Beyond The Pavement: Jeep Copper Canyon (Part of The Great Western Trail)

Lunch Break

Looking for a fun Arizona Jeep trail to explore? Copper Canyon Trail is 8 miles long and parallels I-17, with interesting views and challenging terrain as you descend into the canyon.

We were looking for a place to trail ride with friends in the area, this trail came up along with the one for Squaw Peak on Trails Offroad. Given the length of the two, we decided to combine the two into a day ride. 

Trail map showing Copper Canyon Trail.

How to Find Copper Canyon Trail

Copper Canyon Trail is approximately 8 miles in length, it parallels I-17 along the steep grade south of Camp Verde to the intersection of I-17 and Hwy 169.  At the north end you can enter/exit the trail in Camp Verde off of Oasis Rd just a few hundred feet from South Access Road (Hwy 260) that bypasses downtown Camp Verde.

The southern access point is about 2 miles east of I-17 on East Forest Service Road 732 which leads to Squaw Peak. We entered from the south having just driven up to Squaw Peak and back.

If you’re looking for a great resource to help you find this and other 4×4 trails in Arizona, you’ll find this spiral-bound Guide to Arizona Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails 3rd Edition very useful. (This is an affiliate link, as well as a resource we rely on to find new trails to explore.)

Moderate Trail – Somewhat Challenging for Jeeps, NOT Suitable for RVs!

Copper Canyon Trail starts off fairly easy, but then you encounter a gate which we learned marks the start of the roughest stretch of the trail. There was only one spot that presented any real issue. Our friends stock Jeep Wrangler 2 door rubbed its lowest hanging part (the passenger side entry step) a few times crossing over a short stretch of rocky trail. You will encounter some off camber sections, but if you pick the right line, you can mitigate the leaning. Again, picking the proper line around the remaining obstacles is easily done.

I would not recommend taking this trail during or after periods of rain. Flash Flooding can be dangerous as the trail crisscrosses the stream bed in several places…more so the lower you are in elevation. One stretch of the trail travels a short distance down the stream bed, strewn with rocks, but none too big you can’t drive over.

Picnic in the Shade

We stopped about 3/4 of the way down, picking a spot to picnic in the shade of a tree next to the trail. Perfect weather, great friends enjoying the outdoors doing what we all enjoy doing.

Stock JK vs Lift JKU

The day’s adventure of driving both the Squaw Peak Road and Copper Canyon Trail showed the benefits between a Jeep Wrangler and a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited as well as a stock JK and a lifted JKU. In the JK, with its shorter wheel base, the day went beyond our friend’s comfort level, but she came out with a story and greater confidence in her off-road driving ability. All in all it was a great day.

When you are traveling thru this area, you are on part of the Great Western Trail as well as the trails blazed in the time of General Crook. The Copper Canyon Trail was likely first blazed in the late 1800’s as a way for settlers to travel from Camp Verde to Prescott and points south towards what is now Phoenix.

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Gerald Voigt

Gerald's interests are wide and varied. His work career started in the United States Air Force and since then has worked in logistics management, retail & service management as well as manufacturing. He's an author, photographer, pilot, radio show host and marketing consultant who enjoys RVing which allows him greater freedom to explore, meet new acquaintances and serve his clients.