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Tuesday, February 1, 2011


FOREST ROAD 1053 LOLLIPOP LOOP Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area/Tonto National Forest Melding spectacular Sonoran Desert vistas with willow-choked riparian corridors, this hike begins on a popular horse trail and tops out on a seldom-visited old road in Tonto National Forest. It’s normal to have to make several creek crossings in this area, but this year, we noticed a lot of erosion, and in fact, a section of FR48 was completely flooded—requiring hikers to make a tricky double creek hop to stay on track---I counted a total of 12 crossings (out and back) this time out. The beauty of FR 1053 is that it gets high above Cave Creek for sweet views of the waterway and a mine off to the west. Also, the local stables that conduct horseback riding tours heavily use this road. So, remember that hikers must always yield to equines—move aside and let them pass---and also be wary of “horse apples” underfoot. HIKE DIRECTIONS: From the parking area, hike 1.2 miles north on Spur Cross Trail (go straight ahead at the visitor center) to the Tonto NF boundary gate. From this point, Spur Cross Trail becomes Forest Road 48. Pass the gate and continue 1 mile to the Skull Mesa trailhead---there’s a big sign across the creek, but its partially hidden by brush, so , keep an eye out for it. From the sign, go left (northwest) along a skinny, unmarked path where there’s some metal grating. After a few yards, you’ll see a lathe-type “48” sign on the right. Continue uphill for 0.9 mile to where the trail dips into a gully near the creek with high red cliffs straight ahead. The trail seems to disappear here, but it actually crosses the creek. Depending on the water level, you may need to hunt for a good crossing point. Once on the other side, though, the path is very clear heading up the embankment and leaning north. After a few yards, a spur path veers to the left---it goes to an abandoned mine on private property---not this hike. Instead, stay north (veer right) and make another creek crossing almost immediately. A short walk brings you to a “Y” intersection---take the right leg (marked with a “1533” sign). Follow this road uphill (it will become FR 1053, but there are no signs to indicate this) and continue 0.8 mile to a gate at the Cave Creek Trail #4 junction. From here, go straight and hike 0.5 mile back to the Skull Mesa trailhead and then hike 2.2 miles back to your car. LENGTH: 9.4 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 2,300 – 2,800 feet BEST SEASONS: October -April GETTING THERE: From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, exit at Cave Creek Road and drive north for approximately 15 miles to Spur Cross Ranch Road--watch for the “Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area “ sign marking the turnoff. Go left on Spur Cross and then make another sharp left at the intersection with Grapevine Road. Continue north on Spur Cross 4.2 miles to the dirt parking lot on the left. The last mile or so of the road is good dirt and passable by sedan. FEE: $3 daily fee per person. Bring exact change for the self-serve permit kiosk. INFORMATION: visit, or call 480-488-6623 MORE PHOTOS:

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