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Monday, August 22, 2016


Pasture at the base of Mount Baldy
If you drive down State Route 373/Main Street, through the town of Greer to near road's end, you'll find yourself at the banks of the West Fork of the Little Colorado River and the trailhead for the East Fork Trail #95.
Yup, the East Fork Trail begins at the West Fork and this woodsy stream side spot is the most popular place to begin the hike that rambles through alpine meadows sprawled out between two creeks that originate on the slopes of Mount Baldy. Although the drive through town is scenic, it's often crowded and parking can sometimes be a challenge. Couple that with the fact that accessing trail #95 here requires an immediate creek crossing that might cause unprepared hikers to turn back before even starting.
Mooooont Baldy cows. 
There's a work around, though. If you start the hike from the Gabaldon Horse Campground at the edge of Mount Baldy Wilderness, you'll avoid the traffic and parking headaches.
East Fork Trailhead in Greer on the West Fork of the LCR

The southern terminus of Trail #95 shares space with Railroad Grade Trail, a 21-mile route that follows the repurposed track of the defunct Apache Railroad. This first section follows a raised cinder bed through a canopy of spruce and aspens that gradually spills into an open alpine meadow with see-forever views. From June through September, abundant moisture and dappled sunshine provide perfect conditions for wildflowers.
East Fork of the Little Colorado River near Colter Reservoir
Take time to appreciate the delicate lavender harebells and dainty clustered blooms of Autumn Dwarf Gentian that pop up among swaying forbs and shrubby cinquefoil. At the 1.5-mile point, the trail encounters Colter Reservoir. More like a giant stock pond than lake, the trapped water is a favorite bovine gathering place. Sometimes, the cows congregate on the trail, but when given their space, they'll usually move aside. Pass a cattle gate (leave it open or closed as found) and make an immediate right turn onto a cow-trampled single track marked by posts and carins. From here, the trail follows the twisted trickle of the East Fork of the Little Colorado River for awhile before ascending into the hills. Over the next miles, the route passes among dewy cienegas and patches of fir-spruce forest. In places, evidence of the 2011 Wallow Fire manifests in charred tree trunks that stand like fragile matchsticks doomed to succumb to the next winter storm. But the forest is renewing itself as fresh growth is springing up from the ashes. As the trail approaches Greer, take a last look at White Mountain vistas from Amberon Point before scrambling 600 feet downhill to get your feet wet crossing the West Fork.

LENGTH: 7.5 miles one way
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 8200' - 9350'
East Fork Trail #95

Gabaldon Trailhead (as described here):
From State Route 260 17 miles west of Eagar, turn onto State Route 273 that's located just past milepost 377 and signed for Sunrise Ski Area. Go 11.9 miles south to the trailhead on the right (0.4 mile past the East Baldy trailhead. Park in the turnouts before entering the campground. To get to the trailhead, hike 0.2 mile up SR 273 to Forest Road 409, turn left and make a left onto the unsigned red cinder trail just past the cattle guard. SR 273 beyond the ski area is not plowed in winter and may be closed due to snow between October and May.
Greer Trailhead:
From State Route 260 9.6 miles west of Eagar, turn onto State Route 373 (Greer) and continue 5.5 miles south to the trailhead on the left. Parking is limited to 5 cars and there's a restroom. There's an immediate crossing of the river that's easy in low water, but may require wading.
INFO: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

Monday, August 15, 2016


Ranger led hikes exercise both body and brain

It's common knowledge that there are many benefits associated with hiking. The exercise is good for your body and the rhythmic pounding of boots on earth and the sweat-fueled endorphin bliss afford a respite from the hassles of everyday life. Hiking just might be  the sweetest, most satisfying form of self-healing known to human kind. But the perks don't end with the physical gains. There are brain-fortifying learning opportunities right along the beaten path---if you know where to look for them.
A geologist describes Go John diorite
Abundant mental stimulation is within easy reach at Maricopa County Regional Parks. With close to town sites located near lakes, streams, mountains and sprawling valleys, the park system is sort of a microcosm of desert life. Although solo hiking within the parks provides a good workout with a side of grand scenery, it just skims the surface in terms of understanding the surrounding environment. To gain insight into the fascinating world through which park trails wander; participate in a ranger led hike or activity. Many of the system's twelve parks and recreation areas host events year-round including early morning and moonlight hikes to beat the summer heat.
Learn about ancient rock art

The menu of events range from kid-pleasing, silly fun (“Bug Theater", anyone?) to explorations of ancient cultural sites that enrich the nature experience for hikers of all ages. If you want to learn about edible desert plants, identify which creepy crawlies are poisonous, demystify complex geological specimens or are looking to meet new friends on a fitness hike, there's sure to be an upcoming event to suit your needs.
These hills hold many secrets...

Some ranger-led treks like "Hohokam Houses" which is offered regularly at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in Cave Creek, venture into sensitive archeological areas that are normally off limits. To the unenlightened visitor, ancient cultural sites might look like random rock piles, but under the tutelage of a ranger, back stories culled from the rubble tickle the imagination. You'll learn about clues unearthed by excavations that hint at the community structures, survival strategies and life ways of long-gone inhabitants while gaining an appreciation for the preservation of heritage sites. And, oh yeah, there is one more hiking benefit specific to park programs---freebies. As an added incentive to get moving during the summer months, some events culminate with a drawing for a family 4-pack (4 tickets) to Wet 'n' Wild Water Park. Check the parks website for details.

Monday, August 8, 2016


Kaibab National Forest
Laws Spring
Way back in the mid-1800s a hardy battalion of 4-legged "ships of the desert" helped to blaze a passage through the Southwestern wilderness. It was Lt. Edward F. Beale who bestowed the noble title upon 22 camels imported from the Middle East to help survey the unforgiving landscape for a highway into the newly acquired Western territory. The Beale expedition team of 1857-59 had high hopes for the humped beasts that were hailed for their strength and tenacity. Although their work ethic did pan out as advertised, they didn't win any popularity contests among workers because of their smell, spitting habits and cranky temperaments. Hence, they were retired from government service after the project was completed.
Camel motif on Beale Wagon Road trail post
Although short-lived, the work of the lanky creatures is memorialized on wooden posts bearing their image along the original rough cut, 10-foot-wide trail that was to become the precursor to Route 66, the Santa Fe Railroad and Interstate 40. Today, bits of the 1,240-mile Beale Wagon Road that ran from Arkansas to California have been relocated and adopted into recreational use. In Arizona, much of the route cuts through private property, but the 23-mile section that winds through Kaibab National Forest is marked and open to public use.
Pinion-juniper prairies dominate the landscape

One of the most beautiful stretches runs between Laws Spring and Forest Road 84. This historic path begins at a perennial spring surrounded by boulders etched with the artistic symbols of ancient inhabitants, Beale party initials and the unfortunate scrawls of modern visitors. A plaque at the site details its historic significance. Beyond the spring's muddy pools, a narrow walkway leads to the sketchy path of Beale Wagon Road.
Pools around Laws Spring
At the double-arrow camel sign, the route is easiest to follow by heading west (left). Not your traditional hiking trail, its faint course is marked by rock carins and posts. It takes constant attention to stay on track. The trick is to "leap-frog" from marker-to-marker, spotting the next before moving ahead. Don't let the tricky route finding get in the way of enjoying the breathtaking mountain vistas that rise above pinion-juniper scrubland and wildflower speckled prairies. At Forest Road 84, the route enters private land, marking your turnaround point on a trek through an unusual episode of Arizona history.
Rock carins mark the route

LENGTH: 3.5 mile one way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6,480' - 6,820'
Laws Spring trailhead:
From Flagstaff, travel 23 miles west on Interstate 40 to Pittman Valley exit 171. Follow the access road 0.1-mile, turn left at the stop sign and continue 7.7 miles on Forest Road 74 to Forest Road 141. Turn right and go 0.5-mile to Forest Road 730, turn left and continue 2.2 miles to Forest Road 115. Follow FR 115 1.9 miles, veer left onto Forest Road 2030 and continue less than a mile to the trailhead. High clearance is required beyond FR 141. 

Monday, August 1, 2016


Prescott National Forest
View of Lynx Lake from Johns Tank Trail
The eagle has not landed. Sadly, the bald eagles that nest near Prescott's Lynx Lake did not produce offspring this year. Since they first appeared in the winter of 2002, breeding pairs of the quintessential American raptors have commandeered lakeside osprey nests to raise their chicks. In years when the eagles are on the nest, Johns Tank Trail #94-- the hiking trail that traverses their breeding territory-- is closed to human travel from February through June to give the hatchlings their best chance to thrive. The trail explores a bird friendly environment of Ponderosa pine forests swaying over trout-rich waters while tethering two loop routes in the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains.
Ponderosa pines on Johns Tank Trail
There's no dedicated trailhead for Johns Tank, so it must be accessed by either Lakeshore Trail #311 to its west or Salida Gulch Trail #95 to the north. To take the lake access option, hike 0.1 mile west on Trail #311 to the Trail #94 junction. This mile-long segment passes through deep woods and resinous air as it ascends the hills above the water. After climbing 300 feet, the trail arrives at a juniper shaded highpoint with nice views of Spruce and Granite Mountains that precede a dip into Salida Gulch. Turn right at the Trail #95 junction and hike less than a tenth of a mile to a sign that point to the right. To the left, a rudimentary side path leads to Johns Tank, a sometimes moist but mostly muddy wildlife watering hole. Trail #95, dives farther into the gulch by way of hairpin turns pinched tight by vertical granite walls. About halfway through the loop, look for faint petroglyphs pecked into a stony grotto.
Lakeshore Trail
The route bottoms out on a bank above Lynx Creek, then swings south and uphill again to reconnect with Trail #94. Retrace your steps back to lake and head left to circle the water on Trail #311. This 2.3-mile walk stays close to shore making it a convenient corridor for anglers looking for a secluded spot to reel in dinner. Mind the tackle boxes and coolers. Tracing numerous finger coves, the route is draped in willows, cottonwoods and trunk snuggling cattails. You'll pass a boat launch where dozens of people shove off on paddle boards, fishing boats and kayaks before you arrive back at the start point.
Salida Gulch
Double loop (as described here): 8.5 miles
Lakeshore-Johns Tank loop: 4.3 miles
Salida Gulch-Johns Tank loop: 6.2 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 5,050' - 5,790'
Spruce Mountain view near Trail #94 high point
Lynx Lake access:
From State Route 69 in Prescott, go 2.1 miles south on Walker Road (milpost 293) and turn left onto Lynx Lake North Shore (Forest Road 611). Continue 0.2 mile to the parking area. Hike down the paved walkway at the southeast end of the parking area to Lakeshore Trail #311 and follow it along the spillway to Trail #94. Roads are 100% paved. There's a $5 daily fee per vehicle. Bring exact amount for the self-serve pay station. Trailhead has restrooms, picnic tables, nearby store and a site host.
Salida Gulch access:
From State Route 69 in Prescott, go 1.2 miles south on Walker Road to Lynx Creek Road (Forest Road 9401, signed Lynx Creek Ruins/Salida Gulch), turn left and continue 1 mile to the trailhead at the forest boundary sign. Begin hiking on trail 9263, hop the creek and look for the trail 95 junction in about 0.1 mile. No fees. Vault toilet.
INFO: Prescott National Forest
Lynx Lake Recreation Area Brochure

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Thompson Creek
Have you ever wondered about how forest trails came to be? Their origins range from repurposed game trails and Depression Era Civilian Conservation Corps projects to collaborative efforts between grassroots teams and land management organizations. The White Mountains Trail System represents the work of TRACKS, a group of volunteers dedicated to the development and preservation of non-motorized trails within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and surrounding communities. Their ongoing work harnesses partnerships between government, business, private organizations and dedicated volunteers to raise the funds and provide labor to build and maintain a 200+ mile system of linking trails with its epicenter around Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside.
Wildflowers and meadows on Springs Trail
A good introduction to this system is the Springs Trail. The easy to find, 3.6-mile loop located just off State Route 260 in Pinetop-Lakeside showcases the project's many fine qualities. The trailhead has plenty of parking and a map kiosk that shows the route and its connector trails. There's excellent signage throughout so even novice hikers won't get lost. Diamond shaped tree tags indicate the way and numbered location markers that correspond with downloadable maps are placed every quarter mile so you'll always know where you are on the trail. This is handy information to have in case you get in trouble and need to call for rescue. The forested trail winds though bucolic pastures replete with grazing cattle. Billy and Thompson Creeks, stock tanks and springs add watery points of interest. At the western edge of the loop, Pinetop Springs occupies a meadow dotted with concrete troughs that attract a mix of domestic livestock and forest critters. Water levels in the creeks varies with seasons and rainfall, but there's almost always a few reflecting pools. An especially productive spot to observe wildlife is where the trail follows the cliffs above Thompson Creek. Here, pine shaded volcanic boulders overlooking the yawning water course provide convenient places to sit and scope out the elk, deer and ravens that congregate among muddy pools and fringy shrubs.
Pinetop Springs
LENGTH: 3.6 miles
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 7120' - 7210'
Calliopsis blooms June - September
In Pinetop-Lakeside, go south on State Route 260 (White Mountain Blvd.) to Bucksprings Road. Turn left and go 0.6-mile to Sky-Hi Road, turn left again and continue 1.1 miles to the trailhead on the left.
INFO: White Mountains Trail System

Monday, July 11, 2016


Entrance to the Skunk Canyon slot
This pleasant stroll links a short, lesser known route with two of Flagstaff's most popular trails.
Offering a backdoor into a heavily used recreational corridor, Skunk Canyon Trail is a sleepy little gem accessible off of Flagstaff's Lake Mary Road near Walnut Canyon that shares dirt with the Flagstaff Loop and Arizona Trail. Over its 2.7-mile course, the 2-track trail follows the contours of a shallow gorge that morphs from a sun drenched, gaping meadow of hip-deep grasses and wildflowers into a skinny path in a woodsy slot canyon dripping in moss. Inside the slot "jewel" of the trail, towering pines, shallow limestone caves and tangled brambles complement its deeply shaded drainage.
Flagstaff Loop Trail 
After emerging from the dark forest, the trail enters another meadow before plugging in to Passage # 33 of the Arizona Trail. The AZT leg of the hike is a mile-long walk on a closed road under a canopy of Ponderosa pines to the junction with the Flagstaff Loop Trail. Sustainably constructed, the FLT makes a non-motorized hoop around town using sections of existing forest trails, abandoned roads and urban paths. When complete, the 42-mile project will anchor an interlaced trail system that will minimize negative environmental impacts and preserve green space for outdoor enthusiasts. This portion of the hike follows a single track on the slopes above Skunk Canyon and features glimpses of the San Francisco Peaks and Mount Elden. Loamy soils and a patchwork of sun and shade provide ideal habitats for flowering plants like Richardson's geranium, wild lima bean, Western blue flax, sunflowers and the mint-scented blooms of New Mexican vervain.
Stock tank along Skunk Canyon Trail
Hike Directions:
From the trailhead, hike out on the Skunk Canyon Trail--a dirt 2-track heading northeast. At the half-mile point, veer right onto a wider dirt road heading into a meadow. Ignore all unsigned spur paths. Do not be confused by the bikers you will probably see racing along a trail to the left---that's the Flagstaff Loop Trail and this trip's return route. Stay on the 2-track that passes by two stock tanks before narrowing into a single track that enters the slot canyon.  At 2.7 miles you'll come to an unsigned "T" junction at the Arizona Trail. Turn left here and hike 1 mile to the signed Flagstaff Loop junction, turn left and hike 1.3 miles back to the Skunk Canyon Trail and retrace your steps 1.3 miles to the parking area.
Richardson's geranium
LENGTH: 6.3 miles
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6,475' - 7,027'
Western blue flax
From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to exit 339, Lake Mary Road (Forest Road 3) located just south of the I-40/I-17 interchange in Flagstaff. From the bottom of the off ramp (across from a Circle K), turn right and go 2.1 miles south on Lake Mary Road to S J Diamond Road on the left. Follow this good dirt road 0.2 mile to the end where there's a small parking area and gate. Generic forest service and game & fish signs are posted, but nothing indicating “Skunk Canyon”--no worries though, you're in the right place.
Flagstaff Loop Trail:
Arizona Trail Association

Sunday, July 3, 2016


Mogollon Rim
Blue Ridge views on the Mogollon Rim
Passage #28 of the Arizona Trail traverses some of the state's most scenic territory. Packed with history and ever-changing exposure to creek and canyon riddled terrain, the 16.1-mile trek is a summertime favorite especially among hikers who also like to camp. The route passes near several popular Mogollon Rim campgrounds including Moqui, Blue Ridge and Rock Crossing and there are plenty of dispersed camp sites along the trail for backpackers who prefer to rough it. Traveling from south to north, the segment begins in the enchanting cloister of General Springs Canyon. There's an historic forest service cabin at the trailhead and the ruins of the Fred Haught homestead off a side trail roughly 3 miles in. Canyon-bound meadows flushed green by perennial pools and monsoon rain burst with butterfly-magnet wildflowers. Keen-eyed hikers might spot our state amphibian, the Arizona Tree Frog. Moist cienegas are prime habitat for the tiny, green hoppers that sport a characteristic black eye stripe.
East Clear Creek
Moving north, the trail climbs through pine-oak woodlands onto Battleground Ridge, the site of Battle of Big Dry Wash-- a July 1882 confrontation between the United States Army Cavalry and the White Mountain Apache tribe. Two monuments near the route stand testimony to the area's contentious history. After topping out on craggy limestone cliffs above East Clear Creek, views peeking through the tree cover reveal glimpses of the river-like waterway of C.C. Cragin Reservoir and clearly show why the passage is called blue ridge. Next up--a 600-foot descent into the creek gorge. Finding water here is hit-or-miss. Either way, the crossing is usually easy but the ascending trail on the opposite bank takes back its 600 feet. Once beyond the creek, the trail cuts through high pastures surrounding busy recreation sites on its way to its northern terminus at State Route 87.
Fred Haught Canyon
LENGTH: 16.1 miles one way
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6,740' - 7,395'
Fred Haught Cabin
South: General Springs Trailhead:
From the intersection of State Routes 87/260 in Payson, continue 28 miles north on SR87 to Forest Road 300 (Rim Road) near milepost 280. Turn right and go 12.2 miles to Forest Road 705 where there’s a Battle of Big Wash Monument on the northeast side of the intersection. Go left (north) onto FR705 and continue 0.5-mile to the General Springs/AZ Trail trailhead. Roads are maintained dirt and passable by sedan, although high-clearance is a better idea. Trail begins north of the cabin sharing the first miles with the Fred Haught Trail.
North: Blue Ridge (Hay Meadow) Trailhead:
From the State Route 87/260 junction north of Pine-Strawberry, continue 19.5 miles north on SR87 to Forest Road 138 (signed for Moqui Campground),turn right and go about 100 yards to the trailhead on the left. Roads are paved up to FR 138.
In Between: Jumbo Trailhead:
From State Route 87 north of Clints Well, turn right onto Forest Road 751 (just past milepost 295) and continue 2.1 miles to the trailhead on the left.
INFO: Arizona Trail Association

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Did you know there's an Arizona Hiking Facebook Group? Over 5000 active members share their hiking adventures, photos and advise.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Clover Spring
On a mountain with no shortage of summit-busting hiking trails, it takes will power to swerve off the epic routes onto one with a subtler kind of charisma. Whether bypassed due to time constraints, bad weather or dwindling supplies, secondary routes often get ignored in favor of heavily travelled arterial trails. Clover Spring Trail #46 epitomizes the joy to be found on the little trails that compete for love with the summit routes on Bill Williams Mountain.
Trough at Clover Spring
More an option than a diversion, this shady, moderate path is toggled to challenging Bill Williams Mountain Trail #21 and can be hiked as either a short loop or an alternative leg that adds less than a mile to the standard summit route. The "C"-shaped connector moves through beautiful woodlands overlooking the city of Williams. A short section of climbing among lichen-cloaked boulders precedes the arrival at a rustic concrete trough marking Clover Spring. Don't expect to find water, though. The spring runs best only during spring snow melt season. Beyond the spring, the trail continues on to Buckskinner Park, a municipal recreation site with its own trail system and fishing lake. To find Clover Spring Trail from the trailhead, hike 0.15-mile on Trail #21 and turn left at the signed lower junction. Continue 0.85-mile to the spring located just beyond the upper junction. Back track to the turnoff, hike 0.6-mile then either turn right and follow the signs back to the trailhead or continue up to the mountaintop.
Pine-oak forests shade the trail

LENGTH: 3-mile loop or 9.4 miles with summit hike
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6,900' - 7,200' (9,250' with summit)

From Interstate 40 in Williams, take exit 161, go south on Railroad Ave. and follow the signs to the trailhead across from the Williams District Ranger Station.
INFO: Kaibab National Forest

Monday, June 20, 2016


Approaching Little Spring
From the looks of the place, it's hard to imaging a stage coach lurching through the bumpy terrain below the north face of Flagstaff's San Francisco Peaks. Between 1892-1900, the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach line did just that, braving rough back roads to shuttle guests to the South Rim during the summer season.
The stage service is long gone, but portions of its former route live on as footpaths used by hikers, bikers and for ultra running and long distance trekking events. One of the most beautiful segments of the historic trail wanders along the eastern edge of Hart Prairie just outside of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area. The hike begins near Little Spring, a popular stop along the stagecoach route that's now part of a national historic landmark. Picking up the trail is a little bit tricky in the beginning. From the parking spot, hike 0.4 mile on an old dirt road to where there’s a split rail fence on the right. Leave the road and hike into the meadow aiming for a pair of fallen logs lying parallel on the ground. There’s a rough 2-track leading to the C. Hart Merriam Base Camp historic marker and the spring. Most of the time, the spring is but a trickling seep full of frogs and No-See-Um flies. The pesky biting insects can inflict irritating (but usually not too serious) stings. Eucalyptus or citronella based botanical repellants help ward off the swarms. To pick up the trail to Bismarck Lake, climb above the washout directly behind the spring then huff and puff your way 500 feet up a steep trail covered in pine needles and mushrooms. At the top of the hill, catch your breath in a sunny, fern-ringed meadow before heading right on paths that lead to the lake.
Little Spring
Bismarck Lake is actually an eroded, water filled volcanic crater that's more puddle than pond. Water levels in the shallow depression vacillate between knee-deep reflecting pool and barely there muddy bog. The soggy basin is surrounded by aspens, basalt boulders and fields of wildflowers in the shadow of Arizona's highest peaks. Although this is a satisfying turnaround point, it's easy to cobble together a longer trek. Just pick up the path on the western edge of the lake and hike 0.2-mile to the Bismarck Lake Trail junction. From here, it's 0.4-mile to the Arizona Trail Passage #34 where you can go right and hike 3.5 miles (8,880' - 9,000') through magnificent aspen forests to Aspen Corner on Snowbowl Road or go left for for a 3.7-mile (8,880'-8,280') for a downhill trek through spruce and fir to Forest Road 418.
Bismarck Lake
LENGTH: 3 miles roundtrip (spring to lake and back)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 8,300'-8,800'
Little Spring Trailhead:
From Flagstaff, travel 19 miles north on US 180 to the upper loop of FR 151 (Hart Prairie Road) near milepost 235. Turn right and drive 1.6 miles to FR418, veer right to stay on FR151, set your odometer and continue 2.4 miles to an Forest Road 418B and a sign indicating Little Spring on the right. You can drive it up to 0.25-mile, but it’s narrow and nasty. Find a place to park, before the “road closed” gate.

Monday, June 13, 2016


Sacred datura bloom along River Ramble Trail
The month of June is notoriously rife with wildfire activity. Historically, it's our driest month leading into monsoon season. Hikers who like to escape the heat on high elevation trails may find their plans thwarted by road closures, smoke and the possibility of more fires popping up with no warning. During those weeks when it seems like the whole state is on fire, it's good to know that that there's an alternative cool hiking destination located not too far from Downtown Phoenix.
The trails at Hassayampa River Preserve in Wickenburg offer respite from the heat under canopies of cottonwoods, willows, mesquite, alders and enormous Desert fan palms. Straddling one of the few places where the 100-mile-long river flows above ground, the preserve has trails that explore the site's diversity. River Ramble Trail follows a channel of trickling perennial water through a tangled, green forest flush with wildflowers and an arboreal symphony of bird songs. The overhead avian chatter is a constant companion and it's nearly impossible to miss the brilliant red Vermillion flycathers, Summer Tanagers, hawks and flocks of song sparrows fluttering from tree to tree. Mesquite Meander Trail loops through a haunting maze of Velvet mesquite trees that arch over the sandy path. Other trails circle spring fed Palm Lake where viewing areas with benches are situated near prime habitats for ducks, egrets and herons.
Hassayampa River
Most of the trails are flat and easy except for Lykes' Lookout, that makes a short but very steep climb to a stony mound overlooking the rare desert oasis.
LENGTH: 2.54 miles
Lots of shade on the Palm Lake Trail
RATING: barrier free - difficult
ELEVATION: 1,900' -1,980'
49614 N. US 60/89, Wickenburg.
From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to Carefree Highway (State Route74) at exit 223. Go 3 miles west toward Wickenburg to US60. Turn right (north) and continue 6 miles to the Conservancy turn off on the left near milepost 114.
May 14-Sept. 16
Friday - Sunday
7 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Trails close at 10:30 a.m.
Pets are not allowed.
ADMISSION: $5 per person, $3 for The Nature Conservancy members.

Monday, June 6, 2016


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
A pond on the Meadow Trail
Taking a walk in the forest shouldn't be limited to the young and fleet of foot. High on the edge of the Mogollon Rim north of Payson, two paved trails combine for more than 5 miles of barrier free exploring. Both are suitable for wheelchairs, strollers and walkers so everybody can wander under the pines regardless of their mobility issues. Well known Rim Vista Trail #622 traces limestone escarpments overlooking rambling valleys of coniferous forests and distant mountain vistas. This popular route can be accessed from any of the viewpoint parking lots located along the first three miles of Forest Road 300. Meadow Trail #505 intersects Rim Vista at the Woods Canyon Vista trailhead and offers a less crowded option. Located within Woods Canyon Lake Recreation Area, Trail #505 parallels the busy access road, passing several campgrounds on its way to the lake.
The well-signed route encompasses pine-oak woodlands, sunny meadows, myriad wildflowers, two rustic bridges and a good chance to see wildlife skulking along the margins of a swampy pond.
Bridge on the Meadow Trail
Upon its approach to the lake, the trail makes a gentle descent to land at a country store where you can purchase a day use permit if you want to continue exploring the more difficult Woods Canyon Lake Trail #336 that makes a 3 mile loop around the lake or rent a kayak for a cooling glide over the water.
Rim Vista Trail at the edge of the Mogollon Rim
Meadow Trail: 1.8 miles one way
Rim Vista Trail: 3.5 miles one way
RATING: easy/barrier free
ELEVATION: 7,540' – 7,640'

From Payson, go 29 miles east on State Route 260 to Forest Road 300 (Rim Road), turn left and continue 3 miles to the Woods Canyon Vista trailhead on the left. The trail begins across the road.
INFO: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

Monday, May 30, 2016


East Clear Creek

A leisurely amble through the pristine and complex canyon system of upper East Clear Creek reveals wonders that even the most well traveled Arizona hikers will find astounding. There’s the epic views from the coniferous forest rim, a scenic drop into the canyon along a fossil-encrusted limestone trail, and an emerald-green riparian environment along the water.
Sandwiched between two reservoirs, East Clear Creek slices into soft sedimentary pediments leaving behind a meandering sheer-walled canyon. This 50-mile-long ribbon of life-giving water flows northeast from Blue Ridge Reservoir to Clear Creek Reservoir near Winslow where it merges with the Little Colorado River. sandstone walls that look like dunes tilted on their sides in layer-cake formation. Tens of millions of years ago, the landscape surrounding East Clear Creek was part of a vast ocean and the fossilized remains of sea-dwelling algae, coral and brachiopods are strewn about like scattered bones. Like all of the “crossing” trails on the Mogollon Rim, this one continues up the opposite side of the canyon. Although traversing the entire length of this gorge would involve technical climbing skills, swimming and rafting, all that’s needed to hike the Horse Crossing trail #20 is a pair of boots, water and a day pack. Exploring the mid-section of the creek, Horse Crossing is hemmed in by vertical rock escarpments. At the bottom of the canyon, running water sculpts sandstone walls that look like dunes tilted on their sides in layer-cake formation. Tens of millions of years ago, the landscape surrounding East Clear Creek was part of a vast ocean and the fossilized remains of sea-dwelling algae, coral and brachiopods are strewn about like scattered bones. Like all of the “crossing” trails on the Mogollon Rim, this one continues up the opposite side of the canyon. However, it’s more fun to follow fisherman paths and  for several miles up or downstream where clouds reflected in mirror-like pools give the impression of walking on the sky.
LENGTH: 3 miles round-trip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6,900’ – 6,400’
From Payson, travel north on State Route 87 Forest Road 95 between mileposts 299 and 300, located 9.4 miles past Clint's Well. Turn right (east) on FR 95 and drive 4 miles to Forest Road 513B. Go left (east) on FR 513B and continue 2 miles to the trailhead. A high-clearance vehicle is required on FR 513B.

Monday, May 23, 2016


Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, North

Sidewinder Trail near Desert Hills Trailhead

We desert dwellers have been lucky this year. May temperatures have been more balmy than blistering, thus extending our cool-weather hiking season by several weeks. But, we all know what's coming--triple digit heat and the ominous whir of rescue helicopters circling above Valley trails. Each year, more than 200 hikers get into trouble on local paths. Although accidents do happen, emergencies like dehydration and heat exhaustion are avoidable. At the new Desert Hills Trailhead that was opened last week, a colorfully illustrated sign gives concise pointers on how to stay safe. The new site provides access to more than 35 miles of trails in the north end of the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve including the two longest routes, Sidewinder (6.98 miles) and Ocotillo (6.25 miles). Sidewinder makes a roller coaster style swing up and around the preserve's hills while Ocotillo wanders along the lower slopes. The trails head out in opposite directions and reconnect at the preserve's southern Apache Wash Trailhead for a 13.23-mile loop. If you're not interested in a long trek, a map kiosk at the trailhead shows how to use any of the 11 connecting paths to suit your fancy. All preserve routes are well-signed and sustainably designed, however, hiking these beautiful trails could be deadly for those who are unprepared for heat and rocky, thorn addled desert terrain.
The trailhead sign outlines the Take a Hike, Do it Right campaign that was rolled out last year to promote preparedness. Most of the tips are no-brainers, such as, bring plenty of water, hike in early morning, wear sturdy shoes and stay on designated trails. Skilled trekkers are not immune. (In the human brain, it seems the confidence synapse lives next door to the one for risk taking). Think about it--news coverage of trail tragedies often describe the victims as "experienced hikers". So, while checking out the Valley's newest trailhead, take a few minutes to review the Do It Right sign. Being properly supplied and geared up will enhance your hiking enjoyment while assuring that the trail photos you posted to social media don't become "before" images on the evening news.
Desert Hills Trailhead

Sidewinder: 6.98 miles one way
Ocotillo: 6.25 miles one way
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1,720' - 2,002'
Ocotillo Trail
Desert Hills Trailhead:
705 W. Carefree Highway (7th Ave. & Carefree Hwy.), Phoenix.
There's plenty of parking, equestrian lot, shade ramada with seating, restrooms, but NO WATER.
INFO & MAP: City of Phoenix
Take A Hike, Do It Right: