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Monday, March 23, 2015


Prescott National Forest, Mayer
Grapevine Creek

UPDATE: June 2017. This area was heavily impacted by the Goodwin Fire.
From Highway 69, the high desert grasslands around Big Bug Mesa near the town of Mayer don't look like they're hiding an oasis. But, deep within these arid hills, Grapevine Canyon harbors a perennial creek and a meandering sliver of green fed by snowmelt-charged springs. This sensitive site has been designated "Grapevine Botanical Area" and is now open only for day-use by hikers and equestrians. The dirt access road to the trailhead gets rough and narrow after 2 miles, which is why many hikers prefer to park at the
first fork and hike the final 1.5 miles. While the road hike is pleasant, it also saves your vehicle from the "Arizona pin stripping" caused by thorny shrubs that arch over the rugged two-track. Whether driven or hiked, the road follows the terrain as it makes an amazing and rapid transition from dry scrub and cacti to pine-oak groves. Then, with the jolt and flamboyance of a firecracker display, bang---a verdant Garden of Eden spills from a moist woodland corridor at the trailhead. Here, a forest of alder trees crowd around an information kiosk and a small "Trail 4" sign marks the beginning of the 2.5 mile hike up the canyon. Although Grapevine Creek goes underground at the trailhead, it resurfaces after a few minutes of hiking. Massive stands of oak, walnut, boxelder and wild canyon grape vines sink their roots deeply into the crystalline water that tumbles over boulders and slick rock chutes. Dozens of waterfalls gush through log jams and columbine-decorated embankments providing photo opportunities galore as well as a soothing soundtrack. After about a mile of shaded, creekside hiking, the trail begins an aggressive climb along the canyon wall above the creek. This half-mile segment, which winds through exposed cliffs populated with manzanita and cacti, provides excellent views of Prescott Valley and the strikingly divergent riparian gorge below. On the top of the canyon, the route meets the creek and cool tree cover once again, passing through two gates (presumably to keep cows out) before making several creek crossings and a final ascent to the main source spring at trail's end.
LENGTH: 2.5 miles one-way (4 miles one-way with road hike)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 4750'-6320'
RULES: Day use only. Mountain bikes and motorized vehicles are not allowed.
From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to Cordes Junction exit 262 and head west on State Route 69 (toward Prescott). Continue 11 miles and make a left turn onto Grapevine Road (FS87A) just before milepost 274. There is no sign at the turn, but there's one on the road. Follow the dirt road 2 miles to a fork where there's a parking apron for drivers who want to avoid the rough road ahead. Those with high-clearance or 4x4 vehicles can continue down the left fork to a green gate at the 2.7 mile point. Park here if the gate is locked, otherwise, you may drive another 0.6 mile (go straight and then veer right at a fork) to the trailhead. Be prepared for some very rocky obstacles and shrubs that will scratch wide vehicles.

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