Fossil Springs Wilderness – Flume Trail

For those who may have missed it yesterday, Fossil Springs 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. The next few entries will follow the loop from the eastern Fossil Springs Trailhead through Fossil Canyon along the Flume Trail to the Fossil Creek Bridge, then returning to the start along Fossil Creek Road (FR 708) with a spur on the Waterfall Trail. I did the full loop in a day but one could easy split it into two and I’d recommend that for less experienced hikers or those who are just out for a weekend to give yourself a bit more time to soak it in. Today’s entry will cover the eastern segment of the loop, running along the Fossil Springs Trail from the Bob Bear (Fossil Springs) Trailhead 3 miles west of Strawberry to Fossil Creek Dam.

Two important things to recognize about the full loop: permits are required to park at the trailheads from April 1-October 30, and FR 708 (Fossil Creek Road) is closed from just below the Waterfall Trailhead to Just west of the Bob Bear Trailhead, so plan your starting point and route to get there in advance with that in mind and be aware it’s not easy to get from one side to the other by car. You can, however, walk or bike the closed stretch of road. It is a long, sustained climb up the canyon wall, as we’ll see tomorrow – so consider that if doing the full loop as well. Some might prefer to go down the road first and up the shorter but steeper trail at the end. Or if you started at the bottom (Fossil Creek Bridge) you could go up the road or trail first, depending on your preferred method of ascent. Just remember, again – once you go to one of the two trailheads, that’s where you’ll be starting. Note, too, that Google says Fossil Creek Road between the Irving & Fossil Creek (Bob Bear) trailheads is closed April-October, but in fact it is closed indefinitely due to hazardous driving conditions on the road.

General things to know about this hike before we launch in:

Flume TrailFossil Creek Wilderness Loop
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrackDirt (75% singletrack, 25% road)
Type of hikeOut-and-backLoop
Length (mi)4.6 one-way About 20 miles
Elevation Change (ft)8231625
SeasonAll yearAll year
Potential Water SourcesFossil Springs
Fossil Creek
Fossil Springs
Fossil Creek
TrailheadsFossil Springs – Irving TrailheadBob Bear Trailhead
Fossil Springs – Irving Trailhead
Permits required?Yes, seasonallyYes, seasonally

From the Fossil Springs diversion dam remnants, the Flume Trail begins and heads down Fossil Canyon. The Diversion Dam, as the name suggests, diverted water from Fossil Creek into flumes that carried it four miles down Canyon to the Irving Powerhouse; these flumes were calibrated to drop 1 ft of elevation for every 1000 ft in distance in order to develop the requisite hydraulic gradient for power generation.

Fossil Springs diversion dam waterfall, viewed hiking through the wilderness area
Fossil Creek Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fossil Springs diversion dam interpretive sign, viewed backpacking through the wilderness area
Fossil Creek Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Flume interpretive sign, viewed hiking through the wilderness area
Fossil Creek Wilderness
Coconino National Forest

The trail follows the route of this old flume that used to carry water from the diversion dam down to the hydroelectric plants located further downstream in areas that were more accessible and easier to build in than the area around the dam itself. The trail rises high above the valley floor as its elevation drops at a much more gradual rate compared to the floor of the canyon, providing fantastic views without impacting the fragile riparian zone within the Canyon.

Fossil Creek riparian zone from Flume Trail above, viewed backpacking through the wilderness area
Fossil Creek Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fossil Canyon, downcanyon view, viewed hiking through the wilderness area
Fossil Creek Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fossil Creek riparian zone from Flume Trail above, viewed backpacking through the wilderness area
Fossil Creek Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fossil Canyon, upcanyon view, viewed hiking through the wilderness area
Fossil Creek Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Flume Trail, view backpacking through the wilderness area
Fossil Creek Wilderness
Coconino National Forest

The trail ultimately steadily descends to the canyon floor in a wider section and passes by the remains of the old powerplant that was located here. (If you are heading in the opposite direction, that will be your major climb on the trail.) A concrete ford of the creek itself crosses over to the parking lot – this appears to be a popular spot for cooling off; a family was splashing around. You’ll probably have to take your shoes off for this crossing. Once across, I took the chance to soak my feet in the water a while here and found a nice cascade just downstream as well. From here, the trail rises to the parking lot. Tomorrow we will cover the final leg, including the Waterfall Trail and the return on the closed stretch of Fossil Creek Road (FR 708).

Crystal clear Fossil Creek under fall foliage at crossing between parking area & old Irving powerplant site, viewed hiking through the wilderness area
Fossil Creek Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Cascades just downstream of old crossing between parking area and Irving powerplant site, viewed backpacking through the wilderness area
Fossil Creek Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Cascades just downstream of old crossing between parking area and Irving powerplant site, viewed hiking through the wilderness area
Fossil Creek Wilderness
Coconino National Forest

Does Fossil Creek help brighten your day in these times? If so, let me know in the comments below! See you tomorrow for more tracks!

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National Park Quest: Tonto National Monument

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 – 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.

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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.

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Fossil Creek Wilderness Loop
Trail SurfaceDirt (75% singletrack, 25% road)
Length (mi)About 20 miles
Elevation Change (ft)1625
SeasonAll year
Potential Water SourcesFossil Springs
Fossil Creek
TrailheadsBob Bear Trailhead
Fossil Springs – Irving Trailhead
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Fossil Springs Wilderness – Fossil Springs Trail

Fossil Springs 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. The next few entries will follow the loop from the eastern Fossil Springs Trailhead through Fossil Canyon along the Flume Trail to the Fossil Creek Bridge, then returning to the start along Fossil Creek Road (FR 708) with a spur on the Waterfall Trail. I did the full loop in a day but one could easy split it into two and I’d recommend that for less experienced hikers or those who are just out for a weekend to give yourself a bit more time to soak it in. Today’s entry will cover the eastern segment of the loop, running along the Fossil Springs Trail from the Bob Bear (Fossil Springs) Trailhead 3 miles west of Strawberry to Fossil Creek Dam.

Two important things to recognize about the full loop: permits are required to park at the trailheads from April 1-October 30, and FR 708 (Fossil Creek Road) is closed from just below the Waterfall Trailhead to Just west of the Bob Bear Trailhead, so plan your starting point and route to get there in advance with that in mind and be aware it’s not easy to get from one side to the other by car. You can, however, walk or bike the closed stretch of road. It is a long, sustained climb up the canyon wall, as we’ll see tomorrow – so consider that if doing the full loop as well. Some might prefer to go down the road first and up the shorter but steeper trail at the end. Or if you started at the bottom (Fossil Creek Bridge) you could go up the road or trail first, depending on your preferred method of ascent. Just remember, again – once you go to one of the two trailheads, that’s where you’ll be starting.

General things to know about this hike before we launch in:

Fossil Springs TrailFossil Springs Wilderness Loop
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack Dirt (75% singletrack, 25% road)
Type of hikeOut & backLoop
Length (mi)4.6 mi one-wayAbout 20 miles
Elevation Change (ft)14261625
SeasonAll yearAll year
Potential Water SourcesFossil Springs
Fossil Creek
Fossil Springs
Fossil Creek
TrailheadsBob Bear Trailhead, unless combined with Flume TrailBob Bear Trailhead
Fossil Springs – Irving Trailhead
Permits required?Yes, seasonallyYes, seasonally

The trail descends from the Fossil Springs trailhead to the bottom of Fossil Canyon, a 1600 ft deep canyon carved over time into the Mogollon Rim. Upon reaching the canyon floor, it passes a junction with the Mail Trail, which ascends the Mogollon Rim (honestly, this would be a sweet potential alternate route for the AZT) and then traces the Canyon to reach the former site of the Fossil Springs Diversion Dam.

Fossil Canyon, upcanyon view
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fossil Canyon, upcanyon view
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Descending into Fossil Canyon, view back up to Mogollon Rim
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Descending into Fossil Canyon, view back up to Mogollon Rim
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Pools in Fossil Canyon
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
View to Mogollon Rim from bottom of Fossil Canyon
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Diverse vegetation in Fossil Canyon, including yucca
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fossil Canyon, upcanyon view back toward Mogollon Rim
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fall alive and well in the diverse riparian zone within Fossil Canyon
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fall alive and well in the diverse riparian zone within Fossil Canyon
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest

The Diversion Dam, as the name suggests, diverted water from Fossil Creek into flumes that carried it four miles down Canyon to the Irving Powerhouse, built in a much more accessible spot; these flumes were calibrated to drop 1 ft of elevation for every 1000 ft in distance in order to develop the requisite hydraulic gradient for power generation. The dam was built in 1916, entirely by hand at 25 ft tall and 5 ft thick; it makes for a great waterfall today with the top 11 ft removed to allow the creek to flow freely again. On the opposite bank from the trail, but accessible by a spur trail, is a natural feature called the Toilet Bowl, a rounded out area of the rocks separated by a rock wall from the main channel of the creek, but with an underground connection between the two – so in a sense, anything that ends up in the “bowl” winds up being “flushed” into the main channel. Swimming in the Bowl is not recommended. Foundations related to the flume or dam structures are nearby as well, and travertine formations abound, encasing fossils within – hence the name of the area.

Waterfall at remains of Fossil Creek Diversion Dam
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Waterfall at remains of Fossil Creek Diversion Dam
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Waterfall at remains of Fossil Creek Diversion Dam, panorama
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Remains of structure associated with the Fossil Springs Diversion Dam
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
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Fossil Creek Dam waterfall
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fossil Creek, downstream view from site of former Fossil Creek Diversion Dam
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fall in riparian zone along Fossil Creek
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest

Meanwhile, the trail takes its name from Fossil Springs itself. Releasing 20,000 gallons/minute – or 30 million gallons daily – into the Canyon at 70°F, they are prolific and can be witnessed close to the main trail.

Fossil Springs
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fall in riparian zone along Fossil Creek
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fossil Creek Dam mistbow
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Waterfall at remains of Fossil Springs Diversion Dam
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Waterfall & rainbow at remains of Fossil Creek Diversion Dam
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
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Fall in riparian zone along Fossil Creek
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fall in riparian zone along Fossil Creek
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fall in riparian zone along Fossil Creek
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fall in riparian zone along Fossil Creek
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fall in riparian zone along Fossil Creek
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
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Crystal clear water at Fossil Springs, source of Fossil Creek
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Fall in riparian zone along Fossil Creek
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest
Waterfall at Fossil Creek Diversion Dam
Fossil Springs Wilderness
Coconino National Forest

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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 47: 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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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 41, Part III – Highline Trail (Passage 27, Highline)

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 Arizona Trail following the Highline continues its route around Milk Ranch Point, passing some artifacts – perhaps ranching or mining related, as many seem to be in Arizona. Magnificent views to the south are common, with the Mazatzal Mountains an ever-increasing sight to the southeast. There’s more evidence of bear scat, but still no evidence of a bear itself. Pine Spring and Red Rock Spring are passed, and the trail rounds the point, providing a view down into Pine. Hardscrabble Mesa rises behind to the south. The trail begins a steady descent to the Pine Trailhead, from where it is a couple mile walk into the town of Pine itself. After several weeks since Flagstaff, I head straight for That Brewery, which my friend at the Canyon recommended to me. It’s time to get some real food. They also let us thruhikers camp on their volleyball court, as it turns out, which is a big help. I’ll be taking a zero here tomorrow in order to pick up a resupply box.

Historical artifacts, seen hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Historical artifacts, seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Fall foliage, seen hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Fall foliage, seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
AZT among ironwood astride Milk Ranch Point
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
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South panorama from AZT hiking on Milk Ranch Point. Mazatzal Mountains at right.
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Stone boulders seen backpacking along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Bear scat, seen hiking along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim, seen backpacking below along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mazatzal Mountains, viewed hiking along the AZT below the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
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Hardscrabble Mesa and Mogollon Rim, viewed backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Pine Valley, including Hardscrabble Mesa (left) and Mogollon Rim (right), seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim & Prickly Pear Cacti, seen hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest

Walnut tree, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Fall foliage, seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
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Fall foliage, seen hiking along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Fall foliage, seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
The AZT heads toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 26 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest

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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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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Pine Ridge to FR 194 (Passage 26, Whiterock 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.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Pine to Pine Ridge (Passage 25, Whiterock Mesa)

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.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 41, Part II – Highline Trail (Passage 27, Highline)

Having filled up on water and eaten lunch, the trail ascends from Webber Creek and the Geronimo Trailhead toward Milk Ranch Point, jutting out from the Mogollon Rim. This is a much more consistently wooded & shaded stretch that appears to have been spared by the Dude Fire of 1990 and February Fire (2006). It also seems to be wetter here – there are still touches of green in the ferns as the trail ascends. Gamble oaks, maple and ponderosa dominate the trail through this stretch, and the light filtering through the canopy and the leaves is magical.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 40-41 – Highline Trail (Passage 27, Highline)

The trail continues to roll across the eroded foothills of the Mogollon Rim, the impressive and distinctive southern boundary of the Colorado Plateau, where the elevation jumps around 4000 ft in elevation. The Highline continues to define itself as a diverse landscape where the species of the desert below and the pine forests above mingle.

The Mazatzal Mountains – the next major hurdle once I make it to Pine – loom in the distance as well, and ironwood line the more open stretches of path across the Highline, where the Dude Fire burned the forest in 1990.

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Passage 26 (Highline)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack
Length (Mi)20.2
SeasonSpring-Fall
Potential Water SourcesEast Verde River (mi 309.2 SOBO/479.6 NOBO)
Creek (mi 311.9 SOBO/476.8 NOBO)
Chase Creek (mi 312.6 SOBO/476.1 NOBO)
North Sycamore Creek (314.1 SOBO/474.7 NOBO)
Bray Creek (mi 315.4 SOBO/473.3 NOBO)
Bear Spring (mi 316.8 SOBO/472.0 NOBO)
Pine Spring (mi 322.1 SOBO/466.6 NOBO)
Red Rock Spring (mi 323.2 SOBO/465.6 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Mogollon Rim (mi 292.1 SOBO, 496.7 NOBO)
South: AZ-87 near Pine (mi 328.1 SOBO, 460.6 NOBO)
Trailhead AccessNorth: Graded dirt road
South: Paved road
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsPine
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
HighlightsMogollon Rim, southern boundary of Colorado Plateau
Fall foliage
Ecological diversity
Extensive views
Sources: Personal experience, Guthook Guides & ATA Guide to the Arizona Trail.
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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
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 – Highline Trail, Part II (Passage 27, Highline)

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

Day 39 on the Arizona Trail continues. The Arizona Trail continues west toward Pine, curving around parts of the Mogollon Rim that reach out, and segments that sit farther back, rolling across the eroded foothills beneath the parapets that’s tower overhead. The diverse plants continue to amaze. How often do you find blue spruce growing next to agave cactus! Remarkable how many microclimates there are in this area that vary depending on aspect (the direction the slope points), elevation, sun angle, and proximity to water, as the trail passes a number of springs and streams that flow off the rim. As I observed in the last section, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite passages so far. The diversity of the species encountered, the magnificent views of the Mogollon reminiscent of hiking within Grand Canyon and looking up at the rim, and the views off the foothills toward the next major challenge – the Mazatzal Mountains – combine for an incredible experience. As usual, as the sun sets I spot a relatively flat camping spot with a good view of sunset and sunrise alike, since the light on the Rim in the golden hours is nothing short of spectacular.

Mogollon Rim, hiking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim, backpacking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim, hiking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Douglas fir, seen backpacking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
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Mogollon Rim, view hiking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Diverse flora below the Mogollon Rim, seen backpacking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Diverse flora below the Mogollon Rim, seen hiking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
AZT SOBO, backpacking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
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Moon above the AZT SOBO, hiking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim, backpacking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim, hiking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim, backpacking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim, hiking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
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Mogollon Rim, backpacking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Mountains, hiking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Sunset along the Mogollon Rim, Southeast view from the Highline; backpacking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
South view from the Highline at sunset, including the Mazatzal Mountains (right); view hiking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
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Mogollon Rim at sunset; view backpacking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Moon over the Mogollon; view hiking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mazatzal Mountains at sunset from the Highline; view backpacking west on the AZT toward Pine
Arizona Trail, Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Sunset on the AZT hiking west toward Pine
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
343 miles of backpacking down, 482 to go.
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Highline Trail, Part II (Passage 27, Highline)

The Arizona Trail continues west toward Pine, curving around parts of the Mogollon Rim that reach out, and segments that sit farther back, rolling across the eroded foothills beneath the parapets that’s tower overhead. The diverse plants continue to amaze. How often do you find blue spruce growing next to agave cactus!

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

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 GSC, 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.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 38 – Blue Ridge Ranger Station to Mogollon Rim (Passage 28, Blue Ridge)

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.

Arizona Trail, Day 36 – Passage 29 (Happy Jack)

The low last night was projected to be 12º, the coldest night yet on the trail, and I would say that may well have been accurate. Fortunately I came prepared for such conditions. Today I will be one of the first to walk the full new Happy Jack passage routing south of Shuff Tank.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Mormon Lake to Shuff Tank (Day 34; Passages 29 & 28, Mormon Lake & Happy Jack)

It’s brutally cold this morning, notably because of the strong wind that whips across the clearing to the west. Not setting up the tent last night was a mistake. I ultimately fill up for the last time at Navajo Spring and run into a few dayhikers who have completed over 300 miles of the trail themselves. Two of them are the Grouper and the Oracle. I continue south, aiming for Gooseberry Springs TH and Passage 29, Happy Jack.

Arizona Trail, Day 33 – Mormon Lake Zero

It’s cold and raw after the rain the night before. I walk about 3 miles up the road to Double Springs and then use the AZT to get back to my prior campsite to grab the sleeping pad, then retrace my steps again. Did it hail up here?

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Passage 26 (Highline)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack
Length (Mi)20.2
SeasonSpring-Fall
Potential Water SourcesEast Verde River (mi 309.2 SOBO/479.6 NOBO)
Creek (mi 311.9 SOBO/476.8 NOBO)
Chase Creek (mi 312.6 SOBO/476.1 NOBO)
North Sycamore Creek (314.1 SOBO/474.7 NOBO)
Bray Creek (mi 315.4 SOBO/473.3 NOBO)
Bear Spring (mi 316.8 SOBO/472.0 NOBO)
Pine Spring (mi 322.1 SOBO/466.6 NOBO)
Red Rock Spring (mi 323.2 SOBO/465.6 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Mogollon Rim (mi 292.1 SOBO, 496.7 NOBO)
South: AZ-87 near Pine (mi 328.1 SOBO, 460.6 NOBO)
Trailhead AccessNorth: Graded dirt road
South: Paved road
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsPine
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
HighlightsMogollon Rim, southern boundary of Colorado Plateau
Fall foliage
Ecological diversity
Extensive views
Sources: Personal experience, Guthook Guides & ATA Guide to the Arizona Trail.
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Highline Trail, Part I (Passage 27, Highline)

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

Day 39 on the Arizona Trail continues. At Washington Park, the Arizona Trail joins the Highline National Recreation Trail (the namesake of the AZT passage here.) The trail turns west and begins to roll along the eroded foothills of the Mogollon Rim, with diverse plants that vary depending on aspect (the direction the slope points), elevation, sun angle, and proximity to water, as the trail passes a number of springs and streams that flow off the rim. Even seemingly subtle shifts change the species represented. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite passages so far. The diversity of the species encountered, the magnificent views of the Mogollon reminiscent of hiking within Grand Canyon and looking up at the rim, the brilliant red earth contrasting with the blue sky and green plants, and the views off the foothills toward the next major challenge – the Mazatzal Mountains – combine for an incredible experience.

Backpacking westbound on the Arizona Trail across the Highline. Mogollon Rim in distance.
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim above the ironwoods, brush grass and pines, hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim above the ironwoods, brush grass and pines, view backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim above the ironwoods, brush grass and pines, view hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Arizona Trail westbound; Mogollon Rim rising above. View backpacking the AZT.
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim, seen from the Highline above diverse plants. View hiking the AZT.
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Arizona Trail through diverse flora communities; view backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Blue Spruce, seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail SOBO
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Array of trees along the Highline – oaks, pines, spruce, seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Gamble oak in fall colors, seen hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Gamble oak in fall colors, seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim through the pines from the Highline, view hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Pines and oaks along the Highline, view backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline, view hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Blue Spruce, indicative of cooler, wetter microclimate; spotted backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Diverse plant communities along the Highline; spotted hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
How many different plants can you name in these images?
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline, view backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline, view hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline, view backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline, view backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
South-facing slopes are sparser in vegetation, and those growing here are acclimated to warmer, drier temps; view hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim peeks above the vegetation, view backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline (AZT)
Again, you can see the vegetation change as the slope tilts toward the prevailing sun
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest
Mogollon Rim from the Highline, viewed hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27 (Highline)
Tonto National Forest

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Arizona Trail, Day 31 – Anderson Mesa to Double Springs (Passages 30, Anderson Mesa & 29, Mormon Lake)

There is a lot of cool railroad history west of Lake Mary Road, the trail follows an old logging railroad grade for much of the route and in places the ties are still visible. Very cool. The forest turns into a dense mixed conifer and I have a chance encounter with a mountain biker named Chris who recently moved here from Idaho. We talk about the trail ahead and some I’m looking at doing in Idaho.

Arizona Trail, Day 30 – Anderson Mesa (Passages 31 and 30, Walnut Canyon and Mormon Lake)

The trail reaches Lowell Observatory’s Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI). The NPOI measures precise relative positions of stars in the sky for the Naval Observatory to use as reference when determining geographic positions of locations on both Earth and in space, as well as for use in timekeeping. Over four football fields long, it uses a six-mirror array directing multiple light beams from a star to a single point, enhancing image detail and separating stars that are so close that even the largest conventional telescopes cannot separate them visually. Near the NPOI is an excellent view of Upper Lake Mary in the valley of Walnut Creek below, after which the trail continues across Anderson Mesa.

After reaching Horse Lake, I make camp for the night. The sky is black as coal and the night is filled with coyotes howling.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 29 – Flagstaff to Anderson Mesa (Passages 31 & 33, Flagstaff & Walnut Canyon)

Welcome back to Aspen’s Tracks, thruhiking the Arizona Trail from Utah to Mexico. After doing a full resupply yesterday to get me through to Pine, where my next box has been shipped, and replacing some gear, including a new pair of boots and new sleeping pad, today started with breakfast with Oscar at Tourist Home, … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 29 – Flagstaff to Anderson Mesa (Passages 31 & 33, Flagstaff & Walnut Canyon)

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Arizona Trail Thruhike, Day 26: Passage 31 (Walnut Canyon), Part 2 (Arizona/Utah Day 33)

The ponderosas are dense throughout, and their reddish bark glows in the light that filters through the green needles. The gambel oaks continue to impress along the route as well, adding splashes of yellow, red, and orange to the green ponderosa woodlands. The trail crosses two spur trails leading to overlooks with more magnificent views of the canyon.

Arizona Trail, Day 26: Passage 31 – Walnut Canyon (Arizona/Utah Day 33)

The trail crosses FR 303, Old Walnut Canyon Road, and heads west toward Flagstaff. Rolling in and out of drainages, It traces the rim of Walnut Canyon in places, and veers away into the woods in others. Heading west, the forest transitions back to the ponderosas, rolling up and down through drainages. The ponderosas are dense throughout, and their reddish bark glows in the light that filters through the green needles. The gambel oaks continue to impress along the route as well, adding splashes of yellow, red, and orange to the green ponderosa woodlands. The trail crosses two spur trails leading to overlooks with more magnificent views of the canyon. Both well worth the minor extra mileage and time.

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Passage 26 (Highline)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack
Length (Mi)20.2
SeasonSpring-Fall
Potential Water SourcesEast Verde River (mi 309.2 SOBO/479.6 NOBO)
Creek (mi 311.9 SOBO/476.8 NOBO)
Chase Creek (mi 312.6 SOBO/476.1 NOBO)
North Sycamore Creek (314.1 SOBO/474.7 NOBO)
Bray Creek (mi 315.4 SOBO/473.3 NOBO)
Bear Spring (mi 316.8 SOBO/472.0 NOBO)
Pine Spring (mi 322.1 SOBO/466.6 NOBO)
Red Rock Spring (mi 323.2 SOBO/465.6 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Mogollon Rim (mi 292.1 SOBO, 496.7 NOBO)
South: AZ-87 near Pine (mi 328.1 SOBO, 460.6 NOBO)
Trailhead AccessNorth: Graded dirt road
South: Paved road
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsPine
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
HighlightsMogollon Rim, southern boundary of Colorado Plateau
Fall foliage
Ecological diversity
Extensive views
Sources: Personal experience, Guthook Guides & ATA Guide to the Arizona Trail.
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Mogollon Rim to Highline Trail (Passage 27, Highline)

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

Day 39 on the Arizona Trail. It’s another chilly morning, camped directly on the Mogollon Rim. I’ll be dropping several thousand feet today to the base. I make a short deviation back to General Springs Cabin and spot a historical sign relating to a local conflict between early settlers and native Apaches. (There’s another marker for the same battle further north, by the canyon that passed through on Clear Creek yesterday.) After checking out the cabin and packing up, it’s time to head down off the rim. The descent passes a cool railroad tunnel on a short spur, and since the temperature warms as the elevation drops, fall is still lingering on the descent. A sizeable stream, the start of the East Verde River, also runs along the trail all the way down to Washington Park at the base.

The East Verde is the second of four rivers crossed by the Arizona Trail, and the only one to be crossed twice. I’ll encounter it again in a few days starting the ascent into the Mazatzal Mountains. (The other three rivers are the Colorado, in Grand Canyon; the Salt, east of Phoenix, splitting the Mazatzals and the Superstition Mountains; and the Gila, southeast of Phoenix in Pinal County.)

At this point, the trail completes its lengthy traverse of the Coconino National Forest (which the trail had passed through almost exclusively since north of the San Francisco Peaks) and enters the Tonto National Forest. More to come tomorrow about the beginning of the traverse across the magnificent Highline Trail from Washington Park to Pine, with its incredible views of the Mogollon Rim.

Relive Video for today
Morning light on the ponderosa forests of the Mogollon Rim, hiking the AZT south
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Morning light on the ponderosa forests of the Mogollon Rim
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Battle of the Big Dry Wash historical marker on the trail where it hits the Mogollon Rim. The actual site is in the vicinity of where I crossed Clear Creek yesterday. The inscription reads “Seven miles north of this point a band of Apache Indians were defeated by United States troops on July 17, 1862. A group of tribesmen from the San Carlos Apache Reservation has attacked some ranches in the vicinity, killing several settlers. Cavalry and Indian scouts were immediately sent into the field in search of the hostile a. Five troops of cavalry and one trip of Indian scouts converged on the Apaches. Surrounding them at the Big Dry Wash, the resistance of the Indians was broken after four hours of stubborn fighting. The casualties numbered two soldiers and more than twenty Apaches.”
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
General Springs Cabin. A USFS sign reads, “Built in 1918 by Louis Fisher and used for years as a fire guard station, a small spring near here was named after General George Crook, who uses the spring while traveling the old Fort Apache-Camp Verde Military Road.”
Arizona Trail Passage 28, Blue Ridge
Coconino National Forest
Beginning the descent off the Mogollon Rim. 2 miles to the bottom, 481 to Mexico. Backpacking south on the AZT.
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Coconino National Forest/Tonto National Forest border
View south off the Mogollon Rim as the trail descends. Hiking south on the AZT.
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Corbin Canyon & the Mogollon Rim, backpacking south on the AZT.
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
View back up to the Mogollon after only a half mile or so of descending through Corbin Canyon, backpacking south on the AZT.
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
The Mineral Belt Railroad tunnel, just off the AZT below the Mogollon Rim; interior view. According to Hike Arizona, the MBR was intended to cross the state from north to south, from Nogales through Globe and across the Mogollon to the Utah border near Lee’s Ferry (my starting point for this hike). The tunnel was supposed to be 3100 ft; construction began in August 1883. It was never completed due to funding issues. But several yards excavated at the entrance remain.
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Railroad Tunnel Spur
Tonto National Forest
The Mineral Belt Railroad tunnel, just off the AZT below the Mogollon Rim; exterior view. According to Hike Arizona, the MBR was intended to cross the state from north to south, from Nogales through Globe and across the Mogollon to the Utah border near Lee’s Ferry (my starting point for this hike). The tunnel was supposed to be 3100 ft; construction began in August 1883. It was never completed due to funding issues. But several yards excavated at the entrance remain.
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Railroad Tunnel Spur
Tonto National Forest
The Mogollon Rim from Corbin Canyon, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
The Mogollon Rim from Corbin Canyon, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Small waterfalls on Mogollon Rim stream among golden leaves, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora – and intense greenery, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Crossing the East Verde River in Corbin Canyon, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora, hiking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest
Fall on the canyons of the Mogollon Rim, among a diverse assortment of flora, backpacking south on the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 27, Highline
Tonto National Forest

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Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 4

This morning starts with a stop at my last national park in northern Arizona, Walnut Canyon National Monument. Walnut Canyon National Monument protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff.

Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 3

This morning starts with a stop at my last national park in northern Arizona, Walnut Canyon National Monument. Walnut Canyon National Monument protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff.

Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part II

Walnut Canyon National Monument, one of 420 national parks in the National Park System, protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff.

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Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part I

Walnut Canyon National Monument protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff.

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Arizona Trail, Day 24: Elden Mountain, Part 3 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 31)

Welcome back to Aspen’s Tracks, thruhiking the Arizona Trail from Utah to Mexico. I want to note that this hike was completed before the coronavirus pandemic arrived, but it has left me with quite a bit of time in quarantine to write up my experiences on the trail. Exiting the shadow of Elden Mountain, I … Continue reading Arizona Trail, Day 24: Elden Mountain, Part 3 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 31)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail: Schultz Pass (Passage 32, Elden Mountain)

The Arizona Trail wraps past golden oaks and aspens through Schultz Pass and innumerable drainages, then opens out to areas potentially impacted by the 1977 Radio Fire. Views of Elden Mountain open up, and I hike across US-89 through a tunnel, entering the Painted Canyon Preserve. Sunset clouds glow in the sky as I continue hiking south.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Mormon Lake to Shuff Tank (Day 34; Passages 29 & 28, Mormon Lake & Happy Jack)

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

It’s brutally cold this morning, notably because of the strong wind that whips across the clearing to the west. Not setting up the tent last night was a mistake. I ultimately fill up for the last time at Navajo Spring and run into a few dayhikers who have completed over 300 miles of the trail themselves. Two of them are the Grouper and the Oracle. I continue south, aiming for Gooseberry Springs TH and Passage 29, Happy Jack.

Ponderosa forest on the ridge above Mormon Lake in early light, backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Frost covers the ground this morning, setting out hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks continue to shine among ponderosa, seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through healthy ponderosa forest on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
If you needed any indication of air quality here, just look at the size of the lichen.
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest

The trail continues to pass evidence of the logging railroads that it follows in the area, particularly in the form of the grades that emerge. There is a memorial to someone by the name of Alvin Teague, adorned with horseshoes, atop one such grade. This seemed random at the time I passed, but such things rarely are, so I looked him up afterwards; apparently he was a World War II veteran who went on to work for the Forest Service for 34 years.

Old railroad grade backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Memorial to Alvin Teague, WWII veteran and 34-year public servant with US Forest Service
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Running along another railroad grade, hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Crossing another railroad
grade (Alvin Teague Memorial in center) while backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest

But railroad grades arent the only evidence of the past – at one area of rock outcrops where I stop to rest for a while, I find an immense collection of railroad artifacts. Please remember that all such items are protected by the Antiquities Act as part of our shared American heritage, so please leave them for others to enjoy as you do.

Historic artifacts from the days of the logging railroad surround this spot, spotted hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Historic artifacts from railroad logging days, spotted backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Stopped to rest From hiking at a spot covered in historic logging railroad artifacts
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Stopped to rest From backpacking at a spot covered in historic logging railroad artifacts
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest

The trail passes Van Deren Spring – which, if it is what I thought it was, looked little more than a mudpit at present. Continuing on, the trail crosses Lake Mary Road once again and enters the Mogollon Rim District of the Coconino National Forest at a gate. It is 20 miles to the Blue Ridge Reservoir from this point, though I am not sure if that signage accounts for the new reroute that I know is coming up on this stretch.

Crossing onto the Mogollon Ranger District, hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Another great example of healthy ponderosa forest and rice grass in the evening, backpacking along the Arizona Trail
AZT, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Another great example of healthy ponderosa forest and rice grass in the evening, hiking along the Arizona Trail
AZT, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Healthy ponderosa forest among rice grass meadows backpacking along the Arizona Trail
AZT, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Wind in the rice grass , or, shall we say, “amber waves of grain”
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest
Wind in the pines
Arizona Trail, Passage 30, Mormon Lake
Coconino National Forest

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Arizona Trail, Day 23: Flagstaff Zero (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 30)

Today is going to be a busy off day. I start it with a stop at Macy’s European Coffeehouse, an awesome breakfast place in downtown Flagstaff. They make particularly great waffles, but given the hiker hunger that all thruhikers suffer from, I add a smoothie and a breakfast sandwich for good measure today. I always make a point to stop here when I’m in Flag.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail: Dry Lake Hills to Flagstaff (Passage 33, Flagstaff)

The trail crosses to the flanks of Elden Mountain and continues to drop down toward Flagstaff. It crosses the Coconino National Forest border onto McMillan Mesa and into Buffalo Park, managed by Flagstaff. A wide rice grass meadow composes much of the park, crisscrossed with wide paths providing magnificent views of the San Francisco Peaks. Just magnificent, especially seen now in the late afternoon.

Arizona Trail, Day 22: Flagstaff, Part 2 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 28)

The gambel oaks are glorious with the light passing through the leaves, and the views of Elden Mountain – the other side of which was “apocalyptically burned” in the 1970s Radio Fire, according to my AZT guidebook – are spectacular. Mule deer graze among the rice grass and trees. The gambel oaks continue to look incredible. It’s amazing how as I progress south I seem to be seeing the progression of the foliage across different tree species as well as within the species. Makes for an ever changing and spectacular color display.

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Arizona Trail, Day 21, Part 2: Heart of the San Francisco Peaks (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 27)

The Arizona Trail continues through massive groves of mature aspen and across rice grass meadows below the San Francisco Peaks. Contouring around below Humphreys and Agassiz Peaks, the two highest in Arizona, the view of the Peaks themselves and the western San Francisco Volcanic Field, over to Kendrick Peak and Bill Williams Mountain near Williams, is wide-open and magnificent.

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Arizona Trail, Day 21: Heart of the San Francisco Peaks (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 27)

As the trail ascends again to traverse the mountain flank, the ponderosas transition further to aspens and mixed conifer forest again. These seem to be slightly past peak in places, but many are still quite magnificent. The trail passes through mature forest and rice grass meadows as it contours along the lower slopes of the mountains below Humphreys and Agassiz Peaks, the two highest peaks in Arizona. The weather is perfect, and the aspen leaves glow in the high elevation light. I’ll let some of their beauty again speak for themselves here, before continuing on in the next entry.

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Passage 29 (Mormon Lake)Passage 28 (Happy Jack)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack Dirt singletrack
Length (Mi)14.829.4
SeasonSpring-FallSpring-Fall
Potential Water SourcesMayflower Springs (mi 247.8 SOBO/540.9 NOBO)
Dairy Springs (mi 248.9 SOBO/539.8 NOBO)
Double Springs (mi 250.6 SOBO/538.1 NOBO)
Wallace Spring (mi 252.3 SOBO/536.4 NOBO)
Indian Springs (mi 255.0 SOBO/533.7 NOBO)
Mormon Lake Village (mi 255.0 SOBO/533.7 NOBO)
Spring/Tank (mi 257.6 SOBO/531.1 NOBO)
Van Deren Spring (mi 261.3 SOBO/527.4 NOBO)
Allan Lake Tank (mi 262 SOBO/526.7 NOBO)
Maxie Tank (mi 265.2 SOBO/540.9 NOBO)
Shuff Tank/FR 135D (mi 266.7 SOBO/539.8 NOBO)
Bargaman Park Tank (mi 270.7 SOBO/538.1 NOBO)
Pine Spring (mi 271.5 SOBO/536.4 NOBO), off trail
Wild Horse Tank (mi 274.2 SOBO/533.7 NOBO)
Dave’s Tank (mi 277.3 SOBO/533.7 NOBO), off trail
Gonzalez Tank (mi 279.3 SOBO/531.1 NOBO), off trail
Foot in Tree Tank (mi 281.5 SOBO/527.4 NOBO)
Homestead Tank (mi 284.3 SOBO/526.7 NOBO)
Sheepherders Tank (mi 285.2 SOBO/526.7 NOBO), off trail
Wochner Tank (mi 285.5 SOBO/526.7 NOBO)
Hay Meadow Tank (mi 291.5 SOBO/526.7 NOBO)
Blue Ridge Ranger Station, Forest Service (mi 292 SOBO/526.7 NOBO), off trail
TrailheadsNorth: Mayflower Spring (mi 247.8 SOBO, 540.9 NOBO)
South: Gooseberry Springs Trailhead (mi 262.6 SOBO/526.1 NOBO)
North: Gooseberry Springs Trailhead (mi 262.6 SOBO/526.1 NOBO)
South: Blue Ridge Trailhead (mi 292.1 SOBO, 496.7 NOBO)
Trailhead AccessNorth: Two track dirt road
South: Graded dirt road
North: Graded dirt road
South:
WildernessNoNo
Possible resupply pointsMormon Lake villageNone
DifficultyModerateModerate
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Dairy Springs Campground
Double Springs Campground
Indian Springs – excellent spot, wide flat camping area at the junction of the Indian Springs Trail to the village of Mormon Lake and the Arizona Trail
Numerous spots south of Mormon Lake as terrain flattens
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
Heat – 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? NoNo
Cell service?Limited Limited
Ecosystems traversedRocky Mountain Montane Conifer WoodlandRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
HighlightsMormon Lake
Mormon Lake village
Railroad history
Largest ponderosa forest in world
Largest ponderosa forest in world
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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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Double Springs to Mormon Lake (Day 32; Passage 30, Mormon Lake)

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

After packing up this morning, the trail works it’s way south around the lower slopes of Mormon Mountain before The hiker arrives at Double Springs campground. While it’s closed, there’s a nearby creek that I use to get a couple liters of water.

Gambel oaks hiking to Double Springs Campground
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks glow backpacking along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks hiking in fall foliage surrounding the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through gambel oaks in fall foliage in morning light
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
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Backpacking through gambel oaks in the light along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through gambel oaks and ponderosa pines in fall foliage surrounding the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Backpacking through gambel oaks among ponderosa pines in fall foliage
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest

Backpacking south the trail passes an overlook of the ridges and of Mormon Lake itself, Arizona’s largest natural lake. It’s low (it often dries up under drought conditions to become “Mormon Meadow”) but the spring was wet enough that it hasn’t disappeared. It’s so windy that I’m almost blown off the overlook and my glasses ARE blown off (thankfully I catch them before they fall).

Mormon Lake hiking view
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Mormon Lake backpacking view
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Mormon Lake hiking view
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Mormon Lake overlook spur hiking trail
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Mormon Lake overlook spur trail
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Mormon Lake overlook spur trail
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest

The trail continues south, passing more evidence of past logging railroads. A nearby interpretive sign reads as follows:

Loggers lived a dangerous and rough life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They spent long days in all kinds of weather felling massive ponderosa pines and skidding them to the railroads for transport to the saw mills. Their nights were spent in drafty bunkhouses without showers or running water. So what was it that kept them going – food, and lots of it.

The loggers that worked in these woods needed to eat between 6000 and 9000 calories a day to fuel their hard work. How about this grocery list for 45 men from a 1907 logging camp: one tub of lard, a sack of turnips, a sack of onions, a box of yeast, a case of cream, a barrel of sweet potatoes, seven sacks of potatoes, a case of peaches, a case of pears, two cases of eggs, a case of tomatoes, a barrel of apples, 112 pounds of cabbage, a case of corn, 22 pounds of cakes, 10 pounds of tea, 12 cases of strawberries, two barrels of flour, 15 cans of baking powder, and 300 pounds of beef. How long did it last? One week.

USFS interpretive sign

The trail ultimately leads to Navajo Spring, the last reliable good water source for a while. I take the opportunity to hike into Mormon Lake and get some real food at Mormon Lake Lodge. I also find and grab some things out of a hiker box at the store. Unfortunately I have to settle for Coors Lite when it comes to food and drink at the lodge, but a burger and some chili certainly help. A magnet from my Osprey pack gets lost in the shuffle; I leave a description and a phone number that I can be reached at in case it gets found. When I leave later, it’s raining so I end up spending the night on the covered porch of a closed building of the lodge. I also realize that I left my sleeping pad at the prior campsite, so I’ll have to get an early start tomorrow and get that.

Remnant logging railroad ties & spikes viewed hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
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Animal tracks – possibly coyote? Spotted backpacking the AZT.
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Coming and going
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Logging railroad ties and spikes
Arizona Trail Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Arriving at Mormon Lake, which has quite the population fluctuation!

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Arizona Trail, Day 18: Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 24)

Well, I’ve officially found my least favorite part of the trail so far. The first 5 miles today from Moqui Stage Station to the border of the Kaibab National Forest are nice…and then the views disappear and a long roadwalk down a valley begins where one crosses into the Babbit Ranch Passage (Passage 35). The … Continue reading Arizona Trail, Day 18: Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 24)

Arizona Trail, Day 17: Passage 36, Coconino Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 23)

Today began with a continuation of the southward trek along the Coconino Rim. The rolling hike along the rim of the Coconino Plateau passes through a combination of ponderosas and, through the trees, views off the plateau toward the Navajo Nation. As the trail rises slowly back to the top of the rim and heads … Continue reading Arizona Trail, Day 17: Passage 36, Coconino Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 23)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 15: Passage 37, Grand Canyon South Rim

Hiking across more limestone ridges on the Coconino Plateau past rice grass meadows, scrub, and pines with gambel oaks. The trail ultimately passes through an area that seems the subject of a recent prescribed burn shortly before I call it for the night. The oaks aren’t quite the aspens but they are putting on a good show as well.

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Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail: North Kaibab Trail, Roaring Springs to Ribbon Falls (Day 8 – Passage 38, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon)

In the land of ArizonaThrough desert heat or snowWinds a trail for folks to followFrom Utah to Old MexicoIt’s the Arizona TrailA pathway through the great SouthwestA diverse track through wood and stoneYour spirit it will testOh, sure you’ll sweat and blisterYou’ll feel the miles every dayYou’ll shiver at the lonelinessYour feet and seat will … Continue reading Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail: North Kaibab Trail, Roaring Springs to Ribbon Falls (Day 8 – Passage 38, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 8: Passage 38, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon, Part 1 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Day 15)

Grabbed a few things at the general store on the North Rim of Grand Canyon today, then packed up camp. The park has a number of special sites at the campground, available first-come, first-served, to those who hike or bike into the park. I then proceed over to the Backcountry Information Center, and get put … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 8: Passage 38, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon, Part 1 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Day 15)

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Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail: Grand Canyon National Park Boundary to Lindbergh Hill (Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim)

To the south lies the San Francisco volcanic field, topped by the majestic San Francisco Peaks rising above. I’ll go into it in more detail as I approach them, but for now I’ll note that were it not for the canyon, the Peaks would be the most famous geological feature in Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point, stands at 12,633 feet. The Arizona Trail will reach and wrap directly around their flank on the journey south. The city of Flagstaff lies immediately beyond, at the foot of the mountain on the south side. Through the trees one can make out the rim of the canyon, but the dominant view in the foreground is the aspen foliage mixed with spruce/fir and ponderosa forest. Grand Canyon National Park fills the foreground with aspen foliage mixed with spruce/fir and ponderosa forest. Heading back down the road, I head west on the AZT to the park entrance and then south through the aspens toward the Rim.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail, Day 6, Part I: Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South

I’m on the trail early, hiking south toward the northern boundary of Grand Canyon National Park. As I noted in an earlier entry, one of the perils of combining being a seasonal ranger and thruhiking in the offseason (or shoulder seasons) is that one must make oneself available for interviews in sometimes inconvenient times or places. I owe a park a return call at some point today. Based on the tip I received from a nobo hiker yesterday, I hope to have service at the East Rim Overlook about 2 miles south of my campsite last night. Hiking south, the trail passes through even more glorious aspens as well as beautiful subalpine conifer forest on its way to the overlook . Logistics and ecological details follow the photos.

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Passage 29 (Mormon Lake)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack
Length (Mi)14.8
SeasonSpring-Fall
Potential Water SourcesMayflower Springs (mi 247.8 SOBO/540.9 NOBO)
Dairy Springs (mi 248.9 SOBO/539.8 NOBO)
Double Springs (mi 250.6 SOBO/538.1 NOBO)
Wallace Spring (mi 252.3 SOBO/536.4 NOBO)
Indian Springs (mi 255.0 SOBO/533.7 NOBO)
Mormon Lake Village (mi 255.0 SOBO/533.7 NOBO)
Spring/Tank (mi 257.6 SOBO/531.1 NOBO)
Van Deren Spring (mi 261.3 SOBO/527.4 NOBO)
Allan Lake Tank (mi 262 SOBO/526.7 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Mayflower Spring
South: Gooseberry Springs Trailhead (mi 10.6 SOBO/778.1 NOBO)
Trailhead AccessNorth: Two track dirt road
South: Graded dirt road
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsMormon Lake village
DifficultyModerate
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Dairy Springs Campground
Double Springs Campground
Indian Springs – excellent spot, wide flat camping area at the junction of the Indian Springs Trail to the village of Mormon Lake and the Arizona Trail
Numerous spots south of Mormon Lake as terrain flattens
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
Permits Required? No
Cell service?Limited
Ecosystems traversedRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Forest
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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Arizona Trail, Day 31 – Anderson Mesa to Double Springs (Passages 30, Anderson Mesa & 29, Mormon Lake)

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

First order of business today is to fill up on water at Horse Lake, then pack up and head south. I run through a lot of water today, probably because of the exposed going. By the time I’ve descended off Anderson Mesa, crossed Lake Mary Road and reentered the ponderosa forest I’m on at least my third liter of water, so I’ve gone into rationing in the hopes of making it to Double Springs Campground, which it looks from Guthook is the next likely source of water. The trail becomes more dirt on the descent off Anderson Mesa, and this becomes more fixed west of Lake Mary Road.

San Francisco Peaks, hiking view from Horse Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Price Lake and Mormon Mountain, backpacking view
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Horse Lake, hiking view from the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Wildflowers on Anderson Mesa, spotted backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through ponderosa forest on Anderson Mesa
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest

There is a lot of cool railroad history west of Lake Mary Road. The trail started following something that appeared to be a mass of stones in what seemed to be an unnatural line with a tendency to curve in places. Looked very much manmade and piled.

Old railroad route following the Arizona Trail
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake) west of Lake Mary Rd
Coconino National Forest
Former railroad grade along AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake) west of Lake Mary Rd
Coconino National Forest

Eventually more of an obvious grade emerged, making the status of that particular feature an old railroad route quite obvious – particularly in the places where it was built above the level of the surrounding land. In some places you could even see where trestles would have been, and in others the ties were still visible. For someone like myself who is very much into railroad history – in this case, an old logging railroad, as confirmed by a nearby interpretive sign, it was really cool.

AZT crossing old railroad grade
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake) west of Lake Mary Rd
Coconino National Forest
AZT crossing old railroad grade
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake), west of Lake Mary Rd
Coconino National Forest

The sign nearby reads: “As you hike from Lake Mary toward Mormon Lake and south to Allan Lake on the Arizona Trail, you will pass and even follow the grades of many old logging railroads. The Flagstaff Lumber Company extended their old logging railroad from Lake Mary toward Mormon Lake and Mormon Mountain beginning in 1923. The railroad was constructed primarily to haul logs cut from the forest to sawmills in Flagstaff, Williams, and other areas. On weekends, the railroad would carry as many as 300 passengers to the Mormon Lake area.

The Flagstaff Lumber Company’s railroad ceased operations in 1927 due to a slump in timber prices and the high cost of operating a railroad up the seven mile grade to Mormon Mountain. Other logging railroads continued to operate in northern Arizona until 1966. Today these railroad grades provide a unique opportunity for the hiker to travel these traditional routes – under their own power rather than under steam power.”

Old railroad grade and ties along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake), west of Lake Mary Rd
Coconino National Forest
AZT crossing old railroad grade west of Lake Mary Road
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
AZT crossing old railroad line west of Lake Mary Road
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
AZT crossing old railroad line west of Lake Mary Road
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Backpacking along old railroad grade along AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking along old railroad grade along AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Backpacking along old railroad grade along AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest

The forest turns into a dense mixed conifer and I have a chance encounter with a mountain biker named Chris who recently moved here from Idaho. We talk about the trail ahead and some I’m looking at doing in Idaho. With the delay, I don’t quite make it to Double Springs, but I make it within about 1.5 miles of it.

Hiking through gambel oaks in fall foliage along AZT west of Lake Mary Road
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Evening light on gambel oaks and ponderosa, backpacking along the AZT west of Lake Mary Road
Arizona Trail, Passage 30 (Mormon Lake)
Coconino National Forest
Todays route

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Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail, Day 5, Part II: Southern Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40), Part I

Hiking south on Passage 40, the backpacker crosses Telephone Hill, where the pines and aspens offer a respite from the Kaibab winds. Dropping down the back side, the trail passes Crane Lake and proceeds south through a meadow before gradually ascending into aspens and pines once again. Aspens dominate the remainder of the route, rolling across hills hiking south toward Little Round Valley. Trail journal and logistics for Passage 40 of the Arizona Trail.

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

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.

Trail logistics and amazing landscapes of aspen groves in addition to today’s journal entry & ecology for the flagship trail of the third most diverse state in the country.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 4, Part II: Central Kaibab Plateau (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 11)

The trail continues through the burn scar of the 2006 Warm Fire, In between looking around at the aspens in the prior two posts, a crack opens in the tree line to the west. The first southbound view of Grand Canyon opens up in the distance. Plus, logistics and ecology of the central Kaibab Plateau for those interested in following in these footsteps or learning more detail.