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Sunday, August 7, 2011

BLUE RIDGE PASSAGE 28, ARIZONA TRAIL

BLUE RIDGE PASSAGE 28, ARIZONA TRAIL
Mogollon Rim near Clints Well

On the Rim above Blue Ridge Reservoir

delicate red columbine
One hundred eighty-two clicks.  That's how much of the 800-mile Arizona Trail I figure I've completed so far. It's a paltry dent for sure, but hey, for work-a-day slobs like me, hiking the entire state-traversing route as a contiguous adventure will have to wait until retirement.  Until then, I'll continue to chip away at my glacially-paced weekend pursuit.  However, several sections—like this one—thwart my efforts to hike new passages because I keep going back to them again and again.
With three easy-access trailheads, abundant campgrounds and plenty of water, this 16-mile section of the Arizona Trail (AZT) is a choice destination for day hikers and backpackers alike.   Rife with ever-changing views (peaks, valleys, Blue Ridge Reservoir, and East Clear Creek) historical sites (General Springs Cabin, Battle of Big Dry Wash Monument) and just enough ups-and-downs for a reasonable workout, it's a perennial favorite for summer hiking, and nope, I do not include repeat trek mileage on my AZT log.
IF YOU DON’T WANT TO DO THE ENTIRE 16 MILES IN ONE DAY, HERE’S A QUICK OUT-AND-BACK OPTION:
Begin at the “middle” trailhead on FR 751. Cross FR 751 and pick up the trail near the cattle guard.  Hike roughly 0.75 mile to the wood sign for Blue Ridge Campground—veer right and continue on AZT.  The hike is flat for about a mile as it follows the ridge above East Clear Creek Canyon (to get a close up look at the reservoir—go to the campground or see my blog entry for nearby ROCK CROSSING trail).  Soon, the trail begins a gradual descent to East Clear Creek---which is usually dry in summer.  Once at the bottom, the trail continues directly across the wide rocky wash and begins its crawl up the opposite side of the canyon.  At the top, you’ll encounter a gate.  From here, AZT briefly follows FR 123A.  Pass a stock pond and a second gate, then start looking for a huge carin and AZT sign on the right---where AZT goes back to being a footpath. HINT—if you reach FR 123, you’ve gone 0.2 mile too far---just backtrack.  Parts of this section are difficult to follow---look for tree blazes, cairns and rock borders among fallen trees and rock slides.  Pay attention, and you’ll be fine.  AZT then crosses FR123 before heading downhill into Fred Haught Canyon (see separate blog entry) and the final stretch to General Springs Cabin and the edge of the Mogollon Rim—or turn around here for the 8-mile option.
manic summer wildflowers

LENGTH: 16 miles one way (8 miles roundtrip as described here)
RATING:  moderate
ELEVATION: 6,600' – 7,380' (7,380' - 6,800' for 8-mile option)
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 157 miles one-way (middle trailhead)
GETTING THERE:
East Clear Creek
MIDDLE, BLUE RIDGE TRAILHEAD: (as described in this post)
From Phoenix, go 90 mile north on SR 87 (Beeline Highway) to Payson.  At the intersection of SR 87 and SR260 in Payson, continue north on 87, to FR 751 (4.8 miles north of the gas station/cafĂ© in Clints Well, just past milepost 295). Turn right (east) at the Blue Ridge Reservoir sign and go 2 miles on FR 751 to the signed trailhead on the left located just before a cattle guard and a sign reading “no roadside camping beyond this point”.  Roads paved up to FR 751 which is good dirt.
NORTH, HAY MEADOW TRAILHEAD:
From Phoenix, go north on I17 to Camp Verde. Connect to SR260 east (toward Payson) and travel 31 miles to the SR87 junction. Turn left (north) and go 9 miles on SR87 to Clint’s Well. From here, continue 8.3 miles to the turnoff for the Moqui campground (FR138). There will be a “Moqui” sign a few hundred feet before the road on the right. Turn right onto FR138 where a sign located roughly 50 yards in from SR87 reads: "Blue Ridge Campground/Moqui Campground/138". The trailhead is on the left about 100 yards from SR87. Roads are paved up to FR 138 which is good dirt. ALTERNATE ACCESS:   From Phoenix, take Loop 202 east, connect with SR87, continue to the SR87/260 junction in Payson. Continue north on SR87  to Clints Well and follow the directions above. It's a few miles longer this way, but the scenery is nice.
SOUTH, GENERAL SPRINGS TRAILHEAD:
From the intersection of SR87/260 in Payson, continue 28 miles north on SR87 to FR300 (Rim Road) near milepost 280. Turn right and go 12.2 miles to FR705 where there’s a Battle of Big Wash Monument on the NE of the intersection.  Go left (north) onto FR705 and continue 0.5 mile to the General Springs/AZ Trail trailhead.  Roads are maintained dirt and passable by sedan, although high-clearance is a better idea. Trail begins north of the cabin sharing the first miles with the Fred Haught Trail.
INFO: Arizona Trail Association:
Coconino National Forest, Mogollon Rim Ranger District


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