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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Verde Vista Loop


View from the Verde Vista Loop

It’s only a little over a 500-foot climb to the zenith of the Verde Vista Loop.  But getting there is trickier than it looks. 

The green corridor of the Verde River

The trail, which was completed in 2021, is tethered to the still under construction Camp Verde Sports Complex and crosses into Coconino National Forest east of the Verde River and Beaver Creek . 
Verde Vista Loop crosses into Coconino NF

The 5.5-mile non-motorized trail, in the hills southeast of Montezuma Castle National Monument, is a joint effort between the Town of Camp Verde Urban Upland Trail System and Coconino National Forest.  
Verde Vista Loop passes below limestone cliffs

The route departs from the easy-rated , Perimeter Loop that circles the Sports Complex with a level, gravel surface that’s welcoming to hikers, dog walkers and stroller-pushing families.
The route is well signed throughout

The Verde Vista Loop begins innocently enough with a walk-through open desert and grassy slopes.  The first mile makes an effortless ascent on a mix of two-track and singletrack dirt. Mountain views stand out all around as the path winds through clumpy forbs, yucca and a green sea of creosote shrubs.
Grasses and a sea of creosote on the lower leg

As the route moves toward the imposing crescent of buff-colored cliffs and a large mesa-like mound to the northeast, views of the emerald band of the Verde River glows in the valley to the west.  After passing into Coconino National Forest, the trail meets a sign warning equestrians that conditions ahead can be hazardous for horse travel. 
There are some steep and slippery sections

Bikers and hikers should take heed too, because beyond the sign, the trail goes full-tilt crazy.  Abrupt twists, loose rock and close-to-the-edge traverses on a base of crumbling limestone characterize the roughly mile-and-a-half ascent to the trail’s high point in the White Hills. 
The Perimeter Loop is level and easy

Narrow and slippery in places, it’s smart to pay attention to footing and not be distracted by the ever-expanding mountain and valley panoramas rolling out below.  
Yucca decorate the Verde Vista Loop

After huffing, puffing and scrambling over chalky ledges, the trail delivers a punch of in-your-face eye candy as a reward.  
Verde Vista Loop climbs to the top of the White Hills

While easier than the ascent, the return leg the loop still has its challenges. It clings to cliffs, sweeps over ridgetop flatlands and hits one last spiral of switchbacks before landing hikers back in the creosote sea.


Verde Vista Loop: 5.5 miles

Perimeter Loop: 1.6 miles


Verde Vista Loop: difficult

Perimeter Loop: easy


Verde Vista Loop: 3,136 – 3,688 feet (1,190 feet of accumulated elevation change)

Perimeter Loop: 3,100 – 3,160 feet


From Interstate 17 in Camp Verde, go 4 miles east (toward Payson) on State Route 260 to  Champion Trail about 1/2 mile beyond the Ranger Station. The Champion Trail entrance gives direct access to a parking lot with trail map kiosk.

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