Tales of exotic adventures, humorous anecdotes, and musings from The Traveler...
The adventure awaits...
July 2003* 07/25/03
Back to The Traveler
Arizona Hikes of the Outdoor Pros
By Tom Trush
Adorned with natural features ranging from dry deserts in the lower elevations to regions of lush vegetation plentiful in northern sections of the state, Arizona's terrain presents a variety of options for the outdoor enthusiast. With pathways traversing thousands of miles across the state's diverse landscape, asking someone to choose their favorite will result in an answer as varied as the land's geography. To prove a point in my quest for an expert opinion, I asked a few of Arizona's outdoor specialists about their favorite trails. Not surprisingly, their answers were mixed.
This wilderness refuge in north Scottsdale's urban jungle winds through the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, encompassing the southern edge of the McDowell Mountains. The ease of this trail makes for an inviting escape for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.
the 124th Street trailhead, it doesn't take long to
'get away' from the feeling of the city and development.
The wildlife is abundant with javelinas, snakes, rabbits,
lizards, tarantulas, deer, and a variety of birds regularly
sighted on or near the trail. This hike also offers
great views of the interior of the McDowell Mountains
with Taliesin Overlook at about the 3-mile mark on the
trail - a great view to the west!" - Claire Miller,
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Manager, City of Scottsdale
A 240-mile trail system snakes through the 252,390-acre Mazatzal Wilderness spanning an elevation low of 2,060 feet along the Verde River to 7,903 feet at Mazatzal Peak. The eastern region is covered by bush and pine-covered mountains which produce some difficult-to-access vertical canyons. Riparian growth supported by the flow of the Verde River through the Sonoran Desert in the western region creates Arizona's only Wild River Area.
"The Mazatzal Mountains have a real untamed demeanor and interesting geology. There are trails that are pretty easy to get to that people don't go on. For some reason, they don't go there. I don't know why because it really is a nice place." - Christine Maxa, author of numerous articles and books on hiking Arizona's trails
A popular entrance into the Mazatzals, and one of Maxa's favorites, is the Barnhardt Trail.
Directions: Exit Payson via State Highway 87 and head south for 14.5 miles. At the Barnhardt trailhead sign, turn right on FR 419 and continue 5 miles until the road ends.
Located in the Tonto National Forest northeast of Payson, the Horton Creek Trail offers hikers a gradual ascent just below the Mogollon Rim through ponderosa pines, Douglas firs, seasonal wildflowers, and concludes with the gushing flow of a year-round spring.
"The Horton Creek Trail parallels Horton Creek as it climbs towards the Mogollon Rim. There are some beautiful pools, tons of wildflowers and large pine trees. There are some great camping spots near the spring. What makes this trail so special is that it is really easy to get to, is beautifully vegetated, has great views, and some really nice camping sports." - Scott Hamilton, Trails Planner, City of Scottsdale
Directions: From Payson, go east on Highway 260 for 17 miles to FR 289 (Tonto Creek Road). Turn left, follow for one mile to Upper Tonto Creek Campground and park near the bridge.
Crossing into the Wet Beaver Wilderness Area just outside of Sedona, this popular hike follows a slightly rising trail just above the north side of Wet Beaver Creek. The path and stream meet at Bell's Crossing, rewarding hikers with an opportunity to take a retreat from the heat in a series of deep pools.
"For some reason, I seem to do the Bell's Crossing Trail at least once a year. I keep getting called back there, so I try to go for all the seasons. I've been there for every season - just about every month. It gets some crowds and it's a sweet, pleasant hike." - Christine Maxa,
Directions: Take I-17 to the Sedona exit (#298) and turn right. Continue about 2 miles to FR 618. Turn left and follow for a quarter mile to the trailhead for Bell Trail.
The result of volcanic activity around the San Francisco Peaks, Red Mountain offers hikers a geological glimpse into northern Arizona's history. This hike is easy enough for children and gives young and old a chance to explore the small canyons and pillars inside a dormant volcano.
"Red Mountain is like all the other small mountains or volcanic cinder hills that dot the area north of the San Francisco Peaks, except it's eastern face has collapsed, exploded or fallen away revealing a cutaway core. Hoodoos and goblins with eyeholes look for all the world like a chorus of Mr. Potato Heads. Red rock flutes, slots and butt cracks are everywhere on the eroded cliff face." - Cosmic Ray, author of Favorite Hikes: Flagstaff & Sedona and Fat Tire Tales & Trails
Directions: From Flagstaff, take Highway 180 north for 30 miles to milepost 247. Turn left at the trailhead sign and continue .3 mile to a parking area.
A dominant fixture rising above the Flagstaff-area landscape, Humphreys Peak is the highest point in Arizona at 12,670 feet. From its origin at Snow Bowl beneath the vacant ski lifts, the trail climbs through a landscape of dense forest cover that gives way to high-alpine terrain, and concludes to reveal stunning views in all directions on the summit.
"Once you get to the top, there are great views and it's a great workout. You go through trees, then the tree line; it's pretty diverse." - Tom Fitzgerald, Trails Coordinator, City of Phoenix
Directions: From Flagstaff, head north on Highway 180 for 7 miles to Snow Bowl Road and turn right. Continue for another 7.4 miles and enter the first parking lot on the left.
From Grand Canyon rim to the Colorado River, the South Bass Trail drops nearly 4,500 feet following the same rugged route William Bass was shown by the Havasupai in the 1880s. Experience and preparation are necessary before attempting this backpacking adventure.
"The remoteness of the trip (makes this hike special), you truly are on your own out there. If you get lost or injured, it's up to your own wherewithal to get to safety. Because of that, there are few - but the hardiest - backpackers on the trail. This is a classic Arizona canyon hike that is remote enough to make you feel like you're back in the 1800s, but beware, this is not a trip for the meek." - Paul Reinshagen, REI Event Specialist
* This hike requires a permit from the National Park Service.
Directions: Located on the South Rim, 28 miles west of Grand Canyon Village, the trailhead can be difficult to access during wet conditions. Contact the Backcountry Information Center (928/638-7875) for directions and permit information.
Back to TheTraveler.
Published by TDS Information Service
copyright 2001-2005. All Rights Reserved