FIRST GROUP OF JEEPS TO CIRCUMNAVIGATE THE ARIZONA PEACE TRAIL
Three couples started in Yuma, AZ to become the first group of Jeeps to complete the 675-mile “Ultimate Off-road Adventure the Arizona Peace Trail.” America’s longest off-road loop trail.
The 3 Jeep couples consisted of Rick & Nita Pickering in their 2016 JK Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport; Jim & Sherie Newell in their 2018 JL Rubicon and Julie Hanson & John Williams in their 1990 Jeep Wrangler.
This is their tale of their journey:
Our Ultimate Off-Road Adventure actually started at “Ultimate Off-Road,” a Jeep repair shop in Yuma, Arizona, in July 2018, where Rick and Nita Pickering noticed the Arizona Peace Trail brochure in the shop and realized that our ultimate adventure awaited us.
On Nov. 8, 2018, we hit the Arizona Peace Trail ready for our 675-mile Ultimate Off-Road Adventure!
Day 1: 11-8-18
Start time: 11:15am
Total miles driven: 100 mi.
End time: 4:50 pm
Level of Difficulty: E-1 farm roads/flat roads
Camped: off Palomas Harquahala Road
We hit the trail after eating a great breakfast at “Chicken on the Run,” and fueling up at the Chevron station off Fortuna Avenue, and loading the coolers with ice & needed refreshments!
We traveled the AZPT in a counterclockwise direction. You can go either direction or do certain parts as time permits. The trails we traveled were good. We followed the canal road toward Ligurta and started inland and east toward Dateland. Our original plan was to make it to Salome, Arizona on the first day, which didn’t happen, so thank goodness we all brought camping gear, so we could camp along the way! Each day, we usually drove until 4:30pm and set up our camps and began to cook our dinner to end our day relaxing by the campfire talking about the day of adventures.
Day 2: 11-9-18
Start time: 8:20am
Total miles driven: 110 mi.
End time: 4:30pm
Level of Difficulty: E1/E2
Camped: Browns crossing Rd/AZPT
Coordinates: 34.17’.193” N/113.32’.18.9 W
We broke camp early with high hopes of making it to Kingman, AZ by end of day. We headed north on Hovatter Road using our Magellan TRX7 GPS to guide us on the AZPT. We made a quick stop at the Bra & Panty Ocotillo at 1:55pm then continued on the trail until we reached Salome, Ariz. We all topped off with gas at RZ mini mart, took some pictures of the quaint town and went into town to get some garden pruners as we were going to do a lot of brush clearing/trail maintenance to make the trail more jeep friendly! When we finally stopped for the night you could hear the donkeys in the night, and the next morning, we even saw a couple of them on the hillside!
Day 3: 11-10-18
Start time: 8:00am
Total miles driven: 70 mi.
Level of difficulty: M2/D2
Camped: near Bar I-L road
We were on the trail this morning by 8:00am again with hopes of reaching Kingman, AZ. We cleared a lot of branches along this section of the trail! We came upon the Alamo Lake (high water crossing) at 8:56am. There was some water in the wash area, but nothing our jeeps couldn’t handle, maybe a foot of water. We took a short break to allow a group of razors to get around us. After crossing the water, it went up a short hill where there was a lot of branch trimming that needed to be done.
After getting up this little hill, around the corner was the old stuck school bus. We all wondered how it even got there in the first place. Of course, we stopped for photos.
After leaving the school bus about a mile further down the trail, one of the jeeps (the double J’s) had a leaky heater hose. We got it all repaired and were back on the trail again! The trail passed by some open mines, and the scenery was beautiful. At this point the trail was getting a little rocky and we used granny gear to travel a lot of the trail forward. At 12:49pm we came upon a Giant Saguaro cactus and took another great photo. As we continued on Chicken Springs Road, we passed the Hidden Oasis RV Park; they’re know for their great homemade pies. We were making good time on the trail and arrived at Cattle gate D1 at 2:10pm and, by 3:09pm, we reached the cattle gate 02. This part of the trail was a little rockier with brush on both sides of the trail. We should have stopped to camp but continued on the trail as there wasn’t anywhere really to set up camp.
We had finally reached our 1st red triangle at Granite Peak Trail and Cottonwood Canyon; this part of the trail was very rocky with large rocks to get over and a somewhat steep grade, with the cliffside on the left. We were rushing against daylight, the double Js sailed down the grade, with the Newells behind them. Sherie was Jim’s spotter. Once they were over the difficult area, they spotted the Pickerings, while Nita got out of the jeep and walked! Shortly after the 1st red triangle, we came to the 2nd red triangle on the map. Again, the double Js sailed down in their 1990 Jeep with no problems. But a spotter is a must as again this part of the trail has a couple of large boulders to get up and over with a tilt toward the cliffside of the mountain! Nita got out and walked again! Rick said that was the scariest thing he’s ever done! Our jeep also had an extra 150 lbs. of tepui tent atop which made the jeep slightly top heavy! The sun was setting once we all got down this part and before completely getting to the bottom of the mountain, we stopped to take some sunset pictures.
We finally reached the bottom of Granite Peak Trail, went into a wash area and encountered a few bull cows on the trail, and they weren’t happy we were there! We also came across a broken-down side-by-side in the middle of the trail; it had a broken axle, so we had to make our own path around it. After a long day of driving we finally camped off of ‘Bar I-L Road at 8:33pm. It was a bit chilly by then, we were all tired and working on setting up our tents and cooking dinner. The Pickering’s Jeep had lost an exhaust flange bolt at some point and they knew it had to be fixed the next day.
Day 4: 11-11-18
Start time: 8:30am
Total miles driven: 35-45 mi.
End time: approx. 10am
Level of difficulty: E1
Camped: 1st hotel stay (Best Western Wayfair)
Today, we got up early and the Pickerings and the Newells made a decision to drive into Kingman to repair their Jeeps. The double Js made their decision to continue alone on the AZPT section of Boriana Mine to Hualapai Mountain Park. The Pickerings and the Newells tried to talk the double Js out of going on their own, but they refused. Rick gave them the extra gas we had and they were on their way. The double Js said it should take them about 3-4 hours to complete the section of trail. The Pickerings and Newells reached Kingman via I-40 and picked up a couple bolts a friend of the Newells had gotten from the dealership. Come to find out the bolts were incorrect. We ended up at Ace hardware where Rick found some bolts that would work and fixed the exhaust flange issue. Mind you, this was Sunday and Veterans Day weekend and a lot of businesses were closed. We then made a run to Walmart to get more food supplies for the trip. The Pickerings received a call from John Williams saying they were stranded on the trail with two flat tires. We met up with the Newells inside Walmart to let them know of the bad news, we sent out an “Instant Message” to John Geyer member of the AZPT for some assistance with resources in the Kingman area. John called Nita back with a name, Mike Kitchen he lives in Kingman and another member of the AZPT. Mike called Nita and she explained the situation to him. With some assistance, we were able to find a spare Jeep tire and locate the couple using a “pin” drop from the cell phone service. Mike made some phone calls and happened to find a spare Jeep tire and rim and was ready to help get it to them. We were able to get a “Pin” drop location from the double Js and they did have cell service. We all used the app, Zellow walkie talkie, and were able to communicate with them as long as we had a cell signal. As the afternoon wore on, we had word that the double Js had continued their way up the trail. We told them to stop where they were and stay there as we had someone that was going to bring them the spare tire. Mike Kitchen came to the Best Western Hotel with tire in hand when the double Js called to tell us another group of Jeepers had stopped to help also. We loved how everyone looks out for each other. The Jeepers helped put on a spare tire that they loaned them, and they would get it back the next day. The double Js also lost a rear brake line. The Pickerings and Newells went across the street to the Oyster Mexican Seafood restaurant to eat dinner while waiting for the double Js to get to the hotel. After returning to the hotel, the double Js arrived back safely. Wow! What a day the double Js had and memories that will be talked about for a long time!
Day 5: 11-12-18
Start time: 10:48am
Total miles driven: 77.5 mi.
End time: 4:45pm
Level of difficulty: M1/M2
Camped: abandoned 1890 RR track marker
We checked out of our hotel at the Best Western and got back on the trail at 10:48am. We left Kingman, Arizona without the double Js as they needed to replace two tires, get a new brake line and hopefully they would hook up with us by the afternoon. We headed toward Secret Pass overlook and the mountains and scenery were breathtaking. After the overlook, we came to another red triangle on the map. The description was “steep, rocky, difficult area.” We were feeling a little nervous about it but turned out not to be as bad as the description! Our confidence was building. The trail was rocky and a little steep, but nothing like Granite Peak Canyon! We reached the Bra & Panty Tree at 12:43pm where we stopped and took photos.
After leaving the bra and panty tree, we continued on the AZPT along Silver Creek Road with plans of doing the spur route to Oatman. The trail was hilly with some areas of washed out crevasses, which we went up with no problem in granny gear. The double Js were back on the road and took the highway to Oatman. Due to time, we decided not to go on the spur road to Oatman and instead continued toward Golden Shores via Arizona Hwy 95. We topped off with gas at the Shell station in Golden Shores and ended setting camp up across from the “Abandoned 1890 RR Tracks.”
The double Js had made it to the area we were at, but before reaching us at camp they busted a U-joint and went to Needles, California for the night, at that point, they had called it quits.
Day 6: 11-13-18
Start time: 8:30am
Total miles driven: 77 mi.
End time: 5:04 pm
Level of Difficulty: E1
Camped: Mohave wash trail to Planet Ranch Road
We broke camp at 8:30am and our destination was Lake Havasu City to meet John Geyer, the promotional chairman for the AZPT. We came out of the sandy area of the abandoned 1890 RR tracks and under the train trusses on an easy trail making it to the Hole In the Rock with Grave by 9:27am. We averaged about 7mph covering 7.7 miles to this point.
Just before leaving this area, John Geyer had called us to see where we were at and told us he would see us in about an hour! I told him it was slow going in Jeeps! At that time, we were only doing about 5 mph as there were washes to cross, a few rocks on the trail and a couple of nice climbs through the hills going toward Havasu. At 10:25am we had gone 13 miles from hole in the rock. We made some time up by traveling on good washes. We finally reached the highway where John Geyer was waiting for us at the north side of Lake Havasu City at the trail head and Fathom Drive. We enjoyed telling him of our adventures to this point!
John had told us we were the first set of Jeeps to complete the AZPT in one trip! With his help he is using our journal to submit to newspapers in the area, OHV and Jeep magazines, so more folks can explore and experience the adventure of the AZPT! After our meeting with John, we continued into the town of Lake Havasu City. We stopped at the London Bridge for photos (the actual London Bridge from London, England!), the Newells went to Walmart to pick up a set of FRM radios as their CB quit working, and the Pickerings had lunch at Papa Bear’s restaurant. We made a pit stop at the AZ West All Sports Polaris to pick up our AZPT T-shirts and were on our way again! The trail out of Lake Havasu was very wash boardy and slow going. We arrived at Woody’s cabin at 4:30pm where we paid our respects to Angela the Bassett hound’s gravesite. This was a very cool cabin to see. We again continued down the Mohave wash toward the Founders Cabin, but we never found it! NEXT TIME! So, we kept driving and looking for a good place to camp out for the night. We finally found our spot at 5:04pm, set up camp, cooked dinner and started a nice fire and relaxed. A couple of hours later we noticed some bright lights coming towards us, they pulled into our camp! To everyone’s surprise it was the Double Js! They had found us using a “pin” drop location I had sent them via text message! They had their jeep repaired and found us! We were all together again!
Day 7: 11-14-18
Start time: 9am
Total miles driven: 84
End time: 3:56 pm
Level of difficulty: E1
Camped: Chola Road
We broke camp at 9am, and the wash was smoothing out. The roads traveled this day were almost like an interstate, wide and smooth. We went by Planet Post Office at 9:49 am still on good roads. About half-way between Planet Post Office and Black Planet Ranch Road, the Pickerings heard a sound coming from their Jeep and stopped to check it out. They had lost an end link bolt and decided to take the other side end link bolt out and zip tie them up, and we were all back driving the trail and we made really good time reaching Road Runner Market in Bouse by 11:50am. We all got more ice, supplies and took photos before getting back on the AZPT. We arrived at General Patten #2 camp by 2:04pm., and then the Quartzite “ARCO” station at 3:15pm where we all fueled up. We headed down the wash until just outside of Quartzite and camped off Chola Road. At 3:56pm, knowing this was our last night, we made a big fire ring, cooked a pot roast in the Dutch oven and enjoyed our last night together!
Day 8: 11-15-18
Start time: 9:37am
Total miles driven: 120
End time: 5:02 pm
Level of difficulty: M1/M2
Camped: Yuma, AZ
We broke camp at 9:37am, our final day of driving the AZPT. The road from camp led us along the Copper Bottom power line road. Some parts of the trail were rocky with some climbs, so we used granny gear for these areas. At 10:27am, we had reached the “Good, bad & Ugly,” which we were advised by John Geyer to avoid, at this time. Recent rain had created a big washout. Since this writing the ‘Good, the Bad & The Ugly has been repaired. He recommended for us to follow the pole line road around this section. Over the power line road there were some steep and rocky climbs and descents, but we all made it through. The double Js went over and down with only three brakes. We saw a large ram sheep cross the trail! The trail was again plowed with easy access and crossed through the outskirts of the Yuma Proving Grounds. By 1:51pm, we had reached Cibola Lake Road and Cibola River access trail. Sadly, to say, the Double Js had to break away and head to Ocotillo. The Pickerings and Newells followed the trail as parts of it went along the Colorado River through brushy areas, and traveled thru the Red Cloud Mine area, which was very pretty. There were rocky low areas that required us to use granny gear. By 3:46 pm, we had reached the mine with a yellow structure and by 3:51 pm, we had reached Red Cloud Mine/Kiosk. We pushed forward to cross yet another two sections of the Yuma Proving Grounds. The trail was good, wide and smooth!
At 5:02 pm, we had reached Martinez Lake where we came out to Fisher’s Landing! We all called our trip DONE and headed down highway 95 back to home base! We reached home base about 6pm and the Newells hit the road to Las Vegas, to catch a flight. Everyone had made it to their destinations safely. It is a trip that we will all never forget and will be talked about for years to come!
We are proud to say we are the first Jeepers to complete the 675-mile “Ultimate Off-Road” Arizona Peace Trail Adventure!
Favorite Sections: Kingman - Havasu, Alamo Lake to just past the Old Stuck school bus and Quartzite to Martinez Lake.
Overview: Great adventure in jeeps, slow going in some parts. Camping available along the trail anywhere you wanted to dry camp. GPS and AZPT Atlas/GPX file A MUST!
Would we do it again? ABSOLUTELY, but will do the bypass or alternate around “Granite Peak Canyon”
Courtesy of Nita Pickering and John Geyer
Arizona Peace Trail Circumnavigation by Jeep Group