Just off Interstate 17, roughly half way between Phoenix and Sedona, is a quiet little spot at the Badger Springs exit to pull off and stretch your legs. While you’re at it, consider taking a jaunt down the Badger Springs Trail to experience a number of Arizona’s amazing natural wonders.
Although the trail rests on the grounds of a national monument, there is no charge for admission or parking. And unlike many national parks and monuments, the Agua Fria National Monument is typically uncrowded.
At its beginning, Badger Springs Trail consists of a wide swath of packed desert soil void of any obstacles. A few hundred yards into it, the path deposits you into a mellow sand-bottomed wash. Follow it downstream just short of a mile and you’re greeted by perennial spring-fed pools. On the journey to the pools, you’ll brush by native grasses, trees and other desert-hardy plants. Saguaro and prickly pear cacti dot the hillsides as you gradually lose elevation, while canyon walls rise higher and higher. All the plant life attracts a colorful menagerie of birds, lizards, snakes and insects.
For many who venture to the end of the wash, the highlight is finding the ancient petroglyphs etched into the canyon walls. (Tip: As you near the dead end of the wash, stop at the large boulders in the center of the riverbed. Look just to your left for a lightly traveled trail. About 50 to 75 steps up the path you’ll see the stone etchings as you scan the slate to your left.) From this elevated plane, it’s easy to look around and imagine a distant time when native people subsisted on the plants and wildlife of the region.
Tens of thousands of people whiz by the Badger Springs exit on I-17 every day. Those who take the time to stop and look around get to stretch not only their legs, but also their imaginations.
Siri, show me how to get to Badger Springs Trail.