Located in central Arizona’s Verde Valley, the town of Prescott Valley is steeped in history, most of which revolves around the mining operations that were the bread-and-butter of the area’s economy in much of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Now in addition to its old-west history, it has become an area known for its cutting-edge wineries and hip art scene, both of which have taken center stage in recent years.
Of course, the area is home to an amazing climate too, and with some of the most majestic geology and scenery in the state, it shouldn’t be missed.
1. The Highlands Center for Natural History
If you’re interested in natural history, then one of the places you shouldn’t miss on your trip to Prescott Valley is the Highlands Center for Natural History.
Located on South Walker Road in nearby Prescott, the center is surrounded by nearly 80 acres of pristine forest, and offers guided tours that’ll fill you with all kinds of interesting facts and figures about the area’s geology and history.
You may be surprised at the diversity of plant and animal life, habitat and geology the area is home to.
There’s also a botanical garden, and the center offers hands-on and instructional activities for all ages too.
2. Fain Park
Located on North 5th Street in Prescott Valley, Fain Park is a wonderful and free place to hang out, get some exercise or try your hand at a little fishing.
There are trails throughout the park that lead to the lake and a few creeks in the surrounding area, and there are picnic tables too.
Some locals prefer the park in spring and fall, when the air is brisk and fresh.
During the summer the lake’s water level can drop and even become stagnant, which makes it a bit unappealing.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department stock the lake with rainbow trout, and you can check the stocking dates on their website so you don’t miss the action.
3. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Thought to be the world’s largest Travertine bridge, Tonto Natural Bridge and the surrounding park are full of amazing geology that you aren’t likely to see anywhere else.
The park’s star is the nearly 400-foot long bridge that’s nearly 150-feet tall at and can be scaled or walked under.
Whichever you choose to do, bring your camera so you’ll have a permanent record of your trip.
The bridge is north of the nearby town of Payson off Arizona Route 87.
The park sports numerous trails, restrooms, picnic areas, and even a small gift shop, the proceeds of which go to the park’s upkeep.
4. Take a Wine Tour
Though not usually the first place wine connoisseurs think of as a hot-spot, Arizona is home to more than 40 wineries, some of which have made a real name for themselves in recent years.
Prescott Valley and the surrounding towns in the Verde Valley are considered by many to be ground-zero for Arizona’s wineries.
Guided tours are now offered that include many of them, and some are open to those who’d rather not see them as part of a tour too.
Any easy online search will give you the area’s wineries, their addresses, and whether or not they’re open for tours.
5. Freedom Station Family Fun Center
You can pack a lot of fun into a 40,000 square foot package, and that’s exactly what the people at Freedom Station Family Fun Center have done.
Located on North Park Avenue, the center has mini-golf, laser tag and rock climbing areas to name just a few.
There are also air hockey tables and old-school style video games for those nostalgic gamers.
All those activities will definitely make you hungry, so you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s a restaurant onsite to replace all those expended calories.
Hours and prices are subject to change, so check out their website.
6. Lonesome Valley Trails
If you’ve always dreamed of riding the range like the Lone Ranger, then a trip to Lonesome Valley Trails in Paulden might be the only chance you’ll ever get.
You can choose between a mule and a horse, and although the Lone Ranger wouldn’t have been caught dead on a mule, it won’t really matter, because whichever you prefer, your guided tour will lead you to some of the most scenic landscapes in the area.
Separate riding lessons are available too, but if you’d rather skip the formal instruction that’s OK, because you’ll get a crash course in handling the animal before you head out.
Lonesome Valley Trails has been around since 2013.
7. Gold King Mine & Ghost Town
Back in the 1800s, the state of Arizona was full of hopeful prospectors looking to strike it rich in the gold found in the hills, valleys and riverbeds.
The town of Jerome was one such town that sprung up to house, feed and entertain these roughnecks who crawled out of the hills from time to time to stock up, clean up and usually cause a stir.
The Gold King Mine and Ghost Town is a museum without walls, that’s full of buildings, equipment, and artifacts left over from the bygone era.
There are more than a few old cars and trucks too.
8. Prescott Peavine National Recreation Trail
Like a lot of Arizona’s trails, the Prescott Peavine National Recreation Trail is open to walkers, bikers, hikers, and horseback riders.
The trail winds its way for nearly 5 miles through the surrounding ravines, canyons, and mountains, and is largely constructed from an old railroad track bed that’s no longer in use.
Don’t worry, they’ve removed the beams and tracks to make the going smooth.
The trail is relatively flat and will give you great views of Watson Lake, and Granite Dells, which is an area of large boulders and fascinating rock structures that look like they’re from another planet.
9. Thumb Butte Park
The trails and scenery in Thumb Butte Park are stunning, to say the least.
They’re also family-friendly and packed full of opportunities like fishing, hiking, trail-biking, or just laying out a blanket and taking it all in.
Though there’s normally a small parking fee, Wednesdays are free access day, so plan accordingly if possible.
The park is packed with desert plants, trees, and wildlife, which may include snakes, hummingbirds, and even tarantulas if you’re lucky, or unlucky.
The park has picnic tables, built-in grills, and even restrooms, if you’d like to hang around and have a relaxing barbeque after a long day in the sun.
10. Support local artists
Open every day, The Jerome Artists’ Cooperative Gallery is comprised of nearly 30 local artists who exhibit their artwork and often work at the gallery.
It’s located on North Main Street in Jerome, and features paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and other art as well, much of which has a southwestern theme.
The cooperative has been open since 1996 and is located inside the Hotel Jerome, which along with the surrounding area is one of the epicenters for the central Arizona arts community.
If you want to buy something but are worried about getting it home on an airplane, they’ll help you package it properly and sent it via mail if necessary.
11. Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum
Like many towns in the old-west, Jerome has its share of bloody history, especially that between lawmen and the rough, and often drunk cowboys who frequented the town.
The Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum has been around since the ‘50s, and is home to a staggering amount of memorabilia, equipment and artifacts pertaining to the town’s mining past.
It’s also home to the Colt pistol used by the town’s sheriff to gun down a hard-headed law-breaker in 1912.
The museum also highlights the influences of different nationalities that came to the area to construct the railroad and prospect for gold and silver in the early years.
12. Douglas Mansion
Built in 1916 and located inside the Jerome State Historic Park, The Douglas Mansion was built by a local mining mogul, and now houses many photos, exhibits and memorabilia from the golden days of Jerome’s mining boom.
The park and home have recently undergone substantial renovation, and are now open every day.
Donations from the original owners, Yavapai County, the city of Jerome and the Jerome Historical Society now account for the majority of funding that keeps the park up and running, so head out, learn a little, and support a great cause.
Bring a snack or a bagged lunch and enjoy the picnic area outside when you’re done.
13. Sliding Jail
In the 1920s, Jerome and the surrounding areas were often rocked by explosions, as determined prospectors tried desperately to unlock the gold and silver ore trapped in the tough Arizona rock.
One such explosion was so powerful that it actually caused a jail cell to slide more than 200 feet from its original position.
There’s no word on whether the cell was occupied at the time, but it’s a great place to stop and take a photo or two when you’re in the area.
The cell is near Hull Avenue, and it’s free to visit.
If you can’t find it, ask any local and they’ll be able to tell you.
14. The Jerome State Historic Park
With so much history, it’s no wonder Prescott Valley, Jerome, and other Verde Valley towns are so full of places determined to preserve the past.
The Jerome State Historic Park is one of those places, and one that should be on the to-do list of history buffs visiting the area.
Full of photos, personal accounts, and historic treasures of every kind, the park has a museum, nifty gift shop, and an abandoned mine shaft nicknamed ‘Old Daisy,’ which looks like a black abyss that never ends.
There’s a small admission fee for the park, but it’ll be money well spent.
15. Audrey Headframe Park
Not to be confused with the Audrey Hepburn Park, the Audrey Headframe Park is another fascinating place that’ll take you on a time machine into the mining past of Prescott Valley.
When it was operating, the Audrey Headframe was the largest piece of mining equipment of its kind in the United States.
The story goes that nearly broke and ready to give up, the mine’s determined owner struck a rich vein of copper ore in 1914 that saved the company and made him a wealthy man.
The view from the headframe will give you an eerie glimpse into the subterranean world the miners had to work in to make a buck.