Best Off-Road Drive (2011)

Table Mesa Road, from Interstate 17 to Seven Springs Road

"I wish I was at the mall," our wife muttered as the Jeep tilted sideways, the doorless passenger's side showing nothing but rocks and earth. The nod to our studly 4x4-ing didn't go unappreciated, and we assured her the vehicle was far from tipping over. This was just one of several times she expressed regret for signing up for this tour, but at least one of us was having a great time. Driving from Interstate 17 to Seven Springs on Table Mesa Road (a.k.a. Forest Road 41) is one of those half-day Arizona adventures that should be experienced at least once by everyone with a high-clearance vehicle and a love for bumps. You could probably get a passenger car down this road, if you don't mind beating it up some. But for the minority of SUV owners willing to drive on dirt, Table Mesa offers an experience that falls neatly between extreme and boring. Exit I-17 just north of New River and head east. The few river crossings are nothing you can't handle (assuming no storms and flash-flooding). Stay on FR 41 until it merges with the southbound Seven Springs Road. You can go east-west, of course, but we found it charming to end the trail with the transition from the beautiful-but-austere Sonoran wilderness to the riparian Seven Springs area, with its sprinkling of cottages and almost Connecticut-like feel, before heading back to town through upscale Scottsdale and right past the mall.


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