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State of Arizona Parks

USA Parks
North Central Region
Dead Horse Ranch State Park
Dead Horse Ranch State Park Main Entrance © vegasdesertfox
Dead Horse Ranch State Park, AZ
Dead Horse Ranch State Park © Richard Darby
675 Dead Horse Ranch Rd.
Cottonwood, Arizona   86326

Phone: 928-634-5283
Reservations: 928-634-5283
The developed portion of Dead Horse Ranch State Park covers 423 acres. The 3,300 foot elevation accounts for the mild temperatures that are ideal for camping, mountain biking in the Coconino National Forest, hiking along the Verde River, canoeing, picnicking, fishing, or just wading in the cool water.

A six-mile reach of the river is known as the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area. Its unique ecosystem, the Cottonwood and Willow riparian gallery forest, is one of less than 20 such riparian zones in the world. Life along the river changes with the seasons, giving visitors a glimpse of the numerous species of raptors, neotropical migrants, resident songbirds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
Nature of the Area
Mammals common in the park include Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), Coyote (Canis latrans), Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus sp.), Coues or White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus couesi), Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Bobcat (Felis rufus), Mountain Lion (Puma concolor), Javelina (Pecari angulatus), and of course, the Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis).

The park is also home to a huge variety of reptiles and amphibians.

The lagoons and the Verde River provide excellent habitat for birds. The park boasts an extensive bird list (almost 200 species) and is also home to the yearly Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival.
History of the Area
Dead Horse Ranch State Park is located adjacent to and across the Verde River from the community of Cottonwood. It is centrally located near several major population centers such as Flagstaff, Phoenix, and Prescott. When using Dead Horse Ranch as a base, one has a variety of attractions to visit, including: Jerome State Historic Park, Fort Verde State Historic Park, Red Rock State Park, Slide Rock State Park, Tuzigoot National Monument, Montezuma Castle and Well National Monuments, Oak Creek Canyon, Prescott National Forest, Coconino National Forest, and the popular towns of Sedona and Jerome.

Calvin ?Cap? Ireys purchased Dead Horse Ranch in 1950. ?Cap? told State Parks Director Dennis McCarthy that his children named the ranch. The first time the family looked at the property, they saw a dead horse lying in the field, and after looking at a number of properties ?Cap? asked them which one they liked the best. The answer was the one with the dead horse. After they acquired the property, they named it Dead Horse Ranch.

How Dead Horse Ranch Got Its Name

The story of the park's name begins with the Ireys family, who came to Arizona from Minnesota looking for a ranch to buy in the late 1940s. At one of the ranches they discovered a large dead horse lying by the road. After two days of viewing ranches, Dad Ireys asked the kids which ranch they liked the best. The kids said, ?the one with the dead horse, Dad!? The Ireys family chose the name Dead Horse Ranch and later, in 1973, when Arizona State Parks acquired the park, the Ireys made retaining the name a condition of sale.
Visitors Center
The Dead Horse Ranch Ranger Station offers registration, park information, first aid assistance, and a gift shop. Hours: 8 am ? 5 pm every day, except Christmas.
Camping Cabin Loop: Eight one-room log camping cabins are available at Dead Horse Ranch by reservation. They are tucked away from the other campgrounds, making them an ideal getaway for a weekend or for the week. The cabins are variably furnished with a full size bed, a bunk bed, table & chairs, dresser-drawer, ceiling fan with overhead light, and electricity. Campers must supply their own linens. Each cabin also has a barbecue and picnic table outside. Family-style shower facilities are only a short walk from all of the cabins. There is an electrified ramada with barbecues and a fire pit in the area that can be shared by cabin guests.
There are over 100 large RV sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. Most of the pull through sites can accommodate 40-foot motor homes and truck & trailer rigs up to 65 feet, and include potable water and 30/50-amp service. All campsites may be used as non-electric sites simply by not plugging into power. Generators are prohibited. All loops include modern, ADA accessible restroom facilities providing hot water & showers and are free to registered campers. There is a stay limit of 14 nights in a 30-day period. We can be full in the spring and fall so call 1-2 days in advance to check availability.

Fees: Fees are per vehicle,per night with electric and based on per night without electric (no extra fees for tow vehicle).

Quail Loop: 43 campsites, including one ADA accessible site.

Red-Tail Loop: 36 campsites, including one ADA accessible site.

Cooper?s Hawk Loop: 27 campsites, including two ADA accessible sites.

Blackhawk Loop: 17 non-electric campsites, including one ADA accessible site, reserved exclusively for tents. RVs, including campers and vans, are not permitted. The loop is adjacent to modern restroom facilities providing hot water & showers.
Canoeing and kayaking is popular in the river and lagoons. Non-motorized watercraft (oar power only, no sails) are allowed in the lower lagoons. Boating is not permitted in the upper (West) lagoon. A launch ramp and dock are available at the East lagoon. Gas & electric motors must be removed before launching. Children 12 and under are required to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times when boating.
Excellent fishing opportunities for the beginner and experienced alike. Arizona Game & Fish Department stocks the river and lagoons with Rainbow Trout throughout the winter months. The lagoons are stocked with Channel Catfish in the warmer season. Fly-fishing the river and lagoons is becoming increasingly popular. Fish species include Largemouth Bass, Catfish, Bluegill, Crappie, and Trout. Pictured: Danny Madison displays a unique albino catfish he caught in the lagoon at Dead Horse Ranch State Park

A valid Arizona fishing license is required for anglers fourteen and older. Licensing information is available online at Arizona Game & Fish, or purchase a fishing license at a local dealer.

Picnic tables are located throughout the park, in both the day use areas and campground ramadas as well as being placed individually in various locations around the lagoons. Unless reserved, picnic tables in the ramadas are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Many ramadas also include ADA accessible picnic tables.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park offers a variety of bicycling opportunities for all levels of riders. Beginning road cyclists will find relatively flat paved roads with only a few gentle climbs and large parking areas perfect for practicing basic skills. Beginning mountain bikers will find a place to hone new skills on the trails adjacent to Red-Tail and Cooper's Hawk campgrounds.

Experienced roadies can use the park as a launching point for rides throughout the Verde Valley. Intermediate to expert mountain bikers will find fun and challenge on the Dead Horse Ranch Trail System's ?Thumper Loop?. Because the park is so close to Sedona, mountain bikers from all over the world come to Dead Horse Ranch to camp and use the park as a staging area for rides on the Red Rock trails of the Coconino National Forest. No other campground in the Verde Valley offers shower facilities - virtually a must after a full day on the trail!
The trails in this system are in Dead Horse Ranch State Park and in the Coconino Natinal Forest. Trail users, the Dead Horse Ranch Trails Coalition, Arizona State Parks Rangers & Volunteers, and the Forest Service have worked together to develop and manage this system for you enjoyment. Bring extra water and get an early start in the summer months. Trailheads are located north of the lagoon area or at the end of Flycatcher road.

Dead Horse Trail System: A 7.3 mile loop. Shared-use. Begins & ends at Dead Horse Ranch and extends onto the Coconino National Forest. The loop consists of 3 legs; Lime Kiln, Thumper, and Raptor Hill. The Lime Kiln leg follows a portion of the historic Lime Kiln Wagon Road. Originally the Lime Kiln road provided access to a Kiln that was constructed in the 1800s. The Kiln was used to burn limestone to create lime used as an ingredient of the mortar needed to construct fireplaces and chimneys. Soon after the construction of the kiln, the road was extended and used as a route between Sedona and Jerome. The remains of the kiln can still be seen beside the trail. The loop is a favorite ride for mountain bikers. Average mountain bike time is approximately 1 hour to complete the loop.

Forest Loop: A 0.5-mile loop. Shared-use. Circles around and through a diversely forested area and provides river access by way of short narrow side trails. Starts and ends in the River Day Use Area.

Canopy: A 0.25 mile ADA accessible trail looping under a Freemont Cottonwood tree canopy giving park visitors with limited mobility an opportunity to get off the beaten path. Excellent for bird watching and wildlife viewing. Starts and ends in the River Day Use Area.

Mesa: A 1-mile interpretive loop trail. Circles the top of the hill west of the Red-Tail Hawk Campground and provides scenic views of Mingus Mountain, the Verde Valley, and Dead Horse Ranch. The trailhead is located on the west side of Roadrunner Road south of Red-Tail Hawk Campground loop.

Tavasci Marsh: A 1-mile trail. Shared-use. The trailhead is located at the end of Flycatcher Road.

Quail Wash: A 0.25-mile trail. Hike, bike. Stairs and bridges prevent equestrian use. Plant diversity and flowing water in the wash make this trail popular. Intersects with Hickey Ditch Trail. The trailhead is located at the south end of the West Lagoon parking lot.

Hickey Ditch: A 0.5-mile trail. Shared-use. Follow along the historic Hickey irrigation ditch through a canopy of Ailanthus and Mesquite trees. Intersects with Quail Wash Trail. The trailhead is located at north end of the West Lagoon parking lot.

Creosote: A 0.5-mile shortcut. Shared-use. Intersects with Hickey Ditch and Quail Wash Trails.

Lagoons: One accessible loop around each lagoon. West Lagoon 0.39 miles; Middle Lagoon 0.41 miles; East Lagoon 0.72 miles. Hike, bike. Accessed from any of the lagoon parking lots, these trails allow you to stroll around the lagoons. We do request that horses not be taken around lagoon banks.

Verde River Greenway: A 2-mile shared-use trail along the river. The trail weaves through some of the best nesting habitat in the area, a bird watchers' paradise. Intersects with Quail Wash and Lagoon Trails. The trailhead is located in the River Day Use area or can be accessed on the south side of the lagoons.

Riverfront: A 0.5-mile trail. Shared-use. The trail runs along the south side of the Verde River and is good for walking. Trail is accessed from either the south end of the Dead Horse Ranch State Park Bridge or from Riverfront Park.

Equestrian Trails: Many of the Dead Horse Ranch trails are shared-use. There are 1 hour and a 2 hour guided trail rides available on the park. The rides take in the Verde River Greenway and provide scenic views of the lagoons, the Verde River and Dead Horse Ranch.
Area Attractions
Verde River Greenway:

The nearly 180-mile long Verde River is a significant resouce in Arizona. It is one of the desert's last free-flowing rivers sustaining a large regional wildlife population and a lush riparian community. In 1986, the state purchased the area that is now known as the Verde River Greenway between the Tuzigoot and Bridgeport bridges.

The Greenway encompasses nearly 480 acres and is six miles long. The 3,300 foot elevation means mild temperatures for hiking along the Verde, canoeing, picnicking, fishing, or just wading in the cool water. Life along the river changes with the season, giving visitors a glimpse of great blue heron, black hawks, coyotes, raccoons, mule deer, beavers, ducks, frogs, and toads. The Verde River and surrounding riparian corridor support nearly twenty threatened or endangered species including river otter, southwestern bald eagles, southwestern willow flycatchers, and lowland leopard frogs.

The most significant natural resource in the Greenway, besides the year-round flowing river, is the dense forest of riparian trees and shrubs along its riverbank. This Fremont Cottonwood/Gooding Willow Riparian Gallery Forest is one of five remaining stands in Arizona and one of 20 such stands in the world.

Other Area Scenic Attractions:

The Verde River Greenway Natural Area, Jerome State Historic Park, Fort Verde State Historic Park, Red Rock State Park (a nature center), Slide Rock State Park, Tuzigoot National Monument, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area, and Mingus Mountain in the Prescott National Forest.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
March 25 hiya! by wulf the ender
i loved the park it was amazing hope i can get back soon!
May 12 Loved Camping there!!! by Gaurav
I love the whole camping experience in Dead Horse Ranch. It was my first camping ever in US and I enjoyed there alot. Lots of things to do, to roam about. U can watch horses, do sm fishing, lots of trails. But at night it becomes too cold... its was 34F.. I would like to go there again soon!!! Very nicely built and very clean n perfect place to have fun!!!
June 21 by Suzie from MO
We just returned from our trip to Arizona/Utah. We stayed at Dead Horse for six days and it was great. Very central to all the things we wanted to do in Arizona. It was surprisingly cool at night but the camp host always had plenty of fire wood for sale. All of the volunteers and staff were friendly and helpful. The bathrooms were always clean, although it seems like they should have more than three showers. We would recommend this to anyone and hope to go back someday! I forgot to mention all the crazy critters! Lizards, quail, jack rabbits! What fun to watch them up close!

Area Campgrounds
Distant Drums RV Park
583 Middle Verde Road
Camp Verde, AZ

From I-17 take (exit 287) Hwy 260 to Cottonwood. Hwy. 260 intersects with 89A/Main Street. Turn left on Main Street and proceed to North 10th Street. Turn right (north) on North 10th Street. Continue on North 10th across the Verde River Bridge to the park entrance.


State of Arizona Parks