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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

BEAR WALLOW-RENO LOOP

Reno-Bear Wallow Loop Bear Wallow Wilderness



Woodsy and wild, the 11,000-acre Bear Wallow Wilderness area is one of the best “untamed” hiking destinations in the state. A tributary of the mighty Black River, Bear Wallow Creek flows at the bottom of a deep canyon where countless feeder streams trickle downhill and pool in mucky, shallow bogs called wallows. Several trailheads access the area, however, a good introduction to this wilderness is to make a loop hike with the Reno and Bear Wallow trails. The loop begins on the Reno trail with a 2,000-foot plunge along a dizzying incline to the bottom of the canyon. Dense stands of pine, spruce and fir cling to the loamy slopes cloaking the trail in eerie light. At roughly the 2-mile point, the path dead-ends at the creek and the junction with the Bear Wallow Trail. There, sunlight breaks through the thick forest canopy and a cool dampness suspended in the air sets the tone for the next segment of the hike. From the junction, go left (east) following the slender path as it hugs the vegetation-choked banks of the north fork of the creek. Disheveled grasses in the wallows and telltale claw marks on tree stumps are constant reminders that this is bear country. In fact, this wilderness area is home to one of the state’s most robust black bear populations. Also seen in shades of cinnamon, blonde and gray, you’re not likely to encounter one of Arizona’s black bears along the trail--unless you’re wearing a ham around your neck. That’s because when the creatures see or hear you coming, they’ll retreat to cover. Bears won’t usually approach humans unless lured by the smell of food. However, it’s smart to learn how to behave if you do run into a bear on the trail by visiting the website listed below. About a mile past the junction, the trail swings northeast and begins a gradual climb through aspens and painterly alpine meadows. After rain showers (which are occur almost daily in summer), runoff covers portions of the trail in this section. But with some wadding and careful route finding, the long haul back up to the rim of the canyon isn’t too difficult. Once at the Bear Wallow trailhead, go left (west) on Forest Road 25 and hike 2.5 miles back to the Reno trailhead. This trail sustained significant damage due to the Wallow Fire, June 2011. Although it appears that the northwest section of the canyon is relatively intact, the area is  open but expect hazards . LENGTH: 7-mile loop RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 8,880' - 7,760' GETTING THERE: From Alpine, drive south on Highway 191 for 28 miles to Forest Road 25. Turn right (west) onto FR-25 and continue 5.2 miles to the signed Reno trailhead on the left. FR-25 is good gravel passable by sedan. INFO: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/asnf/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=45281&actid=50

For information about Arizona’s black bears: http://www.bebearawaresw.org

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