Beale Wagon Road Historic Trail
The Beale Wagon Road was one of the three major routes to California prior to the Civil War. The Beal Trail brought large numbers of people through northern Arizona. It was surveyed and constructed between 1857 and 1859 by Lieutenant Edward F. Beale, who commanded the Army’s experimental Camel Corps in Arizona. Remember Quartzsite.
The road roughly followed an earlier route used for centuries by aboriginal groups. The Beale Trail was a precursor to the 1882 transcontinental Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (Santa Fe) and Route 66, both of which parallel the road. Until the railroad arrived, the Beale Road was one of the most important roads in Arizona. It continued to be used extensively until the 1940s, and many US Forest Service roads are presently located where the Beale Road used to be.
This historic trail has as much to offer the modern traveler as it did the ranchers and immigrants of the 1860s and 70s: broad vistas stretch out across a backdrop of high mountain peaks; wild turkey, deer and elk frequent the area, and red-tailed hawks and antelope are common on the prairies. Relatively few stretches of the Beale Wagon Road allow hikers and horseback riders a chance to travel into the past, but two of the best areas are the open grasslands of Government Prairie and dense pinyon-juniper woodlands near Laws Spring.
The US Forest Service has developed the Beale Wagon Road into a recreational trail. The route makes use of forest roads and trails which have been marked with rock cairns, brass cap markers, tree blazes, and 4″ by 4″ wood posts. A trail-way has not been cleared on all trail sections, so it can be a challenge to follow.
Trailheads, with interpretive signs, are planned, but currently Laws Spring has the only developed parking facility along the trail. The trail sections are open only to hikers and horseback riders. Portions of the historic route that are part of the forest road system may be accessed by any means, including motor vehicles and mountain bicycles.
The trail is 19.5 miles one-way, because of a variety of access points provided along the way, your length and time may vary. Remember to bring lots of water. The best time to do this hike is in the late spring or fall. The Beale Road traverses the Kaibab National Forest, running east-west, primarily across the Ranger District. It is north of and roughly parallels Interstate 40. There are about 30 miles of cinder or gravel surfaced roads intersect the Beale Road. Forest Road 141 is suitable for passenger vehicles, on all other roads a high clearance vehicle is recommended. Because of weather and changing road conditions please check with the local Ranger District to verify that the road is still passable by car.