The 2nd Prettiest Drive in AZ
We have already stated that the most beautiful drive in Arizona is the 29 miles of I 15 through the Virgin River Gorge between St. George, UT, and Mesquite, NV. The problem is that it is a long drive from Buckeye, clear up in the northwest corner of the state, and because of the Grand Canyon you can’t get there from here unless you go out and around either through Utah or Nevada.
Much closer to home and almost as breathtaking is the 12 miles of Historic Arizona Route 89A where you navigate an incredible 158 curves in only 12 miles through the Mingus Mountain Pass, near the old mining town of Jerome.
Jerome itself is a must see in my book, but the drive from here to there is worth the trip even if Jerome wasn’t as interesting as it is once you get there. The 140 mile trip to Jerome from Buckeye is a wonder to behold. There are two ways to get there. One way is through Prescott and then east and the other is through Camp Verde and then west. I suggest taking one route to Jerome and the other way back.
If you only want to see the 158 curves in 12 miles then you have to go up through Wickenburg and Prescott, but both drives are beautiful.
Some even say that State Route 89A is the most scenic drive in Arizona, and I say it is a close second, only to I15 through the Virgin River Gorge. A portion of SR 89A received the first scenic road designation in all of Arizona.
The entire state route 89A is only 80 miles long and runs from Prescott to Flagstaff. Along the way it goes through the Verde Valley and Oak Creek Canyon. It was the Oak Creek Canyon section that got it named as a scenic route.
“The road began life in 1927 as State Route 79. At the time only the portion from Prescott to Clarkdale was built, although the route to Flagstaff was in the planning stages. By 1938, all sections were finished and paved. The road was added to the US Highway system in 1940 as US 89A. In 1992, as if realizing the drive through pine forests, sun-spanked desert basins and red rock formations are a uniquely Arizona experience, it reverted to a state highway.”
There are dense pine forests, towering sandstone formations, an incredible bridge over the Colorado River, and you even cross the Black Hills—the mountain range that separates Prescott form the Verde Valley. There are 15 mph hairpin curves and stunning overlooks. There is a sign that warns you not to sit on the wall at one of the overlooks and I got my picture taken sitting on the wall under it! Shh, don’t tell anyone!
SR 89A isn’t just beautiful but it serves a purpose as well. It is the main road of the Verde Valley, the link that connects the different communities. 89A is “Main Street” for Sedona, Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Jerome. “The road—which follows the same general route the early settlers used—provides an accessible commercial corridor, with all manner of businesses huddled along the highway.
All of the state parks from Slide Rock and Red Rock to Dead Horse Ranch are accessed from SR 89A. Same with the museums, such as Clarkdale Heritage Center, Jerome’s Mine Museum, Clemenceau Heritage Museum in Cottonwood and Sedona Art’s Center. If you want to take a ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad or explore the lonely expanse of Sycamore Canyon, you travel SR 89A.”
“Driving the road offers an in-depth history lesson of the region. You curve through the narrow streets of Jerome, once a booming mining camp and down the steep hillside through the idyllic neighborhoods of Clarkdale, designed to house the miners. As you cruise through Old Town Cottonwood you’ll see Prohibition-era buildings constructed by those who didn’t want to live in a company town. SR 89A brushes past some of the earliest homesteads of Sedona and gives you a glimpse of the rich farmland and plentiful water source that prompted such settlers. For those seeking a more ancient perspective, pre-historic Indian ruins such as Tuzigoot National Monument or Palatki and Honanki Heritage Sites can be found just off SR 89A.”
“Hiking trails and world-class swimming holes line SR 89A as well as fine dining establishments and resplendent resorts. Part of the magic of visiting the Verde Valley is the immediate overlap of scenery and comfort, of luxury and wilderness. It’s all right here, available to everybody, just off the highway. SR 89A is the asphalt key that unlocks a myriad of wonders.
Now who’s ready for a road trip?”
Quotes from an article By Roger Naylor
They say from the overlook in Jerome you can see all the way to Sedona. I’m going to try to do just that next time we visit Jerome.