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Monday, April 8, 2019

Cibola Pass-Jordan Trail Loop

Cibola Pass-Jordan Trail Loop
A juniper-framed view on Cibola Pass Trail

Mitten Ridge formations seen from Cibola Pass Trail.
As implausible as it may seem, some people driving through Sedona are in a hurry. It happens, though, but it’s no excuse to forfeit a hike in order to beat the traffic or catch a flight.  Many of Sedona’s trails offer drive-up-and-hike convenience and clever connectivity that accommodates those who have only a couple of hours to indulge in a picture-perfect jaunt.  Take, for instance, the Cibola Pass-Jordan Loop.
Sugarloaf and Chimney Rock seen from Jordan Trail.
When hiked from the Jim Thompson trailhead that’s located just a short drive from Uptown Sedona, this heavenly trek that slices through forests at the southern edge of the Red Rock Secret Canyon Wilderness, gets you in-and-out of the good stuff pronto.  
Huge agaves grow along the route.
As the average hiker moves at about 2-3 miles per hour, it’s possible to whip through this 2.2-mile circuit in just over an hour—provided you can limit ogling and photo stops. The hike scrimps on length but splurges on scenery and workout value.  From the parking area, start hiking at the Cibola Pass post near the fee pay station. Continue a few yards to a three-way junction and continue straight ahead on the Cibola Pass trail. Hiking the loop in this direction gets the steep climbing out of the way within the first half-mile.
A shady spot on the Jordan Trail
The abrupt but not-too-difficult climb is a mashup of switchbacks and flat rest areas overlooking the deep cuts of Mormon Canyon and layers of sheer wilderness mesas.  The signature feature along this section is the hand-shaped, russet stone tower that caps Mitten Ridge.
A scenic point on the Jordan Trail
The route makes a brief passage though the wilderness area on slickrock slopes with stunning juniper-framed views before dipping into a shady drainage.  At the 0.7-mile point, the circuit meets the Jordan Trail junction.
A slick rock passage on the Jordan Trail
Time permitting, take an optional 0.6-mile roundtrip venture, by heading right to see Devil’s Kitchen—an impressive sandstone sinkhole.  To stick with the quick-trip plan, go left at the junction and make a swift ramble on the Jordan Trail through a 1.5-mile pocket of fragrant cypress, giant agaves and oak-fringed bluffs. You’ll be back at the trailhead in a flash with dusty boots and time to spare.
Goodding's Verbena blooms April through September.

LENGTH: 2.2 miles
RATING:  moderate
ELEVATION:  4520 – 4682 feet
Jim Thompson Trailhead:
From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in Sedona, go right onto 89A and continue 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. A $5 Red Rock Pass is required.  There is a restroom and a pay station at the trailhead.
INFO:  Coconino National Forest
Red Rock Pass Information:

Monday, April 1, 2019

Mount Union: Prescott National Forest
 View of Mt. Davis seen from 7979-foot Mt. Union
Where as the thrill of reaching a mountain summit usually comes with a wham-pow jolt of pride, gaining the high point of the Bradshaw Mountains in Yavapai County kind of creeps up on you instead. 
Snow on the Dandrea Trail No. 285, 3-30-2019.
The hiking trails that lead to the 7979-foot pinnacle of Mount Union are neither technical nor precipitous.
The fire lookout on Mt. Union was built in 1933
Unlike other Arizona peaks, there are no false summits, no cliff-dangling passages and no obvious risks to life and limb. Regardless of its lack of adrenaline rushes, the straightforward route is not without its challenges.
Big views on the Yankee Doodle Trail No. 284
It’s only a two-mile hike to the top, but working through the rough, rocky course is an exercise in balance and tenacity. It’s a real ankle-twister, so sturdy footwear and hiking poles are essential. Located southeast of Prescott near the mountain community of Potato Patch, the Dandrea Trail No. 285 and the Yankee Doodle Trail No. 284 combine for a short but tricky route to the peak. The trails are signed only by their numbers, not their colorful monikers which, along with nearby landform names, were assigned by miners working for competing factions during the Civil War.  

The bare bones trailhead straddles a drainage where the headwaters of the Hassayampa River—spilling from the spring-laden slopes between Mount Davis (named for President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis) and Mount Union-- begin to gain momentum.  Hop the chugging stream and head toward the “285” sign, which marks the first leg of the circuit. Trail No. 285 is an old mining road that was built long before the concept of sustainability gained traction and thus has not held up well. Thrashed by the forces of nature, the road has devolved into a quagmire of loose rock and debris. Sometimes paralleling the Hassayampa drainage, sometimes swamped by its overflow, trail conditions vacillate between poor and treacherous. But, picking your way though is part of the adventure. Also, several unmarked spur paths that spin off the main road can be confusing. To stay on track, always head right at these junctions. 
The summit road was snow-covered on 3-30-2019.
View from a high section of the Dandrea Trail
Between keeping an eye to the ground to avoid falls, be sure to take time to appreciate the thick coniferous forest that surrounds the trail. The canyon-bound lower mile of the route is wrapped in thick, moss-draped woodlands dominated by Douglas and white firs plus spotty stands of aspens struggling to find the sunlight they need to survive. 
A typical scene on the rocky Dandrea Trail
As the trail gains elevation, airy stands of Alligator junipers and Gamble oaks take over, opening up views of distant Granite Mountain.
Big Bug Mesa (mid field right) seen from Trail No. 284
At the 1.2-mile point, the route emerges from the forested canyon at a gate and 4-way junction on the saddle between Mount Davis and Mount Union. Here, Trail 285 continues 1.6 miles downhill to the abandoned Dandrea Ranch site--a pretty side trip if you’re so inclined. But if your eyes are on the summit prize, head right (southwest) and follow the Yankee Doodle Trail No. 284.  Although still rocky, this 0.6-mile leg is much less hazardous and more exposed than the canyon segment.  Climbing through an oak-fringed corridor, Trail 284 features peeks of the fire lookout and communication towers on the summit and grand mountain vistas.  To the east, the long form of Big Bug Mesa stands out among minor ridgelines and pine-covered foothills. Where the trail meets the dirt summit road, head left (remember this spot because it’s easy to miss on the way back) and make the final 0.2-mile slog to the top.   
Trail 285 climbs through the headwaters of the Hassayampa
A fire lookout that was built by Civilian Conservation Corps workers in 1933 stands 30 feet above the bald, boulder-cluttered apex.
The saddle junction
At its base, the names of CCC workers etched into a cement slab add a note history and humanity to the creaky metal structure and its companion cabin.  The tower is still in active service and is occupied during fire season.  
View from the summit of Mount Union
A walk around the tiny peak reveals 360-degree vistas that validate this mountain as the standard-bearer of the Bradshaws while demonstrating that a summit trek doesn’t have to be the hardest, highest or most inaccessible to deliver a rewarding experience.
Douglas fir trees dominate the canyon segment of the hike
Mount Union is high point of the Bradshaw Mountains
Trailhead at the edge of the Potato Patch community.
LENGTH: 4 miles roundtrip
RATING: difficult
ELEVATION: 6849 – 7979 feet
From State Route 69 in Prescott, turn south on Walker Road (intersection with the stoplight near the Costco center) and continue 10.5 miles to the “T” intersection at Poacher’s Row that’s marked by sign for the Potato Patch community. Turn left and continue 0.7 miles to where the road ends at the 285 trailhead. There’s parking for about two vehicles at the trailhead and there are additional spaces along the road, but be respectful of the private property in the area and do not block driveways. 
Summit marker.
High-clearance vehicles are recommended as the last few miles of the access roads are on rough dirt with potholes. There are no fees or facilities at the trailhead.
INFO: Prescott National Forest

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Get Involved to Guide Fossil Creek's Future

Fossil Creek Wild & Scenic River Draft CRMP and DEIS ~ 125-day Comment Period: 
A Summary of the Alternatives
Dec. 1, 2018 – April 4, 2019
Hikers, paddlers, campers---ALL outdoor enthusiasts with in interest in how recreation in Fossil Creek will be managed should check out the resource links below and WEIGH IN. The public comment period ends April 4, 2019.  You MUST comment before the deadline to be eligible to participate any post-decision discussion or lodge objections.
To Participate in a Public Meeting and to Comment:
Comment Period: A 125-day comment period is occurring from Dec. 1, 2018, to April 4, 2019.
Online Project Information: Go to
Online Planning Documents: Go to
To Submit Comments: Please submit comments in writing through one of several methods:
Email: to (include “Fossil Creek CRMP” in the subject line)
Mail: to Coconino National Forest, Attention: Fossil Creek CRMP, P.O. Box 20429, Sedona, AZ 86341
Fax: to (928) 203-7539
In person: to Red Rock Ranger District Office, 8375 State Route 179, Sedona, AZ 86351.
Comments should clearly articulate the reviewer’s concerns and contentions and provide the Forest Service with information that will be helpful in making a decision on the Fossil Creek CRMP and DEIS. For example, are there components of an alternative that you believe will result in effects (good or bad) that are not adequately described in the DEIS? Be as specific as possible and support your statements with facts and references. Consider whether your comments are solution-oriented. Do more than just provide an opinion or a vote. Remember that comments are not counted as votes where the alternative that is most referenced is the selected alternative. Also, remember that identical comments submitted (as a form letter, for example) will be treated as one comment.
Names and physical and/or e-mail addresses that are submitted during the comment period will be included in the official record for the Fossil Creek planning project and may be available for public inspection.
Public comments collected during the 2016 scoping period and during earlier comment periods serve as the basis for the range of alternatives presented now in the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). All previous comments, since 2010, have helped the Forest Service understand the issues important to people who visit or are interested in Fossil Creek, namely how people are able to recreate in Fossil Creek, the impacts that use has on natural and cultural resources and the recreation experience, the amount and type of recreational development in the Fossil Creek corridor, and public health and safety. Comments submitted in earlier phases of planning for the Fossil Creek CRMP need not be re-submitted.
Contact Us: If you have a question about the Fossil Creek CRMP or want to know how to get involved, contact:
Fossil Creek Project Coordinator Marcos Roybal: (928) 203-2915
Red Rock Ranger District NEPA Planner Elizabeth Munding: (928) 203-2914

Monday, March 25, 2019

Legends of Superior Trails: Arnett Canyon Trail segment

Legends of Superior Trails: Arnett Canyon Trail segment
Arnett Creek is a key feature of the LOST system
Picketpost Mountain looms over the LOST 
The new LOST trail segment connects with the AZT
“When I first hiked the Legends of Superior Trails, I had no clue how awesome they are,” says Mila Besich, Mayor of the Town of Superior.  “After the hike, I felt like crying but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the overwhelming beauty or because I had gone nearly nine miles,” Besich laughed. 
Hikers descend a steep section of the new Arnett Canyon Trl. 
Speaking at the March 24, 2019 inauguration of the new Legends of Superior Trails (LOST) Arnett Canyon segment, Besich acknowledged the many individuals and organizations that contributed to the planning and construction of the fresh-cut, 1.5-mile trail section that connects with the Arizona Trail at the Picketpost Trailhead off U.S. 60. 
A steep, narrow section of the trail.
Arnett Creek flows through volcanic terrain.
While leaders at the Tonto National Forest, Resolution Copper, Arizona Trail Association and the Town of Superior did the governmental and land management red-tape wrangling, young American Conservation Experience workers did much of the shoveling and sweating to build the singletrack path that can be hiked as a loop or a one-way trek to the historic Pinal Townsite that’s part of the LOST system of interpretive routes that explore the town’s history and mining heritage.
Hikers in Arnett Canyon
Wildflowers grow among outcroppings of volcanic ash.
Although the mountain-bound community sits in the heart of the mineral-rich Copper Corridor just an hour east of Phoenix where mining is a core industry, Besich is quick to point out that the area’s treasures extend beyond its ore.
Mila Besich, Mayor of the Town of Superior in Arnett Can.
“We’re not a mining town. We’re a town with a world-class mine,” she emphasized.  Cognizant of the boom-and-bust nature of the mining business, the town ranks its natural outdoor assets as being as important as any commercial enterprise. The improvement and expansion of the LOST hiking hub is part of the town’s diversification objectives to boost the economy while staying true to their roots.  “The project is a marathon,” Besich said. “LOST is a start, and we envision Superior becoming home to the next best hiking destination in Arizona.”  This ambitious goal includes plans for a 110-mile stacked-loop trail system that will wind through rugged back country and the Queen Creek-Arnett Creek watersheds south of town. The project—which will use the LOST system as an anchor-- is currently in the planning and permitting process and if all goes well, construction could begin in the next couple of years.  In the meantime, hikers can enjoy the many miles of outstanding existing trails in Superior. 
Situated at the crux of two of the state-traversing Arizona Trail’s most spectacular desert passages that meet at the base of volcanic Picketpost Mountain, the newly completed Arnett Canyon Trail segment is a segue to a landscape of amazing biodiversity, history and complex geology. 
Globemallow bloom along the trails.
The segment begins near the site host campsite with an uphill walk and views of the Superstition Wilderness. Other than a short section where the trail descends steeply on a narrow, rocky ridge that’s not recommended for bike or equestrian use, the hike is effortless.
Hikers on the LOST loop approach the Picketpost TH 
Where the route brushes the flanks of Picketpost Mountain, hikers might be inspired to climb to its 4375-foot summit by way of a sketchy and difficult spur path off the Arizona Trail.  At the 0.6-mile point, turn right and pass through a gate to complete the 1.5-mile loop. Or, to extend the hike, continue straight ahead into Arnett Canyon for a drop-dead-gorgeous, out-and-back creekside trek smothered in greenery and pillars of petrified volcanic ash.  It won’t take too many miles of hiking to understand why Besich says this enchanting trail system is, “a dream come true” and a key inspiration for the reimagination of a desert town.
LOST is just the beginning of a planned hiking hub.
Volcanic rock formations in Arnett Canyon
Superstition Wilderness vistas seen from LOST
LENGTH: 1.5-mile loop
RATING: easy
ELEVATION:  2461 – 2342 feet
Picketpost Trailhead:
From U.S. 60 just before entering the Town of Superior between mileposts 221 and 222, turn right at the Picketpost Trailhead sign and continue 1 mile to the parking area. Roads are paved and maintained dirt suitable for all vehicles. There is a restroom at the trailhead. The trail begins near the site host campsite.
Legends of Superior Trails
Arizona Trail

Monday, March 18, 2019


A slick rock segment on the Templeton Trail

At the Back O’ Beyond trailhead one recent Sunday morning, a chirpy declaration from a group of young people spilling from a parked SUV broke the silence. “Cathedral Rock! Counts for church.”
Cathedral Rock seen from the HT Trail
Regardless of where your beliefs fall on the spiritual spectrum, the trails surrounding the iconic Sedona rock formation grab your heart and don’t let go. 
The Easy Breezy Trail has many wash crossings
Whether the come-hither call is the result of magic, faith or the magnetic pull of the high-iron-content rocks, the emotional tug of Cathedral Rock has a way of luring hikers back again and again.
The Two Nuns (far right, center) seen from HT Trail
The maze of trails that wrap around Cathedral Rock’s looming parapets that resemble a medieval fortress keeping watch above Oak Creek, offer many ways to commune with the stony behemoth. 
A raven takes flight above the Easy Breezy Trail
An edgy traverse on the flanks of Cathedral Rock
Trail choices include a rugged scramble to a scenic saddle, edge-hugging rambles, creekside walks and easy forest strolls.  A less busy option that samples the many moods of this enchanting landscape is a hike on the Easy Breezy-Templeton Loop.  From the Cathedral Rock trailhead, the circuit steers clear of the crowds by heading left on the recently adopted Easy Breezy Trail.  The theme of the circuit’s first mile is immediately revealed as the path drops into a scoured drainage channel. 
Beginning of the sketchy return leg of the Easy Breezy Trail
Alternating between cloistered cypress-pinion woodlands and open spaces of filtered sunlight, the route makes several wash crossings aided by native stone “stairs” built into water-carved embankments.  Annual deluges have exposed layers of colorful sediments and the artful stylings of tree roots that sprawl snake-like through spillways of sand, stone and crystalline pools.  The HT Trail junction marks the end of the shaded, water-centric leg of the hike.  Head right at the sign and follow HT Trail uphill for a 0.3-mile traipse through high-desert grasslands with clear views of a seldom-seen angles of Cathedral Rock and the familiar silhouettes of Courthouse Butte and the Two Nuns formations. 
Mountain vistas on the Templeton Trail
At the Templeton Trail junction, go right and follow the swerving path as it works its way toward an exposed slickrock passage on the east flanks of Cathedral Rock.  Clinging to the barren mound, the trail swings north to meet the west end of the Easy Breezy Trail. The junction sign here points into a ravine with no obvious trail.
A rocky passage on the Easy Breezy Trail
If you choose this 0.4-mile return leg option, be prepared for some route finding, bike traffic and loose rock. Otherwise, continue north on Templeton and connect with the less confusing Cathedral Rock Trail to get back to the trailhead where a map kiosk can help harness the metaphysical or earth-grounded urge for more into a return trip.
Arizona cypress trees shade the trails
The hike shows seldom-seen angles of Cathedral Rock
Artful exposed roots along the Easy Breezy Trail
LENGTH: 3.3 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 3998 - 4203 feet
Back O’ Beyond/Cathedral Rock Trailhead:
From Interstate 17, take the Sedona/Oak Creek exit 298. Turn left (west) and continue 11 miles on State Route 179 to the traffic circle at Back O’ Beyond Road near milepost 310. Veer left and go 0.6 mile on Back O’ Beyond to the trailhead on the left.
FEE: A $5 Red Rock Pass or equivalent is required. There’s a pay station and restroom at the trailhead.