RoadTrip America

Routes, Planning, & Inspiration for Your North American Road Trip

The Coronado Trail: America's Twistiest Highway?

by Bob Schaller

 
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The Coronado Trail winds through through the White Mountains

The Blue River Primitive Area is once again home to the Mexican Gray Wolf after an absence of 70 years. Very remote, the Blue is the sole remaining Primitive Area in the national forest system. It's home to a few ranching families, their cattle, and a variety of wildlife, including deer, javelina, elk, turkeys, black bears, and the wolves. What would you give for a chance to see a wolf running free?

Stop for lunch, or for a few days, at Hannagan Meadow Lodge & Restaurant, built with the road in 1926. It's a rustic, relaxing place far from your everyday routine. Stick your feet in the creek, ruin a trout's day, hike in the woods! I continued on through Alpine to Springerville, before returning to Phoenix the next afternoon by way of the "Rim" road (another great route).

Clifton Depot
Clifton Railroad Depot

Is US-191 the twistiest road in the USA? It's got to be close! The high mountain scenery is magnificent. Go in spring for the wildflowers, summer for cool mountain air and camping, and autumn for the fall colors!

Bob Schaller
December, 2003

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RoadTrip Facts

The Federal Highway Administration considers this drive to be the curviest road in the nation. There are nearly 450 switchbacks, (many marked at 10 mph) along the route. There is a 6000-foot change of elevation, starting from the topography of the Upper Sonoran Desert to near-alpine meadows high in the White Mountains. The route provides access to the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.

Cell phone coverage is nonexistent. Make sure you are prepared with whatever tools you might need and an emergency road kit. Other drivers, especially locals, will stop to help you, but you may have to wait awhile (cars can be few and far between). This is one of those roads where everyone waves to everyone else. You're friendly, because you know you might need them! (For more info, check out RTA's Mountain Driving tips & links.

Getting There

The Coronado Trail drive can be reached from Safford in the south (from US-70), or from Springerville in the north (US-60). While the road is technically open all year, it is not snowplowed regularly in winter. Check to see that it is open before you go. The drive itself takes about six hours. This allows plenty of time for roadside stops and lunch. Because of the curves and amazing views, drivers tend to travel around 25 mph for most of the distance. Total mileage from Safford to Springerville is 164.9 miles. Round trip from Phoenix, Arizona is 575 miles—about twelve travel hours.

Click here for a Mappoint Map of the Coronado Trail

Lodging
Hannagan Meadow Lodge: This lodge is generally considered to be on par with the famous Kohl's Ranch Lodge near Payson, Arizona, and the historic El Tovar Lodge built on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. In addition to hiking, fishing, relaxing, and enjoying winter sports.

Reed's Lodge in Springerville: This historic hotel was built in 1949 and features rooms decorated with locally milled aged knotty pine walls and log beams. John Wayne was known to stop by the lodge and play poker from time to time. Bob Schaller stayed here while on his US-191 roadtrip and recommends it highly.guests are invited to participate in chores at the working cattle ranch. He reports that it is reminiscent of the popular film "City Slickers." (He declined the opportunity to shovel manure…)

Links and Resources

Apache Sitgreaves National Forest:Trails, road closures and general information

Birders Delight: The White Mountains is home to hundreds of species of birds and other critters.

Town of Springerville: Attractions, list of motels and recreational opportunities in the area

Coronado Trail Scenic Byway

 

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