From Desert to Pine: Ram Trucks Adventure to Crown King, Arizona

Jun. 23, 2016 By Josh Burns
Ram Truck invited us to drive 2016 Ram Rebels and Power Wagons in Arizona, where we took the "backway" to Crown King.

When the West was still in its infancy, the Bradshaw Mountains drew fortune hunters to Arizona after gold was found in the area. During the late 1800s, more and more people flocked to the area to work the mines or make their claim, and one of the largest towns in the area still exists today centered around one of the largest mines during the rush called Crown King.

The job of mining was always filled with the challenge of transporting the mineral yield down the mountain. In spite of the mineral richness of the Bradshaw Mountains, Crown King and other surrounding mines didn’t exactly pan out in terms of building great fortunes. Fortunately, Crown King still offers explorers and off-roaders a great destination as an old mining town, and much like the old days, the trails to the area still offer enough challenge for even modern off-road rigs to make it interesting.

If you look closely, you can see the right rear wheel off the ground of this Power Wagon. The Backroad to Crown King offers some challengine sections for stock vehicles, but the Power Wagon was able to complete all of the challenging optional lines during our ride.

Started from the Bottom
When Ram Trucks invited us out to Arizona to drive its 2016 Ram Rebel and Power Wagon, we graciously obliged. We didn’t exactly know where our trip would take us, other than we’d eventually end up in Flagstaff for Overland Expo (read: 7 Cool Products from Overland Expo), but the offers of adventure is all we needed to hear. Our adventure began at about 2,200 feet of elevation in Carefree, Arizona, which is just north of Phoenix. We met for dinner and drinks the night before with Ram and fellow journalists, and after sharing a few tales from adventures past, we were off to bed for an early start.

The next morning a fleet of Ram Rebels and Power Wagons awaited us. We grabbed a rig, a driving partner, and hit the trails. Along with me for the ride was Dan Edmunds of (no relation), a great guy to have along on a long drive and a proficient driver who traded in his previous test-driving job for a truck manufacturer for a career in journalism.

Nena Barlow of Barlow Adventures was our guide for the trip. Aside from spotting us up some tough spots, she also shared her wealth of knowledge about the area during our trip.

Along with Ram representatives and a group of fellow journalists, we also had Nena Barlow along for the ride, an off-road trainer and tour guide based in Sedona, Arizona. Owner of Barlow Adventures, Nena knows the area well and provided insight into the history of the trail and surrounding region. Most importantly, she was also there in the event someone had a misstep on the trail. Fortunately, those services were never needed!

The first part of our day was in typical desert landscape like this.

The route we took for our day trip is most known to locals as the “Backway to Crown King.” We began near Lake Pleasant but quickly climbed in elevation to the point that the lake was just scenery in the background. We climbed roughly 4,000 feet in elevation during our ride and we covered close to 50 miles on dirt before hitting our lunch stop.

We were pleasantly surprised at the performance of the V6-powered Ram Rebel. In spite of the horsepower and torque deficit compared to the HEMI V8, the Pentastar V6 offered ample performance for the trails and improved fuel economy on the highway.

The Backway to Crown King offers challenging sections for stock vehicles, and there are tougher lines for modified vehicles to tackle as well. The good thing is that most obstacles have a bypass. Like just about any trail ride, we’d not suggest taking the trip without another “buddy” vehicle to help get out of a bind.

Remnants of the gold rush can still be found on the Back Road to Crown King, such as this old windmill that’s been pierced a few times by bullets over the years.

Fortunately, even the more challenging sections weren’t too much for our Ram Rebels and Power Wagons. We had one Rebel powered by the Pentastar V6 engine in the fleet, and we were pleasantly surprised at how well the engine performed on the trail and then on the highway as we zigged and zagged down the road out of Crown King. We also had a few HEMI V8-powered Rebels, which performed great on the trail. The air suspension paired with Bilstein monotube shocks gives the Rebel an edge over stock trucks, as the upgraded Bilsteins help soak up the bumps while the Rebel’s modified air suspension system provides a full two inches of increased ride height when in the Off-Road mode compared to a stock 1500.

The electronic sway bar can disconnect with the push of a button to provide the Power Wagon with improved suspension articulation.

Arguably the most impressive truck on the trails is the Power Wagon, though. The long-wheelbase Ram flagship off-road truck looks, at a glance, like it would struggle over the steep climbs and off-camber sections, but with its electronic sway bar disconnect and locking front and rear differentials, the Power Wagon confidently cruised up the most difficult sections of the trail.

The weather on the trail can vary, especially considering the change in elevation from start to finish. Be prepared to encounter different conditions and terrain, like this small patch of water we crossed during our trip.

We came across a number of unique landmarks on our ride as well. Remnants of mining equipment could be scene, along with old vehicles carcasses that were lost off the trail and never recovered, and even parts of stone buildings could be found just a few feet off the trails, making the Backway to Crown King trail a true gem for outdoor enthusiasts.

As we climbed in elevation, our scenery went from tan to green.

In the Rearview
The desert slowly faded out of view and the landscape turned from arid desert to pine forest during. Eventually our trail ride concluded with a late lunch in Crown King at The Mill, a restaurant and bar that features old mining equipment that’s actually situated inside of the building.

Our Ram Rebel’s GPS helped us determine just how high we were in the mountains. Over the course of our ride, we climbed more than 4,000 feet on dirt.

We left our lunch stop and explored the area, including the original Crown King saloon and other old buildings still preserved for visitors. After a bit of exploring, we drove down the mountain and back to Interstate 17 to make finish the final leg of our trip to Flagstaff. It was a great day on the trail, and Ram reminded us just how capable its next-level off-road trucks are on the trail.

Once up near Crown King, pine tree forests surrounded us and were visible more miles in some sections.

We’re also looking forward to what Ram has coming down the pipe with its updated 2017 Power Wagon that features an all-new appearance package and will still offer upgrades such as two inches of lift (to give it 14.3 inches of ground clearance), 33-inch off-road tires, and its class-exclusive electronic disconnecting sway bar, among other features. Ram will also be unveiling its 2500 Off-Road Package for the 2017 model year, offering a more off-road capable version of the truck that allows buyers to customize the package to fit their needs (which is not exactly the case with the Power Wagon). Check back with for more on Ram’s 2017 trucks in the coming months. Newsletter
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