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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

OAK SPRING TRAIL

OAK SPRING TRAIL Tonto National Forest Gorgeous Oak Spring Canyon is a hidden gem buried in a rocky gorge beneath the Mogollon Rim. Both the Oak Springs trail #16 and nearby Walnut trail # 251 have been incorporated into the state-traversing Arizona Trail. These two trails combine for a 12-mile segment of shady hiking with great views of the rim as well as a plethora of historical and geological points of interest. From the easy-to-access Pine trailhead north of Payson, the Oak Trail begins in a coniferous woodland that has been thinned as part of forest management efforts. After a half-mile of hiking, the trail crosses Highway 87 and enters a ranch area with overhead power lines. This part of the hike is not very scenic, but hang in there—the best is yet to come. Past the ranch, the trail takes on a moderately steep climb to the high ridgeline above Pine Creek before plunging 250 feet into Oak Spring Canyon. Although the trip downhill is just over a half-mile in length, it drops more than 400 feet via a series of steep switchbacks. Once on the canyon floor, continue hiking through the narrow, wooded gorge, over a dry wash lined with twisted vines and Bigtooth maple trees to the Walnut Trail junction. From here, head left and follow the signs to the spring where there’s an old concrete trough that collects the precious water that percolates to the surface from underground caches. Highlights: Canyon hike to a lush spring-fed woodland with corral ruins. Length: 8 miles round-trip Rating: moderate Elevation range: 5,600’ – 5,180’ Driving distance from Phoenix:115 miles one-way Getting there: From Payson, go north on Highway 87 for about 12 miles to the Pine Trailhead, which is located roughly 2 miles north of “Control Road” and the turn off for Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. Information: (602) 225-5200 or fs.fed.us/r3/tonto

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