Happy Hiking: McDonald Trail

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When I stopped by the Camp Verde Visitor Center to check out the museum, Lynette greeted me with a wealth of knowledge.  She wanted me to have a map. I pointed to the map in my hand, and I said, “I have this one.”

She replied, “That’s the trails map.  Here is the other.”

While there, I learned lots of things about Camp Verde, but also, that the McDonald Trail features a bunch of Indian Ruins.

The McDonald Trailhead

The McDonald Trail, located in the Coconino National Forest, is only 0.9 miles.  Due to its short mileage, it wasn’t high on my radar list.  Not to mention, the description on AllTrails mentions a cave, not numerous Indian cliff dwellings!

Since I was in the area completing a 3.9 mile hike on the Copper Canyon Loop Trail #504, I just added on this short jaunt thereafter.

The trailhead is right off Highway 260.  Only one other car was in the small pullout.  If I hadn’t seen her head up the trail, I would have wondered if I was trespassing. 

The Hike

Uniquely, you have to climb through the entry gate.  It doesn’t open!  That’s two hikes in a row with the strangest entries I’ve seen yet.

have to climb through this gate
Metal gate connected to barbed wire fence

Since the McDonald Trail is short, I gave the lady a head-start while I ate a second breakfast.  Soon I started up the gravel path which ascends to a rock outcropping.  As I took in the view, I suddenly hear, “Hello!”

I was so surprised to find her behind me.  It turns out she was local though originally from the Netherlands, and she likes to roam the hillsides. 

She said, “Most people just focus on the ruins, but I like to think of their lifestyle.  They had to have farmed here and sometimes you can find tools.”

“Yes,” I replied. “There are lots of pottery chards along the trail.”

pottery chards on McDonald Trail
Pottery chards that other hikers found. I didn’t touch any

Up at the cliff dwellings, which I might add require a steeper climb and are near the edge, I asked, “Are you going inside any of them?”

“Not these.  I wouldn’t want to break anything.  But there is a big cave below. If you are interested, you can travel back into it.”

The Cliff Dwellings on McDonald Trail

I gave it a little thought, but by now it was early afternoon, and I was hot and tired.  Even Annie took respite in the shade of the cliff dwellings while I signed a contract for an offer on my house.  It’s amazing what you can do while mobile these days.  Sitting in 2,000-year-old homes of the Indians, I was selling mine!

view from the cliff dwellings on the at McDonald Trail

Anyway, I had to scooch on my butt down over the ledge, before I headed back down.  I was wishing I hadn’t forgotten my hiking pole, but the descent wasn’t too bad. 

I also wished the signage at the bottom had some history about these sites.  There were so many Indian Tribes in this area, I’d be lying if I said they were homes to the Tuzigoot, Yavapai, or the Sinagua.

On the flip side, it was kind of cool to be able to explore an unprotected site on McDonald Trail.  I guess there are so many in the area, they can’t protect them all.  That said, please be respectful of the ruins. ETB

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photographic note card, cowboy boots on fence

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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