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Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Big Bug Segment
Bradshaw Mountain views on the Big Bug Segment of BCT

You'd be hard pressed to find another Arizona route imbued with as much history as the Black Canyon Trail. Records of its many centuries of use are preserved in rock art, public documents and the dens of wily desert critters. Since its origins as a Native American footpath, it has morphed into a cattle driveway and wagon road before settling into its current role as a recreational trail for hikers, bikers, equestrians and (in a few places) ATVs. Running for roughly 78 miles in a twisting, north-south thread between the Carefree Highway north of Phoenix to the town of Mayer outside of Prescott, the route traces the foothills and valleys of the Bradshaw Mountains. The trail is organized into convenient segments---each with its own set of defining characteristics. Depending on where you are on the trail, you'll see smatterings of the ruins, petroglyphs, ranches, mining operations and windmills that document the trail's diverse heritage. Augmenting the artifacts is a continually changing mix of ecosystems ranging from canyon-bound, moist riparian strips to dry scrubby savannah.
The northernmost Big Bug Segment falls squarely on the "scrubby" end of the scale. It's a wind-in-your-face kind of hike though exposed rangelands with mountain views all around. The first mile runs through a bucolic territory of homesteads and horses along Highway 69. After rounding a bend, the route ducks into a quiet habitat where every thump of a hiking boot has the potential to rouse rabbits and scrub jays from their juniper tree sanctuaries. Just beyond the 2.5-mile point, the trail crosses Antelope Creek Road then follows a Jeep track 0.6-mile to connect with the Drinking Snake segment. Along the way, keep an eye out for packrat middens. They look like scrap piles but further inspection reveals tiny entrances covered with everything from roots and twigs to cow dung and bones that are occasionally topped off with stray parts (belt buckles, lens caps, socks) left behind by (or pilfered from) travelers. These rodent abodes are built upon over many generations and some are tens of thousands of years old. The tiny time capsules can contain treasure troves of mummified and fossil plant, animal and human relics. What is garbage to the untrained eye is gold to the scientists who study the middens to understand biotic and climate change over time. So, through their unsavory housekeeping habits, the rat's have become "accidental archivists" and important contributors to the history of a classic Western trail.
LENGTH: 6.2 miles out-an-back (as described here)
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 3,950' - 4,140'
FACILITIES: vault toilet
Big Bug Trailhead:
From Interstate 17 in Cordes Junction take exit 262 for State Route 69 heading north toward Prescott.
Set your odometer and drive 4.2 miles to a point 0.7-mile past mile marker 266, (N 34 21.823 W 112 10.556) turn left onto an unmarked drive and continue 0.1 mile to the trailhead. To find the trail, pass the gate near the restroom and stay to the right of the fences and corral. (There was a large carin here on our visit). Follow the trail though a drainage, and veer right at the top of a rise where the trail splits. Follow the trail to the right of a fence line and you'll soon see a BCT sign. From here, the trail is easy to follow.
Black Canyon Trail Coalition

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