I always spend time on the recreation.gov website in search of new trails and wilderness areas. On the Arizona section there is a list of recreation cabins owned by the forest service in secluded areas of the state, usually sleeping 6-12 people with comfortable amenities in the middle of nowhere. Enticing to any outdoor adventure junkie, which is why they fill up months in advance. Horsetheif basin drew me in because Justin and I had never been to the area, which pulled at me because we have been to almost every corner of the state. Horsetheif basin also happens to be in the southern most tip of the Prescott National Forest, which boasts itself for high pine habitat, granite rock formations, and stellar mountain biking trails. After discovering the cabin last summer and realizing it was completely booked, I made sure to book it in advance and grab a few fellow mountain biking friends along for the ride.
Adventurer beware: The road to Horsetheif Basin is not for the faint of heart. After taking the Bumble Bee exit off highway I-17, you travel a well-groomed dirt road for a couple hours up to the town of Crown King. Any car should do fine on this road, but we had a stroke of bad luck and got a flat. We turned around and swapped our tire at Discount Tire and headed back up the mountain, because staying in Phoenix is never an option. Crown King is like the wild wild west. I'll let your imagination paint the picture, because I'm not sure how else to describe this rural, rustic, boot-stompin' town. It's a fun place to stop on the way home for a beverage at the saloon or a pulled pork sandwich next door.
We met up with a few of our friends and continued on the road past Crown King, which is when things got bumpy. We didn't go far since the sun was setting and we wanted to set up camp. It was a sweet view to wake up to of layered peaks and pinyon pines. The road was just passable for both cars to make it to camp.
After waking up and enjoying breakfast with a view, we were eager to go for a bike ride and get to the cabin. So we packed up and drove down the road, which became increasingly bumpy. A couple miles in we heard a honk from our friend's Prius behind us and pulled over. The Prius was not fit for the road that was obviously made for a high-clearance vehicle, and our Subaru was barely surviving. We got out of the car and were pressed to make a few decisions. The Prius was clearly staying put or turning around. We were only a couple miles from the cabin so everyone felt committed to get down, we just weren't sure how. Until the idea was proposed that we bike shuttle our supplies down.
Under the hot Arizona sun, we packed up our gear and biked to the cabin. There's a crappy photo below of the cabin, courtesy of the forest service, but it was an oasis! There were 2 beds and 2 bunks all with mattresses, clean running water, electricity, and a shower. Talk about five star "camping." Besides having paranoia that the Prius would fall off the side of the road or get broken into, the weekend was a blast.
The biking trails were not trails you find elsewhere in Prescott National Forest. Most of the biking was on dirt roads, but the benefit was the seclusion. There were a few side trails we explored, which were not maintained, but still bike-able. We hit most corners of the area on our bikes, but there were a few areas left unexplored that will likely bring us back one day.
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.