Arizona Trail, Day 45 – Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)

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

Late start after an immense and slow breakfast at Early Bird Cafe. I retrace my steps to the Pine Trailhead and then turn south. The trail first rolls through the pines and passes Pine Creek (dry) and Bradshaw Tank on its way to the top of Hardscrabble Mesa, which provides an excellent overlook of Oak Spring Canyon, the highlight of the passage, before dropping to the bottom. Like on the Highline, foliage still lingers in the warmer Canyon. I also spot some cool geology in what appears to be dikes in some of the rocks. Dikes are volcanic intrusions – formed when magma forced into cracks in surrounding rock and then cools in place. Yet more examples of the little-known volcanic history of the area. The unfortunate part? It’s followed by a steady climb out to the top of Whiterock Mesa (namesake of the passage). The basalt returns as the trail ascends and the trail is again covered in loose rock. I ultimately find a somewhat flat spot to camp and then return to the bottom to get some water from Oak Spring before heading to bed. The breakfast was so filling, in fact, that I can get by with a relatively light dinner, at most. May not even need much of any dinner.

AZT Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa) Relive Video
Heading back into the pines
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest

Mogollon Rim from Hardscrabble Mesa
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
Passage 41Passage 40
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrackPrimarily dirt singletrack; some USFS roads
Length4.6 miles one-way (9.2 round trip)About 20.7 miles round trip
Elevation Change823 ft (gross) from Fossil Creek Bridge THApprox. 1426 ft from Bob Bear TH
SeasonAll year but trail access by road from November-May limited to 89A. Winter conditions likely to be present beginning in November.All year but road access closed November-May. Non motorized access only during that time.
Potential Water SourcesJacob Lake
Unreliable tanks; public caches.
TrailheadsTelephone Hill (south)
Various USFS road connections (midpoint)
US-89A (north)
Grand Canyon National Park/Kaibab NF boundary (south)
Telephone Hill (north)
Various USFS road connections (midpoint)
Logistical details
View down Oak Spring Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
View across Oak Spring Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
Foliage in Oak Spring Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
Dikes (volcanic intrusions) in rocks, Oak Spring Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
Foliage in Oak Spring Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
Foliage in Oak Spring Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
Ironwood berries
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from Whiterock Mesa ascent
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
Foliage in Oak Spring Canyon ascending Whiterock Mesa
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
Moon at sunset over Oak Spring Canyon & the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
Moon at sunset over Oak Spring Canyon & the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest
Sunset near top of Whiterock Mesa ascent
Arizona Trail, Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa)
Tonto National Forest

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Arizona Trail, Passage 25: Whiterock Mesa, Part 2

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.

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.

Fossil Creek 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.

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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.

Arizona Trail, Day 46 – Passage 26 (Hardscrabble Mesa)

I finally get off around 11:30 & run into Matt and a female friend near East Tank. I’m glad for the company and we walk together for a while. The road condition is terrible – lots of loose basalt – and the going is slow. I finally reach the split to Strawberry and encounter them again, and their friend who picked them up flags me down and brings me a beer. Some more trail magic! I think my biggest challenges are becoming the pack weight and the solitude. I head for a short side trip to Fossil Creek.

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