Loaded up the car with The Foxy Pups, their bed, a cooler of water, toilet paper (you can never be too sure) and all of our cold weather clothes (boots, jackets, scarves, gloves and ear muffs) and hit the road for an Arizona road trip. The route that Aaron is planning is mostly paved roads, but there are a couple areas that give the option for 4-Wheel Drive, which will be the first time in his new 4Runner, Silvia. 

We left Tempe and took the Loop 101 North to the I-17 and continued driving north through Anthem and passed Black Canyon City where they have some of the best pies I’ve ever had at Rock Springs Cafe. My personal favorite is Strawberry Rhubarb, but their Apple pie is also really good. 

After getting stuck in a little bit of traffic, we drove through Sunset Point, which is one of my favorite areas. The short stretch of flat meadows is such a gorgeous contrast against the big mountains in the background. Along the road is where we saw the first patches of snow. Not much, but still exciting to see. We also saw a tree in the median that was fully decorated for Christmas. Not much farther from there, I noticed the sign for Crown King, which is a spot that I went off-reading with my brother back in the day. There’s a pretty good burger place and bar at the top of the mountain. Then we passed Aqua Fria River, which didn’t have any water in it, but there were a lot more patches of snow. I figured we had to be getting close!

Towards the end of our trip on I-17, we saw the red Sedona rock in the background along with snow covered peaks that Aaron was guessing were the San Francisco peaks. My camera didn’t do the best job capturing it, but it was breathtaking. 

Eventually we headed east on Stoneman Lake Road off of the I-17 and took it to Happy Jack. We pulled off on a side forest service road with a gorgeous view of the mountains and valley. The Foxy Pups loved the snow! We walked around for a little bit. They figured out that they can eat it. Even though Stoneman Lake Road is a forest service road, it was paved until we hit a fork in the road, which turned to dirt as we turned left and continued on Stoneman Lake Road, but you don’t need 4WD here unless it’s rainy or snowy. There are some offshoots from here if you’re looking for a 4WD off-roading experience. As we drove farther down the road the trees turned from Mesquite to Pines and it looked as though all the rock is cinder (volcanic rock.) 

We arrived at the Stoneman Lake Overlook and the lake was completely dry. It was crazy to see the cabins on the other side. We took some mental notes on where to come back and camp. 

We came to another fork in the road and turned right/headed south towards/into Happy Jack on Lake Mary Road, which is a regular two lane paved road. The signs said we turned right towards Payson, which took us on the 87 and the scenery started to change slightly. The light colored rock that looks like granite or slate started peeking out under the snow and the trees turned into a thick pine and later had some Ponderosas (Christmas Trees) sprinkled in. On our way to Payson, we drove through Strawberry, which is where one of my favorite hikes is located called Fossil Creek and quickly after that we continued through Pine. Then we stopped in Payson for lunch at Culture Crepe. Since we had the pups, I ran in real quick for a strawberry sweet crepe to go, while Aaron stayed in the car with the pups. Click here to see my Yelp review. After Payson, we took the 87 back home past Fountain Hills and down McDowell to Tempe.

Trip Stats: We Left the house at 9:30am, Aaron dropped me at Einstein’s for bagels while he filled up the gas tank, then our first bathroom break was in Camp Verde. Two stops to play in snow, two more stops for The Foxy Pups to take a potty break and the final stop to get crepes before pulling in our driveway at 4:30pm. All in all the loop was about a 7 hour trip and 260 miles.


Check back to see the other trip itineraries on our list:

  1. 4 Peaks: off-road trail and a hiking trail
  2. Tombstone/Bisbee: overnight trip stay in Tubac, Tucson, Bisbee or Tombstone. Bisbee – Queen Mine Tour, Seance Show. Tombstone – OK Corral, Gun Re-enactment.
  3. Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe bend: overnight trip
  4. Cottonwood: overnight trip for the wineries and restaurants (take the Verde Canyon Trail and go to the Ranch for dinner)
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