Remote and off the tourist track, Young is one of Arizona's last cow towns. To get here you must drive largely unpaved roads. Approximate travel times are one hour and 25 minutes from Payson and one hour and 45 minutes from Globe. From the north, take AZ 260 to near Milepost 284 atop the Mogollon Rim, about 33 miles east of Payson, then turn south 24 miles on Forest Road 512; the first 20 miles are dirt road. From the south near Roosevelt Lake, take AZ 188 from Roosevelt or Globe to the junction with AZ 288, then turn north 47 miles; the last 34 miles are dirt. All of these are best avoided after winter snows or heavy rains. AZ 288 has the apt designation "From the Desert to the Tall Pines National Scenic Byway."
In the late 1800s one of Arizona's bloodiest and most savage feuds took place in Pleasant Valley, between Young and the Rim. The trouble started when the Tewksbury clan gave protection to a band of sheep brought into the area in 1887. Cattle owners led by the Graham clan couldn't stand "woollies" and attacked, killing a Navajo sheepherder and destroying or driving away the animals. The Tewksburys retaliated, and the war was on. The fighting didn't end until every Graham had been killed. All efforts by the law to restore order failed; at least 30 people died during five years of terror. History buffs can visit many of the battle sites near Young. The cemetery near Young Baptist Church, a half mile east of Moon's Saloon, contains marked graves belonging to five members of the Graham clan: Harry Middleton, Al Rose, Charles Blevin, William Graham, and John Graham.
Historians still debate details of the feud. Accounts of the tragedy are given in A Little War of Our Own by Don Dedera, Arizona's Dark and Bloody Ground by Earle Forrest, and Globe, Arizona by Clara Woody and Milton Schwartz. Zane Grey dramatized the events in his novel To the Last Man. Grey obtained his material during hunting trips in Pleasant Valley.
Today, a very independent breed of people inhabits Young. These folks, many retired, don't like authority or development. Even the Forest Service—Young's largest employer—represents too much government for some of them.
Young's social life revolves around the Antlers Cafe on the south side of town and Alice's Cantina on the north side; both serve food.
Pleasant Valley Days lets loose with a parade, entertainment, equestrian events, and arts and crafts on the third weekend in July.
Pleasant Valley Inn (928/462-3593, $55 s, $67 d) has fireplaces, fridges, and microwaves in the rooms. Valley View Cabins (928/462-3422, $45 d) offers rentals with kitchens on the south edge of town. The post office is in the northeast part of town. Pleasant Valley Medical Center (928/462-3435) provides limited services on some days. There's also a grocery store and gas station in town.
For fishing, hiking, and camping information, contact the Tonto National Forest's Pleasant Valley Ranger District Office (P.O. Box 450, Young, AZ 85554, 928/462-4300, www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto, 7:45-11:45 a.m. and 12:30-4:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.); a sign marks the turnoff on the south side of town.
North of Young
The unfortunate Navajo sheepherder who fell as the first victim of the Pleasant Valley War is buried north of Young. A white cross, pile of stones, and sign mark the spot; from the main road (Forest Road 512), four miles north of Young and 20 miles south of AZ 260, turn west nearly one mile on Forest Road 200.
Alderwood Campground (elev. 5,200 feet; no water or fee) is beside Haigler Creek six miles in on Forest Road 200 from Forest Road 512, then west half a mile on Forest Road 200A. Haigler Canyon Recreation Site (elev. 5,250 feet; no water or fee) has camping and fishing (trout April–Aug.); it's nine miles in on Forest Road 200 from Forest Road 512; you can also approach it from the north via AZ 260 and Forest Roads 291 and 200.
Valentine Ridge Campground (elev. 6,600 feet; no water or fee) lies 18 miles north of Young or six miles south of AZ 260 via Forest Road 512, then two miles east on Forest Road 188. Colcord Ridge Recreation Site (no water or fee) is just east on Forest Road 33 from Forest Road 512, about three miles south of AZ 260 or 21 miles north of Young. Airplane Flat Campground (elev. 6,600 feet; no water or fee) is about four miles farther in on Forest Road 33. Upper Canyon Creek Recreation Site (elev. 6,600 feet; no water or fee) and Canyon Creek Hatchery lie just below the Rim; follow Forest Road 33 in five miles. The fish hatchery features a self-guided tour, open 8 a.m.–4 p.m. daily. Anglers can fish in Canyon Creek for rainbow and brown trout; check local fishing regulations.
Colcord Lookout (elev. 7,513 feet) offers a sweeping panorama of the Young area and the Mogollon Rim; the tower is open about May to October; turn west three miles on Forest Road 291 from Forest Road 512 (opposite the Forest Road 33 turnoff).
South of Young
McFadden Peak has a road up to its lookout tower; turn west about one mile on Forest Road 561 from AZ 288 16 miles south of Young
Groups can contact the Pleasant Valley Ranger District office to reserve Reynolds Creek Group Site (elev. 5,200 feet), 19 miles south of Young, for day or overnight use. It's a good base for exploring the Salome and the Sierra Ancha Wilderness Areas and a worthwhile spot in itself for enjoying the pretty creek and wildlife; there's a fee but no potable water.
Workman Creek Waterfalls plunge 200 feet in a canyon south of Young; to get there, go south 21 miles on AZ 288, then turn left 3.2 miles on Forest Road 487 at the sign for "Workman Creek Recreation Area, Sierra Ancha Wilderness"; the turnoff is between Mileposts 284 and 285. A gate 2.6 miles in is closed Dec. 15–March 31. The last quarter mile may be too rough for cars. On the way to the falls, you'll pass primitive campsites at Creeksite, Cascade, and Falls Recreation Sites; no water or fee. This pretty canyon supports dense stands of Douglas fir and white fir, as well as smaller numbers of Arizona sycamore and the relatively rare Arizona maple.
Forest Road 487 continues 3.7 miles past the falls through pine forests, aspen groves, and meadows to the lookout tower atop Aztec Peak (7,748 feet); you can get here with a high-clearance vehicle, mountain bike, or on foot. The tower, when open, provides great panoramas of the Sierra Anchas, Roosevelt Lake, Four Peaks, the Mazatzals, and many other features of central Arizona. Abbey's Way Trail #151 also climbs to the top of Aztec Peak (800 feet in two miles one-way); the trailhead is on the left 0.6 mile past the falls. Parker Creek Trail #160 is on the right side of the road one mile past the falls; it goes southwest 3.4 miles to AZ 288, dropping 2,100 feet. The Rim Trail #139 begins a short way down Parker Creek Trail and curves east and north 7.6 miles to Edwards Spring with good views. Most of the hike lies within the Sierra Ancha Wilderness. It makes an easy outing, with only a 500-foot elevation gain. Coon Creek Trail #254 also branches off Parker Creek Trail for a 4.4-mile, 2,400-foot descent south along Coon Creek to a trailhead at the end of Forest Road 189. Moody Point Trail #140 begins on the right 2.2 miles past the falls on Forest Road 487; it connects with the Rim Trail and continues east all the way across the Sierra Ancha Wilderness to Cherry Creek (which may be too high to cross when it's in flood) and Forest Road 203; this challenging trail is 8.6 miles long and drops 4,200 feet. You can find many places for dispersed camping along Forest Road 487 above the falls, but only the established recreation areas can be used below the falls. Hikers can cool off in the "tubs," natural pools in Workman Creek; from the Workman Creek bridge on AZ 288, follow the trail downstream 250 yards.
Rose Creek Campground (elev. 5,400 feet) enjoys a beautiful forest setting beside a creek 23 miles south of Young; no drinking water or fee. The turnoff from AZ 288 is between Mileposts 282 and 283.
The 20,850-acre Sierra Ancha Wilderness lies 15 miles south of Young and 36 miles north of Globe. Lack of good roads and rugged terrain discourage most visitors—box canyons and sheer cliffs make travel difficult. Elevations range from 3,200 to 7,800 feet. Spring-fed creeks in the eastern portion of the wilderness have carved several short but deep box canyons, including Pueblo, Cold Springs, and Devil's Chasm. Prehistoric Salado built cliff dwellings in these canyons, then departed. Forest Road 203 (Cherry Creek Road) loops around the east side of the Sierra Anchas, providing views into the spectacular canyons. You need a 4WD vehicle for this trip; the northern part of the road is particularly rough. Allow 3.5 hours for the drive.
Forest Road 487, described above, and other roads off AZ 288 provide access to trailheads in the high country of the west side. For hiking information and a wilderness map, contact the Forest Service in Young, 928/462-4300, or in Phoenix, 602/225-5200.
Salome Wilderness, between Young and Roosevelt Lake, protects 18,530 acres of the Salome and lower Workman Creek watersheds. Perennial waters hold trout and provide a rich riparian habitat for wildlife. The upper end and the higher slopes (elev. 6,543 feet) support pinyon pine and juniper and some Douglas fir and ponderosa pine; the 5.3-mile Hell's Hole Trail #284 begins at AZ 288 at the Reynold's Trailhead, 19 miles south of Young, and ends at Hell's Hole on Workman Creek in the upper part of the canyon. The lower end of the wilderness (elev. 2,500 feet) has some saguaro, ocotillo, and chaparral; the two-mile-long Jug Trail #61 connects Forest Road 60, north of Roosevelt Lake, with the lower end of Salome Creek.
Hellsgate Wilderness, between Young and Payson, preserves 36,780 acres of the watersheds of Tonto, Haigler, Marsh, and Houston Creeks. Sheer cliffs rising above the confluence of Tonto and Haigler Creeks form Hell's Gate; there's good fishing here but only the most adventurous anglers make it in on the steep, difficult Hellsgate Trail #37, which descends into Hell's Gate from both rims. The north trailhead is reached from Payson via AZ 260 and Forest Roads 405A and 893, then it's a six-mile hike to the creeks. Hikers with 4WD vehicles can drive to the south trailhead via Forest Roads 129 and 133; from there it's a 2.5-mile hike in. The trail can get very hot in summer; carry plenty of water.
On to Sedona