Traveling in north central Arizona for some hiking and some local beers I decided on a few contrasting stops. Cottonwood for small town off-the-beaten track rustic, Flagstaff (read the article) for the college town scene, and Sedona (read the article) for the foo-foo.
Just down US 89A South of Flagstaff and Sedona is the community of Cottonwood. As you proceed South you also step down in altitude from 7000 feet (2130m) at Flagstaff to 4500 feet (1370m) at Sedona to 3300 feet (1010m) at Cottonwood. It is one of a string of small towns in the Verde River Valley between Clarkdale and Camp Verde. A big part of the history in the area was copper mining and Cottonwood started as an alternative place to live to the regimented company towns elsewhere in the area. Nowdays, Cottonwood is an unpretentious place that offers a small town lifestyle option than is different than what is found in nearby Flagstaff and Sedona.
To the South and East of Cottonwood are the Black Hills Range and Mingus Mountain, which towers above to 7,818 ft (2,383 m). Black Canyon Trail was recommended to me as the kind of scenic hike that I was hoping to find. My GPS tells me went about 17 km (10 miles) in and out. I stopped at a forest road the crosses the mountainside above, but I understand that if I had the time I could have kept on going to the top of the mountain. As you ascend the trail you get big views to the North of the Verde Valley up to the red rock country at Sedona. It’s a good cardio workout as well with an elevation gain of over 2,000 feet on the section I hiked.
This is high altitude desert with desert plants, scrubby pines, and little shade on the lower part of the route.
Near the top of my hike I started getting into bigger pines — the beginnings of Ponderosa Pine forest. It also started to rain …
The town of Cottonwood has a cute little main street that is well populated with small businesses. There are several artisan wine and spirits tasting rooms (there are seven wineries in the Verde Valley), some nice coffee spots, cafes, and restaurants.
I stopped for lunch at R.I.O.T (“rendezvous in old town”) for a beer and a bite. It is another re-purposed former gas station. Nice concept with indoor and outdoor games and multiple craft beer taps.
Cottonwood does have its own brewery … THAT Brewery. It is in an industrial area not too far from the downtown, but it wasn’t too hard to find. You just have to follow the signs …
There is a taproom and lounging area right off the brewery floor. This is definitely a place with an industrial feel, but pleasant. I took a seat at the bar and said, “I want THAT beer.” I bet the beertender never heard THAT before 🙂
Seriously, the beers aren’t all the same. I enjoyed a THAT Amber. The beerkeep couldn’t tell me too much about the brewery or its history, but I did enjoy the beer after a pretty good morning of hiking.