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Thursday, January 22, 2009

SKULL MESA

SKULL MESA Tonto National Forest There is an intoxicating muddling of time and place on the trails leading to Skull Mesa. Hohokam symbols, chipped into rock 800-years-ago, embellish sun-drenched niches and along a wash, fresh javalina prints follow a trickle of water. Located just a few miles north of Cave Creek in the Seven Springs recreation area, the Skull Mesa trail system feels feral and remote despite its proximity to town. For a leisurely stroll, the first 1.9 miles along a creek-side horse trail is flat and scenic, flanked by red cliffs and cottonwoods. After that, the excursion becomes more challenging requiring ridge running along crumbling sandstone and narrow cholla-lined footpaths. At the Trail 248 junction, climb the 27 steep switchbacks to the 4,285-foot low summit. (The 4,590-foot high point is another 1.3 miles to the east.) Descend in time to enjoy weatherworn ruins, solstice markers and skulking coyotes among the yucca and scurrying quail. LENGTH: 12 miles round-trip RATING: difficult ELEVATION: 2,410 - 4,285 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix: Exit 101 at Cave Creek Road. Go north on Cave Creek Road to Spur Cross Road. Follow Spur Cross Road to several yards before the Conservation Area gate and park in the large dirt lot on the right. FEE: $3 daily fee per person. Bring exact change for the self-serve pay box. THE ROUTE: Follow Spur Cross Trail north for 1.9 miles (hopping the creek a up to a dozen times depending on water levels) to the Skull Mesa trailhead--marked by a large forest service map/sign on the banks of the creek.  Follow Cave Creek Trail #4 briefly and go right to connect to Cottonwood Trail #247and hike roughly 3 miles to the Skull Mesa Trail #248 junction paying attention to cairns and trail signs as it is very easy to loose the trail in some spots. From the 248 junction, grunt your way up to the top of Skull Mesa. This report describes the hike to the low summit. However, the hike can be extended to explore ruins on the mesa and/or connected loops using the Tonto NF maps. NOTE: this is an all-day hike. The route undulates continually, so the elevation gain feels like much more, that’s why it’s smart to carry plenty of food, water and emergency supplies when hiking this route.
INFO: Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area: http://www.maricopa.gov/parks/spur_cross/ and
Tonto National Forest: http://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gDfxMDT8MwRydLA1cj72BTSw8jAwgAykeaxcN4jhYG_h4eYX5hPgYwefy6w0H24dcPNgEHcDTQ9_PIz03VL8iNMMgycVQEAIzTHkw!/dl3/d3/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS9ZQnZ3LzZfME80MEkxVkFCOTBFMktTNUJIMjAwMDAwMDA!/?ss=110312&ttype=recarea&recid=35253&actid=50&navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&position=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&navid=110160000000000&pnavid=110000000000000&cid=FSE_003714&pname=Tonto+National+Forest+-+Skull+Mesa+Trail+248

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the hike up to trail 248 very much. We only walked 1 mile trail 248 but will continue it later. We enjoyed the hike up to that point, but beyond that it was very very pleasant. I wish we had a better map that would lead us on the trail. But with plenty of water and food, and good hiking boots, I would recommend this hike to anyone.