Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 46 – Red Hills (Passage 24)

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 trail begins the long ascent into the Red Hills, on a path that seems like it might be an old fire road. The grade is steady but not overwhelming, though quite tiring since it is unrelenting. It’s also quite exposed; according to the volunteer I mentioned in the last post, a fire burned the tree cover here. On the positive side, the views that were exposed as a result were quite expansive, reaching to the Mogollon Rim & beyond. On the negative, the full exposure increases water consumption and adds about 10 degrees to the perceived temperature due to the combined impacts of sun and elevation.

Arizona sycamores seen hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Sugar Bush, seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
View north across the mountains and mesas to the Mogollon Rim, hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest

The trail is now well into the Mazatzal Wilderness, about 390 square miles in size and one of the will pass through both mountain ranges – first the Red Hills, then the Mazatzals. The Red Hills run perpendicular to the northern Mazatzal Mountains; spending any amount of time in the Hills reveals the reasoning for their name, and the views of both the Hills and the surrounding land from the Arizona Trail is incredible. As predicted, the hike up from the East Verde River has resulted in changes to the geology, as well, though sorting out the exact type is a bit difficult given regional complexity.

Time to rest up from the hike up into the mountains. Next time, we’ll see the continuance through the Red Hills to the start of the Mazatzal Divide segment, the true heart of the Mazatzal Wilderness, the longest stretch of the Arizona Trail within a designated wilderness area.

Backpacking up the flank of the Red Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
View up to the summit ridge line on the AZT hiking up the Red Hills from the East Verde River
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Advertisements
Advertisements
East panorama view of the flanks of the Red Hills from the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
West view of a Red Hills ridgeline summit backpacking to the crest in the evening light
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Advertisements
Advertisements
North view from AZT ascending Red Hills
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
North view from AZT hiking into the Red Hills, looking over various mesas and mountains to Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Fall foliage glows in the afternoon light. On the ridgeline, a shadow of the forest that once carpeted these slopes lingers.
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Fall foliage glows in the afternoon light. Behind, the backpacking view extends to the Mogollon Rim.
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
View hiking up and off the Red Hills to the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
View back off the Red Hills while hiking up to the Mogollon Rim in the distance.
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Peaks of the Red Hills from the AZT backpacking up. Shadows of the pine forest that once covered these areas lingers.
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Panoramic view of hike up the Red Hills on the AZT. To the left, the Hills also frame the Mogollon Rim view.
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Backpacking into the Red Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Hiking into the Red Hills on the AZT as former forest lingers on the ridge to the left.
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Advertisements
Advertisements
The AZT climbs toward the summit of the 2.5 mi long hike out of the East Verde River valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Evening light on the summit ridges of the Red Hills, backpacking through on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Want to take a guess why they call them the Red Hills? Spotted this first clue hiking up into them on the AZT.
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Sunset backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest
Sunset seen hiking on the AZT, panorama
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Tonto National Forest

Advertisements
Advertisements

To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

When many individuals are first looking at getting into thruhiking, they face one crucial decision after trail selection – to section hike, or thruhike. Each has different advantages and challenges, and may be better suited for one trail than another. Today, we’re going to discuss these. First, we need to define each. For our purposes, … Continue reading To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Inspiration Point to Roosevelt Cemetery (Passages 20 & 19, Four Peaks to Superstition Mountains)

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.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Arizona Trail Backpacking Logistics – AZT Gateway Communities: Tonto Basin

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.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Four Peaks South (Passage 20)

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.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Four Peaks North (Passage 20)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Four Peaks Passage to just south of Pigeon Spring. The terrain is incredibly precipitous – in places the trail seems to occupy the only level ground around. Fire impacts are present throughout as well, a legacy of the 1996 Lone Fire. Magnificent views of Roosevelt Lake, the southern Mazatzal foothills, and the Sierra Ancha across Tonto Basin.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack
Length (Mi)10.9
SeasonAll year but snow may impact higher elevations in winter and heat can impact lower elevations in summer.
Potential Water SourcesEast Verde River
Brush Springs
Seeps
TrailheadsNorth: East Verde River (north). Inaccessible to cars (4 mile hike from accessible Doll Baby Ranch TH)
South: Red Hills Trail Junction. Foot access only.
Trailhead AccessNorth: Foot only. 4 miles from vehicular access at Doll Baby Ranch
South: Foot only. 5.75 mi from vehicular access at City Creek
Wilderness?Yes
Possible Resupply PointsNone
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Precipitous terrain limits options, but there are some spots above the climb/descent into the East Verde Valley, on the ridge traverse; and in the basin and south end near the Red Hills Trail junction
ATA-Rated DifficultyModerate
Ecosystems TraversedInterior Chaparral (north end)
Great Basin Conifer Woodland
Relict Conifer Woodland
HighlightsViews of the northern Mazatzal Mountains
Sunsets
Red rocks
Ecological diversity
Passage logistics
Advertisements
Advertisements
Interior Chaparral Great Basin Conifer WoodlandRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Common Trees/Shrubs* Birchleaf Mahogany
* Ceanothus
* Holly-leaf buckthorn
* Manzanita
* Shrub live oak
* Silktassels
* Stansbury cliffrose
* Arizona alder
* Holly-leaf buckthorn
* Junipers
* Oaks, including Arizona oak, canyon live oak, Emory oak, Gambel oak, scrub-live oak
* Piñon pine
* Red barberry
* Serviceberry
* Silktassels
* Skunkbush
* sugar sumac
* Ponderosa Pine
* Southwestern white pine
* Subalpine fir
* White fir
* Rocky Mountain maple
* Bigtooth maple
* Grey alder
* Red birch
* Red osier dogwood
* Cliffbush
* Mallow ninebark
* New Mexican locust
* huckleberry
* bilberries



Common herbaceous plants* Buckwheats
* Globemallows
* Lupines
* Penstemons
* Sego-lily
* Wormwood
* fringed brome
* Geyer’s sedge/elk sedge
* Ross’ sedge
* Bronze sedge/dry land sedge/hillside sedge/hay sedge/Fernald’s hay sedge
* screwleaf muhly
* bluebunch wheatgrass
* Spruce-fir fleabane
* wild strawberry/Virginia strawberry
* Small-flowered woodrush
* mountain sweet Cicely
* bittercress ragwort
* western meadow-rue
* Fendler’s meadow-rue
Common succulents* Agaves – golden flowered, Parry’s, Toumey’s
* Banana & soap tree yucca
* Barrel cactus
* beargrass
* beehive cactus
* buckhorn cholla
* Cane Cholla
* hedgehog cacti
* prickly pear cacti
* Rock echeveria
* Sotol
* Whipple’s cholla
* beehive cactus
* Claret cup hedgehog cacti
* Golden-flowered agave
* Parry’s agave
* Prickly pear cacti
* Whipple cholla
* Tonto Basin agave
Passage 23 & 22 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s