Backpacking The Amazing Arizona Trail: Southern Kaibab Plateau, Part II (Day 5, Part III)

In the land of Arizona
Through desert heat or snow
Winds a trail for folks to follow
From Utah to Old Mexico

It’s the Arizona Trail
A pathway through the great Southwest
A diverse track through wood and stone
Your spirit it will test

Oh, sure you’ll sweat and blister
You’ll feel the miles every day
You’ll shiver at the loneliness
Your feet and seat will pay

But you’ll see moonlight on the borderlands
You’ll see stars on the Mogollon
You’ll feel the warmth of winter sun
And be thrilled straight through to bone

The aches and pains will fade away
You’ll feel renewed and whole
You’ll never be the same again
With Arizona in your soul

Along the Arizona Trail
A reverence and peace you’ll know
Through deserts, canyons, and mountains
From Utah to Old Mexico

“The Arizona Trail,” Dale R Shewalter

Hiking south on the Arizona Trail, the Kaibab Plateau rolls across the ridges and valleys and the trail continues to pass dark ponderosa interspersed with – and sometimes dominated by, in fire-impacted areas – magnificent aspens.

Relive Video, Part II
Backpacking the Arizona Trail south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking past aspens on the Arizona Trail south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through Arizona Trail aspens south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail, Little Round Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking through Arizona Trail aspens south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Arizona Trail hiking through aspens & conifers aspens, Little Round Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens & conifers line the Arizona Trail backpacking in Little Round Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail climbing out of Little Round Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Hiking the Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
A large pond – a rare source of water at the end of a dry summer – sits beside conifer-covered hills on the rolling southern section of the Kaibab Plateau
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Wild turkeys run across the Arizona Trail on the southern Kaibab Plateau
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Mixed conifer forest and golden rice grass meadows on the southern Kaibab Plateau, backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpack past blue spruce, signifying higher elevations
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail through mixed conifer forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the Arizona Trail through mixed conifer forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail through mixed conifer forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking past mixed confer forest bordering meadows along the Arizona Trail
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail entering mixed conifer forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking past aspens among mixed conifer trees on the Kaibab Plateau
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking past aspens among conifer trees on Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail backpacker descends into Pleasant Valley, toward aspens and conifers in fall foliage
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspens and conifers wait around the bend as the Arizona Trail hiker descends into Pleasant Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens and conifers cover the hillsides of the rolling southern Kaibab Plateau on Passage 40 of the Arizona Trail. AZ-67 is on the extreme right in the main portion of Pleasant Valley
Kaibab National Forest

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Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Pine Mountain (Passage 21), FR 422 to Pigeon Spring Trailhead

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 51: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23), Part II

Disruptive event today, an F-16 that flew over while I was packing. It flew extremely low and around a mountain – possibly North Peak – and made me think very seriously about why that would be allowed over a designated wilderness area. Still, I manage to knock out a few miles to Chilson Spring before dark, with spectacular views of Deadman’s Canyon, the Verde Valley, and the western Mazatzal foothills along the way. The mountains are jagged and rugged and the trail traces steep slopes nearly the whole way across precipitous terrain.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50, Part II: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23)

It’s here. The Mazatzal Divide represents the heart of the longest stretch of the Arizona Trail within a designated wilderness area. To that end, a reminder on the meaning of wilderness. Under the Wilderness Act of 1964, wilderness is “an area where man is but a visitor and does not remain.” Consequently, motorized access as … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50, Part II: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50: Red Hills, Part II/II

Second day hiking through the Red Hills toward the Mazatzal Mountains. Earning their name through the red rock colors, the Hills also provide hikers with wildflowers and diverse vegetation, in addition to showing the scars of recent wildfires and spectacular views of the range north toward the Mogollon Rim.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 49: Whiterock Mesa, Part III

Departing Polk Spring, the trail continues to provide magnificent views of the northern Mazatzal Mountains and the neighboring Red Hills as it descends to the East Verde River. The trail will pass through both mountain ranges – first the Red Hills, then the Mazatzals. The origin of the name “Mazatzal” is unclear, though one possible meaning is a Nahuatl term meaning “place of the deer.” The Mazatzal Wilderness, which the trail will remain within now until just shy of Strawberry in the central Mazatzals, is about 390 square miles in size. It was one of the original Wilderness Areas designated upon the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail – FR 194 to Pine Spring (Passage 45, Whiterock Mesa)

I got started around 10, heading down Passage 25 toward the East Verde River.
I hike through a gate and enter the Mazatzal Wilderness. Following cairns, the surface alternates between the basalt and more dirt – like walking through a wash. As the trail skirts the rim briefly, a magnificent view of the Mazatzal Mountains and Red Hills opens up to the hiker, then the trail experiences yet another spectacular sunset as it and the backpacker fall off the Mesa to Polk Spring near the East Verde River.

Pink ribbons spread across the bluish/purple sky at sunset

Fossil Springs Wilderness – FR 708

Take a virtual hike through the Fossil Creek Wilderness! Fossil Creek Wilderness is one of the most spectacular areas in Arizona – so much so that permits are required from April 1-October 1. From the Fossil Creek Bridge trailhead, FR 708 begins to climb the wall of Fossil Canyon. A short distance up, the road is gated. Just on the other side is the trailhead for the Waterfall Trail, one of the most popular spots in the wilderness.

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Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Trail SurfaceDirt trail
Length (Mi)24.3
SeasonSpring-fall. No vehicular access to this section December-mid May. Feet of snow in winter.
Potential Water SourcesCrane Lake (mi 46.5 SOBO, 742.2 NOBO)
Little Pleasant Valley Tank (mi 48.8 SOBO, 739.9 NOBO)
Wildlife Drinker (mi 56.5 SOBO, 732.2 NOBO)
Dog Lake (mi 56.6 SOBO, 732.1 NOBO)
North Canyon Spring (mi 58.9 SOBO, 729.8 NOBO)
Crystal Spring (mi 59.5 SOBO, 729.2 NOBO)
Sourdough Well (mi 62.1 SOBO, 726.6 NOBO)
Upper North Canyon Creek (mi 63.9 SOBO, 724.9 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Telephone Hill
South: Grand Canyon National Park boundary
Trailhead AccessNorth: Vehicular access via FR 241 off AZ-67
South: Foot access only
WildernessNo, but it can feel like it. Most hikers in the area stick to the national park. Or are passing through to reach routes in the national park.
Possible resupply pointsNorth Rim Country Store & Meadow’s Edge
Accessed via FR 216 at AZT MM 54.6 S/734.1 N
ATA-Rated DifficultyEasy
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Various
Ecosystems TraversedGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
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Great Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
Common Trees/Shrubs* Corkbark fir
* Gambel oak
* Quaking aspen
* White fir
* Blue spruce
* Engelmann spruce
* Buckwheats
* Currants
* Dwarf juniper
* Elderberry
* Fendler’s ceanothus
* Greenleaf Manzanita
* New Mexican locust
* Perry’s rabbitbrush
* Raspberry
* smooth sumac
* Snowberry
Common herbaceous plants* Bracken Fern
* Buckwheats
* Cinquefoils
* Columbines
* Fleabane daisies
* Geraniums
* goldeneye
* Goldenrods
* Groundsels
* Hairy golden aster
* Indian paintbrush
* Lotus
* Lupines
* Meadow-rue
* Parry’s bellflower
* Peavine
* Penstemons
* Puccoon
* Pussytoes
* Thistles
* Western & white prairie asters
* Wild strawberry
* Wormwood
* Yarrow
* Yellow hawkweed
Common succulentsPrickly pear, occasionally
Aquatic* Bulrush
* Buttercups
* Rushes
* Sedges
* Water plantains
Passage 40 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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