Phoenicians always have and always will look toward the higher, cooler elevations around the state to escape our hot summers here in the lower desert.
One of those spots nearby in Yavapai county is Crown King.
The mountain hamlet started as a mining town in the 1870s and survived as a retreat from the heat after the minerals played out in the early 1900s.
High in the Bradshaw Mountains, nestled in the top of the pine trees, the unincorporated community of Crown King is still a popular spot for finding relief from the soaring temperatures in the Valley of the Sun below. The population is about 100 or so for year-round residents, but that number quadruples on the weekends when the temperatures rise in the desert below.
The town is named after a mining operation established in the area in 1888, the Crowned King Mine. The Bradshaw Mountains were just one of many active mining locations in Arizona during the 1870s. Minerals in the tough terrain of this southwest region have always been a strong attraction to outsiders.
Names like Oro Belle Mine, Lincoln Mine, Bel Paseo Mine, Tiger Mine, Button Mine, Gazelle Mine and Crown King Mine all dot the map in the area between Tuscumbia Mountain and Lane Mountain. In fact, there was so much mining in the area, a railroad was constructed between Mayer and Crown King in order to get the ore out in larger loads.
At the height of Crown King's flourishing life as a mining community, the town had 500 buildings, including several company stores and boarding houses, two Chinese restaurants and a post office. The post office is now located in the Crown King General Store. There's a gas pump too.
The community survived the threat of wildfire back in May 2012 when the Gladiator burned buildings and temporarily cut off the community.
[RELATED: Gladiator Fire at 1,700 acres; Crown King isolated]
[RELATED: Gladiator Fire claims 2 more structures]
These days you'll see a lot of ATVs in the mountaintop community. You can get a cold beer and a meal at the Crown King Saloon and Cafe. There are a handful of businesses that cater to the adventurous sort who makes their way across the bridge into town.
To get to Crown King from Phoenix, drive north on Interstate 17 to the Bumble Bee Road exit at milepost 248. Turn left and follow the hard top surface road, FR 59, for a few miles, then the road turns to dirt for the next 26 miles up the Crown King. The road can be rough and a high clearance vehicle is recommended.
On the way, you'll pass through Bumble Bee, originally a way station on the stage coach route between Prescott and Phoenix. The road slowly makes a turn to the west and you'll pass through Cleator, or what's left of it. There's a place to get a cool drink at the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club, but you may have to go round up the bartender.
Then get ready for the climb uphill following the same path the old railroad track route took before they were taken out in 1926. Make note of the switchbacks on the way out of Crazy Basin up into hills. The train would alternate between forward and reverse on these switchbacks and slowly make its way up the steep grade.
The road is decent but very bumpy with washboard along the grade, so be prepared. At a moderate pace with stops, you can make it there in under two hours, so plan to have lunch, or stay the night! As always, take extra water and emergency supplies when taking the road less traveled in Arizona!
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