Find A Trail. Start Your Search Here:

Monday, August 17, 2009


RED HILL Blue Range Primitive Area

This ambitious hike into the heart of the Blue Range Primitive Area, makes for a magnificent expedition into wonderland of rugged canyons, contorted rock formations and bountiful wildlife. The trail can be accessed from either Blue River Road at the bottom of the canyon or from the Rim off of Highway 191, making it a good candidate for a car shuttle hike. From the upper trailhead, the route is typical of trails in this area—primitive. Fallen trees, overgrown brush and exposed benches where the trail seems to disappear, make staying on track an adventure in itself. However, with good map and compass skills, experienced hikers will have little trouble navigating because landmarks such as the surreal geology of Red Bluff, Foote Creek and Blue River Canyon really stand out along the way. Much of the trail hugs the edge of steep canyon walls and stony outcroppings where vista views stretch all the way into New Mexico. At near the 10-mile point, the trail (#56) terminates at Tutt Hill Trail #105. To reach the lower trailhead, hang a left from here and follow trail 105 and then Forest Road 567P for one mile to Red Hill Road. Go right (downhill) to Blue Crossing Campground. The icing on the cake for this hike is a collection of petroglyphs located beyond the gate at the north end of the campground. UPDATE: The June 2011 Wallow Fire has impacted this trail. Check with the forest service before heading out.HIGHLIGHTS: epic views, interesting rock formations, petroglyphs LENGTH: 10 miles one-way RATING: difficult ELEVATION: 8,000 – 5,790 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 265 miles GETTING THERE: UPPER TRAILHEAD: From Alpine, drive 14 miles south on Highway 191to Red Hill Road (Forest Road 567). Follow FR 567 for one mile to Forest Road 567B, which is marked by a “Red Hill Trail” sign. Turn right and go a half-mile to the signed trailhead. LOWER TRAILHEAD: From Alpine, drive 3.5 miles east on Highway 180 to Blue River Road (a.k.a. Country Road 2104 or Forest Road 281). Go south on this good dirt road and continue 20 miles to Forest Road 567 Red Hill Road). Turn right, ford the river (usually shallow) and follow the signs to Blue Crossing Campground. There are no fees at the campground. Park here, or those with a 4x4 vehicle can continue up FR 567 roughly one mile to Forest Road 567P. Turn left and go a half-mile to the parking area for Tutt Hill Trail # 105. Follow trail 105 .5 mile to the Red Hill Trail junction and go right. INFORMATION: 928-339-4384,


S-CANYON Blue Range Primitive Area Loosing touch with your inner wild? A hiking expedition to the Blue Range Primitive Area just might help you reconnect. Spanning 173,762 acres of some of Arizona’s most remote, untouched lands, “the Blue” is an isolated pocket of solitude and raw beauty where the state’s only packs of Mexican gray wolves roam wild and free. The Blue Range Primitive Area is the last of its kind. Set aside in the 1930s by the Forest Service along with 75 other areas in the United States to “maintain primitive areas of transportation, habitation and subsistence” the Blue (as it is referred to by the locals) is the only area that has not been absorbed into the current Wilderness Preservation System. Although managed by the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest as a wilderness area, the Blue retains its strikingly primitive character. Situated at the eastern most edge of the Mogollon Rim near the New Mexico border, the S-Canyon trail provides a tour of the outlandish diversity and breath-taking beauty of this remote and seldom-visited area. The hike begins at the bottom of Blue River Canyon following the water briefly before heading uphill. The environment gradually transitions from riverside greenery to sun-washed ledges surrounded by low-growing junipers before ending at the Cow Flat Trail junction in a forest of aspens and firs. UPDATE: the June 2011 Wallow Fire did NOT reach this trail, or the Lanphier Trail, however, access may be restricted.  Check with the forest service before heading out. HIGHLIGHTS: amazing route through the nation’s last remaining primitive area LENGTH: 11 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 5,680 – 7,600 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 270 miles GETTING THERE: From Alpine, go east on Highway 180 to Blue River Road (also shown as Country Road 2104 and Forest Road 281 on some maps). Follow Blue River Road for 23 miles to the signed Blue Camp trailhead on the left side of the road. INFORMATION: 928-339-4384,

Sunday, August 16, 2009


EAST CABIN LOOP CIRCUIT Coconino National Forest Stream-filled canyons, substantial timber lands, flowing springs and three sites where the ruins of decommissioned forest service cabins stand in aspen-framed alpine meadows combine for an especially interesting hike. This route uses three of the five trails that make up the Coconino National Forest’s Cabin Loop System of old fire roads and shelters. Not for amateurs, this hike requires a fair amount of map and route-finding skill. The trail is marked by tree blazes—pairs of short and long gashes in the bark of trees. To stay on track, leap-frog from one blaze to the next. HIKE DIRECTIONS: Begin on the Barbershop Trail # 91 located across the road from Buck Springs Cabin. Follow #91 for a half-mile to the U-Bar Trail # 28, go right (north) and continue 7.6 miles to the Houston Brothers Trail #18 junction near Pinchot Cabin. From here, go left (south) and follow #18 7.5 miles back to trail #91, go left (east) and hike 4 miles back to the trailhead. See the Forest Service map for other loop and day hike options. HIGHLIGHTS: creeks, canyons, springs and historic ruins LENGTH: 18-mile loop RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 7,000 – 7,500 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 157 miles GETTING THERE: From Payson, go east on Highway 260 for 30 miles to Rim Road (Forest Road 300) just past milepost 282. Follow FR 300 for 23 miles to Forest Road 137. Turn right onto FR137 and go 4 miles to the sign for Barbershop Trail on the left side of the road, across from Buck Springs Cabin. INFORMATION: 928-477-2172 or


YEAGER CANYON LOOP Prescott National Forest This scenic route melds three unique trails into one wide loop along the southern slopes of Mingus Mountain. In order to get the tough climbing out of the way, it’s best to hike clockwise. From the trailhead, head down into the pinion-and-juniper-dotted drainage and hang a left to pick up Yeager Canyon Trail #28 which parallels Highway 89 for a short stretch before angling east where it takes on the exposed ridgelines above Prescott Valley. At the two-mile-point, veer right at a three-way intersection, continue a few yards on an old dirt road and look for the (easy-to-miss) sign for Yeager Cabin Trail # 111 on the right. Here, the trail drops into a side canyon, cutting through a dense forest of Ponderosa pines and oaks with many sun-soaked clearings. After summer storms, water can be found in the low-lying ravines. Trail #111 continues for 1.9 miles to Allen Springs road. Here, turn right onto the road and hike about a quarter-mile to Little Yeager Canyon Trail #533 on the right. This final segment showcases a vibrant splattering of blooming shrubs and wildflowers against a backdrop of wide-angle vistas of Prescott Valley. HIGHLIGHTS: expansive views of Prescott Valley LENGTH: 6-mile loop RATING: moderate ELEVATION RANGE: 6,000 – 7,200 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 125 miles GETTING THERE: From Prescott, go east on Highway 89A for 10 miles to an unmarked dirt turnout on the right side of the road. The parking area is near a road sign that states: “Flagstaff 69, Jerome 10.” INFORMATION: Verde Ranger District, Prescott National Forest, 928-443-8001


KENDRICK PEAK Kaibab National Forest
UPDATE: The June 2017 Boundary Fire impacted this trail. The forest service has CLOSED the trails on the mountain indefinitely. CHECK STATUS BEFORE YOU GO.  In summer, wild roses and high-altitude flowers perfume the cool air on Flagstaff’s second highest volcano. The Kendrick Peak Trail was moderately affected by the 2000 Pumpkin Fire, which charred 15,000 acres of wilderness and the colorful blooms stand in stark contrast to the patches of eerie black matchsticks that look, ironically, as if they had been extinguished in a volcanic holocaust. Most of the trail remains pristine and wonderfully varied, passing through pine forests, fern gullies, aspens and alpine meadows. Near the summit, a one-room cabin, erected in 1911 to accommodate fire lookout workers, still stands and makes an interesting detour before tackling the series of switchbacks that lead to the fire tower that caps the 10,418-foot-high mountain. Usually staffed with a forest service worker during the summer fire season, the tower is open to visitors. A stroll around the tower’s rickety metal catwalk provides bird's-eye views that transcend the blackened forests below and stretch into the hazy ocher deserts of Utah on the northern horizon. HIGHLIGHTS: outstanding views of the highlands surrounding Flagstaff LENGTH: 9.2 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION RANGE: 7,980 – 10,400 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 175 miles GETTING THERE: From Flagstaff, drive north on Highway 180 to Forest Road 245 (near milepost 230). Follow FR 245 for three miles to the junction with Forest Road 171, turn right, and follow the signs for three more miles to the trailhead. A high clearance vehicle is recommended. INFORMATION: 928-635-5600,


SMITH RAVINE Prescott National Forest There are no spruce trees on Spruce Mountain. The elegant conifers with blue-green needles that line the mountain’s eastern flank are actually white firs that were misidentified by early explorers. The Smith Ravine trail #297 leads to the Spruce Mountain fire tower where panoramic views of the mountain lakes and green forests of Prescott Valley roll out to the horizon. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 30-foot-high cabin was constructed in 1936 to keep watch over the Bradshaw Mountains. One of several trails that lead to the tower, trail #297 begins in an area that was recently charred by fire. After roughly a half-mile, the trail leaves the fire-damaged hillsides and dips into Smith Ravine— a deeply wooded drainage cluttered with elder, pines and a smattering of velvet ash and thin leaf alders. Larger than a gully but smaller than a canyon, a “ravine” is a narrow passage in mountainous terrain that was carved by running water. The official trail ends at the 3-mile point where it intersects Forest Road 52A. From here, go left and follow the dirt road 1.4 miles to the lookout tower. HIGHLIGHTS: historic lookout tower, great views of Prescott Valley LENGTH: 8.5 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION RANGE: 6,200 – 7,693 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 120 miles GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to exit 262 for Highway 69. Go west (toward Prescott) on Highway 69 to Walker Road (County Road 57 which is just past the Costco center). Follow Walker Road south for 5.7 miles to the Smith Ravine trailhead at milepost 5 on the right side of the road. INFORMATION: 928-771-4700 KNOW YOUR CONIFIRS: Here’s a simplified field test for determining is a tree is a pine, fir or spruce. Look at the needles and use this “P-F-S” cheat sheet to identify the tree-type. PINES have long Pony-tail-like clumps of needles FIRS have short, Flat needles SPRUCE have short Square needles.


GADDES CANYON Prescott National Forest Perched on a mountaintop above Jerome, the Mingus Mountain Lookout tower soars over the old-growth pine trees that clutter the peak. Winds churned up from the cool, surrounding canyons clamor up the slopes whipping around the guy wires that strain to steady the groaning metal structure that seems to pierce the clouds. A series of rickety stairs lead to the depression–era cabin atop the 60-foot fire tower. Beneath the tower, a tiny house sits in a clearing overlooking Prescott Valley and serves as cozy refuge for fire lookouts. Although there are many ways to get to this lookout, one of the most scenic approach is via the Gaddes Canyon Trail #110. Mostly canyon-bound, the trail crawls up the eastern flanks of Mingus Mountain, ducking in-and-out of forests of juniper and scrub oak, sunny meadows and rocky ledges where glimpses of vertical canyon walls emerge from the timberlands at every turn. On the summit, a picnic table surrounded by a showy mix of wildflowers including Buffalo Bur, New Mexico Yellow Flax and wild roses, makes for a relaxing lunch break before heading back down the canyon. HIGHLIGHTS: historic fire tower, pine forests, views of Prescott Valley LENGTH: 5.2 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION RANGE: 6,773 - 7,743 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 145 miles GETTING THERE: From Prescott, follow Highway 89A north for 25 miles to Mingus Mountain Road (Forest Road 104). Turn right and continue 1.5 miles to Allen Springs Road (Forest Road 413). Turn right and follow FR 413 for 3 miles to the signed trailhead. INFORMATION: 928-777-2200