If you’re looking for a moderately challenging 4×4 trail located in central Arizona that also offers beautiful landscapes and diverse terrain, then the Montana Mountain trail is made for you. Located in the world renowned Superstition Mountains, the route was featured in the February 2013 issue of Arizona Highways Magazine. The two-page spread called the mountainous 4×4 route “Queen Valley Road,” but the Every Trail iPhone app I used for the trip named it the “Montana Mountain 4×4 Road.” Whatever you call it, the route is both challenging and rewarding with its spectacular Sonoran Desert landscapes, breathtaking mountain vistas, and boulder strewn mountain switchbacks.
The 34-mile-long loop took us four hours and 10 minutes to complete with several short stops for pictures and a quick meal. The entrance to the route is located on the north side of the US-60 between Apache Junction and Superior, look for exit signs to Queen Valley Road. The route follows Queen Valley Road about 1.5 miles where you’ll take a right on Hewitt Station Road (FR 357). Travel this road for three miles then take a left (north) on FR 172 (the sign here reads “Superstition Trailheads: Woodbury 11, Rogers Trough 12”). Nine miles later you’ll take a right on FR 172A (a left here will take you to the Woodbury Trailhead) which you’ll follow for two miles where you’ll take another right on FR 650 up on Montana Mountain (a left here takes you to the Rogers Trough Trailhead). You’ll continue on this road across and down the mountain until you reach the end of the loop 18 miles later.
As you’d expect in the Superstition Wilderness, the scenery on this drive is spectacular and diverse. In the desert lowlands you’ll drive through canyons and gaze upon jagged buttes framed by the desert scrub and the mighty saguaro, while in the highlands on you’ll take in cool mountain air and twist and turn through thick forests of Pinyon Pine. Unfortunately, the beauty on Montana Mountain has been marred, somewhat, by a recent forest fire, but there’s still much to see at 5,400 feet, including expansive vistas as far as the eye can see. Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the drive are the mountain switchbacks as you descend down the backside of Montana Mountain.
How difficult is the drive? It’s pretty easy at the beginning and end, but atop Montana Mountain in the middle of the drive things can get pretty rough, though I wouldn’t rate it any harder than a six on a scale of one to 10. You won’t be climbing any massive boulders but you will be traveling over very rocky and uneven surfaces, some which are deeply rutted. The route will also take you through several washes which can be pretty deep with water after heavy rains. You’ll definitely need a high clearance, 4×4 vehicle to tackle parts of the route, so if you’re looking for a relaxing, low-key Sunday drive avoid this route and take in the nearby Apache Trail instead. In fact one portion of this drive was so rough, that my wife, Karen, shouted out, “I should have worn a sports bra, today!”
If you’re wondering if your OHV can handle this route, I wouldn’t worry. Our TJ Jeep Wrangler handled this trail with ease. We saw everything on the trail from road bikes, Jeeps, and ATVs, to small and large 4×4 trucks, and SUVs. We traveled most of the route in 4×4 High, while some of the more challenging slopes and flooded surfaces had be navigated in 4×4 low. You’ll need to exercise some caution when traveling on the trail and be on the lookout for vehicles driving the opposite direction, especially on blind turns and on the narrow mountain switchbacks which are wide enough for only one vehicle. We nearly ran into one ATV on one blind turn, barely avoiding it by only a few feet.
If you’re interested in tackling this route, you have a some options when it comes to logistics. The trail provides two staging areas where you can park your tow vehicle and trailer, the largest which is located right off Queen Valley Road. For those interested in bringing an RV, the route offers three or four flat and open areas where you can boondock for the night, but these don’t last long are often taken early in the day. It’s best to get there early to secure one. As for services, you won’t find any along the trail, but the town of Superior is located a few miles to the east on the US-60.
So if you’re looking for a challenging Arizona trail that also offers spectacular scenery and expansive views, the Montana Mountain 4×4 trail is for you. Experienced 4×4 drivers and novices alike will find much to enjoy on this trail. How would I rate it? On a scale of one to 10, I’d give it a solid eight, highly recommended.