Feb 04 2015
From The Arizona Republic
A trip to Old Town Cottonwood isn't complete without a stroll under the "Gateway to the Verde River" archway to hike along the Jail Trail.
Debarking from the site of a rustic old jail building, now home to a quaint tea house, the easy trail follows the river bank through River Front Park to Dead Horse Ranch State Park.
The trail is shaded by thick tangles of willows and enormous cottonwood trees towering over the water, cattail-ringed coves and rock-strewn flood plains. With reliable water and ample nesting spots, this riparian corridor is a productive birding location with hundreds of resident and migratory species.
The hike can be enjoyed year-round. During the leafless winter months, the riparian corridor is enchanting as bare branches give clear views of roosting raptors and flocks of red-winged blackbirds. Springtime brings a flurry of chartreuse leaf shoots and fluffy catkins that mature into emerald canopies of cooling shade that last through summer. The balmy days and cool nights of late October turn the leaves into a spectacle of gold and russet.
Whether you're visiting Cottonwood for a day of wine tasting, antiques shopping or scenic driving, a walk along the Verde River is de rigueur and the Jail Trail is the easiest path to the water.
Length: 1 mile one way.
Elevation: 3,300-3,290 feet.
Where: From Phoenix, take Interstate 17 to Camp Verde (Exit 287). Go 10 miles east on State Route 260 to Cottonwood. When SR260 intersects with Main Street/State Route 89A, go left. Drive through Old Town to where the road makes a sharp left turn just past Yavapai Street. Look for the Gateway to the Verde River archway and park in the lot on the right at 1101 N. Main St.
This article was originally published in The Arizona Republic.