Type in Zane Grey Highway on Google Maps and you’ll be taken to a section of Highway 260 running from Camp Verde to Highway 87 up on top of the Rim. But that’s not the only part of Highway 260 that’s been referenced as the Zane Grey Highway and there were once bigger plans for the term. Here’s a closer look.
Zane Grey was a noted author who made trips to the Payson region from 1918 to 1929, often utilizing a part of the General Crook Trail from Camp Verde. Highway 260 between Camp Verde and Highway 87 generally follows the old General Crook Trail. This trail continues along FR 300, the Rim Road, before ultimately ending up in Show Low. There is a terrific little book about the General Crook Trail called “General Crook Road in Arizona Territory” by Duane A. Hinshaw that provides more detail.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, a larger portion of today’s Highway 260 was clearly referred to as the Zane Grey Highway. Here’s a clip from the June 29, 1963 Arizona Republic with an example of a reference.
“Twenty-three miles of the Zane Grey Highway between Kohl’s Ranch on Tonto Creek and Heber, east of Payson, already has been oil surfaced, and only six miles remain to be completed, the highway department said. However, this six-mile stretch is graded and maintained.”
There does seem to be some variation regarding the exact route of the Zane Grey Highway during this time period with some references, including this next one from the June 1, 1967 Arizona Republic, seeming to include all of the General Crook Trail as the Zane Grey Highway.
“The backbone of the recreation developments will be the chain of rim lakes, and the planned Zane Grey Highway that will link Show Low and Prescott, following the Mogollon Rim some 100 miles.”
This next clip from the June 4, 1972 Arizona Republic shows that there was a definite plan at one point to pave today’s FR 300, turning it into a key link in the Zane Grey Highway. This plan ran into a hornet’s nest of opposition, though.
“Strong opposition to paving the Rim Road along the top of the Mogollon Rim was voiced at a joint meeting of the Multiple Use Advisory Councils of the Coconino, Sitgreaves and Tonto National Forests yesterday…
“Northern Arizona communities have promoted the highway project as part of a Zane Grey Highway from Prescott to Show Low, a portion of which already is being built between Camp Verde and the Rim and between Dewey and Interstate 17.”
There were even bigger plans for the Zane Grey Highway at one point, as this Sept. 3, 1974 Arizona Daily Sun clip shows.
“Zane Grey Highway took its name from the famous Western author of the 1920s who kept a writer’s hideaway on the top edge of the beautiful Mogollon Rim. It traverses the Rim country from Payson to Show Low.
“Zane Grey Highway boosters want to extend the road through Jerome to Prescott by way of Cherry Creek, and in the future, west to the Colorado in the vicinity of Lake Havasu City. Final plans would give Arizona a new east-west highway through Central Arizona, all to be known as the Zane Grey Highway.”
Ultimately, the grand plans of some for the term Zane Grey Highway were never realized. A variety of public pressure kept it from happening. In some ways it makes sense, in other ways not. One of the complaints was that Grey was here for only a relatively narrow period of time. There was also a clear desire not to have a fully paved highway where FR 300 is located.
If you have any additional information about area roads, including old pictures, please email timothy @zanegrey.net.