When most people think of Arizona, they think of dry deserts, cacti, and blazing sun. While that’s true for some places, Cottonwood, Arizona, has something quite different to offer. Nestled in the Verde Valley, Cottonwood flows with refreshing water access and relaxing vineyards. Join me in exploring this oasis.
This story was created in partnership with Visit Cottonwood.
Exploring the Verde Valley
The lush, green riparian areas along the Verde River, which gives the valley its name, are a gateway to all kinds of fun activities to escape the Arizona heat. There are several fishing access points along the river shaded by towering cottonwood trees. If a river float feels more your speed, paddling the Verde River is also a great option! Several adventure companies in the area rent boats or give guided tours. Verde Adventures is one option that even offers tours to a local winery (more on that later!)
Just a few minutes out of town is Dead Horse Ranch State Park. This park offers paved walking trails around its three serene reservoirs, where you can also fish, paddle around on the water, and do some birding. There are also many hiking trails through the surrounding hills and washes. If you’re looking for a little wind in your hair, Dead Horse Ranch State Park even has several miles of mountain bike trails with swooping trails and technical rocky sections. You could easily spend a day enjoying this park’s various activities.
Water to Wine
A unique way to transition from adventure to leisure is to paddle down the Verde River to the Alcantara Vineyard. As mentioned above, the Water to Wine boat tour will take you on an inflatable kayak through playful riffles and chutes on a scenic stretch of the Verde River. After your float, you’ll arrive at the vineyard’s Tuscan-style farmhouse and rows of grapevines, where you can stay for a toast to a fun adventure! The Alcantara Vineyard is tucked into the rolling hills a short drive outside of Cottonwood. They also host live music, delicious food, and ample outdoor seating to take in the sprawling vineyard and surrounding vistas.
Continue enjoying the locally made wines of Arizona along the Verde Valley Wine Trail. Eight of the wineries and tasting rooms in the valley are within walking distance of each other in Old Town Cottonwood. Grab a map, or download it on your phone, and stroll through town to discover the wine and stories of these unique wineries. If you collect 10 stamps on your Wine Trail passport, you could even be entered into a drawing to win several different prizes! Each winery has its own unique atmosphere worth checking out. I especially enjoyed the outdoor patio Burning Tree Cellars, it was the perfect place to take in the warm evening after a day of adventure.
Old Town and Historic Homeland
While you’re enjoying the refreshing water and wineries, take some time to learn more about the history of the area. The Tuzigoot National Monument is a short drive out of town along the Verde River. The monument showcases a 1,000-year-old Pueblo dwelling with multiple rooms and even a two-story structure where you can look at the surrounding valley and Tavasci Marsh. Stroll to the viewing deck over the marshland to see the birds and animals that call this unique habitat home. The visitor center and museum also host several displays of pottery, obsidian arrowheads, and jewelry, among many other things, found in the pueblos and surrounding archeological sites. It’s incredible to see how this fertile river valley has been home to so many people for centuries.
Another way to take in Cottonwood’s culture, past and present, is to explore Old Town. In addition to the wineries located here, several restaurants and shops are worth checking out. From extensive rock and crystal collections at Old Town Rocks to antique shops packed with hidden treasures in J&J Antiques, you could spend a whole afternoon shopping your way through Main Street. Stop in for lunch at the Old Town Red Rooster Cafe, or if it’s later in the evening, enjoy the shaded patio and delicious pizza at Pizzeria Bocce. The comfortable climate and enjoyable activities will leave you excited to plan your next visit to Cottonwood!