If you love to experience dramatic changes in scenery, adore the desert solitude as much as you do the alpine meadows, you will enjoy this trip along the Coronado Trail Scenic Byway. This four-to-five hour drive offers not only breathtaking views, but a little added excitement when traveling on an RV vacation. There are more than 400 switchbacks, some hairpin turns and steep grades. However, it is well worth the additional concentration you will put in, as the sights are tremendous. But length of vehicles is limited to 40 feet.
Begin your RV journey in Clifton, Arizona, where the spirit of the Old West still lingers. You really must make it a point to stop and see the first jail of Clifton, carved into a mountain. If you want to start out early on your trip on this route that was taken in the 1500s by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, you may want to camp at the North Clifton RV Park.
Stopping at the Morenci Open Pit Mine gives you the flavor of how the pioneers worked at taking the copper from the land. You can get a free tour of this still-operational mine. When you move on, as you drive into the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, you will experience the natural wonderland of Arizona.
History buffs will want to visit the old Stargo Cemetery, going back to the 19th century. Be sure to keep an eye out for the many species of wildlife here. Watch to see if you can catch a glimpse of the Mexican Grey Wolf, a black bear or a mountain lion. Bighorn sheep are common as are wild turkey, elk and antelope.
Pull your RV to a parking spot and wander out onto the edge of the Mogollon Rim where you will view the desert floor from up to 2,000 feet above it. Blue Vista viewpoint gives you the best in photographic opportunities. Look over to the East to see the Blue Range Mountains. Take a short hike on the lovely nature trail.
Carry on and look forward to reaching the Blue Range Primitive Area. If in good physical condition, you can trek the many rugged trails through the forests and through desert terrain. Be sure you take adequate water with you.
Hikers are sure to love the area around Hannagan Meadow, with a multitude of trails to explore. Surrounded by national forest, the views are not the only attraction. With a number of lakes and reservoirs, you can take your fishing pole with you for a relaxing time going after your trophy catch in these woodlands.
About 22 miles further on, traveling north from Hannagan Meadow, you will discover the Escudillo National Recreation Trail where you can stretch by hiking this moderate 3-mile path to the top of Escudilla Mountain. The views are amazing. There are also trails fit for mountain biking in the area.
The town of Alpine used to be a small fort, later becoming the hub of commercial dealings of ranchers and settlers in the region. Many streams around Alpine invite you to cast in a line. You can also hunt here. Then move on to Nelson Reservoir, where you can launch a boat and get out in the sunshine to have a go at catching some rainbow, brook or German brown trout.
Perhaps you attached your bicycle to your RV for just such an opportunity as you’ll find at Nutrioso. It’s the perfect place to hop on a bike and see the sights.
As you near the end of your trip, you’ll be glad to know the fun isn’t quite over yet. The sister towns of Eagar and Springerville still await you. The high mountain valley helps to melt away any worries or cares that have managed to cling on this long. There are more lakes to fish, more trails to hike and plenty of history to view.
Don’t forget to tour the museums that highlight the pioneer era and take full advantage of this friendly country lifestyle. The Pre-Columbian ruins at Casa Malpais Pueblo are definitely worth a visit. This archaeological park is in downtown Springerville, and there is parking nearby so you can easily hike to the ruins. This is no small site, as it covers 17 acres and contains catacomb burials, petroglyph markers and an astronomical observatory.
It’s time to go home and it may be hard to drag yourself away from these incredible landscapes of Arizona. You will just have to remind yourself that this RV vacation was one of the best yet, and you can always return for another magical experience.