General Crook assumed command of the military district of Arizona early in 1871. His experience had convinced him that well outfitted units able to move quickly were important in Indian campaigns. He needed a supply road in order to connect the remote Fort Verde and more remote Fort Apache with the main supply base at Fort Whipple near Prescott.
General Crook Constructs His Trail
Construction began in 1872 and in 1873 pack trains were using it. In 1874 it was improved to the extent that wagons were able to navigate it. The first wagon train went over the trail in September 1874. Martha Summerhayes, wife of a young army officer, was on that trip and wrote about it in her excellent book, Vanished Arizona. Five years later the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad had reached Holbrook and supplies could be shipped directly south to Fort Apache. Consequently the Crook Trail saw diminished use. It was used for 46 years, first by the military and then by civilians. The building of the Rim Road (FR 300) in 1928 spelled the end of the Crook Trail.
Modern Day Crook Trail
Crook’s Trail was about 200 miles in length and was built by hand, using horses and mules when possible. Each mile was marked by a stone with the mile chiseled into it or by blazing on a tree. Today vestiges of the old road can still be seen in the Verde Valley near where Rt. 260 is today. Forest Rd. 300 along the Mogollon Rim follows the old Crook Trail closely, sometimes on the original bed. The Crook Trail follows the highway to the vicinity of Forest Lakes, then turns east along the Rim. It can be seen again near Pinetop and Hon-dah then southward along the present road to Fort Apache. For many years after the Apache wars were ended the road was used by civilian freighters. Some years ago the trail was marked with metal chevrons nailed to trees by the Forest Service aided by Boy Scout troops. These can still be seen. Today some portions of the trail are easily accessible by automobile and provide an excellent opportunity for hikers and horseback riders. The portion along FR 300 on the Rim has especially spectacular views.
- Old West Adventures in Arizona, Charles D. Lauer, Golden West Publishers, Phoenix AZ, 1989
- Guide to the General Crook Trail, Eldon Bowman, Museum of Northern Arizona Press, Flagstaff AZ, 1978
- Arizona Highways, October 1967