located at the end of Flycatcher Road.
Quail Wash: A 0.25-mile trail. Hike, bike. Stairs and bridges prevent equestrian use. Plant diversity and flowing water in the wash make this trail popular. Intersects with Hickey Ditch Trail. The trailhead is located at the south end of the West Lagoon parking lot.
Hickey Ditch: A 0.5-mile trail. Shared-use. Follow along the historic Hickey irrigation ditch through a canopy of Ailanthus and Mesquite trees. Intersects with Quail Wash Trail. The trailhead is located at north end of the West Lagoon parking lot.
Creosote: A 0.5-mile shortcut. Shared-use. Intersects with Hickey Ditch and Quail Wash Trails.
Lagoons: One accessible loop around each lagoon. West Lagoon 0.39 miles; Middle Lagoon 0.41 miles; East Lagoon 0.72 miles. Hike, bike. Accessed from any of the lagoon parking lots, these trails allow you to stroll around the lagoons.
Verde River Greenway: A 2-mile shared-use trail along the river. The trail weaves through some of the best nesting habitat in the area, a bird watchers' paradise. Intersects with Quail Wash and Lagoon Trails. The trailhead is located in the River Day Use area or can be accessed on the south side of the lagoons.
Riverfront: A 0.5-mile trail. Shared-use. The trail runs along the south side of the Verde River and is good for walking. Trail is accessed from either the south end of the Dead Horse Ranch State Park Bridge or from Riverfront Park.
Equestrian Trails: Many of the Dead Horse Ranch trails are shared-use. There are 1 hour and a 2 hour guided trail rides available on the park. The rides take in the Verde River Greenway and provide scenic views of the lagoons, the Verde River and Dead Horse Ranch.
The trails at Dead Horse Ranch State Park are all classified as shared-use, nonmotorized and permit equestrian use with a few exceptions. In 2006, the Lime Kiln Trail was completed, linking Dead Horse Ranch with Red Rock State Park. The ride from Dead Horse to Red Rock is 15 miles and follows the alignment of the old Lime Kiln wagon trail.
Horse corrals are available on a limited basis for overnight use with advance arrangements.
Dead Horse Ranch now has an equestrian concessionaire on the park who leads wrangler-guided trail rides. Take a leisurely ride through the park, past the river and even have a picnic lunch!
Picnic tables are located throughout the park, in both the day use areas and campground ramadas as well as being placed individually in various locations around the lagoons. Unless reserved, picnic tables in the ramadas are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Many ramadas also include ADA accessible picnic tables.
River Day Use Area: Located in the proximity of the Verde River. Trails leading from the River Day Use Area follow the river as well as lead into a lush cottonwood, willow gallery riparian area. The Canopy Trail is ADA accessible providing excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities for the mobility impaired. There are two ramadas available for group reservations. Each ramada has a large family-size grill, electricity, and picnic tables. Maximum Group Size for the entire day use area is 200+ people.
Los Alamos Day Use Area: Located under a cottonwood tree canopy between two fishing lagoons -- eight ramadas are available for reservation. A dock, launch ramp, fish cleaning station, and modern restrooms are close by. Nearby are trails leading around the lagoons, to the Verde River Greenway and onto the Coconino National Forest. The two lagoons adjacent to Los Alamos total approximately 16 surface acres.
Cottonwood has what is considered mild weather for Arizona; it's cooler than Phoenix in the summer and warmer than Flagstaff in the winter. Summer temperatures usually go well over 100°F for a few weeks in mid-summer but generally range from 85° to 95°F (three-year high - 111.6°F on July 4th, 2007). In the summer months, trail users should get out there early. However, unlike Phoenix, the temperature drops down to comfortable levels every evening. Winter temperatures can get down to the 20s and as high as the 60s (three-year low - 0.2°F on January 2nd, 2006).
The area has two major "rainy" seasons--winter and summer monsoons. The winter season runs from December thru March. Generally winter rains are gentle but can last throughout the day. Winter rains often cause snowmelt from the high country in the surrounding area and may cause the Verde River to rise dramatically! The summer monsoon season starts mid-June and runs through September. Monsoons are spectacular and short term. Dark clouds form during the day and by late afternoon can darken the sky, producing isolated thunderstorms often with torrential rains that pass quickly. At times like this, the water level in the Verde may rise briefly. Still, average annual precipitation is less than 12.0" per year--even lower recently due to continuing drought conditions). Each spring, strong winds blow through the Verde Valley, gusting up to 40 MPH. Most days start out relatively calm, but if it is going to be windy, the breeze usually begins to pick up around midday.
The nicest times of the year are from mid-March through early June (mean temperature 66 degrees F), and mid-September through early December (mean temperature 64 degrees F).
From I-17 take (exit 287) Hwy 260 to Cottonwood. Hwy. 260 intersects with 89A/Main Street. Turn left on Main Street and proceed to North 10th Street. Turn right (north) on North 10th Street. Continue on North 10th across the Verde River Bridge to the park entrance.
Nearest airport is Flagstaff, AZ.