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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wilderness waterfall hike

BARNHARDT CANYON to the FALLS
Mazatzal Wilderness

Last week's high-country snowfall has resurrected my hopes for a spectacular water show in Barnhardt Canyon. Even in drier years, a late winter-early-spring hike up the geologically complex cataracts of the Mazatzal mountain range rewards with myriad waterworks including gushing springs, trickling rivlets and an impressive 100-foot, multi-tiered waterfall tucked into a secluded box canyon of red-tinged quartzite. It's easy to miss the turnoff for this hidden wonder as it's not visible from the trail. So, be sure to inspect every nook once you pass the 3-mile point. You'll hear them, but you won't see the falls unless you're willing to do some moderate scrambling on slippery rock. For reference, the second photo here shows the falls entry point.
LENGTH: 7-9 miles round trip (7 miles to the falls and back)
RATING: moderate - difficult
ELEVATION: 4,200-6,100 feet
BEST SEASON: mid-March thru April (for waterfalls)
GETTING THERE: From the Shea Blvd. intersection in Fountain Hills, go 51 miles north on AZ 87 (Beeline highway) to the Barnhardt Trailhead turn off (FR 419) located a quarter mile south of the town of Gisela. Follow the dirt road 4 miles to the signed trailhead.
INFO: Payson Ranger District, Tonto National Forest, 928-474-7900

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