North of the Valley lies the New River Mountains and the Tonto National Forest. This area is home to Cave Creek and Carefree, two of the most well known communities of the Valley. Desert Mountain in Carefree is the location of the annual Tradition Golf Tournament. East of Carefree lies Bartlett Lake, Horseshoe Reservoir, and the Upper Verde River.
A much less known attraction of this region is the backroads destination of Seven Springs. With hiking, picnic tables, and Cave Creek flowing all beneath giant sycamore and cottonwoods, Seven Springs is a great destination even in the summer.
The drive to Seven Springs, like most backroad travel in Arizona, offers beauty and solitude. The graded road is mostly passable by passenger car, other than following rainstorms when washes in the area fill up with fast currents. From Fountain Hills the best way to get to this destination is through Rio Verde. Take Fountain Hills Boulevard north out of town onto McDowell Mountain Road. At Rio Verde turn left onto Forest Drive. At Rio Verde Drive turn left. Follow Rio Verde Drive to Pima Road. Turn right on Pima Road and follow it to Cave Creek Road. Check your gas level. If you need gas turn left and head into Carefree to fill up. If your gas gauge is full then turn right.
The paved road passes by Sky Ranch, a private airport, then Desert Mountain both on the left. Shortly thereafter, the road passes by FR 205, the road to Bartlett and Horseshoe Lakes. Continue on Cave Creek Road which becomes FR 24, an unpaved, graded road. FR 24 continues climbing through upper elevations of the Tonto National Forest. At one point the road becomes paved again as it passes through a cluster of cabins, but the pavement is short lived. After several miles, the road drops down a steep descent into the trees of Seven Springs.
There is camping here which makes for great overnight stays in early fall and late spring. Summertime is a bit warm for camping here, but visitors still do. In winter, there is the occasional possibility of snowstorms and temperatures drop significantly at night.
This trip is an out-and-back route that turns around at Seven Springs. The road does continue on, connecting to Bloody Basin Road and the Pine Mountain Wilderness.
For a much longer day trip, follow FR 24 to Bloody Basin Road (FR 269). Here turn left and follow FR 269 as it passes by the Copper Queen Mine, to Interstate 17 at Exit 259. This exit is just south of Cordes Junction where there are conveniences. FR 269 can be a bit rough at times, so low clearance vehicles are questionable.
Remember to always have plenty of gas and a spare tire on hand. Be sure to bring enough water for all passengers for more than one day. Plan ahead, paying close attention to weather reports. Practice cautious driving and never attempt to cross flooded washes.