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Monday, September 22, 2008

BEAR FLAT

BEAR FLAT TRAIL #178 Hellsgate Wilderness Area, Payson The hike begins with an immediate crossing of Tonto Creek. From the trailhead sign, scope out the wooden trail marker across the creek and then head toward it using the handy stepping stones to hop the shallow creek. Once at the trail sign, head east (left) toward the houses that are on private property and follow the carined trail up through a conifer forest to the wilderness area signs. From there, the easy-to-follow trail heads steeply uphill through pines and junipers for one mile to the Bear Flat-Mescal Ridge junction sign. From there, go left (east) and continue for another mile through open grassy meadows and manzanita where views of the Rim country stretch out for miles. After a short distance, the trail turns abruptly downhill into a densely forested canyon to the wilderness area boundary and the turn around point for this hike. LENGTH: 5 miles round trip as described here.  Full trail is 9.25 miles one-way RATING: easy - difficult ELEVATION: 4960'-5610' (2500' - 5800' for entire trail) GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, drive east on Loop 202 and connect to Highway 87 north (Country Club Drive). Continue north on Highway 87 for about 90 miles to the town of Payson. Once in Payson, go right (east) onto Highway 260 and continue for 11.4 miles to the turn off for FR 405A, which is just past milepost 263 on the right. NOTE: this turn off is not signed, so start paying attention once you pass the Little Green Valley area because the turn off is just past it. Continue on FR 405A, for another 2.7 miles to the signed junction for Bear Flat and FR 405. Follow FR 405 (veer right) for just over 3 more miles to the Bear Flat campground. FR 405 is a good dirt road but is narrow and has several abrupt hairpin turns and steep drop offs. There are ample pullout areas for passing but it is advisable to drive slowly and with caution.
INFO: Payson Ranger District, Tonto National Forest
http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/tonto/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=35633&actid=50

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