From I17 and Happy Valley to Dugas Rd exit, 50mi 40min. From I17 and Dugas Rd exit to TH, 18mi, 60min. All worth it. For Dugas Rd/FR 68 I'd recommend high clearance. I don't think a passenger car would make it safely for the last 5 miles or so. 4x4 was not needed.
This is a highly recommended hike. Ponderosa Pines, Alligator Juniper, Oak Trees, Sycamore Trees, running creeks, birds, Elk etc., etc. you are in and out of all of these during the hike. There is allot of shade from the trees on this hike, but there are also exposed areas. I'd consider the hike moderate for the most part, with a few difficult sections on the climb to Pine Mountain and down into Beehouse Canyon (Steep and Rocky). A GPS with the track is highly recommended because the trail is overgrown or light in spots on the southern section of the Verde Rim Trail and the Shortcut Trail.
There are cairns in most of these sections to help you, as well as 4' long poles laid down on the down slopes for erosion protection. There is deadfall around the loop, but nothing too hard to navigate.
The views on the Rim and on top of Pine Mountain were nothing short of spectacular. Make the short trip to the top of the peak. Snow topped Mt Humphrey's to the North, Four Peaks, Weavers Needle, 5024 and the Flat Iron, Horseshoe Lake to the South and the Bradshaw's to the West.
Video from the Tophttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqSFb_e2AlA
We saw an Elk cow and 2 babies but were unable to get pictures.
Also many Cottontail Rabbits.
There are many options for camping at the TH or along the trail.