Writer Joseph J. Airdo // Photo Courtesy of Friends of the Scenic Drive
Sixty years ago, the only way into Cave Creek was via Cave Creek Road — a narrow two-lane road through open desert. Houses were few and far between throughout the foothills area, which was very much the definition of a quaint desert community. That started to change in 1963 when Scottsdale Road was paved up to the new town of Carefree.
As neon lights from motels and gas stations began to crowd other communities across Arizona, residents throughout the Cave Creek-Carefree area feared the same would happen to their beloved slice of the state. They established the Scenic Drive to create a special road and to protect roadside vegetation and vistas.
The 6-1/2-mile stretch of roadway — located on Scottsdale Road between Happy Valley Road and Carefree Highway — now stands as a landmark on the frontline in the effort to reduce creeping normalcy.
Large stucco entry monuments mark the southern and northern entries to the Scenic Drive, which boasts small redwood signs that identify more than 20 species of native plants thereby making it easy for visitors to learn the names of the uniquely beautiful area’s various cacti and trees.
Meanwhile, a small outdoor exhibit area less than one mile north of Happy Valley Road provides a quiet place where visitors can park and walk a short distance to view desert flora. Monuments with plaques also provide information about the history of the Scenic Drive as well as the Sonoran climate, flora and fauna.
After six decades, the Scenic Drive’s route now passes by equestrian properties, small neighborhoods and planned communities with golf, swimming, tennis and fitness centers as well as a few retail centers. Numerous parks, preserves and upscale resorts are also nearby.
“You may have stopped and walked along the path at the Scenic Drive monument to learn more about the desert,” says Les Conklin, founder of Friends of the Scenic Drive, a group of individuals who are very active in and passionate about their efforts to maintain the beautiful vistas of our great Sonoran Desert. “You have seen some of the birds and other wildlife we have fought to preserve. And we hope you enjoyed the absolute solace this landscape brings to all who live or travel in the area.”