The trail was absolutely gorgeous and extremely green with a lot more flowers than I expected to see when I pre-ran it 5/11. It’s quite fun for those looking for a more challenging run. It’s got rocks, ruts, and might even have some left-over mud. I’d break this trail up into 3 sections; Entry, Canyon, and Exit. I’d rate Entry and Exit about the same, 1.5-2, depending line choice on a few parts of the trail and should take about the same amount of time. Canyon is the creek bed and where the majority of the challenge is. I’d rate it a 2.5-3.0 overall. The rock garden is maybe a couple hundred yards long and a fairly sustained 3. This section will definitely take the longest to get thru with a group.
It was a bit more challenging, but just as fun, than I recall from the last time I ran it a few years ago. The rock gardens seem to have less soil and smaller, in-between stones and a number of the creek bed exits are definitely more challenging. The rocks ranged from basketball sized up thru large spare tire. I ran the trail in my RRC which is running 35” tires, it is locked front and rear and has a full set of armor (rock sliders, diff guards, tank skid plate). By myself and in somewhat wet conditions, I was able to get thru the trail itself in approx. 3.5 hrs with a very short lunch stop and no other traffic on the trail. With a group of trucks of varying modification some traffic, I expect 5-6 hours, at a minimum, on the trail (from Jerome).
First off, this is not a trail for stock trucks. Unless the driver is extremely advanced in off roading behind the wheel of their vehicle, there is an extreme likelihood of some level of damage to a stock vehicle’s sills, differential housings, and/or fuel tank, if it doesn’t have protection.
All vehicles need at least all terrain (AT), more trail than street, tires with good tread. Given the soil condition in a number of the creek bed exits in the Canyon, the more aggressive the tread the better off you will be. Alloy rims will have a fair chance of rock rash of some extent because of the rocks in the creek bed. Vehicles need to have under body protection; diff guards and rock sliders are a must. You might be okay without sliders on solid axle trucks with a 3” lift, especially with taller tires, but there is still a risk. Big body Rovers (LR3/4, Sport, RR, etc) need full belly pans along with rock sliders due to component exposure under said trucks. For the less lifted vehicles with exposed overhanging fuel tanks (i.e. D2s) and the big body trucks, a tank guard is highly recommended. If you are running stock height tires, you will be very challenged; expect to hit and drag your diff’s and you will most likely bounce off your rock sliders a number of times. Vehicles without CDL (center diff lock) may have a difficult time in a few sections and I wouldn’t be surprised if a strap was needed here and there. There a few spots with some low hanging branches that cannot be trimmed, so taller rigs with RTT’s might have an issue
If the forecast holds, weather should be fantastic. Looks like a sunny day with highs around 80 in Jerome, so we’ll see about the same on the trail. Bring lots of water and lunch and don’t forget your cameras and sunscreen. The canyon is pretty closed in with foliage, but there are some amazing vistas along the Entry and Exit sections. Dogs are welcome (if they don’t mind being jostled around), so long as they are people (adults and children) and dog friendly.
7:30am – meet in parking lot of McDonalds at Carefree Highway and I-17
8:00am sharp – depart for Cottonwood and Jerome (we’ll stop in Cottonwood for fuel)
9:30ish – meet anyone not coming in from the Valley in parking lot on the Jerome-Perkinsville road behind the fire house in Jerome
https://goo.gl/maps/dtruasZHUuGtmNyr7 (Jerome Perkinsville road)
10:00am – hit the road for the trail
HAM – 146.48 simplex
FRS/GMRS – channel 8, no security sub channel
CBs are welcome, but I do not have one set up in the truck
Smiley Rock trail will leave you smiling as you enter the historic mining town of Jerome and hit the dirt shorty after the fire station. The trail begins as a well maintained road, and gradually builds in difficulty as you gain elevation. Near the end, the last couple of miles provides excellent challenges as you navigate rocky stream beds. Tire placement is critical and rock stacking is expected. Stock vehicles with stock tires should use caution.
The trail is mostly easy/moderate but there is a 1/4mile rock garden towards the end which may require spotting for some.
The trail is located just outside Jerome, AZ which is about 90 miles from Phoenix.
Features: Allow plenty of time to see historic Jerome. The town is a major tourist attraction offering an array of quaint gift shops, art galleries, museums and restaurants. If you’re into mining history, plan a stop at the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town along the route or take a short side trip to Jerome State Historic Park. Both of these attractions require a small fee. Once in the backcountry, you’ll enjoy your secluded adventure through Martin Canyon, which follows the southern border of the Woodchute Wilderness. Hike and camp at various points along the way. Some of this trail is officially part of the Great Western Trail. This rating applies to the portion of the trip through Martin Canyon which is narrow and rocky. Skid plates and good articulation are recommended. Brush is tight in several places. Much of the route is an easy gravel road.