Easy does it
Dead Horse Ranch State Park, located next to Cottonwood, Arizona, has hiking, biking, camping, fishing, birding, and horseback riding opportunities for those looking for activities in the "easy" category. The location on the Verde River has one of 20 Fremont Cottonwood-Goodling Willow riparian forests in the world, making it a birding and wildlife hotspot. It's perfect for those needing gentle trails with convenient facilities. There are picnic shelters/areas and a playground for the kids.
Dead Horse Ranch was deeded to the state in 1970 by a private donor to preserve this rare riparian area located on the Verde River. It consists of 423 acres at 3300 foot elevation. The entry fee to Dead Horse includes entry into The Verde River Greenway State Natural Area, located at the east end of the park. Fall, winter and spring are the best seasons to visit; summer temperatures regularly hit over 100 degrees. The park has all the facilities--water, restrooms with flush toilets, RV campsites, camping cabins, and fish cleaning tables. Use of the campsites include showers!
There are over 15 miles of trails (one way) around the park. The trails are mixed use which includes hikers, mountain bikers and horses. The longest is the Dead Horse Trail, a 7.3 mile loop that extends onto the Coconino National Forest. The Lime Kiln leg of the trail follows a portion of the historic Lime Kiln Wagon Road. The remains of the kiln are beside the trail. Two more legs of the trail are Thumper and Raptor Hill. Tuzigoot National Monument is visible on the next ridge. The Forest Loop, at 1/2 mile, provides access to the river by way of short sided trails. The Canopy Trail at 1/4 mile is wheelchair accessible through Fremont Cottonwoods. This one is "excellent" for bird watching and wildlife viewing. The Mesa Trail is a 1.1. mile interpretive loop. The Tavasci Marsh Trail is 1 mile along a cattail-filled marsh lined with cottonwood trees. An unimproved bridge crosses over the ditch, allowing you to explore the other side of the marsh. Birds and other wildlife are abundant. Quail Trail is 1/4 mile with stairs and bridges that are not suitable for horses It has plant diversity and water. It meets Hickey Ditch Trail, which follows the historic Hickey irrigation ditch through Ailanthus and Mesquite trees. The Creosote Trail at 1/2 mile intersects Hickey and Quail Wash trails. The Riverfront Trail at 1/2 mile is along the Verde River.
The San Luis Rey Cemetery is located within the boundary of the park, but is not a part of the park. It is overseen by a board of Trustees. A short walk from Flycatcher Road accesses the cemetery. It is overgrown with catclaw and is being returned to the elements. A sign requests that the gravesites are not disturbed. Please respect the area and take only pictures.
The park contains 3 lagoons that are stocked with fish. They are ADA accessible with wheelchair access right up to the water. The lagoons are magnets for waterfowl of all types, with cattails for cover. The loops around the lagoons have wide concrete sidewalks and are 0.39 miles, 0.41 miles and 0.72 miles around.
Most trails are open for equestrian use and there is an equestrian concessioaire offering guided trail rides. Biking the trails is for beginners.
Wildlife is abundant in the park, including grey fox, coyote, Coues or whitetail deer, mule deer, bobcat, javelina and skunks. There is a huge variety of reptiles and amphibians. There is a list of almost 200 birds that frequent the area, including golden and bald eagles in the winter. The location on the Verde River has one of 20 Fremont Cottonwood-Goodling Willow riparian forests in the world.
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This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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