The Arizona Trail, Day 5, Part 1: Central Kaibab Plateau (Passage 41)

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

The North Rim tried to kill me last night. I woke up at 2:45 with a frozen left big toe. I pulled my shell layer into my bag in an effort to stay warm and managed to do so. I got up around six when the sun breaks over and headed south across the burn area. The wind was brutal, continuing to blow me sideways on the trail in places. More magnificent aspen groves commenced amid the rolling plateau as the Arizona Trail heads southbound once again toward Telephone Hill. This entire stretch was impacted by the Warm Fire in 2006, leaving little shelter but allowing for the widespread aspen growth, as aspens are one of the first trees to recolonize a disturbed area after a fire. Telephone Hill provides a great vantage point over Arizona-67 reaching south through the hills and valleys of the southern Kaibab toward the North Rim of Grand Canyon, and its intact pine forest provides a welcome break from the wind that has been incessant since last night.

Logistics and ecology for the passage can be found after today’s photos.

Relive video for today (Passage 40)
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest

I eventually crest Telephone Hill and reenter the forest, getting a respite from the wind before continuing south on Passage 41, the Kaibab Plateau South.

Aspen groves across Hwy 67, view from top of Telephone Hill
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (South Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspen groves across Hwy 67, view from top of Telephone Hill
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (South Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest
Ponderosa pines line the Arizona Trail on Telephone Hill, at the south end of the Warm Fire burn scar in the Kaibab National Forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens among pines above the AZT on Telephone Hill
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen groves across Hwy 67, view from top of Telephone Hill
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest, Arizona
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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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Fossil Springs Wilderness – Waterfall Trail

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.

Fossil Springs Wilderness – Fossil Springs Trail

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. The Wilderness has 11,550 acres with 30 species of trees and shrubs and over 100 species of birds. Fossil Creek itself is one of two Wild & Scenic Rivers in Arizona as well, designated by Congress in 2009 after the Fossil Springs Dam was decommissioned by Arizona in 2005. Fossil Springs, the source of the creek, release 30 million gallons of water per day, incredibly prolific for its location in Arizona.

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Passage 41 (Kaibab Plateau Central)
Trail SurfaceDirt trail
Length (Mi)17.2
SeasonSpring-fall. No vehicular access to this section December-April. Feet of snow in winter.
Potential Water SourcesWildlife Tank (mi 36.9 SOBO, 751.8 NOBO)
Cement Trough (mi 37.3 SOBO, 751.4 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: US-89A
South: Telephone Hill
Trailhead AccessVehicular access
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 pointsJacob Lake
ATA-Rated DifficultyEasy
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Various points throughout; terrain is not a limitation here
Ecosystems TraversedGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
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Great Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest/Rocky Mountain Montane 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 23 & 22 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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