Fort Verde State Historic Park
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Wyatt Earp never shot it out with lawless gunslingers on its dusty streets, but Fort Verde (125 E. Hollamon, 928/567-3275, www.azstateparks.com, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Thurs.–Mon., $3 adults, $1 children) is the place to go for a glimpse of the real Old West—especially of life among the soldiers sent out West after the Civil War.
Originally built in 1871, Fort Verde housed as many as 300 soldiers who were stationed here to protect Anglo settlers from Apache and Yavapai raiders. What remains of the old fort today is considered the best-preserved example of Indian War-era military architecture in the state.
The territorial-style houses that line the dusty parade ground look more like the remains of a Midwestern main street than the stockade-fenced forts seen in old westerns. The three surviving historic houses are decorated with 1880s-period furnishings, and the former Military Headquarters building now houses a museum with artifacts and photographs from the soldiers, civilians, and Native Americans who once lived in the region. Exhibitions describe how many of the area’s Native Americans were eventually confined to a reservation in the Verde Valley, then evicted wholesale to the San Carlos Apache reservation in 1875.
Today, more than 10,000 people live in the modern town of Camp Verde. The main drag is lined with a few forgettable antique shops and restaurants, though the fort is a nice stop if you need a break between Phoenix and Sedona.
Getting to Fort Verde State Historic Park
From Sedona, drive south on Highway 179 through the Village of Oak Creek to the I-17, where you’ll merge right and head southwest. Take Exit 287, and turn left onto Highway 260, also called the Camp Verde Payson Highway. Turn left a few minutes later on Finnie Flats Road, which will take you directly into the town of Camp Verde. You’ll see signs directing you to the fort.
If you are driving from Phoenix, simply take the I-17 north to Exit 287, where you’ll follow Highway 260 south to Finnie Flats Road and Camp Verde.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition