Sights and History of Verde Valley Arizona

Sights and History of Verde Valley Arizona -Verde River in the Verde Valley along the Verde Canyon Railroad lineHave you missed the sights and history of Verde Valley Arizona? It’s quite a special place, brimming with history, a wealth of flora and fauna in magnificent high desert landscapes.

 

Scenery and Sights from Verde Canyon Railroad. Beautiful rock faces as seen along our route.Why do you think you haven’t heard much about it? Honestly, the Arizona spots spoken of regularly are Sedona, Phoenix, Tucson, and the Grand Canyon. That leaves little room for the lush region of Central Arizona. We, too, may have missed the Verde Valley. However, we were sponsored by the Verde Canyon Railroad for a day trip to the scenic high desert so we explored Verde Valley. Experiencing the beauty of this lesser-known historic area – Verde Valley – was a stimulating addition to our travels.

DISCLAIMER:  Many thanks to Verde Canyon Railroad for hosting. While we were hosted at no charge, we received no payment for this post, and this post is our honest opinion.

Scenic Historic Verde Valley Day Trip from Sedona

Just 30 miles southwest of Sedona, we traveled to experience the history and sights of the Verde Valley. In hindsight, it would have been lovely to stay in this less-populated area and only go to crowded and expensive Sedona for a day of sightseeing and hiking.

Scenery and Sights from Verde Canyon Railroad. Towering rock formations as seen along our route.On our drive toward the Verde Canyon Railroad through the Verde Valley, Tom and I were quickly surrounded by red rocks and Mingus Mountain in the black hills range. Ah, nature’s splendor! The Red Rocks rose up surrounding us as we passed Red Rock State Park.

Heading for Clarkdale in the Verde Valley, we were looking forward to experiencing ‘Arizona’s Longest Running Nature Show,’ for a 4-hour 40-mile train trip on the Verde Canyon Railroad. We also added a visit to the area’s Native American Ruins of Tuzigoot and Montezuma’s Castle.

Sights and History of Verde Valley Arizona

Native American Ruins

Tuzigoot Verde Valley ArizonaOn the trip from Sedona to the Verde Valley, we visited Tuzigoot, a National Monument of an ancient pueblo built by the Sinagua people. These were dry farming people who lived in the foothills from around 600 AD. Tuzigoot was built between 1125 and 1400, situated on a summit ridge high above the floodplain. These ruins once encompassed 110 rooms in 2 to 3-story structures. It is exquisite to view the valley during a walk up through this ancient Native American pueblo structure, and interesting to read the history posted along Tuzogoot National Monument.

We spent so much time walking around Tuzigoot that we didn’t have enough to visit Montezuma’s Castle before the Verde Canyon Railroad journey. Montezuma’s Castle is 40 minutes south of the Clarkdale train depot, location of the Verde Canyon Railroad.  We missed it! I still want to see Montezuma’s Castle, a cliff-dwelling nestled into sheer limestone cliffs.  We plan to get back there to see it. I hope you do too!

Clarkdale Train Depot

Just before the railway station in Clarkdale, when crossing a bridge into the up-and-coming town of Cottonwood see quaint colorful town, restaurants, Inns, galleries, and artists. This is where many of the Sedona workers live today.

Clarkdale Station gift shopUpon arriving at the train depot, find lots of parking, and then head inside to the gift shop. After checking in at the gift shop, browse or purchase authentic Southwestern Artisan’s work at the Boxcar Gift Store. Also, be sure to visit the John Bell Railroad Museum while at the Clarkdale Station to see the collection on the railroad’s history, exhibits on the surrounding towns, the copper industry, excavated artifacts, and the Yavapai-Apache tribe.

Verde Canyon Railroad for Sights and History of Verde Valley Arizona

Verde Canyon Railroad is a ‘heritage railroad’ that runs between Clarkdale and Perkinsville. Originally called the Verde Valley Railway, in 1912 it was opened as part of the Santa Fe Railway to transport copper from Jerome Arizona. It was designed to link the copper smelter at Clarkdale to the copper mines in Jerome.

In 1988, the railway was sold to a private party who opened it for passenger service between Clarkdale and Perkinsville, a ghost town today. It became Verde Canyon Railroad again in 1990. Today as part of the rail service, the track is used for hauling freight as well as the tourist railroad.

Arizona High Desert Rail Journey

Abandoned town of Perkinsville, at the turn-around point of our train ride thru the Verde Canyon.Before boarding for the 4-hour, 40-mile round-trip, guides give boarding and safety instructions. Then we anxiously board to start our trip to see the scenery that gave this train ride the reputation of Arizona’s Longest Running Nature Show. In addition, its destination is Perkinsville where scenes where from some of the great westerns were filmed, like, How the West was Won.

Once on board, we’re seated in nice leather chairs and sofas at copper tables in 1st Class. Now settled in, the staff serves snacks with a choice of Champagne – my choice – or apple cider. Music selections from country western, jazz, and 40s – 50s music entertain us while we get settled. Guests are given the cash bar menu of premium alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Servers are lovely, upbeat, and knowledgeable about the area.

Buffet on Verde Canyon RailroadA food spread on each of the 1st Class cars includes sandwiches with various meats, chicken wings, vegetables, fruit and brownies. We baby boomers like our food and wine. It is buffet style with plenty for everyone.

Verde Canyon Railroad - First Class passenger carWith our surroundings, it’s easy to imagine that we are traveling like wealthy westerners from the early 1900s. This type of adventure seems to appeal to the retired crowd, and as baby boomers, we fit right in. Simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery on a restored, streamlined, and climate-controlled rail car. Train cars have panoramic windows to view the scenery.

 

Basic Coach class seating on Verde Canyon Railroad

Coach Class

 

Most passengers select one of the eight 1st class cars, and each includes food and drink. The train includes several outdoor shaded open-air viewing cars – Great for Taking Photos.  There is also Coach Class for $30 less, but 1st class is well worth the upgrade.

Experience the history near Sedona

Excited for our journey, we are off to see the high desert flora and fauna of the Verde Canyon, and some ancient cave dwellings, which are only accessible by train. We also learn the history through the narration aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad.

Slag heap awaiting cost-efficient recovery methodAs we pull out of the Clarkdale Station, we can see the historic mining town of Jerome, a National Historic Landmark, atop the mountain in the Black Hills. Jerome was settled as a copper mining town, and this rail track was built to link Jerome’s copper mines to the Rock frog-like formations overlooking railwaysmelter in Clarkdale.

The Verde Canyon Railroad round-trip journey exposes stunning views of high sandstone cliffs, impressive rock-faces, and ancient Sinagua ruins in the towering rock walls. Our hosts point out the mistletoe, and as quickly as our excitement rises to see mistletoe in nature, it is squashed as we learn that it is invasive and killing the indigenous trees. Quickly we move to view more natural and man-made sights along the route.

Flora and Fauna of the High Desert

Taking in gorgeous rugged landscapes and magnificent outdoors is a feast for the eyes. Our route through the Canyon is only accessible by rail and goes over wooden railroad trestles, through narrow tunnels, and across iron bridges. Land bordering the rails is Prescott National Forest and Coconino National Forest. As we travel our guides point out ‘Dinosaur Rock’ and ‘Elephant Rock,’ plus excavated ruins, while we learn about the area’s early development, and the native ancestral history.

In the outdoor viewing cars, bald eagles, kestrels, donkeys, and coyotes come into view. We saw horses and cows along the mountain ridges, likely some belong to the few farmers left in the area.

Jerome is a city located atop Cleopatra Hill in the Black Hills overlooking the Verde Valley. A National Historic Landmark, Jerome is best known for its copper mines that operated in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, Jerome is a small mountain town, bustling with tourists, filled with restaurants, galleries, and a thriving art community. From its historic buildings to its exquisite views – on a clear day you can see the red rocks of Sedona across a vast valley – it makes for great photos. What a lovely spot to spend an evening after the Verde Canyon Railroad Journey!

Conclusion

Beautiful Verde Canyon scenery along railroad tracksIf you have missed the sights and history of Verde Valley Arizona, go back for a return visit. If you are looking for a relaxing day and want to see the sights, the Verde Canyon Railroad is the best way to do so. Verde Canyon Railroad carries about 100,000 passengers per year and is considered an ‘Arizona Treasure.’ I can definitely see why! Make sure you leave time to visit the Native American ruins. Top off the day with a visit to the mile-high town of Jerome for the views and dinner. Two days in the Verde Valley is even better to visit all these sights.

43 thoughts on “Sights and History of Verde Valley Arizona

  1. I have heard so many good things about Sedona and it’s good to learn that this place is so close. I love a good train ride and this one, with its incredible scenery, looks fantastic. I might have to plan a trip out to Arizona very soon!

    • Also near Sedona is Flagstaff. Check out my 2 posts on Flagstaff before you go, as it is a great town with so much to do. You’d want to be in Flagstaff at dark – my post tells you why. It also is a great alternative to stay, since Sedona is so expensive and often crowded.

  2. Tuzigoot reminds me of another place we visited in Nevada way back when. Were the buildings built into the ridge, or were they on top of it? Verde Valley looks very lush, and that train is gorgeous. Love the aesthetic. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten on a train before, what an experience.

  3. I’ve heard about this wonderful train experience and ended up just doing a road trip through the area. I would love to experience the landscape and area this way another time, it looks amazing!

    • Actually, it is the only way you can see this part of the high desert since. The Verde Canyon Railroad track is carved into the canyon, and there are no accessible roads. Noel, I hope you get back to take the train journey.

  4. I love train travel. The photos in this post look like they came straight out of an old western movie. The first class seats look like they really added to the whole vintage experience

  5. Arizona has been on my bucket list for ages. The Verde Valley Arizona looks intriguing. I’d definitely plan to do the Arizona High Desert Train Journey. It looks like a hoot!

  6. I love exploring the southwest and you’ve just put the Verde Valley on my radar. I love the vintage look of the train (and the champagne isn’t a bad touch either). Will definitely look at this for my next Arizona trip!

    • Brianna, there are some lesser known and fabulous spots that I have also written about earlier on this blog. Before going to Arizona next, check out my other highlights, especially those around Flagstaff, which is not far from the Verde Valley.

  7. Train journeys are so amazing and fun. Thanks for introducing me to central Arizona. I had not read about it much before. Verde Valley seems really beautiful. Will surely plan a trip there in future.

    • Anjali, if you plan trip to Arizona and New Mexico, I have 8 posts and 1 more coming that you may want to check out to help in your planning.

  8. I had not idea the desert offered so much splendor! I’ve always wanted to go on a desert viewing train ride but never knew where to find one. Thanks for showing me the way! Ancient ruins are always fascinating and a cool way to learn how the world used to be. I love seeing where movies have been shot, it makes them more interesting on the next rewatch! Thanks for sharing!

    • Yes, do go back. Also check out my 2 posts on Flagstaff. My guess is that you’ll find other things to add to your list for that next visit.

  9. Looks like a place that is fascinating and beautiful in equal measure. I think I would very much enjoy exploring the native American history around this region. The train journey looks fun too!

    • Alex, in my 2 posts early this year on Flagstaff, I talk about several Native American History venues. Be sure to check them out if you plan to visit.

  10. I do love a good train ride! Traveling by rail through Verde Valley sure looks like a scenic trip. What a perfect way to start the excursion by sipping on champagne and soaking in the awesome views. I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Verde Valley prior to reading your post. This is a adventure I’d most certainly add to the itinerary when planning a trip out West!

    • Heather, We visited so many great places that you don’t hear about much. When you go out west please glance through some of my 8 posts on the area. I promise that you will see something else you’d like to add to your itinerary.

  11. Wendy, we stayed in a Thousand Trails campground in Cottonwood for a total of 9 weeks in 3 separate occasions so we have extensively covered the area. I bet the railroad experience brought you to the depths of the forest though!

  12. What an amazing train journey. Verde Valley looks well worth a visit. My choice would be champagne too – but what I think I like best are the outdoor viewing platforms to spot wildlife. What a treat

  13. The views are outstanding. I love the shot of the train running on the precarious hill. Arizona is indeed so exotic. We would love to travel there sometime.

  14. This sounds like a great trip. I’ve been to Sedona and Jerome, but have never done the Verde Canyon Railroad trip. I’ve always thought it sounded interesting and you’ve confirmed that. I’ll have to make it a priority on my next visit to Arizona.

  15. I am no stranger to the charms of Arizona. Those stark landscapes are dream for landscape photographers. But glad to know about new attractions such as Native American ruins as well as heritage railway. I love heritage trains, the easiest way to transport one to a different era.

  16. I’ll actually be traveling to Arizona later this month and might be heading up to the Sedona area. This train seems like such a fun way to see the landscape! And I love that there are open viewing cars. Like you said, they’re perfect for taking photos!

  17. Great post, Wendy. Arizona is such an amazing destination that never disappoints. I love the Sedona area. So full of peace and serenity, natural beauty, history, and excellent services for travellers. Thx for this insight into the Verde Valley.

  18. thanks so much for your wonderful post about the sights and history of Verde Valley Arizona and the marvelous Verde Canyon Railroad trip! & Tom’s photos were superb as always!

  19. I really enjoyed reading about Verde Valley and awesome train travel into this scenic wilderness!! You’re right, so many great sites are looked over and there is so much beauty in Arizona!

    • Thanks, Marilyn. We spent almost 2 months traveling around Arizona, and had to skip some areas. It means we have to go back.

  20. Beautiful views all along this route. Amazing to be right in the midst of all the red rocks. Gorgeous.if this was a little longer, I believe this drive would be up there with the greatest drives in America. I believe it should already be on that list.

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