On a warm late-fall day we drove our Jeep south from downtown Prescott, via AZ-Hwy 89, to the Hassayampa River. Our plan was to explore the Hassayampa River and Orofino Wash area during the dry season.
This is a loop trip that leaves the highway below Kirkland Junction and rejoins it just above Wilholt. The total drive from downtown Prescott is approximately 52 miles long.
After a 22 mile drive down 89, we turned left onto Waggoner Road. This dirt road oddly turns into pavement after a short distance. The rolling-hills scenery is beautiful in the area.
Near Milepost 6 we turned left off Waggoner and onto . The route is marked only with the typically slim, brown Forest Service marker located a few yards down the dirt road. Here, we made our way through more rolling hills on a fairly rough 4-wheel drive track toward the Hassayampa River bottom.
FR72 takes a sharp grade up, and then steep downward route through a boulder-strewn hillside, into the dry Hassayampa River bottom. This is a rough road and not particularly 2-wheel drive friendly. (“difficulty rating” is #2) Down in the wash, the road becomes smooth and would be easy to negotiate in any vehicle with good clearance.
The approximately 9.5 mile drive through the Hassayapa River bottom, and on into Orofino Wash, is beautiful. Despite the lateness of the season, on that day the foliage was still green. We’d read that this is a one-hour drive, but we took more than two hours to stop several times and explore the area. We waved to picnickers along the way.
This is also a birdwatchers paradise. We spotted several Roadrunners, many coveys of Quail, Hawks, and countless songbirds along the drive. Footprints in the sandy bottom suggest many more critters call this area home. Range cattle were foraging near the road as we made our way toward AZ-Hwy 89, just east of Wilhoit.
Once we’d rejoined AZ-Hwy 89, our only slowdown came just below Prescott, when we had to stop to let four Javelina cross the highway.
We also suggest that a smoother driving route might be to join FR72 at our exit above Wilhoit, enjoy the River and Wash, but turn around at the Orofino Wash Well and head back out at Wilhoit. Unless, of course, you’re driving a Jeep! Here’s a tip. We rented an SUV for our adventure from www.suvrental.co.