Camp Verde is located 27 miles south of Sedona in Yavapai County, Arizona. The town of 11,000 is quiet, offers friendly service, and is a gateway to many tourist activities. I was surprised to find out how much there was to do nearby Camp Verde.
I was camping on Forest Service 579 just 11 miles north of town when I ventured that way in search of propane given the following day forecast of 47 degrees and rain. Since I’m in the trial run with VANgo, I didn’t have a sense of my propane use.
After calling many places, I finally reached someone at Ace Hardware who suggested the Camp Verde Feed Store. The service couldn’t have been nicer, and when I told Joey, who filled my tank, that it was going to be cold and rainy tomorrow, he asked, “Where?”
I replied, “Here.”
He looked at the sky and emphatically declared, “It’s not going to rain tomorrow” as he prepped my tank for a gallon fill. Given I have a five-gallon tank, clearly, I could have waited a little longer. Oh well, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and the short jaunt led me to explore the town.
I stopped into the Visitor Center, which is also a small museum free to enter, though donations are appreciated. Lynette was a wealth of knowledge. She provided me some maps, pointed out hiking trails, the salt mine, wineries and more.
On top of all this, I had already visited some nearby attractions ten years ago, so now I’ve complied list of things to do in Camp Verde.
Upon exiting off Highway 17, the Cliff Casino greets you as you enter Camp Verde. I didn’t go gamble, so I can’t say what the casino is like, but it is conveniently located for those who enjoy betting, and it also includes a lodge.
Tour Camp Verde’s Main Street
Main Street is the location of the businesses today but is also Camp Verde’s Historic Downtown. The visitor center is located in the Camp Verde Grammar School which was established in 1915. Other old buildings include the Red Star Saloon, Old Camp Verde Dance Hall, Stage Stop & Boarding House, and the Verde Valley Mercantile Co., among others. While it isn’t the most picturesque town, I always enjoying historic places like the jail.
Visit a Museum
There are several museums in Camp Verde, especially considering the small population. As I mentioned, one five-minute stop is at the museum at the visitor center. On display are some old general store items, chaps, saddles and the like.
Just down the road is the Verde Valley Archaeology Center. The center may be visited by reservation only at 10, 12, or 2 on Tuesday through Saturday. The fee for the general population is $5, but certain groups may enter for free.
With a self-guided tour booklet, the museum takes about one hour to visit. It includes three major exhibits featuring artifacts from the Yavapai-Apache Nation, excavation relics from the Dyck Cliff Dwelling in nearby Rimrock, and information about the Sinagua Culture. If you enjoy Indian history, add this center to your list.
Finally, there is a museum at Fort Verde State Historic Park which leads me to the next thing to do in Camp Verde.
Stroll Through Fort Verde State Historic Park
The Fort Verde State Historic Park is a stone’s throw away from the Visitors Center on a side street. It is located next to an old jail and shaded gazebo with picnic tables. The park is open from 10-4 daily, costs $7 to enter. As mentioned above, the park’s headquarters also includes a museum with artifacts, photos, videos, and interpretive exhibits about the Indian Wars.
The Fort served as a base for General Crook’s Army scout and soldiers between the 1870s and the 1880’s. It is the best-preserved fort in Arizona from the Indian Wars-period and features three house museums on officer’s row that are listed on the National & State Register of Historic Places.
Eat at Thanks a Latte
Thanks a Latte has an excellent choice of salads and sandwiches that you may eat inside or on a covered patio. Try the Rueben with a side salad. It was excellent.
Explore the Camp Verde Salt Mines
The salt mines might not interest everyone, as it is just mounds of salt dusted with a thin layer of sand. But, personally, I find all mines interesting, so I made a brief stop. No one was there which gave me the opportunity to let Annie roam around while I snapped some photos of the mining remnants and took in the view.
The mines are some of the oldest in the United States as the Indians used to trade the salt nearly 2,000 years ago. The establishment of Fort Verde in 1871 brought attention to the mines, and some salt was used for human consumption, but most was used for stock.
The Camp Verde Salt Mines were briefly commercialized between the 1920’s and 1930’s, but the salt is only 92% pure rather than the rather than 99% which the market demanded. Now the mines stand dormant while the US Forest Service develops them as an interpretive site.
In the meantime, tread across the packed ground, as there used to be underground tunnels that have been imploded for safety reasons but may still cause instability.
I stopped by Salt Mine Vineyard & Winery because as the name suggests, it is near the Salt Mines, and consequently I was close by. The tiny vineyard is located at the end of a residential street. Just up the road you can buy eggs and next door is a pecan farm. Tastings only take place on the weekend, so be sure to check the schedule.
Ride a Horse
Camp Verde caters to the cowboy. And Cowboy Corner on Main Street has a selection of saddles and other horse gear. There are several operations that offer trail rides across creeks, to Indian ruins, and through the grape vines. Check out the top five on Trip Advisor.
Take a Hike
The trails surrounding Camp Verde are too numerous to list. Some within 15 miles of town for different skill levels include Copper Canyon Loop Trail 504, McDonald Trail, Montezuma’s Well Trail, West Clear Creek Trail, and Bell Trail. Directions to all may be found on the AllTrails app.
McDonald Trail (0.9 miles) is short, though does require an ascent to get to the Indian cave dwellings.
Copper Canyon Loop Trail 504 (3.9 miles) is easy and includes a waterfall.
Montezuma’s Well Trail (0.7 miles) is paved. To me this is more of a historic site with dwellings. Learning about the five unique species of life that only exist in these arsenic laced waters is truly fascinating.
Bell Trail (6.9 miles) is known for its great swimming holes.
Admire Indians Ruins
While there are many cave dwellings on trails in the surrounding area of Camp Verde, a more developed site for history and archaeology lovers is the Montezuma Castle National Monument. It is open 8-5 daily, costs $10 for adults, and is extremely popular.
The paved loop includes interpretive exhibits as it passes two ruins and the Montezuma Castle. The castle is a five-story, 20-room Sinagua dwelling recessed in a cliff 100 feet above the valley. For more details see my previous Arizona journey.
Take a Side Trip
There are some cute towns within 25 miles of Camp Verde including the historic mining town Jerome, the Village of Oak Creek, and of course Sedona. All have a nice atmosphere, good shopping, tasty dining, and nearby hiking trails. Check one out.
Plan Your Visit
Use this interactive map to see what you want to do, and then plan your visit,
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