Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Clear Creek to Mogollon Rim (Passage 28, Blue Ridge)

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 crossed Blue Ridge and dipped across the steep valley of East Clear Creek, dry at the crossing. I was told that there may be water in one direction near the crossing but didn’t need it and therefore didn’t check. Climbing out the other side, the northern aspect of the slope is apparent – while ponderosas covered the southern slope opposite, the northern one featured Douglas fir and blue spruce. Obviously the different sides show different microclimates depending on the sun aspect, the temperature and moisture levels on each side given the orientation and angle of the slope. The trail rises back to the ponderosa forests on the Mogollon Plateau and traverses them, the site of my first human sighting in 3 days, then reaches General Springs Canyon. Dipping into General Springs Canyon, silence and quiet take hold. I passed a nice campsite near the end of General Springs Canyon, but the pools nearby were still frozen at the end of the day, suggesting it would get colder in the canyon overnight (and that solar exposure during the day was limited) than on the Rim, so I continued forward to the rim itself. Lights can be seen in the distance, but I’m not sure which town. Likely Pine or Strawberry. Tomorrow begins the descent off the rim at long last.

Climbing out of Clear Creek, hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Cooler and tamper conditions on the north-facing walls of Clear Creek Canyon are evidenced by the flora growing there, like this young spruce spotted backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
The flora on the north-facing wall of Clear Creek Canyon is better attempted to cooler and wetter conditions than that on the south-facing canyon wall which was more adapted to sun and warmer temperatures
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Massive strands of lichen, reminiscent of Spanish moss, drape off the ponderosas on the north wall of Clear Creek
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Back on the plateau section south of Clear Creek, backpacking through the ponderosas once more
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa forest on the south side of Clear Creek, hiking on the AZT across the Mogollon Plateau
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through ponderosa forest on the south side of Clear Creek on the Mogollon Plateau
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking into General Springs Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Backpacking through the bottom of General Springs Canyon, evening
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Frozen pools show the microclimates at the bottom of General Springs Canyon. The orientation and depth of the Canyon, combined with the season, mean that these pools have not melted even after a full day.
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
General Springs Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Moon over General Springs Canyon
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
More legacy of the wet spring, now dried out from the summer
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino National Forest
Moon over the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Coconino 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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Passage 28 (Blue Ridge)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack
Length (Mi)15.4
SeasonAll year, but snow can make sections impassable in winter.
Potential Water SourcesBlue Ridge Ranger Station (292 SOBO, 496.7 NOBO)
Elk Tank (292.9 SOBO, 495.7 NOBO)
Blue Ridge Campground (293.4 SOBO, 495.3 NOBO)
Rock Crossing Campground (297 SOBO, 491.7 NOBO)
East Clear Creek/Blue Ridge Reservoir (298.7 SOBO, 490 NOBO)
Stock Tank (299.6 SOBO, 489.2 NOBO)
General Springs Canyon (306 SOBO, 482.7 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: AZ-87
South: Mogollon Rim at Colonel Devin Trail
Trailhead AccessNorth: Vehicular access (paved road)
South: Vehicular access (Graded dirt road)
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsNone
ATA-Rated DifficultyModerate
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Various LNT-compatible sites, particularly south of Blue Ridge Reservoir, within General Springs Canyon & on Mogollon Rim
HazardsHeat – wear a cotton shirt so you can soak it. Synthetics aren’t great in the desert.

Hyponatremia – “drunk on water.” To avoid, ensure adequate salt & electrolyte intake and ensure you eat as well as drink water. Symptoms are almost identical to dehydration, but drinking more makes it worse. Prevention is by far the best solution.

Dehydration

Lightning
Ecosystems TraversedRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
HighlightsBlue Ridge reservoir crossing for ecological diversity
Largest ponderosa pine forest in world
General Springs Canyon
Mogollon Rim
Permits Required?No
Cell service?Limited. Top of Blue Ridge and south end of passage at Mogollon Rim is best.
Passage 28 Logistics (sources: personal experience, Guthook Guides, ATA Guide to the AZT)
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Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Common Trees/Shrubs* 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* 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
Passage 31 & 33 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 38 – Blue Ridge Ranger Station to Mogollon Rim (Passage 28, Blue Ridge)

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

Managed to push through the entire Blue Ridge Passage today, one of my best days on the trail. I left the Blue Ridge Ranger Station this morning and headed south for the Rim. Saw a herd of elk near the Blue Ridge Campground and Elk Tank while climbing Blue Ridge itself. The trail also passed through an active prescribed burn, though it was low intensity so probably not considered a public hazard at this point. I’m familiar with them anyway, having worked as a PIO (public informations officer) on one over the summer at Grand Canyon. The trail crossed Blue Ridge and dipped across the steep valley of East Clear Creek, dry at the crossing.

Elk Tank, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Burn area, seen backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Arizona Trail heading into the pines again, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Elk are a bit more shy here! Herd spotted backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
AZT passing through a burn area, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Hiking up Blue Ridge, first major climb of day
AZT passing through a burn area
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
View back north to San Francisco Peaks from Blue Ridge
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
North view from Blue Ridge with wildfire smoke drifting across sky
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Backpacking across Blue Ridge on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
South view at hiking break, toward Mogollon Rim and Mazatzal Mountains
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Horned Lizard spotted backpacking south on AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Traversing Blue Ridge through ponderosa, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa forests atop Blue Ridge, backpacking south on the AZT
Recent burn came through here (evidenced by burn marks on lower portions of trunk – normal for healthy ponderosa forests, clearing out underbrush).
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Giant ponderosa atop Blue Ridge, hiking south on the AZT
Recent burn came through here (evidenced by burn marks on lower portions of trunk – normal for healthy ponderosa forests, clearing out underbrush).
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa forests atop Blue Ridge, hiking south on the AZT
Recent burn came through here (evidenced by burn marks on lower portions of trunk – normal for healthy ponderosa forests, clearing out underbrush).
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa forests atop Blue Ridge, backpacking south on the AZT
Recent burn came through here (evidenced by burn marks on lower portions of trunk – normal for healthy ponderosa forests, clearing out underbrush).
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Ponderosa forests atop Blue Ridge, hiking south on the AZT
Recent burn came through here (evidenced by burn marks on lower portions of trunk – normal for healthy ponderosa forests, clearing out underbrush).
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Gamble oaks in fall foliage, descending off Blue Ridge to Clear Creek Reservoir
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Clear Creek Reservoir crossing
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest

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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 27 (Blue Ridge)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack
Length (Mi)15.4
SeasonSpring-Fall
Potential Water SourcesBlue Ridge Ranger Station (mi 292.0 SOBO/496.7 NOBO)
Elk Tank/FR 135D (mi 266.7 SOBO/495.9 NOBO)
Blue Ridge Campground (mi 293.4 SOBO/495.3 NOBO)
Rock Crossing Campground (297.0 SOBO/491.7 NOBO)
East Clear Creek (mi 298.7 SOBO/490 NOBO)
Stock Tank (mi 299.6 SOBO/489.2 NOBO)
General Springs Canyon (mi 306.0 SOBO/482.7 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: AZ-87 (mi 262.6 SOBO/526.1 NOBO)
South: Mogollon Rim (mi 292.1 SOBO, 496.7 NOBO)
Trailhead AccessNorth: Paved road
South: Graded dirt road
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsNone
DifficultyModerate
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Various LNT-compatible locations throughout
ThreatsHeat – wear a cotton shirt so you can soak it. Synthetics aren’t great in the desert.

Hypothermia – nights are generally about 30°F cooler than days in Arizona regardless of the time of year. Consider this in packing gear. Mornings can be cool year-round.

Hyponatremia – “drunk on water.” To avoid, ensure adequate salt & electrolyte intake and ensure you eat as well as drink water. Symptoms are almost identical to dehydration, but drinking more makes it worse. Prevention is by far the best solution.

Dehydration

Lightning
Permits Required? No
Cell service?Limited
Ecosystems traversedRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Forest
HighlightsLargest ponderosa forest in world
Mogollon Rim, southern boundary of Colorado Plateau
Ecological diversity on slopes of Clear Creek
Sources: Personal experience, Guthook Guides & ATA Guide to the Arizona Trail.
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Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Common Trees/Shrubs* 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* 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
Passage 31 & 33 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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