CHINO BANDITO UTV FEST
Exploring Arizona’s Chino Valley and Prescott NF
CHINO BANDITO UTV FEST
UTV Off-Road Adventures is in its second year of promoting UTV fests and fun runs throughout Arizona, and there are 10 fests and fun runs for 2022, plus the long-running White Mountain UTV Jamboree on August 17–22. We attended a couple of UTV fests in 2021 and attended the Chino Bandito UTV Fest over Memorial Day weekend. Normally, each fest and fun run starts with a Friday-night ride and has two guided rides each on Saturday and Sunday, so participants can get in three guided rides over the weekend. At this round, promoter Kyle Krause had recently had shoulder surgery and couldn’t guide, so we did one big group ride each day.
MINI MOAB TO JEROME AND SMILEY ROCK
Each fest or fun run has been different and highlights the history of the host town and its surrounding area, so the more rounds an attendee experiences, the more he or she learns about off-roading in Arizona. UTVOffRoadAdventures.com said that Chino Valley had the distinction of being Arizona’s first territorial government in 1864, and it even has the best places to eat, visit and stay. There is also dry camping near the headquarters at each round. At Chino Bandito, we gathered at the Chino Valley Community Center for the drivers’ meeting before Saturday’s ride, and patrons ate breakfast burritos for ride fuel.
Dust kept the group spread out, and our local guide would wave a flag at each turn. The next UTV had to stop and point every UTV in the right direction until sweep waved its flag. This prevented anyone from taking a wrong turn and getting lost. We proceeded east on Perkinsville Road/AZ70, which soon turned to dirt, and then we turned south towards Hickey Mountain on Trail 642. Entering the Prescott National Forest, we hit Trail 101, which is an extreme 4×4 route up a boulder-infested creek bed named Mini Moab. Basically, it climbs around 3000 feet between Hickey and Woodchute Mountains. It was a blast to climb, as some sections were like a stairway to rock-crawler heaven.
At the top of the grade, we stopped at a pond and then drove through the forest along 106E, 106D and 106, where many people were out camping and riding. At one intersection, a Forest Service ranger was handing out USFS maps for the Prescott National Forest. The group stopped at a staging area and restroom, then dropped down 89A to the historic mining town of Jerome. We visited the deepest mineshaft in Arizona and then broke into small groups for a 1.5-hour lunch break in the busy mining and tourist town. Many of its buildings are said to be haunted by ghosts, and we regrouped after lunch for the ride back to Chino. Our route back was once the most twisty, narrow-gauge railroad in America, and one of the rock formations on the route looks like a smiling face. We skirted Woodchute Mountain and Wilderness back to Chino, doing 50 miles on Saturday.
FAMILY FUN AND VERDE RIVER RIDE
Saturday night there was a cornhole tournament, dinner, and a raffle for vendor-donated prizes and swag. Sunday was the Verde River ride, and again we drove east out of town on Perkinsville Road/AZ70 into Prescott NF. We took mostly graded USFS trails north to huge mesas with great views of valleys to our east. We saw the outskirts of Sedona on the way to Verde River. There are only a couple of places to cross the river, and we crossed a single-lane bridge and rode west along the river to a diverse camping area. After lunch on the Verde River, we drove over to Drake and then headed southwest to the 89 and back into Chino. The ride was scenic, and the trails were easy with a mileage of 75.
Future 2022 fests and fun runs after the White Mountain Jamboree are the Fire in the Sky Fun Run on September 16–18 in Heber, the Lake Powell UTV Fest on October 14–16 in Page, the Mogollon Mountain UTV Fest on November 11–13 in Payson, and the Desert Dreams UTV Fest on December 2–4 in Parker. Entries are $180 per weekend for drivers and $150 for passengers 12 and older. Each includes camping, guided trail rides, event T-shirt, swag bag, two breakfasts, one dinner, one raffle ticket and a cornhole tournament. Poker run hands are $20 each or six for $100, and those who register for multiple events can get discounts on entries.
Arizona made a video every UTVer should watch. See it here: ARIZONA MADE A VIDEO EVERY OHV USER SHOULD WATCH – UTV Action Magazine