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Friday, July 23, 2010

WEATHERFORD TRAIL

WEATHERFORD TRAIL Coconino National Forest Although it’s a long and difficult trek, breathtaking scenery and ever-changing eco-systems mitigate the physical pain of taking on this quintessential mountain trail. In less than nine miles, hikers are treated to a stunning journey that begins in grassy glens and ends abruptly on barren tundra beneath Arizona’s highest peaks. From dewy thistles in green alpine meadows to hardy bristlecone pines clinging to bare volcanic scree---this tough route showcases the complexity of nature on San Francisco Mountain. HIGHLIGHTS: high altitude forests, alpine meadows and Arizona’s only tundra environment LENGTH: 12 miles roundtrip (to Doyle saddle) 16.5 miles roundtrip (to Fremont saddle) 17.5 miles roundtrip (to Humphreys Peak) ELEVATION: 8,800 – 10,700 feet (11,350 to Humphreys junction, 12,633 to summit) RATING: difficult BEST SEASONS: April - October DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 155 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From Flagstaff, go north on US 180 to Schultz Pass Road (Forest Road 420). A HIGH CLEARANCE VEHICLE IS REQUIRED ON FR 420. Turn left and continue 6 miles to the Schultz Tank trailhead. INFORMATION: Peaks Ranger District (928) 526-0866,  http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/peaks/weatherford-tr.shtml

WATERSHED TRAIL

WATERSHED TRAIL Prescott National Forest Melding the sweet-scented breezes of pine forests with sunny hillsides blanketed in agaves, manzanitas and cactus, a hike along Prescott’s Watershed Trail #299 is a trip through an ecological transition zone. The trail itself is a mash-up of wide old roads, groomed paths and eroded walkways---enhancing the hybrid flavor of the hike. At roughly the half-mile point, look for Deer Lick Spring, a concrete trough situated in a gully off to the right. Here, seeping water fosters an incredibly lush green zone shaded by tall Ponderosa pines flanked by beaver tail cactus bursting from rock outcroppings. Over its wavy route, the trail dips into ravines dotted with log homes and crosses high ridges for excellent views of Prescott area landmarks including Goldwater Lake and the distinctive stony peaks of Granite Mountain and Thumb Butte. LENGTH: 8.6 miles round trip RATING: easy-moderate DOG RATING: 2 paws ELEVATION: 6,200-6,900 feet BEST SEASONS: March - November DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 117 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From downtown Prescott, go east on Gurley Street 0.3 miles to Mt. Vernon Avenue. Turn south (left) on Mt. Vernon for 4.1 miles as it turns into Senator Highway. The Watershed #299 trailhead is on the east (left) side. INFORMATION: Bradshaw Ranger District 928-771-4700, http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott/recreation/trails/pdf/rec_trai_b_watr299.pdf

BIXLER SADDLE

BIXLER SADDLE Kaibab National Forest Short and scenic, this trail offers an alternative to the more challenging trails on Bill Williams Mountain. Climbing the west slope of the hill, this nicely-wooded hike features lovely views of the expansive prairies of northwestern Arizona. HIGHLIGHTS: interesting rock formations, views, ample shade LENGTH: 4 miles roundtrip ELEVATION: 7,700 – 8,740 feet RATING: moderate BEST SEASONS: April - October DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 185 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From Flagstaff, go west on I-40 to the Devil Dog interchange (exit 157). Go south on Forest Road 108 for 1 mile and turn left (east) Forest Road 45. Continue 2 miles on FR 45 to the trailhead. INFORMATION: Williams Ranger District (928) 635-5600,
MAP: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5189842.pdf

BILL WILLIAMS MOUNTAIN TRAIL

BILL WILLIAMS MOUNTAIN TRAIL Kaibab National Forest Switchbacks are zig-zagging cuts in mountain trails designed to make steep ascents easier by adding miles and tempering vertical slopes. Don’t look for them on Bill Williams Mountain Trail #21. Constructed as a horse trail in 1902 to service the fire tower on the summit, this trail wastes no time on switchbacks, plowing straight up in abrupt, heart-pumping style. Most of the route is canyon-bound and thick with trees, vines and flowering shrubs. Views are sparse until the trail emerges on a ridgeline below the summit where fir trees and aspens embellish breathtaking vistas. HIGHLIGHTS: shady, steep route to a mountain summit LENGTH: 8 miles roundtrip ELEVATION: 6,900 – 9,256 feet RATING: moderate BEST SEASONS: April - October DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 185 miles GETTING THERE: From Flagstaff, go 30 miles west on I-40 to exit 161, go south on Railroad Ave. and follow the signs to Williams District Ranger Station and the trailhead. INFORMATION: Williams Ranger District (928) 635-5600, MAP: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5189840.pdf

Thursday, July 22, 2010

REDROCK SPRING

REDROCK SPRING Tonto National Forest This short but steep route was originally built to drive cattle up to summer pastures on the Mogollon Rim. Redrock Spring provided a handy watering hole for thirsty bovines on their long and arduous trip. Although the cattle population on the Rim has dwindled, the spring continues to run year-round, filling a concrete trough beneath the sprawling arms of a gigantic Ponderosa pine. From the spring’s idyllic vantage point, views of the Mazatzal Mountains blush mauve on the horizon. This reliable water source attracts myriad critters, including fox, deer, raccoons, elk and hawks. To spot these shy forest residents, find a shady spot nearby, stay quiet and keep an eye on the trough. HIGHLIGHTS: short hike to a mountain spring with abundant critter activity LENGTH: 2 miles roundtrip ELEVATION: 5,390 – 6,000 feet RATING: moderate BEST SEASONS: March - November DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 115 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From the intersection of AZ 87 and AZ 260 in Payson, go north on 87 to Control Road (milepost 265), turn right (east) and go 2.5 miles to the trailhead on the left. The trailhead is marked only by a small “294” sign. There’s no parking lot-- just find a spot in the turnouts along the road. INFORMATION: Payson Ranger District (928) 474-7900, www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto/recreation/rogs/hikingtrail/prd/RedRockTrail294.pdf

MACK'S CROSSING

MACK’S CROSSING Coconino National Forest Since it was abandoned in the 1940s, the old road leading to Mack’s Crossing has disintegrated into a precipitous ledge overlooking a gaping gorge carved by East Clear Creek. Even though these rough conditions don’t deter brave souls in fishing-gear-laden ATVs from careening down the serpentine route-- hiking at a leisurely pace is the best way to savor the dramatic beauty of this canyon. The downhill trek to the creek begins on the sunny, summer-cabin-peppered lip of the Mogollon Rim, passing fossiliferous limestone outcroppings and a stand of elegant Arizona walnut trees before rounding a bend where grand views of the waterway 600 feet below grab the spotlight. Near the creek, thickets of wild roses, alders, and exotic wildflowers color the landscape serving up handy excuses to stop and take in the sights. Although the official trail ends where the road meets the sandy shore of the stream, opportunities for wading, swimming and fishing abound both up and downstream. LENGTH: 4 miles (on trail) ELEVATION: 6,250 – 6,860 feet RATING: moderate BEST SEASONS: April - November DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 165 mils one-way GETTING THERE: From the junction of AZ 87 and AZ 260 in Payson, go north on 87 past Clint’s Well to milepost 304.5 and turn right onto Enchanted Lane (Forest Road 319). Continue 0.2 miles to Green Ridge Dr., hang a right and go 0.5 miles to Juniper Dr. From here, turn right and go a short distance to Cedar Dr. and follow it to the “primitive road 137” sign. Park along the road—do not block private driveways. INFORMATION: refer to the Coconino National Forest map

BEAR CANYON LAKE

BEAR CANYON LAKE Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest



Attention all Big Foot seekers---this is your trail. Whether you take the existence of the reclusive beast with relish or a grain of salt, know that many alleged Big Foot sightings in Arizona have occurred in the forests surrounding Bear Canyon Lake. Even with boisterous crowds of campers, anglers and hikers flocking to this popular summer destination--the beast abides. So, you’ll want to come prepared with binoculars, video camera and---for serious seekers---supplies for making plaster casts of footprints. However, finding the shy beast can be a challenge, even for cryptozoologists--those who study legendary or “hidden” creatures. That’s because the thick pine-oak woodlands surrounding the lake provide ample hiding places and dense undergrowth makes exploring a major endeavor. In the event Big Foot fails to make an appearance, there are still plenty of other attractions on this high country trek. A scenic aspen-ringed peninsula, bald eagles, elk and secluded, moss-embellished coves make this a worthy hiking trail---even without scoring a peek at the mysterious creature lurking among the pines. HIGHLIGHTS: deep, water-filled canyon with plenty of wildlife LENGTH: 2 miles round trip (on main trail) ELEVATION: 7,560 – 7,500 feet RATING: easy BEST SEASONS: April - October DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 147 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From the junction of AZ 87 and AZ 260 in Payson, go east (right) on 260 for 30 miles to Rim Road (Forest Road 300). Turn left and continue west on FR300 for 12 miles to Forest Road 89, turn right and go 3 miles to the lake. The last 14 miles are on good dirt roads. The trail goes downhill from the parking lots 0.25 miles to the lake where it continues along the shore in both directions. INFORMATION: Black Mesa Ranger District (928) 535-7300, www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf/recreation/black_mesa_trails/trl_chv_bearcanyon.shtml

WILLOW CROSSING

WILLOW CROSSING Coconino National Forest The shallow gullies of Willow Valley are the most remote and seldom-visited “capillary canyons” that funnel water into mighty West Clear Creek. This picturesque trek begins on a sun-warmed plateau where wildfire-charred tree stumps and a community of vociferous ravens cast an eerie aura over a conflicted landscape. Toppled trees, snags and a smattering of tall survivor pines coexist with saplings and flower-laden shrubs that sometimes obscure the path. To stay on track, follow the old barbed wire fence to a gate near the edge of the canyon. Pass the gate (leave it as you found it) and pick up the obvious path leading downhill. Smothered in Arizona alders, oaks, dogwood and (of course) willows, the valley is like a tiny Garden of Eden, embellished with a natural arch etched out of the limestone canyon walls. Like all “crossing” trails on the Rim, this one hops the (usually dry in summer) streambed and heads up the opposite side of the canyon making for a mini rim-to-rim-to-rim day hike. HIGHLIGHTS: seldom-visited, remote canyon, natural stone arch LENGTH: 3 miles roundtrip ELEVATION: 6,800 – 6,400 feet RATING: easy BEST SEASONS: April - November DISTANCE TO FROM PHOENIX: 165 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From Payson, go north on AZ87 to Lake Mary Road (Forest Road 3) turn left and go north on FR3 to Forest Road 81 at milepost 297.7. Turn left and go 3.1 miles to Forest Road 81E. Set your odometer, and go left on FR 81E 1.14 miles to Forest Road 9366M—an easy-to-miss, unmarked dirt road on the left. Go 0.5 miles on FR 9366M to a cattle guard and gate. The trailhead is just past the gate on the left near the generic “trail” sign and rock carins. Roads are passable by sedan, but high clearance is recommended. INFORMATION: Mogollon Rim Ranger District (928) 477-2255, http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/mog_rim/willow-crossing-tr.shtml

SIXSHOOTER CANYON

SIXSHOOTER CANYON Pinal Mountains, Tonto  Of all the trails in the Pinals, this one (#197) is the toughest. The long, brutally steep route is strewn with obstacles--fallen trees, degrading slopes and derelict signage all contribute to the trail’s difficult rating. Along the way, remains of cabins, mines and a sawmill dot the woodlands adding a touch of history to this must-do Arizona trail. Access to the trail begins at the east side of the Icehouse CCC campground. BONUS SIDE TRIP: Pinal Peak From trail’s end, hike up to FR 651C, go left (southeast) and follow the dirt road past Upper Pinal campground to the 7,848 peak and highpoint of the range. IMPORTANT NOTE: Pinal trails are notoriously overgrown and rife with obstacles. In addition, directional signage is sparse, so hikers must have excellent map and route-finding skills in order to safely navigate these trails. A good map resource is the National Geographic Maps, Salt River Canyon, Tonto National Forest #853. INFORMATION: www.natgeomaps.com/ti_853 LENGTH: 12 miles roundtrip ELEVATION: 4,520 – 7,560 feet RATING: difficult BEST SEASONS: March -October (CAN GET WARM IN SUMMER) DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 95 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take US 60 east to the town of Globe. Once in Globe, watch for the sign that says: “Besh-Ba-Gowah Ruins, Globe Ranger Station”. Leave the freeway here and follow the signs toward the ruins. After driving under the pedestrian overpass, and past the ruins, turn right on Icehouse Canyon Road (Forest Road 112) and go 4.2 miles to the Icehouse CCC campsite where there’s a hiker sign on the left that reads: “197, 192”. If the gate to the campsite is locked, just park in the pullouts along the road. INFORMATION: Globe Ranger District (928) 402-6200 http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto/recreation/rogs/hikingtrail/grd/SixshooterTrail197.pdf

TELEPHONE TRAIL

TELEPHONE TRAIL Pinal Mountain, Tonto National Forest FIRE NOTE: As of July 22, 2010, the Mill 2 Fire was still impacting this area. Check with the ranger before heading out! The least traveled of the four major uphill routes in the Pinals, this one is not to be missed. Traversing both ridgelines with hazy views of the mines surrounding Globe-Miami and heavily-wooded ravines, trail #192 follows an underground telephone line supplying service to the summer cabins and communication towers on the peaks. The trail ends at the Sixshooter Canyon trail #197 junction where you can either return the way you came or instead follow 197 back to the trailhead—the distance is about the same. IMPORTANT NOTE: Pinal trails are notoriously overgrown and rife with obstacles. In addition, directional signage is sparse, so hikers must have excellent map and route-finding skills in order to safely navigate these trails. A good map resource is the National Geographic Maps, Salt River Canyon, Tonto National Forest #853. INFORMATION: www.natgeomaps.com/ti_853 LENGTH: 10 miles roundtrip ELEVATION: 4,520 – 6,720 feet RATING: difficult GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take US 60 east to the town of Globe. Once in Globe, watch for the sign that says: “Besh-Ba-Gowah Ruins, Globe Ranger Station”. Leave the freeway here and follow the signs toward the ruins. After driving under the pedestrian overpass, and past the ruins, turn right on Icehouse Canyon Road (Forest Road 112) and go 4.2 miles to the Icehouse CCC campsite where there’s a hiker sign on the left that reads: “197, 192”. If the gate to the campsite is locked, just park in the pullouts along the road INFORMATION: Globe Ranger District (928) 402-6200, www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto/recreation/rogs/hikingtrail/grd/TelephoneTrail192.pdf

KELLNER CANYON

KELLNER CANYON Pinal Mountains, Tonto National Forest
Relics of mining and logging operations, a cave, views of Globe-Miami and some of the grandest populations of manzanita shrubs anywhere are just a few of the many points of interest on this trail. HIKE DIRECTIONS: From the campsite, hike up Forest Road 112 to Telephone Trail #192 on the right. The sign is located about 20 feet uphill in a small dirt turnout along the road. Follow #192 for 0.2 miles to the signed junction for Icehouse Canyon #198. Head downhill to the right and pass through a cattle gate. From here, go right and steeply uphill to the wide road at the top of the hill where you will see a “road closed” sign. Don’t worry, it is not meant for hikers. Head left and follow the road for approximately 1.3 miles to the signed Kellner Canyon Trail #242 junction where there’s a collection of old water tanks. Veer right onto # 242 and hike 4.8 miles to trail’s end at Forest Road 651. LENGTH: 12 miles roundtrip ELEVATION: 4,520 – 7,160 feet RATING: difficult GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take US 60 east to the town of Globe. Once in Globe, watch for the sign that says: “Besh-Ba-Gowah Ruins, Globe Ranger Station”. Leave the freeway here and follow the signs toward the ruins. After driving under the pedestrian overpass, and past the ruins, turn right on Icehouse Canyon Road (Forest Road 112) and go 4.2 miles to the Icehouse CCC campsite where there’s a hiker sign on the left that reads: “197, 192”. If the gate to the campsite is locked, just park in the pullouts along the road. INFORMATION: Globe Ranger District (928) 402-6200, www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto/recreation/rogs/hikingtrail/grd/KellnerCanyonTrail242.pdf IMPORTANT NOTE: Pinal trails are notoriously overgrown and rife with obstacles. In addition, directional signage is sparse, so hikers must have excellent map and route-finding skills in order to safely navigate these trails. A good map resource is the National Geographic Maps, Salt River Canyon, Tonto National Forest #853. INFORMATION: www.natgeomaps.com/ti_853

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

HEADWATERS TRAIL

HEADWATERS TRAIL West Clear Creek Wilderness Looking for a challenge? This discombobulated, demolition zone of a trail offers a dour dose of adventure for denizens of danger. Perhaps that’s why, on any given weekend, droves of adrenaline junkies flock to this primitive route, which drops into the wild upper reaches of West Clear Creek. The “trail” starts at an old, non-descript wood post at the northwest end of the parking area progressing downhill through an insanely steep quagmire of dead trees, moss-encrusted boulders and scree -- for a memorable, vertical plunge. The difficult climbing ends at the bottom of the canyon where the waters of West Clear Creek lap up against contorted, towering cliffs and slender sandbars. Beyond this point, wading, swimming and bushwhacking are required to continue exploring either up or downstream. Head left to see the famous “hanging gardens”—limestone cliffs imbedded with drooping green plants---or, go right and follow the waterway to a gallery of ancient rock art. HIGHLIGHTS: be warned-- this is the steepest, wettest (and therefore the most fun) route to West Clear Creek LENGTH: 1-mile roundtrip (from the rim to the creek) ELEVATION: 6,600 – 5,950 feet RATING: insane BEST SEASONS: April - October DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 113 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From Payson, go north on AZ 87 (toward Pine-Strawberry) to AZ 260. Turn left (west) and follow 260 3.1 miles to Forest Road 144, near milepost 249. Turn right (east) and go 1.8 miles to Forest Road 149, turn left (north) and continue to a 3-way junction at Forest Road 142. Go right onto FR 142 and drive 0.9 miles to Forest Road 142E on the left---this is an easy-to-miss unmarked road—if you reach Forest Road 142F, you’ve gone too far. Follow FR 142E 2.7 miles to a large, unsigned parking area. INFORMATION: refer to the Coconino National Forest map, USGS map, Calloway Butte