Great Western Trail 2: Butcher Jones

This 27,000-acre recreation area is one hour from Phoenix and is open to all off highway vehicles. It is named after WW Jones, a doctor who grazed cattle in the area in the 1800s. We presume his nickname, “Butcher” Jones, was ironic. This trail winds though a sandy riverbed and it is possible your vehicle will be “Arizona Pinstriped” after you complete it. These are fine lines that will be scratched into its finish by the overhanging brush and branches on the sometimes narrow trail. This low desert is home to rabbits, chipmunks, and quail that race ahead of your vehicle and slip off into the brush just before you think you will run over them.

How to Get There: Waypoint 1: From Highway 87, exit at Bush Highway (Exit 199), and drive east to the Butcher Jones Recreation Area. The entrance to the Rolls is in the rear but this may change in the future, so contact the Mesa Ranger Station before starting out. Exit at Highway 87. Turn south for Phoenix, north for Payson. Waypoint 15: Enter FR 11 from northbound Highway 87 between mileposts 209 and 210. Exit at Butcher Jones Recreation Area.

Roads comprising the Trail: FR 1813 – FR 13 – FR 1343 – FR 401 – FR 143 – FR 11. Open months/Best Travel: As in all the trails in the low desert, the spring, fall, and winter seasons are best. Flash floods are possible during the summer monsoons. Permits: You will need a Tonto Pass to park or camp in a recreation area; you do not need it to drive or camp on the trail. Elevation Min/Max: 1546’/2772′ Paved Mileage: None Unpaved (total) Mileage: 14.4 miles. Travel Time: 2 hours 15 minutes. Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. A high clearance, 4-WD vehicle will have no trouble with this trail. Remoteness: 1/4 Services Available: None along trail. The nearest services are at Fountain Hills and Mesa. Driving the Trail: The southern portion is sandy and covered with numerous tracks that change after each flash flood. Therefore, the GPS coordinates may seem wrong at various points along the trail.

Rangers will warn you that you may get lost in the Rolls, but you should have no trouble if you follow our map and coordinates. Drive in the widest tracks to keep pin-striping to a minimum. Also driving in tracks made by vehicles that have packed down the sand will help keep you from bogging down. You should air down before driving The Rolls. Enter The Rolls (FR 1813) from the rear of the Butcher Jones Recreation Area. You can drive through it without a Tonto Pass, but you will need it if you camp or picnic there. Continue in the sandy wash for about 5 miles until you turn left at the “T” with FR 13.

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