Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!
Pipe Spring National Monument is in Northern Arizona, just south of the Utah border. It is a National Park Service gem off the beaten path. The natural spring made this land home to the Kaibab Paiutes. Mormons, driving cattle from St. George Utah, were attracted to the oasis in the 1860s. A fort called Winsor Castle was erected over the springs in 1872 which was then purchased by Brigham Young for the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
The fort never saw battle, but instead became a thriving outpost for Westward travelers. It even had its own telegraph. Pipe Springs served as a ranch and dairy farm, shipping fresh cheese and other provisions back to the settlement at St. George.
The church lost ownership of Pipe Springs as a penalty to the federal government in 1887 over a dispute involving polygamy.
We arrived at the monument just in time to take the tour of Winsor Castle. We all enjoyed Ranger Julie’s talk. She taught us a lot about the history of the area, but kept it fun and interesting, even for my teen. The highlight was the cool room in the basement where they made the cheese. It had a natural spring running through it.
The story of how this area, which was once a rich grassland, gave way to high desert because of over-farming is a sobering tale…and a cautionary one of what could happen if we don’t take better care of the environment.
After the tour, we hiked the short Ridge trail which starts just to the west of the fort. It’s a short loop, a little over half a mile. It climbs the short ridge behind the fort on a series of long switchbacks. The elevation gain is 130 feet, but it feels steeper in the hot desert sun. It is in the high desert though, so the base is already around 5000 feet.
The Kaibab Paiute Reservation surrounds the monument. It was created in 1907. At a few points on the trail, we ran into fencing and signs warning off trespassers from Paiute land.
The trail then descends down the other side to arrive at the fort, corrals, garden, and orchard. We visited the oxen and horses in the corral and stopped in the gift shop.
Location: 406 N Pipe Spring Rd, Fredonia, AZ 86022
Designation: National Park
Date designated/established: May 31, 1923
Date of my visit: April 14, 2017