The Verde canyon Railroad operates over the Clarkdale Arizona Central from Clarkdale to Perkinsville. The owning railroad continues to the junction with the BNSF Phoenix Line at Drake. The entire railroad is unsignaled, single track, operated by general order, and has a maximum speed of 10 mph. There is a small yard at Clarkdale (MP 38.0), with the depot facilities on the east side of the line, which starts out headed north-northeast until it reaches the banks of the river.
The Verde River, which the route follows all the way, collects water from creeks flowing down from the Colorado Plateau, including Oak Creek, then flows southeast. Just north of the depot, the line passes the United Verde Copper Company’s smelter, closed in 1953, whose tall smoke stacks were demolished in 1962 and 1965. Behind the smelter, one can see the mining town of Jerome, halfway up the mountainside to the south. The line them comes alongside cliffs to the southwest, the upper reaches of which include some Sinagua Indian cliff dwelling ruins dating from 1100-1125, and abandoned in the early 1400s.
On reaching the west bank of the river, the line starts to curve along that river, northwest, northeast, east past Tapco across the way, north, west, curvily north, east-northeast, curvily north, counter-clockwise around a bluff to west-southwest, and then clockwise to north past Sycamore. Along the river are cottonwood trees, with sycamore and ash at higher elevations. Off to the northeast is the Mogollon Rim, marked by cliffs that include the red rocks of Sedona. The line crosses a trestle, then runs along a ledge above a narrow inner canyon containing the river, with basalt walls. There is a ledge where eagles nest on one of the walls of the inner canyon, to the northeast of the line.
Later, the line passes Elephant Rock, resembling the profile of an elephant’s head and trunk, across the river to the right of the train. The line turns just south of due west, north-northwest, west, north, counter-clockwise around a bluff to south-southwest, west past a 680 ft. curved tunnel cutting off a sharp bend of the river, north, west, and northwest, exiting the canyon and bridging over the river. Perkinsville (MP 18.3), on the wider land west of the canyon and north of the river, where there is a 1,158 ft, siding used for run-around purposes, has a number of old railroad buildings, as well as some purpose-built structures used in filming How the West was Won.
The line continues, mainly northwestward, another 18 miles to Drake (MP 0.0), where there is a 1,517 ft. siding before the line joins the BNSF. This segment is freight only.