Monday, June 29, 2015


Apache Sitgreaves National Forest
Ponderosa pines shade the trail

Sardine Trail #536 is an unsung hero within the Willow Springs Lake area trail system. Over its 2.5-mile length, it acts as a recreational super highway connecting the popular 7.6-mile Willow Springs Bike Loop with campsites and myriad routes debarking from four trailheads around Willow Springs Lake. This shaded route is mostly used as a transit corridor by mountain bikers linking loop trail hubs and by anglers toting poles to the lake's secluded coves. Well-marked by bright orange diamonds, the trail roughly parallels State Route 260. Although mild traffic noise is ever present, the fact that this path stays close to heavily traveled roads is a comfort to those looking to experience the woodlands and water of the Sitgreaves National Forest without wandering too far from civilization.
One way to explore the virtues of this trail is to begin at the Willow Springs trailhead. From the parking area, cross FR 149 and pick up the trail heading east toward the lake. The hike twists though classic Ponderosa pine forests with glimpses of water peeking through the trees. The trail makes many goose neck turns that can be confusing so be sure to spot the next orange blaze before moving on. Don't let the minor route-finding, towering green canopies and mountain breezes distract you from noticing the overhead display of ospreys gliding on air currents and brilliant blue Stellar's jays squawking in the treetops. The trail's special feature is two rustic footbridges that span drainages where moisture loving wildflowers run amok among an understory of ferns and fragrant patches of clover. Beyond the first bridge, an optional short walk along fisherman's paths leads to a cattail-choked finger cove surrounded by limestone ledges. At the 2-mile point, the trail meets the junction for the 7.6-mile Bike Loop and the Horse Trap Trailhead. Tack on the Loop for an 11.6-mile round trip hike or return the way you came to conclude an easy 4-mile walk in the forest.
Watch for wildlife around Willow Springs Lake

LENGTH: 4 miles or 11.6 miles (as described here)
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 7,045' - 7,623' (7,700' with bike loop)
Yellow Columbine blooms Apr.-Sept.
Willow Springs Trailhead:
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 29.6 miles east on AZ260 to FR 149 near milepost 283, turn left and continue 0.4 mile to the trailhead on the left. Roads are paved.
Rim Top Trailhead:
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go east (right) on SR260 to FR300 (Rim Road) located across from the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center and signed for Woods Canyon Lake. Turn left on FR 300 and continue 0.25-mile to the Rim Top trailhead on the right. The hike begins behind the big General Crook Trail sign near the restrooms.
"Footbridge" Trailhead: 
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 30.2 miles east on AZ260 to just before milepost 284 and FR148, turn left into the dirt lot marked by a "day use only" sign and a stone wall.
Horse Trap Trailhead:
From the AZ87/260 junction in Payson, go 31 miles east on AZ260 to the Horse Trap trailhead on the right between mileposts 284 and 285 (across from Young-Heber Road).
Black Mesa Ranger District, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest 928-535-7300


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Footbridge at the trailhead

For years, I have driven past this no-name dirt lot on State Route 260 halfway between Payson and Heber, never bothering to stop and find out why all the cars were parked there. Turns out, it's an access point for the 2.5-mile Sardine Trail #536 and a finger cove of Willow Springs Lake. Although it's used mostly by fishermen, hikers and bikers also use this as an alternate trailhead. Hike or ride less than a mile east to join up with the 7.6-mile Willow Springs Bike Loop, or go 2.2 miles west to Sinkhole Campground and access to Rim Lakes area trails. Or, for a short walk, hike a few yards down to the footbridge and follow the path-of-use 0.2-mile to the lake. It's a handy spot to know about.
Cove on Willow Springs Lake

 From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 30.2 miles east on AZ260 to just before milepost 284 and FR148, turn left into the dirt lot marked by a "day use only" sign and a stone wall.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

PHOENIX magazine July 2015

Check out these great trails with swimming holes!

ON SALE 6-25-15
Here’s where you can find PHOENIX magazine: Safeway, Fry’s Marketplace, Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Sunflower Markets, Sprouts, Borders, Barnes & Noble, CVS, Walgreens, Sky Harbor Airport, Albertson’s, Fresh & Easy, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target, Whole Foods, Basha’s, A.J.’s, La Grande Orange, The Kitchen, Area hospital gift shops WEB SITE: ORDER BY PHONE: 480-664-3960

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Coconino National Forest
Walker Lake fills a volcanic crater

Arizona's own crater lake resides quietly within the eroded innards of a nondescript volcano north of Flagstaff's Hart Prairie.  From a distance, the pine-speckled hill doesn't appear to be anything special.  But a short walk up a closed road turned trail  reveals a shallow lake filling a vent that spewed lava in its former life. The road makes an easy climb to the lip of the crater where it transitions into a footpath that follows the fortress-like rim. The high vantage points offer
fantastic views of the San Francisco Peaks, Kendrick Mountain, White Horse Hills and Hochderffer Hills---volcanos all. Numerous paths also lead down to the ephemeral lake that in summer shrinks to a patchwork of shallow  puddles besieged by clouds of colorful dragonflies.   The crater forms sort of a  wet "meadow in a bowl" fostering acres of wild field mint, daisies, silverweed, and New Mexico vervain as well as a herds of thirsty elk that frequent its reliable watering holes.
View from the crater's rim

LENGTH: 1-2 mile roundtrip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION:  8,060' - 8,511'
Common silverweed 

From Flagstaff, go north on US180 for 19 miles to the northern exit for FR151 (Hart Prairie Road) just past milepost 235.  Turn right and continue 1.6 miles on the good dirt road to FR418.  Turn left and go 0.2 mile to the second road on the left (across from a log cabin).  Go left onto this dirt road (FR9007S), continue 0.2 mile to a roundabout, veer right onto FR9004S (sign is not obvious) and continue to a circular parking area near where FR 9219T heads right.  The trail begins at the “road closed” sign in the northwest end of the parking area. Dirt roads are passable by carefully driven sedans.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Trails are marked with Nordic ski symbols

Conveniently located off State Route 260 near Greer, the Pole Knoll Recreation Area is a year-round destination for outdoor sports. The site's 12 trails combine for 18 miles of both cross-country ski routes in winter and hike-bike-horse paths in summer. Nordic ski symbols mark the trails. Green circles indicate easy trails, blue squares are for moderate and black diamonds mark the most difficult. The trail system loops through a mix of alpine meadows, pine forests and aspen-fir groves. Although most of the trails here offer moderate grades and well-engineered climbs, the diminished oxygen of this high elevation site tends to slow down visitors from the lowlands who may find themselves huffing and puffing even on the easier routes. You may need to suck more air here, but persistence pays off with gorgeous mountain and lake vistas. Having to catch your breath every so often is the perfect excuse to stop and savor views of classic White Mountain peaks like 11,421' Mount Baldy and the 10,133' tower cluttered slopes of Greens Peak---the tallest cinder cone in the Springerville Volcanic Field. (And, yes, you can hike its edge-hugging summit road). Route options include the easy 6.2-mile Pole Knoll Loop that traces the meadowy base of the aspen embellished volcanic hill and the more difficult Summit (2.1 miles) and View Point (1.3 miles) trails that ascend to near the top. Although trails do not go to the actual summit, peak baggers (hikers focused on reaching mountain tops) with GPS skills can easily hike cross country to the high point prize. Whether you trek along the base or trudge high into heavenly hypoxia, this easy to access destination offers a satisfying spectrum of hiking options for all levels of experience.
Aspen, fir, spruce and pine trees shade the trails

LENGTH: 18 miles of interconnected loop trails
RATING: easy-difficult
ELEVATION: 8,700'-9,700'
FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic ramadas
The easy-rated Pole Knoll Loop runs through alpine meadows

From the intersection of State Routes 260/73 in Pinetop-Lakeside (near the Hon-Dah Casino), continue 25 miles east on SR260 to the turn off on the right just beyond milepost 383.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Area mayors and state legislators break ground

Brace yourselves hikers: a new West Valley hiking destination is on schedule to open in November or December 2015. The official groundbreaking ceremony for Skyline Regional Park was held on Wednesday, June 10th. Mayors and state legislators representing surrounding towns and districts
turned the dirt in view of a crowd of outdoor enthusiasts, members of the business community and homeowners from nearby neighborhoods. In addition to the photo opp ceremony, Wild at Heart native bird rescue was
Ceremony display shows the park layout
on hand to release a rehabilitated Red-tailed hawk into her new home.
Located just a half mile north of Interstate 10, the 8,700 acre Buckeye park will initially have 14 miles of non-motorized use trails with more planned as development phases roll out.
Another rich feature of the park will be its connectivity with residential communities, adjacent recreation areas like White Tank Mountains Regional Park and the Greater Phoenix circumnavigating Maricopa Trail.
Construction is officially underway
The entry gate will be located a half-mile north of Interstate 10 on Watson Road (exit 117) in Buckeye.
A Red-tailed hawk is released into the park
INFO: City of Buckeye

Monday, June 8, 2015


White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area
Stock pond at White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area.

Have you ever wondered where money from the Arizona Lottery ends up? Besides lining the pockets of a few lucky winners, lottery proceeds also support numerous public programs including the Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund Program for threatened, endangered and sensitive species and their habitats. For the past 20 years the fund has made many positive contributions to the state's wildlife and natural areas conservation efforts while preserving public access and recreational opportunities. One success story is the White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area near the town of Eagar. The 2,850-acre site is comprised of two former ranch properties acquired in 1999 and 2000. The 2.6-mile Ocote trail (named for one of the ranches) wraps around pinion-juniper woodlands, riparian habitat, ponds, a wet meadow, open grasslands, an historic log bunkhouse and rustic ranch house with a windmill. Interpretive signs placed long the trails give details about the surrounding plants, animals and the how the property's various ecosystems help wildlife thrive. Although the trail is short and can be hiked in about an hour, a better plan is to allow plenty of time to sit quietly at strategically-placed viewing areas to catch sight of the pronghorn antelope, elk, squirrels, fox and dozens of bird species that inhabit this profoundly diverse slice of White Mountain terrain. While there, kick back at a shady picnic table and contemplate all those bum lottery tickets you've angrily torn up over the years. They weren't losers after all.
Historic buildings grace the property.

LENGTH: 2.6-mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 7,440' - 7,587'
HOURS: sunrise to sunset daily

From Eagar, travel 5 miles west on State Route 260 to County Road 4128 (signed for Springerville Transfer Station). Turn right and follow the paved road 0.6 mile and take the left fork onto a gravel road. Continue 2.4 miles then turn left at a fork and pass over a cattle guard signed for Arizona Game and Fish Department property. Drive 0.3 mile to the trailhead on the left. Gravel road is suitable for carefully-driven sedans.
A cinder cone and Escudilla Mountain on the horizon.

INFO: Arizona Game and Fish Department
About the Heritage Fund:

Monday, June 1, 2015


Kaibab National Forest
Spring Valley Tank with Kendrick Mountain in the distance.

By time the Sitgreaves Complex Fire swept through the woodlands north of Parks, it was 98 years overdue. Nearly a century of unbridled vegetation growth coupled with drought years had created tinderbox conditions and the forest was ready for a good cleansing. So, when a lightning strike near Sitgreaves Mountain on July 13, 2014 ignited layers of forest litter, fire managers used the incident to effectively treat 11,080 acres of unhealthy land. All but 53 acres of the blaze burned at low-to-moderate levels of severity, creeping along the
Meadow on the Eagle Rock Loop.
ground taking out brush and small trees thus reducing the likelihood of future devastating fires. What was left behind by the fire is a patchwork of forest conditions that benefit wildlife habitats and promote diversity of forest resources.
The site is being rehabilitated and can be explored via the Spring Valley Cross-Country Ski Trails that pass near and through the  footprints of both this event and also the 2010 Eagle Rock Fire. Roughly a third of the 8-mile RS Hill and Eagle Rock Loop system has been impacted by fire. The trailhead is intact as are the first couple of miles, but halfway through the Eagle Rock leg, the trail enters the first of a mosaic of burn sites. As would be expected, heavy damage to the trails requires stepping over snags and dodging scoured gullies. Thankfully, new signs clearly mark the route. Hiking here involves leap-frogging from marker-to-post-to-tree-blaze, so be sure to sight the next sign before proceeding. In between the charred patches, pine seedlings have been planted and fences installed to protect aspen sprouts from browsing elk. Two beautiful stock tanks, plus views of Kendrick Mountain the San Francisco Peaks and the moist green fields of Spring Valley augment this trip through the genesis of a healthier high country forest.
The 2010 Eagle Rock Fire burned parts of the trails.

LENGTH: 8 miles per the forest service map. Our gps readings measured 8.8 miles for the two loops.
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 7160' - 7893'
Pine seedlings in protective cones on the RS Hill Loop.
Fences protect newborn aspen trees.

From the Interstate 17/40 junction in Flagstaff, travel 15 miles west on I-40 to the Parks exit #178. Go 0.2 mile, turn right at a stop sign and continue 0.2 mile to a second stop sign on Old Route 66. Turn left, drive 0.6 mile to Spring Valley Road (CR 141), turn right and go 5.5 miles to the trailhead on the left signed for Sanderson Pass Road and FR787B. Roads are paved and sedan-friendly cinder.
INFO: Williams Ranger District, Kaibab National Forest, 928-635-5600

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Chevelon Creek flows north on the Mogollon Rim

It's a long, dizzying hike from the top of Telephone Ridge down to Chevelon Creek. The 1.25-mile, cliff-hugging trail plunges 700 feet to reach the pristine waterway coveted by anglers and beloved by hikers seeking solitude in this otherwise congested area of the Mogollon Rim south of Chevelon Canyon Lake. Although the Telephone Ridge Trail #103 was built only as a path from the rim to the creek, it's possible to continue hiking up or downstream. Just follow the water and be prepared for creek crossings and bush
Steep climb on Telephone Trail 
whacking. Even if all you do is trek down trail #103 to the creek and back, the trip is a satisfying adventure. Not recommended for the directionally challenged or faint-of-heart, the narrow route snakes down the canyon wall through a mix of pine-oak woodlands and precariously exposed ridges. In some spots, social trails leave the true route heading straight down the cliffs. The official trail makes much safer, long climb turns, so if you find yourself going dangerously vertical, backtrack and scope out the better (and more sustainable) path. At the bottom of Chevelon Canyon, a field of deadfall from an old wildfire obscures the trail, so make a mental note of your entry point before exploring the alternating patches of open meadows, willow-cluttered bogs and deep pools along the creek.
Beautiful views of Chevelon Canyon

LENGTH: 1.25 miles one way on trail.
RATING: moderate-difficult
ELEVATION: 6,450' - 7,225'
Deep pools on Chevelon Creek reflect earth and sky.

From Payson, go 29 miles east on State Route 260 to Rim Road (FR300, signed for Woods Canyon Lake). Turn left and continue 8.4 miles to FR 169, turn right and go 7.4 miles to FR 119. Follow FR119 1.5 miles to the FR 180 junction. From here, the road degrades into a very rough, narrow 2-track suitable only for high clearance vehicles. At this point you can park in the turnouts and hike or carefully drive the last 1.5 miles on FR 119 to the trailhead.

Monday, May 18, 2015


Chris Hosking uses a mini track hoe to work the trail

If you want to build an excellent hiking trail-- just follow the deer. So says Joe Baynes, Recreation Services Director for the City of Prescott. Baynes, along with the city's Trails and Natural Parklands Coordinator Chris Hosking and battalions of volunteers including the eclectic mix of workers known as the Over the Hill Gang have just completed an epic project that began on the heels of the herds and ended with a community unifying, 54-mile loop trail around the city. May 14, 2015 marked the "golden spike" moment for the
Joe Baynes walks the fresh-cut, final segment of the PCT
Prescott Circle Trail (PCT) which began as a concept of the Yavapai Trails Association back in the early 1990s and has developed gradually by linking existing national forest trails, roads and new construction. After more than two decades of planning, negotiating with land management agencies and countless hours of sweaty toil, the final gap below Badger "P" Mountain was bridged and will be ready for non-motorized use by the end of June. On a recent preview hike, Baynes and Hosking pointed out key considerations in the trail building process. As wildlife has a knack for finding efficient passages through rough terrain, about 80% of the PCT follows these established trackways. After performing archeological and environment impact studies, the route design was driven by the needs of trail users. The path must be wide enough for horses, scenic and varied for hikers while incorporating line-of-sight considerations to make for safe mountain biking. The trail purposefully integrates long switchbacks, climb-mitigating flat sections, distinctive landforms, vista lookouts and impressive vegetation specimens as part of the master plan to achieve an average 8% grade and maximum visual appeal. Multiple trailheads and connectivity with camp grounds and local business will make hiking the trail convenient for everybody.
Once the design was set, brush crews moved in to flag and clear vegetation. Next, a mini dozer plowed the basic course followed by a mini track hoe that cut the slope. Hand crews will then rake, shape, trim, construct drainages and install signage. Finally, the boots, tires and hooves of the nearly one million visitors that step out on City of Prescott trails each year will perform the finishing pack down. Although the PCT is officially complete, it will continue to evolve. Regular maintenance, rerouting, adding adjacent loops and establishing new trailheads will keep volunteers busy enhancing the trail's symbiotic relationship with open spaces and the surrounding communities.
New segment of trail beneath Badger "P" Mountain

LENGTH: 54.45 miles
ELEVATION: 5140' - 6690' (5,500' cumulative elevation gain)
City of Prescott
Yavapai Trails Association

Monday, May 11, 2015


McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Complex geological features are highlights of the hike

Opened in 2014, the Andrews-Kinsey Trail acts as a connector route between Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve and adjacent Fountain Hills Preserve. The trail pays tribute to the efforts of Chet Andrews and Roy Kinsey who have given over 40 years of service to the McDowell Mountain Conservancy stewardship programs. The two-mile preserve section of the route runs along foothills overlooking a green valley bolstered by the distinctive profiles of Four Peaks, Mount Ord and Weaver's Needle. At the top of each hour, the Fountain Hills geyser can be seen from the high ridges spewing one of the tallest water spouts in the world. The mostly exposed trail begins across from a junction located beneath Sunrise Peak. Rolling out in a curvy single track, it clings to the edge of cactus cloaked slopes, rock escarpments and patches of cholla sprouting from clearings littered with glinting slabs of broken quartz. These beautiful specimens are just a tiny part of the complex geology of the surrounding terrain. Both the rocks underfoot and those visible on the horizon chronicle many cataclysmic chapters of earth's history. During high hiking season (October-April), stewards occasionally offer guided geology hikes and talks that give insight into the volcanism, faulting and erosion that continues to shape this stretch of basin and range topography. For a primer, check out the resources available on the Arizona Geological Survey website.
Four Peaks framed by blooming Palo Verde trees

LENGTH: 8.4 miles (as described here)
RATING: moderate-difficult
ELEVATION: 1,923'-2,962'
A scenic lookout on the Andrews-Kinsey Trail

Sunrise Trailhead, 12101 N. 145th Way, Scottsdale.
From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, exit onto Shea Blvd. and go 5.8 east to 136th St. Turn left, go 0.4 mile north to Via Linda, turn right and continue 1.75 miles to the overflow/horse lot on the right or continue to the 2-mile point and the main trailhead on the left. Begin on the Sunrise Trail and hike 2.2 miles to the Andrews-Kinsey junction. From here, the trail goes 2 miles to the border with Fountain Hills Preserve, where you can continue on or return the way you came.
INFO: McDowell Sonoran Preserve, 480-312-7013
GEOLOGY INFO: Arizona Geological Survey

Monday, May 4, 2015


The head of Wilson Canyon

Sedona's red rocks are famous for their beauty and soul soothing qualities. And, what they're also really good at is absorbing noise. This is especially apparent on the Jim Thompson and Wilson Canyon Trails where russet cliffs soak up the din of nearby Uptown Sedona and the bustling recreation sites at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon. The well-marked route traces stoney ledges high above busy Highway 89A where a constant stream of cars and trucks can be seen (but not heard) rumbling across Midgley Bridge. Jim Thompson Trail jogs around the massive form of Steamboat Rock through a mix of cypress forests, sandy washes and exposed slick rock. As the trail snakes around vertical rock escarpments, the white limestone cliffs of Wilson Mountain soon come into view. Although there are two popular trails that lead to its summit, the lesser-used Wilson Canyon Trail---which begins at the far east end of the Jim Thompson Trail--- explores a deeply wooded gorge below the south face. The slender path makes a mostly easy, half-mile climb among scrub oak, cypress, juniper and occasional patches of cottonwood trees that inhabit moss embellished, spring-fed enclaves. To stay on course, look for basket carins where the trail crosses gullies and drainages. As the trail ascends, the canyon walls converge, echoing the sounds of dripping water and wild bird songs before ending in what appears to be a dead end. However, there's a primitive spur path for sure-footed hikers who want to make a short but very steep, 400-foot haul up to a secluded lookout point surrounded by soaring bluffs and whispering mountain breezes.
Jim Thompson Trail 

LENGTH: 7 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 4,390' - 4,920'
FEE: A Red Rock Pass is required. There's a self-serve pay station at the trailhead.
FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic tables
Steamboat Rock

Jim Thompson Trailhead.
From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in Sedona, go right onto 89A, drive 0.3 mile to Jordan Road on the left. Go 0.8 mile on Jordan Road, turn left onto Park Ridge Dr. and continue 0.5 mile to the trailhead on the right. The last half mile is on a gravel road with potholes but is suitable for all carefully driven vehicles.
INFO: Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-203-2900

Monday, April 27, 2015


McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Crested saguaro on Coyote Canyon Trail

The next phase of trail development in Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve is underway. Repurposing of existing social paths and new construction in the far north corridor that stretches from Dove Valley Road to the border of Tonto National Forest will continue through 2016. Several fresh routes have already been opened including the Coyote Canyon Trail which is already becoming a hiker favorite because of its unique features. In addition to see-forever views of the Cave Creek
Granite boulders in Coyote Canyon
Mountains and Verde River Valley, the route has two signature attractions--- a granite-walled slot canyon and a gloriously gnarled crested saguaro. Since this trail is deep-baked into the heart of the preserve, the only way to get to it is by hiking along connecting routes.
Until additional legal parking areas are established, the trail must be accessed from the Granite Mountain trailhead. Here's the most direct circuit. Follow the 136th Street Express 1.3 miles north and turn left onto the Dove Valley Trail. Hike 0.9 mile to the Coyote Canyon Trail junction veer left and trek 1.3 miles to where it ends at the Granite Mountain Loop Trail. From here, there are many options for your return route (download the preserve map for details) but the shortest way back to the trailhead is to turn turn left and go 0.5 mile to the Cow Poke Trail, follow it 0.6 mile back to Dove Mountain Trail and return the way you came.
Entering the slot canyon

LENGTH: 6.2 miles (as described here)
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2,580' – 2,840'
Mesquite trees frame mountain views

Granite Mountain Trailhead, 31402 N. 136th St. Scottsdale.
From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Princess/Pima exit #36 and go 6.5 miles north on Pima to Dynamite Blvd./Rio Verde Dr.  Turn right and continue 5.9 miles to 136th St., turn left and go 1.8 miles to the trailhead on the left. Trailhead is open sunrise to sunset.  No facilities.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Hualapai Mountain Park, Kingman
View from Aspen Peak 

In Arizona's northwest corner, an archipelago of "biological sky islands" juts from the desert around the town of Kingman providing cool respite for heat-weary hikers. The roads and trails that ascend into the razorback ridges and rounded granite pinnacles of the Hualapai Mountains glide up from arid foothills through vegetation life zones of chaparral, pine-oak, mixed conifer and fir-aspen. Occupying a band of high elevation cool air and shady forests, the sprawling recreational hub of Hualapai Mountain Park makes exploring this diverse sphere of outdoor wonders a cinch.
The 2,300 acre park offers camping, picnic sites and over 10 miles of hiking trails.
There's so much to see and do here that you'll want to pitch a tent, park a RV or splurge on "glamping" in one of the rustic rental cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. With your base camp established, grab a map from the ranger station and hit the trails. The beautifully illustrated map which complements the well-signed routes also corresponds with numbered points along the trails and has tidbits on the history and natural features visible at each stop. If you enjoy climbing to high summits, there's plenty to keep you busy as trails lead to Hayden Peak (8,390'), Hualapai Peak (8,417') and Aspen Peak (8,124') while numerous overlooks with comfy benches offer more casual ways to view the ring of mountain ranges flanking the park. The park's signature trek--4.3-mile Potato Patch Loop--begins at the main trail junction (#4 on the map) and forms sort of a wagon wheel around the site with spokes connecting to major roads and trails. The loop winds through thick forests, exposed edges and massive stone outcroppings with expansive views all the way around. An optional 1.26-mile roundtrip hike up the Aspen Peak Trail leads to Dean Peak Overlook (7,950') where you can relax and enjoy the vistas or scramble to the true summit---a short haul that requires route finding and some hand-over-foot climbing.
Potato Patch Loop

LENGTH: 4.3-mile loop (5.56 with Aspen Peak)
RATING: moderate-difficult
ELEVATION: 6,486' - 7,950'
FEE: $7 day use (7 a.m. - 7 p.m.) See website for camping & cabin rental rates.

6250 Hualapai Mountain Road, Kingman.
From Phoenix, travel north on I-17 to SR74 (Carefree Hwy) exit 223. Head west on SR74 to US 60, turn right and continue to the US93 junction in Wickenburg. Take 93 north to I-40, head west to the DW Ranch Road exit 59, turn left and follow the signs to the park.
INFO: Mohave County Parks, 928-681-5700

Monday, April 13, 2015


Traversing a rock wall high above Strawberry Canyon
The rock walls hug the canyon's edge 

Fitting squarely into the "who knew" category of Rim country hiking trails, Rock Wall Trail #608 is a pleasant surprise hiding in clear view of Highway 87 near the hamlet of Strawberry. The unsigned, unadvertised route follows rugged Forest Road #608 as it clings to flaking limestone ledges below the Mogollon Rim. Ascending more than 1000' through the filtered shade of Emery oaks and Ponderosa pines, the red-earth Jeep route hangs in precipitous knots above Strawberry Canyon and is shored up by artfully constructed stone retaining walls where it bends along the choppy contours of the gaping, conifer-fleeced gorge.
In the beginning, the route is not marked, but once you've navigated through the maze of paths at the trailhead, the rest of the way is simple to follow.
From the trailhead, pass the gate, veer right and follow the power line road 500 feet to a fork just before the road heads very steeply uphill. Turn left here (marked by a green metal post at N 34 24.405, W 111 28.891). From this point, ignore the side paths and veer right to stay on the wide road heading uphill. In just under a mile, the first of the eponymous rock walls stabilizes a hairpin turn. Here, additional fortifications are visible high on the cliffs across the canyon. This is your destination. As the trail climbs, views of the Mazatzal Mountains peek through the forest before it swings onto a scenic, exposed ledge where the road is hacked from wildflower-embellished vertical rock faces. The two- miles-long "walls" portion of the hike ends where the road heads inland at the trail's high point. Although this is a popular turnaround spot, you can opt to follow the "608" signs two more miles through fragrant woodlands to reconnect with Highway 87. Unless you parked a shuttle vehicle here, return the way you came.
Rock walls shore up drainage sections of Trail #608

LENGTH: 4 miles round trip for the "walls" segment or 8 miles round trip for the entire road.
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6000' - 7160'
Nice views of the Mazatzal Mountains

Strawberry Trailhead:
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 17 miles north on SR87 to the trailhead at milepost 270 on the right.  There’s parking for about 4 cars, but additional space is at the Trail #15 lot a few yards up the road on the left.
Forest Road 608 Trailhead:
Continue on AZ87 to just past milepost 277 and park near the FR 608 gate on the right.
Overlooking Strawberry Canyon