Hualapai Mountain Park
The Hualapai, whose name means "pine tree folk," lived in these mountains until the military relocated the tribe northward in the 1870s. Today the 14-mile paved Hualapai Mountain Road takes you up to the park's dense forests, scenic views, hiking trails, picnicking, camping, and rustic cabins. Elevations range from 5,000 to 8,417 feet, attracting wildlife rarely seen elsewhere in northwestern Arizona. Groves of manzanita, scrub and Gambel oak, pinyon and ponderosa pine, white fir, and aspen grow on the slopes. Mule deer, elk, mountain lion, fox, and raccoon roam the forests. Hiking trails wind through the mountains to the summit of Aspen Peak and overlooks on Hayden Peak. Day use costs $5/vehicle.
Campsites have drinking water, except in winter, but no showers, $10. A small RV area offers hookups for $17. Cabins, built for a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the 1930s, have kitchens and bathrooms, $35-75. You can visit the park any time of year, though winter snows sometimes require chains or 4WD. The Hualapai Ranger Station (928/757-3859) at the park entrance is open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. For information and reservations at the cabins, contact the Mohave County Parks Department (6230 Hualapai Mountain Rd., Kingman, AZ 86401, 928/754-7273 or 877/757-0915, www.mcparks.com, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily).
The nearby Hualapai Mountain Lodge (in the village of Pine Lake, 928/757-3545) offers a motel, RV park, restaurant, and store. Some of the well-preserved buildings here once belonged to the Civilian Conservation Corps camp. The motel ($75 d, $110 suite) and restaurant are open Tues.-Sun. year-round. The restaurant serves breakfast (Sat.-Sun. only), lunch, and dinner. RVs can park for $20 w/hookups. From Kingman, drive to the Hualapai Mountain Park, then continue on the paved road 0.75 mile past the ranger station. Also open all year, Pine Lake Inn Bed & Breakfast (928/757-1884, $95 d) is 0.75 mile farther and overlooks the lake.
The Bureau of Land Management's Wild Cow Springs Campground ($5, no water) nestles in a secluded valley of ponderosa pine and Gambel oak at an elevation of 6,200 feet, but you'll need a high-clearance vehicle to get here; the season normally runs May to October. From Hualapai Mountain Park, continue just past the turn for Hualapai Mountain Lodge, then turn right four miles at the sign on a rough unpaved road.
With a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, you can continue high on Hualapai Ridge Road 13.5 miles past the campground to the trailhead for Wabayuma Peak in Wabayuma Peak Wilderness Area. From an elevation of 6,047 feet, the trail follows a road at first, then turns west up to a saddle, where you'll head northwest to the 7,601-foot summit and great views; it's three miles one-way; use the 7.5-minute Wabayuma topo map. The rough jeep road continues south, then turns west down the Boriana Mine Road to Yucca at I-40 Exit 25. The drive is slow, taking at least three hours one way from Wild Cow Springs Campground to I-40, but you'll have great panoramas of the Hualapai Mountains and beyond. The amazing range of vegetation on this drive includes ponderosa pine forests, pinyon pine and juniper woodlands, and chaparral atop the ridges, then saguaro, ocotillo, yucca, and Joshua trees in the desert below. You'll see extensive ruins of the Boriana Mine on the descent.
Hackberry General Store & Visitor Center
For a trip into America's motoring past, stop here on your drive along Route 66 between Kingman and Seligman. A colorful collection (928/769-2605, open daily, free) of Route 66 memorabilia, including a '57 Corvette and other vintage cars and trucks, surrounds the old store. Signs from long ago cover the walls inside and outside. Vintage gas pumps have unbelievable prices, but have long since gone dry. You can shop for Route 66 memorabilia. It's on the north side of Route 66 opposite the Hackberry turnoff, 24 miles northeast of Kingman.
Gold and silver deposits in the Cerbat Mountains, north of present-day Kingman, attracted miners in the late 1860s. They founded the town of Cerbat and worked such mines as the Esmeralda, Golden Gem, and Vanderbilt. Cerbat became the Mohave County seat in 1871 but lost the honor two years later to nearby Mineral Park. By 1912 the Cerbat post office had closed. Still standing are the Golden Gem mill and head frame, structures that rarely survive in other ghost towns. You'll also see stone foundations and ruins of other buildings.
The turnoff for Cerbat lies nine miles northwest of Kingman on US 93 at a historical marker near Milepost 62. Head east 0.7 mile on a dirt road, turn left and drive 0.6 mile, then turn right and travel another two miles to the site. Keep left when passing a ranch and a group of modern mine buildings just outside old Cerbat. The last 0.3 mile is too rough for cars.
During most of the 1870s and 1880s, Mineral Park reigned as the county seat and most important town in the area, losing these distinctions in 1886 to Kingman. By 1912 Mineral Park had lost even its post office. Some tattered cabins, a head frame, mill foundations, and scattered mine shafts survive from the old days. The huge piles of tailings to the south belong to a copper and molybdenum mine that operated from 1961 to 1982. It still contains the world's largest turquoise deposit, which is mined along with decorative rock. The signed turnoff and a historical marker for Mineral Park lie 14 miles northwest of Kingman on US 93, between Mileposts 58 and 59. Turn east 4.3 miles on a paved road, then left 0.3 mile on a well-used gravel road; the turn is just before the fenced-in modern mine.
After discovering silver chloride ore here in the early 1860s, prospectors founded the town—the oldest mining camp in northwestern Arizona. Hualapai warriors made life precarious during Chloride's first years until army troops subdued the tribe. The peak years of 1900 to 1920 saw 75 mines in operation. Several buildings survive from the town's lengthy mining period, which lasted into the 1940s. A few hundred people, including many retirees and artists, now live here. This friendly town lies 20 miles northwest of Kingman; follow US 93 to the sign between Mileposts 52 and 53, then turn east three miles on a paved road.
Historic structures include old miners' shacks, post office, Old Tennessee Saloon, jail, bank, and railroad depot; the cemetery is to the right at the sign as you enter town. It's fun to wander around the historic buildings and check out some of the antique and crafts shops.
Artist Roy Purcell painted giant, brightly colored murals in 1966 and 1975 on cliffs two miles southeast of town. He titled his work "The Journey—Images from an Inward Search for Self." You can also spot prehistoric petroglyphs across the road from the murals. To get here from Chloride, take Tennessee Avenue (the main road into town) past the post office and Tennessee Mine, then follow signs; the road may be too rough for low-slung cars. With a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, it's possible to continue up the road, which becomes rocky and steep, to a seasonal waterfall in another half mile or all the way up past old mines to the Big Wash Road in the Cerbat Mountains (see description below); some of this is private land.
Sheps Miners Inn (Second St., 928/565-4251 or 877/565-4251, www.shepsminersinn.com) offers adobe rooms with private bath and individual entrances at $35-65 d, plus some monthly RV spaces. Chloride Western RV Park (on the left as you enter town, 928/565-4492) is open year-round with tent ($7) and RV sites ($10 dry, $13.50 w/hookups), showers, a laundry, and a rec. room. Yesterdays Restaurant at Shep's serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily and often has live music. DJ's Cafe & Saloon and the Old Tennessee Saloon serve food too, but can be very smoky. Mine Shaft Market & Arizona Visitor Center sells groceries and has a coffee shop. You can have a picnic at the park on Second Street across from Shep's.
Try to be in town at high noon on Saturdays, when blazing action takes place at the Old West set of "Cyanide Springs" across from Shep's. The Immortal Gunfighters perform on the first and third Saturdays of each month, and the all-women Wild Roses of Chloride supply the action on the second and fourth Saturdays (except July and August). Townspeople dress up in old-fashioned clothing on Old Miners' Day, the last Saturday and following Sunday in June, for a street dance, games, vaudeville shows, shootouts, and mine tours. Smaller events include a St. Patrick's Day celebration in March, all-town yard sales in May and October, and a car show in October. The post office, said to be Arizona's oldest, is at Tennessee Avenue and Second Street.
Mine Shaft Market & Arizona Visitor Center provides tourist information and a historic photo exhibition in the back. You can reach the Chloride Chamber of Commerce at P.O. Box 268, Chloride, AZ 86431 or www.chloridearizona.com.
The Cerbat Mountains
Unpaved Big Wash Road twists up to the crest of the Cerbat Mountains, where you can enjoy expansive views, picnicking, camping, and hiking among pinyon pine and chaparral. The road begins near Milepost 51 on US 93, 1.5 miles north of the Chloride junction. It's graded but too steep and winding for RVs or trailers.
Packsaddle Recreation Area lies nine miles in, and the Windy Point Recreation Area entrance is 1.5 miles beyond. Both areas have sites with picnic tables and vault toilets but no water; a $4 camping fee applies at Windy Point, which has a particularly scenic setting among boulders and great views to the west.
Cherum Peak Trail climbs to near the 6,983-foot summit of the peak, second highest in the Cerbats, then it's a short rock scramble up the last 200 feet to the top. This five-mile roundtrip hike takes about 3.5 hours. You'll pass through pinyon pine groves and large areas of chaparral, which contains shrub live oak, manzanita, Wrights's silk-tassel, broom snakeweed, skunkbush, New Mexican locust, Gambel oak, and desert ceanothus. Many wildflowers bloom in early summer. The trailhead (elev. about 6,000 feet) is on the left, two miles past Windy Point. See the 7.5-minute Chloride topo map and the handouts available from the BLM Kingman Field Office (928/692-4400, www.az.blm.gov). Only high-clearance 4WD vehicles can negotiate the steep, rough descent to Chloride past the trailhead.
The weather-beaten gold-mining town of Oatman nestles in the western foothills of the Black Mountains, 28 miles southwest of Kingman. Elephant's Tooth, the gleaming white quartz pinnacle east of town, beckoned prospectors, who knew that gold and silver often run with quartz. Gold mining began in 1904, attracting hordes of miners and businesspeople. Citizens named the community for the Oatman family, victims of an 1851 Mohave attack.
Oatman prospered, attracting many new businesses including seven hotels, 20 saloons, and even a stock exchange. Area mines produced nearly two million ounces of gold before panning out in the 1930s. The town, which once boasted more than 12,000 citizens, began to fade away, and might have disappeared altogether had it not become a travelers' stop on Route 66. Oatman lost its highway traffic in 1952, when engineers rerouted the road to the south. A few hundred citizens hang on today, relying largely on the tourist business. You're almost sure to meet the town's wild burros as they wander the streets looking for handouts. They like carrots but have been known to bite.
Getting here is half the fun if you take old Route 66 from Kingman (west on Andy Devine or I-40 McConnico Exit 44) or from Golden Shores (north of I-40 Topock Exit 1). This section of the old highway, now a National Backcountry Byway, has great scenery at every turn—and there are lots of them! Between Kingman and Oatman you'll cross 3,550-foot Sitgreaves Pass over the Black Mountains; pullouts on each side allow a stop for the views. Near Oatman, you'll pass the Gold Road Mine, which has a long history and now offers underground tours.
Two other roads connect Oatman with the outside world. From Bullhead City and Needles, you can take paved Boundary Cone Road east from AZ 95. A more scenic option—best with a high-clearance vehicle—follows Silver Creek Road into the hills; it turns east off AZ 95 in Bullhead City between Mileposts 246 and 247 (pavement runs out after crossing Bullhead Parkway) and joins the Oatman Highway at Milepost 26 between Oatman and the Gold Road Mine.
Many of the town's old buildings survive, and some now house little exhibits, art galleries, and gift shops. Step inside the Oatman Hotel (928/768-4408), a two-story adobe structure built in 1902, to peer into the chamber where movie stars Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent part of their honeymoon in March 1939. Gable liked to visit Oatman, a place where he could get away from the hectic pace of Hollywood and enjoy poker with the miners. The hotel rents basic rooms for $35 d and the Lombard-Gable room for $55. It also serves food and drink, but don't expect luxuries such as a non-smoking area.
Across the street, Olive Oatman Restaurant & Ice Cream Saloon serves breakfast, Navajo tacos, and burgers. Musicians often play at both places. RVs can park 11 miles west of town at Blackstone RV Park (3299 E. Boundary Cone Rd., 928/768-3303), which has a store. Oatman Stables (928/768-3257) shows off the rugged scenery from horseback on one- and two-hour rides at the lower end of town from mid-Oct. to mid-May; you can also to head out for a steak dinner by horseback or wagon.
Shootouts take place daily on Main Street. Hilarity reigns on the second Sunday of January in the Oatman Bed Races. On the Fourth of July, competitors warm up for the Oatman Sidewalk Egg Fry. Oatman celebrates Gold Camp Days on Labor Day weekend with shootouts, a burro biscuit tossing contest, costume parade, and dancing. Desert flora glitters along Route 66 south of town during the Christmas Bush Festival.
Couples can arrange Shotgun Weddings with Parson Tom officiating; see www.oatmangold.com/parsontom.htm!
For local information, contact the Oatman-Goldroad Chamber of Commerce (PO Box 423, Oatman, AZ 86433, 928/768-6222, www.oatmangoldroad.com).
Vicinity of Oatman
Mohave and Milltown Railroad Trails follow a seven-mile section of the old railway bed, beginning about five miles southwest of Oatman. Signs at trailheads tell about the railroad's history. Separate trails and trailheads accommodate both off-highway vehicles/equestrians and hikers-bikers. Cautiously driven SUVs can follow the trail. The BLM Kingman Field Office (928/692-4400, www.az.blm.gov) has a map and description. From Oatman, head southwest about three miles on Route 66 and turn right two miles at the fork on Boundary Cone Road to Mile 9.25 for the east hiker-biker trailhead at the pullout on your left. For the east vehicle-equestrian trailhead, stay on Route 66 two miles past the fork, then turn right (southwest) half a mile on an unpaved and unsigned road opposite Milepost 21. The west trailhead is a bit trickier to find: turn east from AZ 95 on Willow Drive near Spirit Mountain Casino, then, after three miles, turn left at two consecutive unsigned road forks and continue 1.8 miles.
This odd structure, looking like a cross between a giant golf ball and a spaceship, stands near Yucca (I-40 Exit 25) between Kingman and the California state line. It has three levels and measures 40 feet in diameter. Lake Havasu Estates built it in 1976 as a restaurant and cocktail lounge for a land development. The company went bankrupt, however, and the white sphere now serves as a private home. It's not open to the public.
Burro Creek Recreation Site
If you're driving US 93 between Kingman and Wickenburg or Phoenix, you'll pass this scenic canyon. A perennial stream feeds deep blue pools and lush greenery in the desert at an elevation of 1,960 feet. Open all year, it's a great place to take a break from the long drive; day use is free. Visitors enjoy camping, picnicking, birding, swimming, hiking, four wheeling, and rock hounding for agates and Apache tears. A cactus garden and interpretive signs introduce life of the desert. Hikers can head up the creek bed if the water isn't too high—the creek extends some 40 miles upstream and goes through the heart of Burro Creek Wilderness; downstream is private land. The campground has drinking water, flush toilets, and a dump station, but no showers, $10 per night. For information and group campsite ($30) reservations, contact the BLM's Kingman Field Office (2475 Beverly Ave., Kingman, AZ 86401, 928/692-4400, www.az.blm.gov). Head southeast 65 miles from Kingman on I-40 and US 93, or northwest 63 miles from Wickenburg, then turn west 1.3 miles at the sign. An overlook on the west side of the highway near the bridge provides a fine panorama of the area.
This growing community of more than 35,000 residents lines AZ 95 and the Colorado River for about 10 miles. Gamblers, anglers, and boaters enjoy the river setting, and Lake Mohave's 240 square miles of deep blue water lies six miles north.
Although gold miners had worked prospects nearby, this remote site lay deserted until the 1940s, when construction workers arrived to build Davis Dam upstream. With completion of the dam in 1953, everyone assumed that the construction camp called Bullhead City would disappear. Instead it became a center for outdoor recreation. The "bullhead" rock formation that gave the place its name nearly did disappear—only the "horns" now poke out of the lake.
Bullhead City lies 35 miles west of Kingman via AZ 68 and 25 miles north of Needles, California, on AZ 95. Bright lights of gambling casinos in sister city Laughlin sparkle from across the river in Nevada. South of town, the Colorado River enters Havasu National Wildlife Refuge; see North of Lake Havasu City above.
Colorado River Historical Society Museum
Exhibits (928/754-3399, Tues.-Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., closed Mon. and July-August, donations welcome) commemorate local Native Americans, steam boating on the Colorado River, mining, ranching, and dam construction. Photographs and maps show the growth of the Bullhead City/Laughlin area from early beginnings to modern times. A children's room offers activities. Head north 0.3 mile on AZ 68 from the Laughlin Bridge junction, then turn left.
Arizona Veterans Memorial
In a dramatic setting above the Colorado River, commemorates the 3,000 Arizonans who lost their lives in service for their country during the 20th century. Head south four miles on AZ 95 from the chamber office, then turn west two miles on Riverview Drive and follow signs.
Cloud's Jamboree Rock, Gem, & Mineral Show gleams in January at Laughlin. The dust flies as vehicles compete in Laughlin Desert Challenge Off-Road Race, also in January. The Colorado River Bluegrass Festival plays in February. Laughlin River Stampede PRCA Rodeo gallops in April. Thousands of riders rumble into town for the Harley Run during April. You can enjoy food and games—but no burro—at the Burro Barbecue in Bullhead Community Park in April. In June, Nevadans celebrate Laughlin River Days with a boat race. Fireworks on July Fourth light up the skies over the Colorado River. Cowboys hang on in the Laughlin Professional Bull Rider Series in September. Bullhead City throws a community celebration in Hardyville Days in October. It's men against beast in Laughlin Team Roping Finals in November. Boats glitter in a Parade of Lights at Lake Mohave Resort (Katherine Landing) in December.
Bullhead Community Park, just north of the chamber of commerce, is a pleasant spot for a picnic overlooking the Colorado River; there's also a playground and boat ramp.
Some of the best Colorado River fishing lies right in front of Bullhead City. The cold and swift waters from Davis Dam harbor large rainbow trout, channel catfish and, during late spring and early summer, giant striped bass weighing 20 pounds and more.
Accommodations and Campgrounds
You have a choice of more than a dozen motels and about a dozen RV parks in Bullhead City, or you can stay across the river at the casinos in Laughlin. Try to make reservations for motels, casinos, and RV parks, especially if you're arriving on a weekend. You can save money at many places by visiting Sun.-Thurs., when casino rooms may drop to as low as $20.
Campgrounds and RV parks stay open year-round, though most RV parks prefer that guests stay a week or longer. Mohave County's Davis Camp Park (928/754-7250, 877/757-0915, www.mcparks.com) offers beach sites for tents and RVs ($10 no hookups, $13-16 w/hookups), a picnic area, boat ramps, and showers. Day use is $4, or $7 if pulling a boat trailer. The park is on the west side of AZ 68, 0.8 mile north of the Laughlin Bridge junction. Katherine Landing, six miles north of Bullhead City, has a motel, RV park, and campground; see Lake Mohave below.
A variety of restaurants line AZ 95 for many miles. Casinos on the Nevada side feature enticing menus and prices.
Information and Services
Bullhead Area Chamber of Commerce (1251 Hwy. 95, Bullhead City, AZ 86429, 928/754-4121, www.bullheadchamber.com) is on the south side of Bullhead Community Park, 2.2 miles south of the Laughlin bridge. Open year-round Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-5 p.m., plus Saturdays from October to April. The public library (1170 E. Hancock Rd., 928/758-071, closed Sun.) is in south Bullhead City. Hastings Books (1985 Hwy. 95, 928/763-0025) offers regional and general-interest titles.
A post office (990 Hwy. 95, 928/758-5711) is on the north edge of town. Western Arizona Regional Medical Center (2735 Silver Creek Rd., 928/763-2273) is 1.3 miles south of the chamber office on AZ 95, then east on Silver Creek Road.
Getting There And Around
Sun Country and Allegiant Air (Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort, 866/202-2293, www.riversideresort.com) fly seasonally to many U.S. destinations. The airport is just north of Bullhead City (turn east at the Laughlin Bridge junction) with car rentals, charter flights, and a snack bar.
The casinos on the Nevada side of the river try to attract your business with dazzle, entertainment, lavish food, and lodging deals. Laughlin's casinos have a more casual—some say more friendly—atmosphere than the bigger gambling centers of Las Vegas and Reno. From Bullhead City you can drive across the Colorado River bridge just north of town or take the eight-mile route via Davis Dam farther north. Buses and boats connect the casinos for a small charge.
Standard rooms at the casinos typically run in the low to mid-$20s Sun.-Thurs., $45-75 Fri.-Sat., and $45-145 on holiday weekends; advance reservations help to secure lower prices. You can call a hotel reservation service at 800/452-8445 (800/4LAUGHLIN) or surf to www.visitlaughlin.com.
Buffets can have long lines—you may wish to avoid those offering specials! Many locals prefer to patronize the town's fine-dining restaurants, which have better service and still offer good prices.
Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino (702/298-2535 or 928/763-7070, www.riversideresort.com) features Don Laughlin's Classic Car Collection (free) and a six-plex movie theater at the north end of the strip. Horizon Outlet Center (1955 S. Casino Dr., 702/298-3003) offers shopping and a nine-plex movie theater. Tour boats head out on short trips near Laughlin and on all-day excursions to Lake Havasu City via Topock Gorge; ask at one of the visitor centers.
Laughlin Visitor Center (1555 S. Casino Dr., Laughlin, NV 89029, 702/298-3321 or 800/452-8445, www.visitlaughlin.com, daily 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) is on your right as you enter the strip from Bullhead City; staff offer travel information for Las Vegas too. Pick up a hotel reservation courtesy phone to find the best lodging deals here or in Las Vegas.
Next door, the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce (1585 S. Casino Dr. or P.O. Box 77777, Laughlin, NV 89028, 702/298-2214 or 800/227-5245, www.laughlinchamber.com, Mon.-Fri. 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) will help you plan a visit too, and can also advise on sights and services in the Bullhead City area.
On to Lake Mead National Recreation Area