Kuma’s Great Adventures: Cottonwood’s Dead Horse Ranch State Park is a hiking gem | Online Features

hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. Did you gobble ’til you wobbled? No comment from me. What’s better than turkey? Finding a great new place to hike! Yes, my family and I discovered yet another neat gem that isn’t too far away.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park

(azstateparks.com/dead-horse) is in Cottonwood, which is about an hour north of us. If you live in other parts of the city, you might need to add about a half hour. It’s a straight shot up I-17 north to the Cottonwood exit onto the 260 west toward the town of Cottonwood.

Stay on 260 until 10th and turn right. You will follow signs for the Dead Horse Ranch State Park, ultimately taking another right on Dead Horse Ranch Road. At the entrance to the park, guests will need to pay $7 per vehicle. Dogs are permitted on leash, and there are human restrooms.

In fact, this is a park, so there are lots of human restrooms, picnic tables, fishing spots and camping. The park sits near the Verde Valley River, so it has water. I could smell it as soon as we pulled in!

Be sure to grab a map, as there are plenty of options for activities. We chose the Lagoon Lake Trail Loop that goes around most of the lagoons for a total of 2 miles. It’s flat and very scenic.

Visiting this time of year is perfect, as the temperatures are cooler. However, there are tons of big cottonwood trees, so you would have shade even in the hot summer months. I would watch out for snakes then, though, due to all the marshes.

We walked by lots of tall grasses and enjoyed fall color along the lagoons. We met nice humans and other dogs, and quite a few folks were catching. Apparently, they just stocked the lagoons. Check the schedule online to plan accordingly if you want to fish.

We found the story about how the park got its name interesting. As we were walking, mom shared with us how a family from Minnesota visited Arizona in 1940 looking to move. Just like my folks, they gave unique names to each place they visited so they could recall it later. 

Upon arriving to a ranch, the Irey family saw a dead horse along the road. At the end of their tour, the parents asked the kids which ranch they wanted, and they said, “The one with the dead horse.” The name stuck, and when the land was acquired by Arizona State Parks in 1973, the family insisted the name stay. There you have it! I kept an eye out but saw no dead horse.

I did, however, love all the water! Some of it was full of algae, so mom wouldn’t let me swim in it. We did find where the Verde River feeds in, and that was fresh. Ah! I love a good swim.

After our 2-mile loop, we found a covered picnic table and had our lunch. We enjoyed views of Jerome and Mingus Mountain, both of which I have been to. The tranquility is what really impressed us about the park.

Although it is very close to the town of Cottonwood, you would think you were out in the middle of nowhere. I suspect we aren’t the only ones who never heard of this park, so it has remained a local spot.

Please, discover it for yourselves — just don’t all go at once. Dad forgot the hammocks, and this would have been an excellent place for naps. I found myself dozing off and then slept the entire way home. Oh, the life I lead. 

Counting down until Santa Paws come. May he bring you lots of treats! 

Merry Christmas.

My mom, Lorraine Bossé-Smith, is kind enough to help me share my Great Adventures, big and small. She is a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, executive recruiter, business consultant, coach, fitness expert, and author of nine published books. More importantly, she’s the best doggy mom ever. Enjoy our blog at bit.ly/kuma0901, @kumathedog on Facebook or @kumaitothedog on Instagram. 

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