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Monday, February 19, 2018


Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area, Kingman
View of the Monolith Garden area from Camp Beale Loop
Hikers, be forewarned; you might find yourself hitting the brakes while traveling through Kingman on U.S. 93.  Several trailheads tucked among hulking white cliffs and a surreal landscape of mesas and buttes beckon hike-inclined travelers to take a detour of discovery on an eclectic collection of trails just off this bleak strip of highway in Arizona’s far northwest corner.
A wash of volcanic black sand below the trail
The Cerbat Hills Recreation Area in northwest Kingman has four interconnected routes, each with unique attractions. Camp Beale Trail, which sits at the heart of the system, offers a moderate day hike that links to the area’s more than 17 miles of trails. For newbies, it’s a good place to start.  At just over 3 miles in length, the Camp Beale Loop gives a scenic overview of the system with less than 500 feet of climbing.  From the trailhead, head right, following the well-defined path as it begins its ascent.  Almost immediately, you'll be treated to epic views of the Hualapai Mountains to the southeast that rise to over 8000 feet at the edge of the Mojave Desert.
Camp Beale Trail
These pine-capped volcanic sky islands jut 4000 feet above dusty creosote-populated plains. Sometimes, snow lingers on the high peaks through spring.  As the hike progresses uphill, huge panoramic vistas of the Grand Wash Cliffs and Hualapai Valley unwind with every few feet of elevation gained.  Next, the route ducks into a gorge where soft black sand scoured from ebony-colored lava flows lines a wash that wiggles though grasslands and stands of sharp yucca. 
Grand Wash Cliffs and Hualapai Valley
The short canyon segment morphs into another uphill trudge that ends at roughly the half-way point where benches mark the highpoint and the junction for the 4.45-mile Castle Rock Trail that heads north to a regal, turreted rock formation. Here, first glimpses of the Monolith Garden area appear to the south. The vertical silhouettes of the granite “monoliths” that stand like dominos (or Legos as I overheard a kid on the trail describe them) are the signature attractions of the Monolith Garden Loop that can be accessed via a junction farther down the Beale trail or a dedicated trailhead across U.S. 93.
Hualapai Mountains
The return leg of the loop bends around basalt outcroppings, deep gullies and cacti-blanketed slopes as it makes an easy decent. Keep an eye out for tiny quartz crystals blooming from lumps of russet lava scattered along this final section.  You’ll cross the black sand wash one last time before coming full circle. But, the adventure has one more stop.
Cerbat Foothills
On the way out on Camp Beale Drive, look for the 
Camp Beale Spring historic site on the right.  A permit is required to walk within the property, however, an historic marker and a monument outside of the grounds give special insight to the area’s rich and sometimes tragic past.
Monolith Garden area seen from Camp Beale Trail

Camp Beale Springs Historic Site
LENGTH: 3.26-mile loop
Other Linking Trails:
Badger Trail - 3.20 miles
Castle Rock Trail - 4.45 miles
Monolith Garden Loop—7 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 3640 – 4100 feet
From the Interstate 40/U.S. 93 In Kingman take exit 40. Continue 0.5-mile to Fort Beale Drive, turn right and go 1.3 mile to the signed trailhead access road on the left and continue 0.2 mile to the parking area.


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