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Thursday, February 23, 2012

A water-themed hike near Black Canyon City

HORSESHOE BEND-SKYLINE SEGMENTS of the BLACK CANYON TRAIL
View of the Agua Fria River from Horseshoe Bend trail

Horseshoe Bend crossing
Along the Skyline trail
Just behind the Rock Springs Cafe (the “world-famous pies” place on I-17 near Black Canyon City), the Agua Fria River makes a U-bend around the defensive stone of Horseshoe Bar before continuing on its southbound, trickling meander.  It's here where two easy, open-to-the-sky segments of the 79-mile-long Black Canyon Trail (BCT) combine for a satisfying trek for both novices and expert hikers alike. Running from the Carefree Highway in Phoenix to near the town of Mayer in the Prescott National Forest, the course of the BCT has been in use since ancient times transitioning from Native American footpath, livestock driveway and wagon route to its current status as a hiking destination. The process of repurposing it into a multi-use recreational trail system began in 1969 and remains a work in progress.  However, much of the trail is already hike-able with 3 major and 7 rudimentary trailheads now in place.  A good way to get to know BCT is to hike the Horseshoe Bend and Skyline segments beginning at the easy-to-access Black Canyon City Trailhead.  Roughly 0.2 mile in, the trail splits-- take the south leg (go left) and follow the dirt track on its coiled-and-folded route to the river.  Here, you'll need to cross the water, which ranges from inches deep in the dry season to a raging torrent during spring runoff.  Once over the river, the thin trail makes long, edgy hairpin bends on its way up to a scenic highpoint then dips and climbs another 1.5 miles to connect with the next segment.
Truly a world-class achievement, the route has been designated a National Recreation Trail-- an honor reserved for only the most significant paths in the United States.  The trail's proximity to the aforementioned eatery makes for a convenient stop to indulge in a post hike snack. Rock Springs Cafe serves up filling, roadside-joint fare --though the “world famous” claim is debatable.  Still, both the pies and the trail live up to the cafe's slogan: “worth the drive from anywhere”.

LENGTHS:
Horseshoe Bend Segment: 1.5 miles one-way
Skyline Segment: 3.4 miles one way
To the Skyline highpoint and back: 6.8 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:
Horseshoe: 2,040'- 1,850'
Skyline: 1,850'-2,584'
DOGS: leashed dogs allowed
KID FRIENDLY?: yes
GETTING THERE:
Black Canyon City Trailhead:
From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to exit 242 (Black Canyon City-Rock Springs).  Go west (left) and continue to the stop sign, turn north (right) onto the frontage road and continue a few hundred feet to Warner Road (the first road on the left where there's also a BCT sign). Turn onto Warner and go a short distance to the first intersection, turn right and drive roughly 0.1 mile to the parking area.
FACILITIES: none.  Room for cars and trailers.
INFO: Black Canyon Trail Coalition
ROCK SPRINGS CAFE:
The author is not associated with the cafe and has NOT received payment, free pies, beer or any other bennies in exchange for this blog mention. 
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