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Photo by Patrick Graham

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3 Favorite Off-Road Adventures

Get Off the Pavement and Enjoy the Rugged Beauty Surrounding North Peoria

Arizona is an off-roader's paradise. People come from all over to take advantage of the plentiful public lands and remote historical sites. Some of the best off-roading options in North Peoria are simply down the road. 

Before you head out, even if it is only for a quick outing on a moderate trail, remember to follow the tips outlined in the previous article, Tips for Off-Roading, on page xx. These are three favorite off-road adventures. You can find more adventures online at

Back Road to Crown King

Crown King is a funky little town about 70 miles north of Peoria via I-17 north and then across maintained forest roads. You'll find the historic Crown King Saloon & Cafe (the oldest continuously operating saloon in the state), a variety of cabins and a general store. But, for off-road enthusiasts, there is another way—the Back Road to Crown King.

This is a 27-mile trail north out of Lake Pleasant, following Cow Creek Road and the signs to Crown King. This 27 miles is a challenging route that can take 4 to 5 hours. It requires a 4-wheel-drive, high-clearance vehicle. This is one of the most popular trails, so be aware of other vehicles. 

Castle Hot Springs Road

Driving north from Lake Pleasant, the oasis in the desert at Castle Hot Springs is a surprise. You can see the palm trees and oasis in the distance, although the resort is private property. Continue past the resort and eventually connect with Highway 74 to make your way home. 

Castle Hot Springs Road is a 17-mile loop that takes about 3 hours. There are some winding mountain areas, but this is a relatively easy trail, maintained throughout the year. Unlike the Back Road to Crown King, you can complete the Castle Hot Springs loop in a stock SUV, even if it is not 4WD. 

Harquahala Mountain Backcountry Byway

The 10.5-mile byway climbs from Eagle Eye Road near Aguila (about 25 miles west of Wickenburg) to the summit of Harquahala Mountain at 5,691 feet. In the 1920s, The Smithsonian Institute operated a solar observatory at the peak (the highest point in Southwest Arizona). Its remains are now on the National Register of Historic Places. You can also spot remains of many mining operations along the road, including foundations, equipment and mine shafts.

While the lower mountain is easily accessible in a high-clearance vehicle, the upper part is more challenging with steep climbs and sharp drops off the side. This is part of the Bureau of Land Management, and hikers can explore the Harquahala Wilderness Area from the summit.   

  • Photo by Patrick Graham