June 2021
Hiking Yavapai
Stan Bindell

Verde River and Kendrick Wilderness

The Verde River-Lagoon Loop and Kendrick Wilderness Trail illustrate the wide variety of trails our state has to offer the hiker. The first offers abundant water, the second has none.

Verde River lagoon

The Lagoon Loop is like a walk in the park. Well, it is a walk in the park, namely Deadhorse State Park in Cottonwood. The elevation is about 3,200 feet and hardly changes, making an easy 4.1-mile walk.

Kendrick, on the other hand is in a wilderness area, a high-elevation trail starting at 7,800 feet and topping out at 10,400 for those who make it to the top. This 9.2-mile hike is considered strenuous by the editors of Flagstaff Hikes. Kendrick Mountain is the eighth-highest peak in Arizona, and this trail is a great hike for cooling off in the summer. In winter you’ll probably want to take a pass. These trails have one important aspect in common, and that is little shade.

The water draws plenty of birds and wildlife for viewing from the Lagoon Loop. Aside from a ton of ducks, during our recent outing I saw a number of herons, an egret, grackles and red-wing blackbirds. One time I saw a bright scarlet tanager. This particular circuit revealed lizards most everywhere. I have seen beavers at the lagoons, though not this time, and in winter eagles are common in the park.

Kendrick is better known for its views of surrounding mountains, offering a great view of the San Francisco Peaks, and on this trip hikers could still see snow near the top of the Peaks. Kendrick Wilderness is home to many elk, and some years ago an elk came within ten feet of our hiking party. Kendrick Mountain Wilderness trail is well defined, mostly by switchbacks.

Verde River in Deadhorse Park

The Verde River Lagoon loop is built of several trails with no apparent names. This hiker usually lets readers find their own trail directions, but I came up with this loop to cover the most water in the park.

From the Deadhorse Park entrance, drive about five miles and turn right onto Kingfisher Road. Go the half-mile to the parking lot. Steps down to the Verde River are on the right, but don’t go that way because you’ll be getting there soon enough. 

Go to the left and you will come to the first lagoon and go halfway around it, about half a mile, and you’ll find a trail going directly down to the river. It’s about a tenth of a mile, a great place to stop to take your first photos of the river and soak it in. From there, go left about seven tenths of a mile, where you have an even better view of the flowing Verde. Large branches cross the river at this point and people are usually on the other side, sunning themselves or fishing.

Turn around at this point, go past that first river overlook and continue straight for about a quarter mile. Turn right and walk about 100 feet to a bench and a short walking bridge. This bench is an awesome place to stop, and the bridge overlooks a running creek, offering great photo opportunities in both directions.

Turn right on the other side of the bridge and follow that trail for four-tenths of a mile, climb about ten stairsteps and follow the creek, which at this point is on the left, to your first sighting of beautiful yellow monkey flowers. Turn around again, and when you reach the bottom of the stairs go to the right and straight up. You’ll pass a park road with cabins on it. Continue straight for about two-tenths of a mile. Here the creek is on the right and the monkey flowers are more plentiful. The trail appears to end at a park road, so turn around here.

View of the SF Peaks from Kendrick Mountain

When you get back to the cabins, which have picnic tables, and if no one’s using them, this is a great place to stop for a snack.

Continue back the way you came, but instead of recrossing the walk bridge go straight, and you’re soon back down to the river. Follow this route for about two-tenths of a mile, with the river to your left. There are several nice places to stop and view the river.

Next go back to the bridge and bench, continue to where you entered from the first lagoon, and walk around the other half of the lagoon. From the restrooms at the first lagoon, walk straight up and you will come to the second lagoon. On reaching the second lagoon, you’ll have gone 2.65 miles. The second lagoon leads right to the third, making an obvious loop at this point, and then returning to your vehicle to complete the 4.1 miles.

Before leaving Deadhorse Park behind, visit nearby Tavasci Marsh. From the parking lot on Kingfisher Road make a left as if to leave the park, but keep your eyes peeled on the right for a short road that will take you to the marsh. I’ve argued in the past that Griffith Springs in Flagstaff is the best short hike in the state when the water is running, but Tavasci Marsh has to be considered as well because of the marsh, the wildlife and frogs. Like Griffith Springs, the Tavasci Marsh walk is about two miles round-trip.

Blue Tail Skink

Stan Bindell is always looking for a good hike. If you have one, contact him at thebluesmagician@gmail. com