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Saturday, August 20, 2011

WEBB PEAK-ASH CREEK LOOP

WEBB PEAK-ASH CREEK LOOP.
Ash Creek Falls

Brushing the clouds at nearly 10,000 feet in elevation, Webb Peak hovers above the Gila Valley where, in summer, triple digit heat hangs in a stifling haze. 
Getting into the refreshing climate of the Pinaleno range involves a scenic drive up the Swift Trail, which rises 6,400 feet over 29 miles. Temperatures drop as the road passes through desert scrub, juniper chaparral and oak woodlands before entering thick coniferous forests where it’s typically 20 degrees cooler than at the base of the mountain. From a distance, the summit looks formidable.
In reality though, hiking to the top of this peak is only moderately challenging and when combined with a side trip to nearby Ash Creek Falls, makes for a memorable journey.
Rushing water, alpine meadows, a fire tower, mountain slopes fleeced in spruce and fir, far-reaching summit views and dozens of hiking trails make this southeastern Arizona “sky island” (isolated peaks surrounded by arid environments) a popular summer destination. 
HIKE DIRECTIONS: From the Columbine trailhead, hike 0.5 mile north on Ash Creek Trail #307 to the Webb Peak Trail #345 junction.  Veer right here and continue on #307 to the 1.7-mile point where the trail splits.  Take the right stem and go 0.7 mile to the falls.  From here, backtrack to the Webb Peak junction and head uphill. The route crosses the summit and loops back to the Columbine trailhead.

LENGTH:  8.1 miles roundtrip
ELEVATION: 9,120’- 9,960’
RATING:  moderate
DOG RATING:  moderate
KID FRIENDLY: just okay--steep climb on the way out
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX:  204 miles one-way
GETTING THERE:
From Safford, go 8 miles south on US 191 to 1st Ave (signed “Willcox”) and turn right.  Follow this road, which will become Swift Trail (AZ 366) 29 miles to the Columbine corrals and trailhead on the right just past the information center. Road is paved for 22 miles, then turns to maintained dirt suitable for passenger cars.  There are restrooms at the trailhead.

INFO: Safford Ranger District, Coronado National Forest
(928) 428-4150
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