Outdoor Sports & Recreation

Nestled among magnificent Cottonwood trees along the Verde River, Cottonwood provides endless opportunities to experience the outdoors. From golf and yoga, to high desert exploration; river activities; and scenic natural wonders; there is truly something for everyone. 


brian mickelsen memorial run

Brian Mickelsen, Cottonwood's beloved city manager, passed away suddenly on a training run in 2007. Now, every April, community members and running enthusiasts alike come to share two of his passions - running and the Verde Valley - and experience a scenic course like no other! Come run or walk the Annual Brian Mickelsen Memorial Marathon, Half-Marathon, 10K, or 2-Mile Run/Walk.

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verde valley birding & nature festival

If you are a birding enthusiast, you cannot miss the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival held annually in Cottonwood. This three day event is jam packed with a variety of of events any nature lover will enjoy. Families learn together about bird watching and nature with informational tours and guided watching tails. Trails range from easy, flat, walkable trails to trails that involve hiking and tough terrain. Novice and experienced bird watchers are encouraged to attend workshops throughout the event. Workshops include informational session on bird species, tips and tricks of bird watching, and keynote speakers that cater to the professional side of bird watching.


dead horse ranch state park

Covering 423 acres in the beautiful Coconino National Forest, the scenery alone is breathtaking. The campgrounds are designed for both novice and experienced campers, with plenty of recreational options. Dead Horse Ranch covers a six mile stretch of the Verde River that is perfect for canoeing, swimming or just wading gently in the cool water. The unique area of river that runs through the park is called the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area and is great for any ecosystem enthusiast. Lined with Cottonwood trees and willows, this area provides a glimpse at reptiles, amphibians, neotropical migrants and exceptional bird watching. There are plenty of year-round activities like horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking trails, and fishing.


verde river

The Verde River is a unique and important resource to the Cottonwood community. “Verde” the Spanish term for “green," encompasses a river where the vegetation and water are distinctive. Varying from broad mesquite bosques and cottonwood gallery forests to narrow bands of riparian willows, the Verde River is contrasted by the surrounding dry grassland and desert vegetation. Native fish species to the river include razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow, roundtail chub, Sonora sucker, desert sucker and longfin dace, spikedace and loach minor.

The river corridor also contains evidence of occupation and agricultural use from as far back as 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. The Verde truly runs through the Cottonwood community, bringing with it vibrancy, activity and peace. 


jail trail

Easily accessed off the old jail parking area on Main St. in Old Town Cottonwood, the Jail Trail begins by cutting through a dense, Cottonwood riparian area which is surprisingly isolated from the nearby town. The trail soon opens to a Verde River rocky floodplain and follows the River downstream for approximately 1 mile. Eventually the trail offers the hiker a choice between continuing to Dead Horse Ranch State Park to observe a multitude of bird species or to loop back to Old Town to enjoy glass of wine.