Clarkdale, Arizona is a small town located in the central portion of the state referred to as the Verde Valley.
With a population of less than 6,000, the area was settled in the mid-19th century. For much of its history, it was mainly known for its ranching and copper mines, and as a transportation waypoint between Phoenix and Flagstaff.
It’s still largely a ranching community, although tourism is a big draw these days. Historic sites, amazing geology and the area’s fascinating Native American cultures and ruins are all major items on the to-do lists of those visiting the area.
Below are 15 things to do in Clarkdale, Arizona that you won’t want to miss.
1. Verde Canyon Railroad
In Spanish, verde means green; you’ll know why the name was chosen when you chug through the scenic canyon in a restored iron-horse from a bygone era.
Plain and simple, trains are a lot of fun. Kids love them, and there really isn’t a more enjoyable or dramatic way to see the amazing Arizona scenery.
There are different seating options to match every budget, but no matter whether you’re going first-class or riding in coach with the rest of the commoners, you won’t miss a thing.
There’s a nifty little café and gift shop at the depot too, so check them out before heading off to your next adventure.
2. Arizona Copper Art Museum
Copper has been big business in Arizona since the time it was settled.
Some of Arizona’s largest and most productive mines contained rock with among the highest percentages of copper ore in the world.
The Arizona Copper Art Museum is a great place to spend a few hours learning about this vital metal, its history, and the part it has played in not only Arizona history, but world history.
It’s conveniently located on Main Street in Clarkdale, making it an easy to reach no-brainer when you’re in the area.
Even the kids will love the plentiful and colorful arts and exhibits.
3. Clarkdale Downtown Historic District
Clarkdale was once a ‘company town,’ meaning it owed its existence largely to the United Verde Copper Company, which was the area’s major employer for decades.
The town was founded in 1912 and was the site of the company’s smelter, which extracted the copper from the ore sourced from the mine in nearby Jerome.
The downtown still contains homes and buildings that were typical of the era, and the historic district was admitted to the National Register of Historical Places in the ‘90s.
In its day, Clarkdale was considered one of the world’s most modern towns, sporting utilities and communications that were cutting edge at the time.
4. Tuzigoot National Monument
Located on Tuzigoot Road in Clarkdale, the Tuzigoot National Monument is an awe-inspiring place that will give you and your travel companions a fascinating look into the lives of the Sinagua people who called the area home for thousands of years.
The site includes a pueblo – or house – which has more than 100 rooms and a tower that looms large over the desert below.
They’re impressive examples of architecture and human ingenuity, especially when you consider that they were constructed nearly 1,000 years ago with limited and primitive materials.
Guided tours are available if you’d like to learn about the site and its previous inhabitants from a professional.
5. Chateau Tumbleweed
You may be surprised to discover that the parched, rocky and mountainous state of Arizona has gained quite a reputation as a wine producing region in recent years.
Chateau Tumbleweed, as the name implies, is a little bit of France tucked into central Arizona.
The chateau was one of the first wineries and tasting rooms in the Clarkdale area; it was conceived by four friends who spent decades working for other commercial wineries in the region.
The chateau is a great change of pace from all the dusty historical sites in the area, and don’t forget to pick up a few bottles at the gift shop on your way out.
6. Verde River Access Point
The Verde River in Clarkdale is a surprisingly cool and clear stretch of refreshing water that runs through the Verde Valley.
Though it’s not free, inexpensive day passes are available and you’ll get hours of exercise and enjoyment from all there is to do.
The river access area is a great place for long walks, picnics, fishing, or just lounging in the sun with a good book.
Even in the summer, it’s usually not crowded, which is pleasantly surprising considering the ample parking, sandy beaches, and shaded seating areas.
It may be the only beach surrounded by desert cliffs and canyons that you’ll ever get to experience.
7. Coyote Trails Golf Course
Though previously known as Pine Shadows Golf Course, beautiful Coyote Trails is tucked into the base of Clarkdale’s scenic Mingus Mountains.
You’ll find only 9 holes instead of the normal 18, but with so much else to see and do in Clarkdale, those few extra hours you save will be put to good use.
The course is great for kids too, especially since 18 holes is a bit much for those with short attention spans.
Greens fees are very reasonable, and the area is known as a hotspot for local animals who are usually seen on the course in the mornings and evenings.
8. Woodchute Wilderness Area
At nearly 6,000 acres, the Woodchute Wilderness area is in one of the Clarkdale area’s most impressive and pristine tracts of preserved forest.
It’s part of the Prescott National Forest just west of the neighboring town of Jerome
Due to its elevation – which is greater than a mile in some areas – the wilderness area is relatively cool and home to lots of species of plants, trees, and animals including lynx, fox, birds, and reptiles.
Two trails with a total distance of nearly eight miles are the best ways to see all of the wilderness’ sites, and both are easily accessible from the parking area.
9. Mingus Lake
Mingus Lake and the majestic Mingus Mountain are icons of Clarkdale’s natural splendor.
The scenic Mingus Mountain Road was in ages past an important road for prospectors in the surrounding hills, who needed a quick way into town to unload the metal they’d extracted and stock up on supplies before heading back into the mountains.
Due to its small size, the boats aren’t allowed on the lake, but it’s a favorite spot for fisherman looking to hook into a few of the rainbow trout which are stocked here yearly.
There’s a cheap entrance fee of just a few dollars, and there are plenty of places to spread a blanket out for a picnic.
10. Visit Sedona
Of all the amazing places to discover in Arizona, Sedona is one of the most scenic and unforgettable.
Dating back to its settling in 1902, the town was named after the founder’s wife.
In those days, the area was known mainly for the fruit that was grown there, though over the years tourism has become the major draw.
The red cliffs and colorful canyons are second-to-none, and many people who’ve visited believe the area is home to a healing, spiritual vortex of sorts, which draws people from around the world.
Sedona is home to great galleries, rock shops, and natural healing centers too.
11. Verde Valley Wine Festival
Clarkdale, Jerome, and the Verde Valley are home to many seasonal festivals that include art, live music, and food. One of the most popular, which includes a little bit of everything, is the Verde Valley Wine Festival.
It’s held at Clarkdale Park on Main Street and takes place in the middle of May when the central Arizona weather is perfect.
Wine is definitely the festival’s major draw, but it also includes products from Arizona micro-breweries, distilleries, and restaurants from all over the state.
No matter who you’re traveling with, you’ll find lots to do and see and it’s a great way to support the community.
12. Visit Camp Verde
Located right in the geographic center of the state, Camp Verde is a convenient and interesting stop, especially when driving between Phoenix and Flagstaff.
Camp Verde was settled in the 1860s and was originally the home of soldiers. These troops were stationed in the area to provide protection to the region’s settlers who were often attacked by Native Americans that were less than thrilled with the new people squatting on their land.
Camp Verde sits in the Verde Valley in the shade of the surrounding mountains and is the place where the low desert meets the high chaparral and ponderosa pines of north and central Arizona.
13. Montezuma’s Castle National Monument
Though Arizona’s Native Americans didn’t build castles like those found throughout Europe, they were amazing builders in their own right, and considering the lack of materials available in the desert, Montezuma’s Castle National Monument is an incredible fete of ingenuity.
A relatively short drive from Clarkdale, the cliff ruins are among the best-preserved of their kind in the country and were constructed between 800 and 1,000 years ago.
Due to the danger involved, visitors can’t enter the rooms which are perched high up a cliff, but you’ll get great views from the paths below.
The trails are paved and well-marked, and there are informative signs to let you know what it is you’re seeing.
14. Walnut Canyon
A few hours north of Clarkdale in Flagstaff, Walnut Canyon National Monument is easily accessible from Interstate 40.
Walnut Canyon is home to cliff dwellings that were built by the Sinagua people – pre-Columbian inhabitants of north and central Arizona who resided in the area for thousands of years before it was officially settled.
The Sinagua built apartment-style dwellings that hang from and are built into sheer cliff walls.
The site is accessible by a short trail and you’ll wonder just how difficult and dangerous their world was, and what prompted them to build such precarious homes.
15. Dead Horse Ranch State Park
One of the Verde Valley’s most popular parks, Dead Horse Ranch State Park is full of campsites, picnic areas and hiking trails that range from moderate to difficult.
The land on which the park now sits was private for many years, though its owners sold it to the state with the agreement that it would become a park.
It’s near the Coconino National Forest and many of the trails within the park lead to trails inside the larger national forest.
The trails are open to hikers, walkers, bikers and horseback riders. It’s a good idea to pick up a trail map at the visitor’s center before heading out.