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Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Old gate with Sunset Point on canyon edge--far right.
Look down from the viewing deck at Sunset Point rest area on Interstate 17 south of Cordes Junction and the rugged terrain of what the Black Canyon Trail Coalition calls “Arizona’s Outback” rolls out 600 feet below.  The land down under the lookout is appropriately named Sheep Gulch. Whether this is happenstance or a nod to the Australian sheep stations (Aussie speak for ranches) that this gorge resembles, it’s an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Although it’s tough to see from the rest area, the middle section of the 80-mile Black Canyon Trail cuts through this beautiful abyss that’s cradled in a geological upheaval of pre-Cambrian granites, and scaly schists with sprinklings of orange-tinged quartz tossed about like confetti.
Saguaros frame Bradshaw Mountains vistas.
 The non-motorized-use route that stretches from the Carefree Highway in Phoenix to near the town of Mayer off State Route 69, has been designated a National Recreational Trail for its historic significance.
Hikers traverse a section burned by 2017 wildfires.
The trail has been in use since pre-historic times serving as a Native American pathway, a track for herding sheep and other livestock and a travel corridor for traders.  Surrounded by the rough-cut, mineral-rich peaks of the Bradshaw Mountains and the stream-chiseled gullies of Black Canyon, this moderately difficult, easy-to-follow section of trail clings to the canyon walls as it moves northward in smooth swoops and hairpin turns. 
Mountain views are the highlight of the hike.
Beginning at the Gloriana Mine trailhead, the hike heads 4.6 miles north to where it meets the American Gulch Segment near the town of Bumble Bee—a former Phoenix-to-Prescott stage stop established in the mid nineteenth century.
Ocotillo near the Gloriana Mine trailhead. 
 Although this area was impacted by the July 2017 lightning-caused Brooklyn, Bull, and Cedar fires, the scenic value of the hike was only marginally diminished. The trail is clear and the epic mountain vistas for which this segment is famous are still as crisp and inspiring as ever.  The trail mostly follows the 2800-foot elevation contour before it dips into the gulch below Sunset Point. Here, the faint rumble and whir of the freeway above caps a contrasting pastoral scene of ranches, cacti-studded grasslands, creekside willows and the comings and goings of ATVs, hikers and the seasonal parades of sheep that still graze around the sleepy ghost town and its defunct gold mine prospects.
The land down under Sunset Point.
LENGTH: 4.6 miles one-way
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2520' - 2840'
A hairpin turn through a gully.
Gloriana Mine Trailhead: From Interstate 17, take the Bumble Bee/Crown King exit 248 and go 1.2-miles west on Bumble Bee Road (FR 59) to the trailhead on the left. Segment begins across the road from the parking area.  Roads are 100% paved.
 INFO & MAPS: Black Canyon Trail Coalition

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