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Monday, February 8, 2016

ANTELOPE CREEK SEGMENT: BLACK CANYON TRAIL

BLACK CANYON TRAIL
Antelope Creek Segment
Corral at Hidden Treasure Mine trailhead
Nothing much has been going on in the town of Cordes since about the 1950s. Founded in 1883, the hamlet was once a busy stage stop serving sheep herders, ranchers, mail wagons and weary voyagers traveling between Prescott and Phoenix. Completion of Interstate 17 in the 1970s put the nail in the coffin as the new freeway pulled traffic off the bumpy dirt roads and onto smooth pavement. Business shifted west leaving behind a few hardy families to carry on the Old Arizona lifestyle.
Today, the area is seen mostly by travelers braving the road trip to Crown King and hikers setting out to explore the historic trail that runs through it. The Black Canyon Trail Coalition beckons hikers to "Experience the Arizona Outback" by stepping out on all or part of the 78-mile Black Canyon Trail that stretches from north Phoenix to the town of Mayer.
The northern reaches of the trail especially live up to the "outback" label and the Antelope Creek segment is a prime introduction to the canyon-riddled rangeland lodged between Agua Fria National Monument and Prescott National Forest. Winding around the ranches and ruins of Cordes, the segment's signature features are its endless ups-and-downs, cliff-hugging turns, corrals and stock tanks supplemented with occasional cattle encounters. To get your full dose of boots in the boondocks, try a 10-mile car shuttle hike. Begin at the Hidden Treasure Mine trailhead and hike north on the Antelope Creek segment. Most of the trail is well-signed, but there are a few head-scratcher junctions. At 3.4 miles, pass a gate (leave it as you found it), continue to the 3.8-mile point and turn left onto a Jeep road. An unsigned junction comes up at mile 4.1 where you'll veer right, hike 0.1-mile and pick up the signed single track on the right. At the 5-mile point, the trail crosses Crown King Road (1.2 miles south of Cordes) then connects with a Jeep route that overlooks Black Canyon with majestic views of the Bradshaw Mountains towering above the gaping chasm. As the route transitions into the Drinking Snake segment (segments are not signed) you'll see Dripping Spring Canyon off to the left and a functioning windmill just around a bend in the road. Beyond the windmill, the trail turns left past the corral and becomes a single track once again all the way to 9.4-miles where you'll turn left onto a road, hike 0.2-mile, turn right at a junction and hike the last fraction of a mile to the Spring Valley trailhead.
LENGTH: 10 miles one-way for car shuttle described here.
Antelope Creek Segment: 5.0 miles one-way
Drinking Snake Segment: 4.8 miles one-way
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2,656' - 4,192'
ACCUMULATED ELEVATION GAIN: 2,713'
GETTING THERE:
Hidden Treasure Mine Trailhead (south):
From Interstate 17, take the Bloody Basin Road exit 259. Head left (west toward Crown King) on Bloody Basin (Crown King Road, Forest Road 259) and go 3.3 miles to the stop sign in the town of Cordes. Turn left onto Antelope Creek Road (County Road 179), go 2.7 miles and veer left at the Bumble Bee/Crown King fork. Continue 1.3 miles to a stop sign, turn left and make an immediate left into the parking area marked by a rusty water tank and corral. Trail begins by the corral. The dirt road is washboard rough in spots with hairpin turns and drop offs but is passable by sedan.
Spring Valley Trailhead (north):
From Interstate 17, take the Bloody Basin Road exit 259, go 3.3 miles west (Crown King Road, Forest Road 259) to the ghost town of Cordes, turn right (north) onto Antelope Creek Road (County Road 74) and continue 3 miles to the trailhead on the left at Forest Road 9218A. Roads are sedan friendly dirt/gravel.
INFO: Black Canyon Trail Coalition
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