Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 49 – 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
Sugar Bush, Arizona Trail Passage 24 (Red Hills), Mazatzal Wilderness, Tonto National Forest
View north across the mountains and mesas to the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
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.

Hiking up the flank of the Red Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
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)
Tonto National Forest
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East view across the flanks of the Red Hills hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Tonto National Forest
East panorama view of the flanks of the Red Hills from the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
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)
Tonto National Forest
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North view from AZT ascending Red Hills
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Tonto National Forest
North view from AZT ascending Red Hills, looking over various mesas and mountains to Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
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)
Tonto National Forest
Fall foliage glows in the afternoon light. Behind, the view extends to the Mogollon Rim.
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Tonto National Forest
View hiking up and off the Red Hills to the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
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)
Tonto National Forest
Peaks of the Red Hills from the AZT hiking up. Shadows of the pine forest that once covered these areas lingers.
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
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)
Tonto National Forest
Backpacking into the Red Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
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)
Tonto National Forest
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The AZT climbs toward the summit of the 2.5 mi long climb out of the East Verde River
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Tonto National Forest
Evening light on the summit ridges of the Red Hills, backpacking through on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
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)
Tonto National Forest
Sunset on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Tonto National Forest
Sunset on the AZT, panorama
Arizona Trail, Passage 24 (Red Hills)
Tonto 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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Passage 25Passage 24
Trail SurfaceDirt trailDirt trail
Length (Mi)22.710.9
SeasonOctober-AprilOctober-April
Potential Water SourcesBradshaw Tank
Oak Spring Canyon
Whiterock Spring
Polk Spring
East Verde River
East Verde River
Brush Springs
Seeps
TrailheadsNorth: Passage 26 at Pine Trailhead (AZ-87)
Midpoint: FR 194
South: East Verde River (south). Inaccessible to cars
North: East Verde River (north). Inaccessible to cars (4 mile hike from accessible Doll Baby Ranch TH)
South: Red Hills Trail Junction
Trailhead AccessibilityNorth: Vehicular
Midpoint: Vehicular
South: Hiking only (4 mile hike from accessible Doll Baby Ranch TH)
North: Hiking only (4 mile hike from accessible Doll Baby Ranch TH)
South: Hiking only (5.75 mi hike from vehicle-accessible City Creek TH)
ATA-Rated DifficultyEasyStrenuous
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