Verde Valley, Arizona

Verde Canyon Railroad

We booked tickets on the Verde Canyon Railroad, in the first class car. The Verde Canyon Railroad is nestled in the heart of the expansive Verde Valley, which is only accessible by rail. The railroad was opened in 1912 to transport copper from Jerome to Drake and closed in 1988. In 1990 it started up again as a tourist train, on the historic and scenic route from Clarkdale to the ghost ranch of Perkinsville. It is a four hour and 40 mile round trip along the Verde River and features rugged crimson high desert rock faces and spectacular panoramic views that we enjoyed from the open car. We also saw from this car Sinagua Indian ruins and went through a 680 foot man-made curved tunnel. It was a fun train ride and the four hours flew by.

We returned to Clarkdale around 5 o’clock so we drove to the small town of Jerome only a few miles away, where we had a fabulous dinner at the Asylum Reataurant in the Jerome Grand Hotel. Jerome was a copper mining town from the 1880’s until 1953 when the mine closed. The Hotel was built in 1926 as the United Verde Hospital but closed in 1950. It stood vacant for 44 years when rehabilitation started in 1994 and opened as the Jerome Grand Hotel, that is said to be haunted. We walked along the winding cobblestone streets and passed several art galleries. After the mine closed only 50 residents remained, until it was rediscovered by artists and slowly the town came back to life as an artist’s destination, and is now an Artist’s Colony.

Montezuma Castle National Monument and Well

We visited the Montezuma Castle National Monument across the highway from our RV Park, Distant Drums, and we were very impressed with the cliff dwellings 100 feet up a sheer limestone cliff above the valley. The Southern Sinagua farmers built this five-story, 20 room dwelling sometime between 1100 and 1300AD. It was protected from the elements, and was so well built that it has stood for over 700 years. Montezuma Castle is one of the best-preserved prehistoric structures in the Southwest. Nearby, the Montezuma Well has all the surprise of a lake and lush vegetation in the midst of desert. It is a limestone sink hole formed long ago, still fed by continuously flowing springs, and the Sinagua irrigated crops with its water. We walked around the sink hole and then followed the trail to the source of where the spring flowed from underground.