Monday, December 1, 2014
Tonto National Forest
At the north end of Roosevelt Lake, an elegant suspension bridge that straddles the gap between the Superstition Mountains and Four Peaks Wilderness serves as the gateway to Passage 20 of the Arizona Trail. This 19.5-mile stretch of rugged roads and narrow footpaths shimmies through of some of the state's most spectacular country. The old 4.5-mile Vineyard Trail #131 that was once used to service a reflector on a pinnacle above the lake has been harnessed into this section of the AZT's state-traversing course. For a relatively short hike, this one really packs a scenic punch and a grueling climb at the start adds satisfaction to the vistas that unfold on the way up. The heart-pumping initial ascent along Inspiration Point tops out at 1.5-miles with 360-degree views of the lake, Sierra Ancha Mountains and green floodplains of Tonto Basin. From here, the hike is tempered by rolling grasslands as it moves west toward Four Peaks. Next, get your camera ready because the trail curves around a low slung, saguaro-populated ridge where the Salt River gorge and snaking form of Apache Lake shimmer a thousand feet below. This is one of the prettiest places in central Arizona. Beyond the river-and-lake eye candy, the trail dips down though rock fall and cacti to meet Forest Road 429 and the end of trail #131 at the Mills Ridge Trailhead where you can backtrack for a 9-mile day hike or continue 469 miles north to Utah on the Arizona Trail.
LENGTH: 4.5 miles one way
ELEVATION: 2,200' - 3,700'
The trailhead is located on the northeast side of the Roosevelt Dam Bridge and can be accessed via State Routes 188 and 88. There are several ways to get there from Phoenix including the shortest route that's a precipitous drive on the rough dirt mountain grades of SR88. But the faint of heart should instead take State Route 87 north to the SR188 junction and head 30 miles south to the trailhead parking turnout at the big Arizona Trail sign on the left just before the bridge. The hike begins across the road at the AZ88 junction sign.
INFO: Arizona Trail Association:
Tonto National Forest: Tonto Basin Ranger District, 928-467-3200