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Monday, October 29, 2018


View from near the top of Col. Devin Trail.
For casual travelers, the East Verde River is synonymous with water play destinations along Houston Mesa Road north of Payson. The Water Wheel, First, Second and Third Crossing recreation sites offer walk-up access to the canyon-bound water course.
The trail ascends through the E. Verde River watershed.
A tributary of the mighty Verde River, the slim waterway begins as trickling springs that emanate from rugged escarpments below the Mogollon Rim.
Boxelder trees thrive along the E. Verde River.
Bigtooth maple leafs float in the E. Verde River
The river’s enchanting watershed area can be explored by way of the Colonel Devin Trail #290 that follows its course from Washington Park to the springs that feed it.
Named for Colonel Thomas C. Devin who used the route for military endeavors in the 1880s, the dirt trail that alternates between a rutted two track and slender path also makes up the last two miles of Highline Passage of the Arizona Trail.
A typical scene on the lower part of Col. Devin Trail.
Col. Devin Trail is part of the Arizona Trail.
The route’s proximity to the river and its drainages makes for a shady trek best done in fall or spring when water levels peak and foliage is at its most beautiful.
Although the forest service rates this hike as difficult, just about anybody can manage the first mile. Adding to the hike’s many natural attractions, the trail is bookended with tributes the area’s human history.  At the Washington Park trailhead, the hike begins at an informational kiosk with plaques that describe  past military operations, pioneers and economic development.
Trail sign near Rim Road.
White watercress grow in a drainage that feeds the E. Verde.
Take a moment to read the posters to gain an appreciation for the storied past of the territory you’re about to walk through. Beyond the kiosk, the path crosses the first of 4 bridges---two metal spanners constructed by the Arizona Trail Association and two split-log catwalks—that take the jump out of creek crossings.
The trail climbs more than 1000 feet to the top of the Rim.
Railroad Tunnel is an optional & difficult side trip. 
Boxelder trees turn lemony-yellow in autumn.
Tracing the waterway through forests of mixed conifers, maples, boxelders, Gambel oaks and an understory of canyon grape vines and blooming shrubs, the first segment of the hike is a not-too-difficult, visual delight. The sound of waterfalls and cascading rivulets adds a pleasant soundtrack to this leafy stroll. One mile from the trailhead, the route merges with the decommissioned military road and begins its 1000-foot climb to the top of the Mogollon Rim.  The next half-mile is defined by a moderate ascent on the banks above the river where dribbling feeder streams and spring water tumble down to join the main channel. Where water glides across the trail, a smattering of aspens and Arizona sycamores sprout from moist soils and sandy washes.
Deep woods define the first mile.
A bridge built by the AZT Assoc. spans the E. Verde River.
The demanding work begins where the trail makes a sharp right at the Tunnel Trail #390 junction. Enter the elephant in the room: Railroad Tunnel. An optional quarter-mile difficult side trip to a much-hyped, graffiti-spoiled excavation site can be an interesting diversion for history buffs and hikers who enjoy an off-the-wall diversion. Unlike the ore it was to have hauled from the copper-rich mines around the town of Globe, plans by the Arizona Mineral Belt Railroad to bore through the Mogollon Rim for quick transport of the goods to Flagstaff didn’t pan out. The futile 1880s tunnel project went bust and was abandoned, leaving behind mounds of rubble and a dank, 70-foot-deep stone cave that’s been defaced by modern-day vandals. 
The upper trail is steep and rocky.
Unless you’re into visiting quirky bits of Arizona history; skip the gritty climb and continue uphill instead. The final ascent up to Rim Road (Forest Road 300) creeps up a steep, rocky bench passing by some of the springs and seeps that are the source of the East Verde River. These inconspicuous trickles eventually funnel into the Verde and Salt Rivers that converge more than 100 miles south just a few miles east of Phoenix.
The sound of rushing water augments the hike.
AZ sycamore trees thrive in moist areas along the trail.
Major climbing ends at a pair of trail signs just below the road. Although the great views here might make for a satisfying turnaround point, the hike ends a few steps farther up to the road at the Battle of Big Dry Wash historical monument that marks an 1882 clash between the U.S. Army and the Apache Tribe. 
The E. Verde River originates below the Mogollon Rim.
Use this bookend to a scenic and historically-significant trek to either double back or continue north on the Blue Ridge Passage of the Arizona Trail.
Bigtooth maple leaves glow in the sun.
LENGTH: 2 miles one way
RATING: difficult
ELEVATION: 6097 – 7280 feet
Washington Park Trailhead:
From Payson, go 1.7 miles north on State Route 87 to Houston Mesa Road (Forest Road 199), turn right and continue 10 miles the “T” intersection at Control Road (Forest Road 64) in the Whispering Pines community. Turn left, go 0.6-mile and take a right on Forest Road 32.  Go 3.2 miles to Forest Road 32A (sometimes signed as Belluzzi Blvd), turn right and continue 1 mile to the trailhead. From the big Arizona Trail sign, cross the bridge, head left and go right at the trail #290 sign. Roads are maintained dirt suitable for all vehicles. No fees or facilities at the trailhead.

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