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Monday, May 30, 2016

HORSE CROSSING TRAIL #20

HORSE CROSSING TRAIL
East Clear Creek

A leisurely amble through the pristine and complex canyon system of upper East Clear Creek reveals wonders that even the most well traveled Arizona hikers will find astounding. There’s the epic views from the coniferous forest rim, a scenic drop into the canyon along a fossil-encrusted limestone trail, and an emerald-green riparian environment along the water.
Sandwiched between two reservoirs, East Clear Creek slices into soft sedimentary pediments leaving behind a meandering sheer-walled canyon. This 50-mile-long ribbon of life-giving water flows northeast from Blue Ridge Reservoir to Clear Creek Reservoir near Winslow where it merges with the Little Colorado River. sandstone walls that look like dunes tilted on their sides in layer-cake formation. Tens of millions of years ago, the landscape surrounding East Clear Creek was part of a vast ocean and the fossilized remains of sea-dwelling algae, coral and brachiopods are strewn about like scattered bones. Like all of the “crossing” trails on the Mogollon Rim, this one continues up the opposite side of the canyon. Although traversing the entire length of this gorge would involve technical climbing skills, swimming and rafting, all that’s needed to hike the Horse Crossing trail #20 is a pair of boots, water and a day pack. Exploring the mid-section of the creek, Horse Crossing is hemmed in by vertical rock escarpments. At the bottom of the canyon, running water sculpts sandstone walls that look like dunes tilted on their sides in layer-cake formation. Tens of millions of years ago, the landscape surrounding East Clear Creek was part of a vast ocean and the fossilized remains of sea-dwelling algae, coral and brachiopods are strewn about like scattered bones. Like all of the “crossing” trails on the Mogollon Rim, this one continues up the opposite side of the canyon. However, it’s more fun to follow fisherman paths and  for several miles up or downstream where clouds reflected in mirror-like pools give the impression of walking on the sky.
LENGTH: 3 miles round-trip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6,900’ – 6,400’
GETTING THERE:
From Payson, travel north on State Route 87 Forest Road 95 between mileposts 299 and 300, located 9.4 miles past Clint's Well. Turn right (east) on FR 95 and drive 4 miles to Forest Road 513B. Go left (east) on FR 513B and continue 2 miles to the trailhead. A high-clearance vehicle is required on FR 513B.