Story and Photos by J. Adam Burch and Stacy Lane.
A spiritual byway where rustic beauty meets distressed art

LEGEND HAS IT THE BONES OF PIONEERS LITTERED THE LANDSCAPE of a valley that lies 12 miles from Prescott, Arizona, where your travels take you through the Bradshaw Mountain Range. History’s mysteries haunt the old west, and stories of native tribes at war marking territory with the skulls of their enemies, hang in the air. Other stories passed down say that military soldiers and bands of natives collided in a bloody war leaving behind a carnage that only the name Skull Valley would be able to describe.

Today, in Skull Valley, your cellular signal weakens in the vast, arid wilderness where rustic beauty meets distressed art and adventure awaits those who seek to add another ghost town to their travel list. Many of the roads traversing the environs of Skull Valley eventually turn to dirt. Local history’s various recorded accounts are passed through generations of storytelling, which only adds to the intrigue behind the attraction. While roaming the unspoiled beauty of the dismally named and treacherous land- scape, there are signs to follow for those who are drawn to the peace, tranquility and flowing wells. Juniper Well Ranch is Yavapai County’s newest attractions for those seeking new heights for enlightenment and a connection to the earth that some visitors can only describe as exclusive to Skull Valley.

Luxury cabins like Manzanita Manor; that sleeps twelve, or the Adobe; constructed with bricks made on-site, are equipped with with modern amenities and pastoral decor. Refresh, then explore a yurt designed to make you feel the Yukon-like wilderness, or take a path to the Hemingway for a feeling out of Africa. Unspoken magic pervades Juniper Well Ranch and helps encourage visitors to forgo cell phones, televisions and the Internet in favor of genuine smiles and warm hospitality. Mindfully designed cabins and an authentic adobe casita boast rural charm combined with modern amenities and taste. Spacious and secluded, they are ideal for an extended family stay. The expansive grounds and artfully designed gathering areas make the ranch an excellent choice for larger group events such as weddings, retreats and reunions of all types.

Calling themselves “stewards of the land,” Margaret Shaw and her family recently purchased the forty-two acre ranch as a small getaway ranch, a way to share the richness and wealth that comes from unplugging from WiFi and tapping into what connects all of us organically, “-a place of wellness to attract other healers and those who seek healing.” If a spiritual, or heavenly connection is what you seek, then it may be hidden in the farthest reaches of Skull Valley.
Meanwhile, a few ranches down in the Prescott National Forest and down the same dirt road, thirsty travelers can wet their whistle with another covert connection and triumph to Western-style self-reliance.
Another shining diamond in the Arizona desert, the Barnstar Brewing Company, is open Saturdays, noon to 5 P.M. Meet a micro- horse and drink a microbrew. There’s an open invitation to sit and chat with the brewers and sample their seasonal specialties. Feel at home while you play Cornhole, an addicting game that seems to be catching on, and commune with the forest creatures that drop in on the bird garden to say hello. The microbrewery is even available for rent for a special occasion.
Perhaps your senses bring you to a crossroads along the same secluded byway, piqued by the lull of lavender. The Skull Valley Lavender Farm is a small scale, family-run operation that exemplifies the virtues of the area’s businesses. The farm grows lavender, fruit and figs and raises heritage chicken and sheep including a small flock of rare Navajo- Churro sheep, whose wool is prized by fiber artists.

Beehives scattered throughout the lavender fields are the source of the raw, organic honey produced on the farm. Their products are available at a number of near- by farmer’s markets.
Legend has it, there is something about a lonesome dirt road that unwinds across the countryside. It promises adventure around the corner, the unexpected, and it promises raw Arizona as a trove of hidden treasures decorated with Skull Valley.

• Skull Valley has one of the first post offices in the state. It dates back to 1869, and today serves 450- 500 people. The railroad came through in 1894.
• At an elevation of just under 5,000 feet, the 42 acre Juniper Well Ranch has some of the largest and oldest Alligator Juniper trees in the world. Alligator bark Juniper is only found in Prescott, Ariz., Big Bend, Texas, and Santa Fe, N.M.
• Skull Valley was home to George Phippen (1915-1966), a well known western artist, co- founder and first president of the Cowboy Artists of America.
• Polo in Skull Valley has a history of its own. In the early 1900s, Van Dickson raised polo
ponies and leased them to
Will Rogers.
• As of 2014, Skull Valley’s population is 477. Since 2000, it has had a population growth of 105.6 percent.