Few people visit Pipe Spring National Monument, perhaps not surprisingly as the national parks nearby are rather more exciting. For those passing along nearby AZ 389 though, the fort is well worth a diversion for an hour or so. First stop should be the visitor center, where guests are encouraged to watch a ten minute video that explains the history of the Pipe Spring area. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable but sometimes give the impression they would welcome a more prestigious posting elsewhere.
A paved path leads from the rear of the visitor center through gardens and past areas of crops to the fort and to several other buildings and exhibits. These include a blacksmith's shop, poultry and riding sheds, two ponds with resident geese, an orchard, old wagons, a corral and riding equipment. Other resident animals include Texas longhorn cattle, chickens and horses. Pipe Spring itself is covered by the fort; the water runs underground through pipes and across one room in an open trough before emerging to supply the ponds. An elevated view of the site is provided by the Ridge Trail
, a half mile loop which ascends a little way up the red rock hillside south of the fort, past an assortment of desert plants including Kanab yucca
and pink-flowered sclerocactus parviflorus
; notices describe some of the most noteworthy species.
Regular half hour guided tours are offered through the rooms of Winsor Castle, all of which are fully furnished with period fixtures and fittings, the majority donated by local residents and not originally from the fort. The guides are commendably enthusiastic despite presumably giving the same tour several times each day. The fort was completed in 1872, using locally sourced lumber and red sandstone excavated from the adjacent hillside; it contains about ten main rooms on two levels, in two sections with doors and windows facing inwards to a central courtyard, all enclosed by a high wall. The upper floors are lined by verandas, linked by an elevated corridor above the main (east) gate. The tour starts in the courtyard, at one side of which is a table displaying an assortment of household artifacts, then proceeds through the parlor and kitchen on the north side ground floor, followed by the meeting room, master bedroom and telegraph room above, then more bedrooms on the opposite side, and finally the spring room and the cheese room below.
Pipe Spring Maps
PDF format maps from the National Park Service.
Pipe Spring area map
(136 kb).Pipe Spring site plan