Road to Four Peaks

Exploring Arizona 3 – Road to Four Peaks

For my third trip out of Phoenix, I went up Hwy 87 again, and explored some back roads that go up over a pass right by Four Peaks.

On my second trip, where I got rained on a ton, I had a challenging time finding campsites down in the desert, due to, as I call it, the “Party Zone” surrounding the city. So I did more research before embarking on this third trip. I used My Maps on Google, which works well for this. My Maps allows you to add many markings and notes to a version of Google maps. You can add a pins and other shapes with names and notes, you can highlight a certain route of road, and you can draw shapes you want to highlight areas. You can switch quickly between views – including the normal map, ‘satellite’ view, and ‘terrain’ where you can see topography.  You can access and update your map on a computer or your phone. The only bad thing is that you can’t access or update the maps offline (I need to check that for sure though). 

Google My Maps

Google My Maps


Google My Maps


Road to Four Peaks

I found a lot of areas that I highlighted and want to go explore in person.  One of those areas have some Forest Service roads going all the way up over a pass right next to Four Peaks. The roads traverses 30 or so miles from Hwy 87 over to Hwy 188 near Roosevelt Lake.  It looked like it has many good camping spots along the route. I did already know that there’s an OHV area there. And that this close to the city, many of the campsites would be occupied by shooters or littered with their mess. I expected that I may have to go pretty far up the road to find nice campsites, but I was sure that I’d find some before the pass.

I drove about halfway to the pass before I found a camping spot I liked, and settled in for a handful of days. The path up to Four Peaks is a great drive. It’s one of those cool Arizona drives where you can go from 2,000 foot elevation desert up to 6,000 foot or so where you have pine trees. It’s also popular for people driving around in SUVs, trucks, side-by-sides, and dirt bikes.

Road to Four Peaks

One odd thing happened up there: on Saturday evening, I heard a police car siren. I looked around and spotted a Sherrif’s SUV coming down the road quickly. He was obviously in a hurry. Two more Sherrifs followed within 10 or 15 minutes. I wondered whether they were responding to an incident along this road, or if they were using the road to get from Hwy 87 to Hwy 188. 

Road to Four Peaks
My home for this trip


Road to Four Peaks
My van is down there in the middle



Road to Four Peaks


Road to Four Peaks



“I’m glad these people have to go to work on Mondays”

I drove up and found my campsite on a Saturday.  There was quite a lot going on out there. Just people driving around and shooting (not at the same time).  Sunday morning as I awoke there were two guys on ATVs at the road who appeared to be thinking about coming up the little offshoot where I was camped. They did, parked, looked around the area with binoculars a lot, and then walked off with their guns, binoculars, and tripods (for the binoculars). An hour or so later, a group of about 25 people traveling in a 10+ side-by-sides took a pit stop in my camping area. They hung out, talked, and drank beer for an hour before moving on. I heard gunshots all day long in sporadic bursts.

Monday morning I had peace and quiet for hours at a time. I wrote in my journal:

Sometimes I’m happy that other people work every week. Out where I’m camping, over the weekend I’ve heard a steady stream of noises from OHVs and guns. Now, Monday morning, it’s just me and the singing birds

Road to Four Peaks


Road to Four Peaks
When I start putting stuff down instead of putting it away, I have a mess like this really quickly


Road to Four Peaks
But it only takes about 5 minutes to get it this clean again

Tea Time

Road to Four Peaks


Road to Four Peaks

Two more trips near Phoenix, and then where?

I’ll be around Phoenix for a few more weeks – until the end of March. After that, I’ll meander north. I expect to spend 6 or more weeks in central and northern Arizona.  I’ve been to some wonderful places in this area that I want to go back to, but I’m sure there are a lot of other places I should go. So, if you know the area, tell me! 

Where should I go? 

Road to Four Peaks

Here are some places I’m expecting to go or thinking about going:  (The ones with question marks are places I haven’t been and am not sure about)

  • Apache trail / Lake Roosevelt again. Maybe see the cliff dwellings there
  • Montezuma’s Castle ???
  • The Meteor crater east of Flagstaff ???
  • Camp along the way to Payson. Maybe same spot as I went before
  • Camp up along the Mogollon rim just north of Payson. 
  • Sedona area
  • Grand Canyon.. (south rim??) 
  • Horseshoe bend??
  • Three Monuments??
  • Stuff in the Navajo Reservation? What/where??? (need to research visiting/camping there)
  • Hang out in/near Flagstaff

What else???



    I honestly have no idea who these shooters are who litter so badly. I just can’t understand it! For one thing, it ruins the place for the next guy (way to be inconsiderate!) and for more practical and selfish reasons, it’s expensive! If you pack out your brass or spent shell casings, you can generally reload them for like half the price of buying new ammo.

    It’s like if soda or beer cans had a recycle value of like $.50 instead of $.05, you could fit fifty of them in your pockets comfortably, and people still just threw them on the ground and walked away. Mystifying.

    A considerate rule of thumb is to try to pack out at least 1 more bag of garbage than what you brought in, when going to public shooting lands. Unfortunately, I’ve seen more than one spot of BLM land be closed to shooting because dumb folks can’t respect the environment and ruin it for everyone.

    I agree. While camping at my most recent spot, I’d seen a guy go into a campsite where people have done some shooting and there were some (but not even a lot of) casings on the ground. He was there in the evening a couple hours but I couldn’t tell what he was doing. He came back again the next afternoon and after him being up there walking around looking at the ground and picking some stuff up, I went over and asked what he was looking for. He was picking up the brass casings to sell as scrap. I told him about some other spots in the area that have 20x as many casings lying around.

    I suppose I should check the scrap price and see if I think I should start picking them up when I come across an area littered with them.

    I used to live in Phoenix, now only visit occasionally. You’ve already been exploring some of my favorite places: Apache trail, superstitions, 4 peaks. When I go back to AZ, I hang out in Sedona. It’s spectacular with tons of hiking, but perhaps not best for van camping (they have to regulate trailhead parking with permits because of the crowds). But there is a pretty place nearby called sycamore canyon, only accessible on dirt roads then hiking–I think you have to access from the north, on forest roads from I-40 west of Flagstaff. I’m jealous, AZ is perfect for what you do, lots of national forest and backcountry dirt roads that I’d love to explore, from the Chiracahua’s down south, all along the Mogollon Rim, from the White Mountains in the east, to the plateaus and Grand Canyon west and up north. Flagstaff is a cool and relaxed college and railroad town, hopefully you can park in town there. To understand more about the native Americans and the Colorado plateau, check out the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. Thanks for blogging and posting all the spectacular photos.

    Thanks for the confirmations and other places to consider. I’ve been to both Flagstaff and Sedona enough to know easy places to go. Flagstaff looks super easy to park in the city. I was always seeing tons of interesting overland type vehicles there. Thanks for the museum recommendation, I’ll check that place out 😀

    Yeah, Arizona is really incredible, and good climate can be had almost year round within different parts of the state. I’ve camped near Sedona a handful of times now and I like it a lot (usually on the Forest Service roads just a bit west of town, like 525). I did stop by Flagstaff for a couple days, but was passing through pretty quickly. It seems super easy to park/camp in the city there (it seems the residents there are unlikely to be offended or scared by me or other similar travelers).

    The fun of the wild west !
    I enjoyed the views of HorseShoe Bend when I was up that way and viewed it at Sunrise. The best time I would think might be sunset or late evening but heck you have time to check it out at both. I liked the Navajo region of Monument Valley and all the huge bluffs and landscape is beautiful. Only tricky part there is it is all Navajo nation so no area to pull off and camp I don’t believe.

    Thanks Chris. Yeah, if I go to horseshoe bend, I’ll probably try to be able to hang around for a few (or maybe more) to get nice shooting conditions. I need to figure out the Navajo nation rules..

    The view through the windows of your van is so nice and clear. Is there something about their shape that enables it or is it simply that they aren’t darkly tinted or a combination of the two or something else? I am wanting to buy a van with windows like yours but the old Dodges are not nearly as common as Fords and Chevys. But the Fords and Chevys seem to have thicker pillars and darker tinting.

    Hi Joe. Part of it is that I’m intentionally taking pictures from angles where the outside scenery is in good view. The windows are tinted, but not super dark, and when I edit the pictures, that tint often becomes less noticable. The views from the windows are as good in real life as they look in the pictures, I think because in real life you don’t notice the changes that the tint causes as much as you would in a picture. I’d say – if you haven’t already – find a local Ford and/or Chevy and get inside it to see what the window views are actually like in person. In my opinion, the biggest difference between Dodge vans and Ford or Chevy is that the Dodges are a bit wider inside, and this makes sleeping with your body parallel to the wheel axles more doable. But anyways, in buying a van, I think the most important thing is to find one that’s in good shape. That can be tough since vans are often used for work and get beat up.

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