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Name: Senator Hwy Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: (based on three votes)
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (1 out of 5)
Time: 4 - 6 hours Region: NW Arizona
Length: 20 miles (one way) Elevation gain/loss/change: +2029 / -1872 ft / +157 ft (one way)
Type: Through trail Avg Elevation: 6000 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, summer Fees: Possible fees at Groom Creek and Lynx Lake if you choose to visit these areas
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: October, 2004
Short Description: This is an extremely scenic dirt road near Prescott that shouldn't be missed
Geocaches:Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. Jack's Treasure 2;Best Fox Value 36; Near a Humongous Pile or Rocks.
References / Contact Information: Lynx Lake; Groom Creek; Dispersed Camping; Prescott National Forest; Arizona Heritage Traveler;
Points of interest: Lynx Lake, Ruins of an old mining building on the side of a canyon, Groom Creek, lots of hiking and mountain biking opportunities.
Special Considerations: 2WD road except in bad weather, nice in the fall to see the leaves changing, possible minimal fees at Groom Creek and Lynx Lake.
How to get there: About four hours north of Tucson. Head north on I-10, then take I-17 north in Phoenix. Take exit 262 (AZ 69) west for about 30 miles, turn left onto Walker Lynx Lake Rd. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This is one of the best 2WD dirt road adventures I've ever been on. It has just about everything on it: beautiful scenery, old mine buildings, a lake, rocks to climb on for kids, hiking, biking, fishing and exploring opportunities. The only thing missing from this adventure is needing to put your vehicle into 4WD (though I'm sure you can find trails in the areas to satisfy your need).

General Information and History

From the Arizona Heritage Traveler website:

The crown jewel of Arizona's backroads of the Bradshaw Mountains, the Senator Highway was first built between 1866 and 1867 as part of the Prescott and Lyn Creek Toll Road. The charge was $1.50 per wagon and fifty cents (2 ?bits?) for a horse and rider. This was considered expensive in its day. In 1875, Samuel O. Fredricks, who owned the Senator Mine, cut a road from Groom Creek to his mine. By 1878, the road reached Alexandra, covering 32 miles from Prescott. It was extended to Crown King over the next ten years.

The popular backroads route requires a high clearance vehicle and some rough country road driving skills, as well as a Prescott National Forest Map. Travelers go past old ghost town sites including Cleator, former mining camps, and through centuries of Arizona history. Crown King is an historic mining town with a general store that has been open since 1904, a saloon, full service bar and cafe?, restaurant and post office. The Crown King Saloon was originally built in Oro Belle and moved to Crown King in 1916. The second story used to be a brothel.

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The Trail

At Waypoint 001 (the intersection of AZ 69 and Walker Lynx Lake Rd), head south on Walker Rd. This paved road winds its way up through Prescott National Forest on its way to Lynx Lake. You'll find tons of places to hike and explore on the way if you're so inclined.

At Waypoint 002, you can head down to the Lynx Lake boat ramp. When we visited the area, we rented a small boat with an electric motor for a few hours and explored the lake. The kids loved it and it didn't seem too expensive to me.

Lynx Lake campground also seems like a nice campground with large spots that aren't too close to each other. If you want to camp here, you need to get here early, it fills up quickly on weekends. The weekend we went it was full by Friday afternoon.

You can also try camping along some of the dirt roads in the area. Unlike most portions of National Forest or BLM land in Arizona, you can only camp at numbered "dispersed" sites. True dispersed or dry camping is not allowed. Here's a map of the dispersed camping sites in the area.

We tried that when we visited the area in October, 2004. There are only a few camping spots compared to the demand. Almost all were taken by Friday afternoon. Those which were not occupied were not very nice. Another problem that I am not sure the officials who set up this program figured out is that by having such a small number of campsites they are almost always in use. And the few we visited were disgusting. About 30 feet from the center of the camp a ring of used toilet paper began from people going to the bathroom. It went out hundreds of feet. Yuk!

That's the problem when you have such a limited number of sites, they get used. A lot. And it's showing. It's almost the worst of both worlds when you are trying to camp. Dispersed camping allows you to get away from others, but here evidence of the previous campers is all around you. Second, you don't get the luxury of having a real bathroom like you would have by staying at a campground.

My recommendation, stay at Lynx Lake or find a hotel like we did. This is one of the few times I've spent the night in a hotel while my camping gear stayed out in the truck.

Anyway, on to better stuff. Don't let the above keep you from visiting the area. Soon, the pavement ends and you're on a nice dirt road. The road winds its way through a nice forest of pines and some aspen. You make your way through the super small town of Walker (don't expect a Circle K here). There's some nice homes and cabins in the area and I was wishing I owned one.

At Waypoint 006, keep going straight as Walker Rd intersects Senator Hwy. This area is truly beautiful and some places reminded me of Colorado as you could look down into the canyon and see the sparkling creek flowing.

Make sure you stop to visit the old mining building on the left side of the road at Waypoint 006A. Very cool stuff. I love this area of the trail.

Senator Hwy heads back north toward Prescott and at Waypoint 007, I would recommend stopping by Groom Creek. Especially if you have young children. It has a great short hiking trail and lots of boulders to climb on. This is also a nice place for a picnic and bathroom break. There was a small self-pay parking fee (I believe it's about $5) when we visited here in 2004.

When you're done with Groom Creek, head back north until you reach Prescott. I know this wasn't a true 4WD adventure, but I felt it was well worth it!

Have fun and be safe!

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