Monday, September 22, 2008
MESCAL RIDGE TRAIL #186 Hellsgate Wilderness Area Follow the guide given for the Bear Flat hike (separate blog entry) to the Bear Flat-Mescal Ridge junction, then go right (west) at the trail sign and continue up a rocky path onto Mescal Ridge. Views of the Mogollon Rim and other curiosities abound along the scenic ridge. Lichen-covered boulders of quartzite litter the perimeters of the trail and provide comfortable niches for horned lizards. Lush valleys of pine, scrub oak, agave, yucca and manzanita plunge hundreds of feet downhill on both sides of the trail. Cattle still graze in the area and there’s an old corral, feeding trough and watering hole along the way. At about the 2.5-mile point, there’s a large clearing with sweeping views and although it makes a nice place to stop, it’s not the end of the trail. From there, continue along the faint footpaths for about another mile to the point where the trail skirts the very edge of Mescal Ridge. There, spectacular drop-offs and big sky views give a true sense of “wilderness” before the trail dead-ends into a private property fence. LENGTH: 6 miles round trip RATING: Moderate ELEVATION GAIN: 4960' - 5610' 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.