Arcadia Trail #328
Bassett Peak/Ash Creek Trail--Galiuro Mountains
Easy to Difficult rating depending on distance you hike
One of the seldom visited areas near us is the Galiuro Mountains southwest of Ft. Grant and Bonita. But they hold some real treasures. Best known is the Powers' Cabin, site of one of the most famous old west shoot-outs. (But that's another trail.)
Diverse plant and animal communities are found in this rugged terrain. The mountain peaks rise out of golden grasslands, through thickets of evergreen oak, to stands of ponderosa pine. Ash Creek Trail moves though bigtooth maple and a small stand of aspens on the north side of 7, 671 foot Bassett Peak. In the fall, the maples along Ash Creek put on a real show making this one of the best fall color hikes in southern Arizona.
Those wishing to just see fall colors can hike in along the forest road which crosses several washes and up the trail to a small stand of aspens. This is a good turning around point. Depending on the summer and fall rains, the washes can be running wide or be totally dry. The gentle grade of the trail along Ash Creek is approximately 2.5 miles one way.
As the trail turns and parts ways with Ash Creek it begins a steep and steady climb towards the ridge line and Bassett Peak. The climb is accomplished with a long set of switch backs providing hikers with amazing sights of the backside of the Grahams, the Sulphur Spring Valley, unique rock formations. This portion of the trail is rated more difficult by the US Forest Service. There is no water once you leave Ash Creek.
Once a hiker reaches the ridge line, a 360 degree view is provided. You can see Mt. Graham, the Huachucas, Santa Ritas, Rincons, Santa Teresas, Mt. Lemon in the Catalinas, Chiricahuas and the remains of a WWII B-24 bomber crash can be seen laying in the saddle below Bassett Peak to the left. After about 1 mile on the ridge line, the trail starts up another set of switchbacks on the north face of Bassett Peak. At this point you pass closest to the remains of the crash site. In January 1943, a World War II bomber left Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson on a training run, but didn't return. A search the next day located the crash near the summit of Bassett Peak. A plaque mounted on one of the wings, commemorates the eleven men on board who lost their lives. From the trail it is a very steep downhill climb to the wreckage.
As hikers continue on toward Bassett Peak, the trail is quite overgrown. About 150 feet from the top hikers will need to bushwhack to the top for the magnificent views it provides.
Your return trip to your vehicle is back the way you came. The total distance of this hike is about 14.8 miles; it will undoubtedly be sun set when you get back. But your camera will love you!
Directions to trail head: From Safford, proceed 14 miles south on Highway 191 to Ft. Grant Road (Highway 266); turn right and travel 19.3 miles; turn left toward Bonita School; jus before the school, take the first right onto W High Creek Road (0,2 mi); Travel 13.6 miles to Sunset Loop Road; turn left onto Sunset Loop; travel 3.5 miles to Ash Creek Road; turn right through gate at Forest Service sign; proceed on road through trees to find parking. Stay to the right to locate trail at end of road.
Box Canyon Natural Arch
North of Fort Thomas is a real treasure. There in the foothills is a dry desert wash leading to the towering walls of a box canyon. An easy walk up the wash reveals a canyon full of saguaros, natural windows, small caves, raptor nests, and interesting rock formation. The treasure at the end of the wash is a large natural arch. There is plenty to explore in this hidden spot.
Direction: North of Fort Thomas, across the Gila River, you can see a large white "T" for Fort Thomas and a prominent gash that cuts through the foothills. This is the Box Canyon where you are headed. Locating the wash running into the Box Canyon is the most difficult part of this hike. From the highway 70/highway 191 junction in Safford, drive west on highway 70 for 16 miles to signed turnoff for Brice-Eden Road on the right. Follow it for 1.3 miles to Hot Springs Road on the left. Turn left and follow the Hot Springs Road for 8.8 miles. (This does become a dirt road. Maps refer to it as McEwen Ranch-Geronimo Road.) Turn right into the Box Canyon Wash. You can park here and walk the 3 miles into the canyon. High clearance vehicles can drive another mile up the wash to the actual mouth of the canyon. (GPS coordinates are N 33.05136 / W 109.05677)
Warning: Box Canyon seems to be loaded with beehives. Be(e) careful before approaching any alcoves.
Chesley Flat Trail #311
Moderately Easy rating
The Chesley Flat Trail begins in a wide meadow high in the Pinaleno Mountains. The Chelsey family ran a dairy farm during the 1890s in this location. Any signs of their homestead are long gone, but the meadow retains their name. Look for the historical marker along Swift Trail as soon as you enter the Chesley Flat meadow. This is where the trail begins, This trail is less traveled and the upper section can be difficult to follow due to the construction of a fire line which destroyed the upper section. But the trail is marked with plastic tape all along the way.
From Chesley Flat, the trail leads into the trees from the eastern side of the meadow. The trail soon passes the junction for Chesley trail and the Blair Canyon trail (#304). Stay on the Chesley Flat trail. The trail travels on through a forest of Engelman Spruce, other mixed conifers, and aspens toward Webb Peak (that means it is uphill.) Halfway out, you will move into an old wildfire area. Fires in the 50s, then 1973, and 2004 ravaged the slope. Gone are the tall trees. Now you will encounter grassy meadows and burned deadfalls left by the fire crews cutting a fire line to stop the Nuttall Fire.
Soon the trail meets a forest road. Turn left and follow the road up to Webb Peak which is the highest peak the public can access on the mountain. Here you will find a fire tower constructed in 1933. It rises almost 46' and provides stunning views in all directions. Behind you to the west is Grandview Peak and the Pinaleno ridgeline. To the east is the Large Binocular Telescope and Heliograph. You can also gaze out across the upper Gila Valley to the north or the Sulpher Spring Valley to the south. A great hike!
An alternative is to hike the opposite direction to Webb Peak on trail #345 (starting in the Columbine Corrals area), then on to Chesley Flat. You will have to watch carefully for the Chesley Trail heading out into the meadow near a curve on the road.
Chiricahua National Monument Trails
If you are looking for a great day trip and some hiking, the Chiricahua National Monument has a lot to offer. It is 81 miles (approx. 1.5 hours) from Safford and is another distinctively beautiful "sky island." The unique feature of this area are the large stone pinnacles looming over the road and trails like guardians of the forest. The Chiricahua Apache called these pinnacles "standing up rocks." Many locals refer to them as the "Wonderland of Rocks."
Most of the park area is designated wilderness, accessible by foot and horseback, but not mechanized vehicles. There are 17 miles of day use trails winding through meadows, forest, and rock pinnacles. A map can be picked up at the Visitor Center. Pets are prohibited on trails.
Clark Peak Trail #301
Few travelers on Mt. Graham make it to the end of Swift Trail. But make your way down the road after the junction to Rigg's Lake, and you find some hidden treasures. One is the Clark Peak Trail #301 at the end of Swift Trail. The trail connects the main mountain range to West Peak 6.7 miles away. But we won't be traveling that far.
The trail meanders along the ridge out towards West Peak providing views of both sides of the mountain. To the north you glimpse the Gila Valley, the Santa Teresa mountains and the towns of Safford, Thatcher and Pima Off to the south and west, the Winchesters, the Galiuros, West Peak and the Sulphur Springs Valley stretch to the horizon.
About one mile out, the trail skirts Clark Peak, once the site of a wooden fire lookout. You may want to take a brief detour to the 10,022-foot summit to enjoy the view. Shortly after the peak, you may feel brisk winds rising out of Babcock Canyon. This spot is known as Hurricane Pass because of the strong wind always blowing there. The trees testify of living in such a harsh environment. They are bent and twisted from the pressure of the wind.
About two miles out, between Hurricane Pass and Taylor Canyon, you will travel through a huge open meadow of tall ferns. This is a great place to turn around and head back. Stronger hikers may continue on down into Taylor Canyon before turning around.
The trailhead starts at an elevation of 9,000 feet; the trail drops 2,000 feet to Taylor Pass.
Vegetation varies from mixed conifer to oak woodland as the elevation changes. The old burn area is now covered with grasses, raspberry bushes, and ferns.
Cochise Stronghold--Cochise Trail
This rugged natural fortress was, for some 15 years, the home and base of operations for the famed Chiricahua Apache Chief, Cochise. Cochise and about 1,000 of his followers, of whom some 250 were warriors were able to elude pursuing military troops in the many rock spires and hoodoos located here. Cochise was considered a master strategist and leader who was never conquered in battle. In 1872, Cochise agreed to peace as long as his band was allowed to stay on the reservation in southern Arizona. Two years later, Cochise quietly died there. Upon his death, he was secretly buried somewhere in or near his impregnable fortress. One account says that he was buried along with his favorite horse and dog in a deep rock crevice in Stronghold Canyon. Another version tells that he was buried several miles east of the Stronghold, and that his warriors then galloped their horses over the grave so it could not be identified. In any event, the location of his burial remains a mystery today.
We will be hiking in the Eastern Stronghold on Cochise Trail #279 to "The Divide," the mountain pass between the Eastern and Western Strongholds. The Divide is 3.25 miles from the trailhead to the pass (6.5 miles round trip); with an approximate elevation gain of 1,100' with a few switchbacks at the steepest part of the trail. The trail is marked quite well with mile markers. Scenery along the tail is the Stronghold at its best. This trail climbs through beautiful oak woodland and Pinon Pines among protective rampart of granite domes and sheer cliffs. This is high desert hiking.
Approx. 8 mi, Moderate difficulty
If you've never been to Grant Falls, you're in for a treat. Many have heard of the falls, but few have located it. And it is a true gem--a 200 foot granite wall with a trickling falls and pool--and something to see. This is the hike you don't want to miss.
This used to be the source of fresh water for Fort Grant, and you'll see the old pipes and pumping stations along the way. The trail begins as an old road up to the pumping station. The road parallels and crosses the Grant Creek as one hikes up the canyon. Hikers travel from the high desert environment of cactus, yuccas, and grasses to lower mixed conifers.
Once hikers reach the end of the old road, the trail into the falls crosses the stream and follows the pipe line towards the falls. Shortly, hikers will encounter a large rock in the stream creating a sluice. When you get to the sluice, a new ladder and catwalk have been installed by Forest Service volunteers. At this point, you will know you are close. You'll hear the falls just a short distance away. Another turn or two and you'll be treated to one of the best kept secrets in southern Arizona. The water is cold and clear, and the falls are beautiful.
Elevation: 5,200to 6,800 feet
Driving Directions: Take Highway 266 to Fort Grant, AZ. (It's a prison in the middle of nowhere, so don't be surprised if people look at you suspiciously. Don't pick up any hitchhikers! )
At the main prison gate, turn right and follow the road along the fence perimeter, past the houses, straight through the stop sign, to the gate and cattle guard (N 32° 37.616, W 109° 56.684). Go on through. You'll go through a few other gates. Remember to close them behind you; this is grazing land. You'll also go over several pretty rough cattle guards. Eventually, you will have to park and continue on up the road on foot.
There's a lower pumping station on the right hand side of the road (N 32° 39.562, W 109° 55.172) that tells you you're about a mile away from the falls. Another structure on the left (N 32° 39.976, W 109° 55.058) tells you you're still on the right track. Continue over rise on the road. Brown Forest Service marker points to an opening and camp site on the right (N 32° 40.007, W 109° 55.066). Another pointer directs you into brush and down trail to water's edge. Cross the stream. Behind the stone cistern is the trail leading up canyon. At end of trail (.75 mi.) is the waterfall. Return the way you came.
Grant Hill Loop Trail #322
1.5 - 6 mi. Easy to Moderate rating
Whether you are a beginner or experienced hiker, this trail has something for everyone. Unlike most loops, Grant Hill isn't a single trail. Instead, it's a series of loops made up of old logging roads and connecting trails. So you can make this a short hike or a long hike, or something in-between.
The road reaches a saddle on the ridge at 1.5 miles, then begins contouring around the south side of the mountain top, where far reaching views to the south and west will greet you. Mile two finds the road rounding a false summit topped with several communication towers. The old road soon drops down to a saddle where it meets the maintained service road to Guthrie Peak at a three way fork. Follow the service road by taking the far left fork, which begins climbing Guthrie Peak itself.
The service road soon arrives at the top of Guthrie Peak amid dozens of electronic and communication towers. There are endless views in all directions here. The north face of the peak is free of towers and yields spectacular views of the Clifton and White Mountain areas to the north. To the east, the Gila River flows some three thousand feet below, while the giant Mogollon Mountains of western New Mexico rise in the distance.
During the mid-1880s campaign against the Apaches and Geronimo, a U.S. Signal Corps officer named Colonel William A. Glassford established an innovative signal system. Atop mountain peaks throughout southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, soldiers manned stations using mirrors, or heliographs, to flash messages across great distances between military forts. While one might expect that Heliograph Peak in the Pinaleno Mountains was part of the Geronimo campaign, contrary to a number of published accounts, Heliograph Peak was not part of the 1886 Geromino campaign heliograph network.
A few years after the Geronimo campaign, the US Army explored using heliographs to communicate between military camps beyond the reach of telegraphs. In 1889, a party led by Lt. Eggleston of the 10th Cavalry visited the prominent mountain top that we know as Heliograph Peak and found that it was a good point to connect nearby Fort Grant with a heliograph station near Fort Bowie, more than 40 miles to the southeast. Within a few years, the Army decided heliographs were not going to be an effective means of communication and developed other methods.
In 1910s, the Forest Service explored the use of heliographs to communicate between different locations in the Pinaleno and Galiuro Mountains. Since then, this same high promontory serves as an important link other communication systems. In 1933, a 100-foot fire lookout tower was erected by the CCC and staffed during the critical fire season. The tower is no longer manned on a regular basis, but stands as a reminder of the service given in protecting the forest from wildfires. Today the peak is dotted with other towers that serve the residents of the Gila Valley by providing the modern communication capabilities.
The mountaintop is also a popular place for sightseers to visit as they enjoy one of the most wide ranging views in the Southwest. A number of mountain ranges both inside and outside the boundaries of the Coronado National Forest may be seen from this perspective, including the Galiuros, Dos Cabezas, White Mountains, Gilas, Rincons, and Santa Catalinas.
The trail begins as part of the Arcadia Trail #328 found in the Shannon Campground. The trail travels through firs, spruce, and pines towards a small pass. This first section of the trail skirts the 2004 Nutall Complex Fire for a short distance. During late summer, hikers can expect to find red raspberries along the trail.
At the pass about a mile from Shannon Campground, Heliograph Trail branches off the Arcadia Trail and moves up across a short rocky ridge, and soon arrived on the northern slope of Heliograph Peak. Here it also progresses into a larger burn area. The big Nuttall-Gibson Fire from 2004 had scorched the peak's north face but had not touched its east and south slopes. New green amid the brown and black-colored slopes can be seen. Still, it will be many years before the area can be deemed "recovered". This area is quite open to the elements and sunshine. The one mile hike to the summit can be very warm. Sunscreen, water, and hats are a must, but the summit has tremendous views of the Gila River Valley as a reward for your efforts.
Ladybug Saddle to Turkey Flat
It’s just a short half mile from Ladybug Saddle to Ladybug Peak, but before we reach the peak, we head down the trail #329 towards the cabin area at Turkey Flat. It’s a short climb from the parking lot to the ridge line, then a long series of switchbacks await a hiker.
Moderately Difficult rating--8 miles
Moderately easy rating
The story of McEniry’s Tunnel starts with the story of the town of Spenazuma, an elaborate swindle by an east coast con man, Richard C. Flower. In 1898, Flower purchased some mining claims near Black Rock, laid out the town of Spenazuma, and sold shares in eastern states on the pretense that the Spenazuma Mining Company owned gold mines of immense value.
An investigation by Arizona Republic in 1899 revealed that Spenazuma was a hoax and the swindle collapsed. But Flower’s protégé and mine superintendent, Thomas McEniry, surfaced about 30 miles down the road in Graham County. In 1899, he publicized his plan to construct a tunnel through Mt. Graham.
Thomas McEniry was a clever man when pursuing investors. On the east coast, he advertised he had found rich veins of gold, silver, lead, an copper. But locally, he understood that water was as valuable as gold in the dry desert. He promoted the project as a means to tapping into the water seeping through the rock into the water table. He would capture the water seeping into the tunnel and channel it into a 25,000 acre reservoir for use of farmers in the Gila Valley.
5.1 miles--Moderate rating
Shake Trail is one of the many trails leading off the mountain into the valley below. The upper trail head is on Swift Trail approximately 1 mile beyond Ladybug Saddle. A large parking area on the downhill side of the road is provided at the trailhead. The lower trail head is located at Stockton Pass Campground.
Starting down, a hiker moves from pine and juniper forests to oak and juniper grassland. Along the winding, sloped trail one has great views for the Greasewood Mountains and Sulphur Springs Valley. As you move down the trail, you'll pass through mixed conifer life zones to upper Sonoran Desert. Deer are frequently encountered, and signs of black bear, javelina, and other shy forest mammals can also be found.
Hiking this trail often requires hikers to hike both directions in order to retrieve a vehicle, or setting up a car shuttle which takes nearly 4 hours of driving. A large group of hikers might consider a key swap with stronger hikers hiking up the trail, and others hiking down. Mid-way hikers exchange keys to vehicles. After the hike, all can meet to sort out cars.
Directions: Shake Trail has two road access points. One trailhead is located on the Swift Trail. (AZ 366), the main road along the top of the Pinaleños. Drive 8 miles south of Safford on US 191 then turn southwest on AZ 366 and continue about 17.5 miles to the trailhead on the left, approximately 1 mile past Ladybug Saddle. The lower trailhead is located near Stockton Pass Campground. From Safford, drive south 17 miles on US 191 to AZ 266. Turn right (southwest) onto AZ 266 and continue 12 miles to the Stockton Pass Campground. Walk through the fenced area north of the picnic area; the trail starts at a gate located in the northwest corner.
Snow Flat to Treasure Park to Grant Hill (and Back)
As you enter Snow Flat near the lake, an old Jeep trail marked by a "closed to motor vehicles" sign marks this hike. Follow the road uphill as it lead into the trees. After a quick climb, the road levels off and arrives at a junction 0.4 miles near a campsite. Continue to the left. The road turns south and travels through mixed conifers and towards Treasure Park. Keep and open eye for wild turkeys and deer. They are abundant in this area, but rather elusive.
At 1.2 miles, the trail enters the largest meadow on the mountain, Treasure Park. Make sure to locate the interpretive sign on the east side of the meadow explaining the history of this spot.
At the bottom of the meadow, near the road junction, cut up the hill and continue west. You will soon find an old logging road. You can continue either direction and find Hospital Flat. Just watch for the Forest Service sign denoting the trail if you go north. An interpretive sign near the restrooms in Hospital Flat shares history of this area.
You can continue up through the meadow on the west side of the campgrounds to the road and then 0.1 mile on the road to the Grant Hill Loop trail system. Follow the trail (road) to the left for .25 mile to the junction with a road to the left. This road will take you back to Treasure Park on an alternate route. Then you can retrace your steps back to Snow Flat.
This is an extremely short hike that is worth making if you are at the Aravaipa East trailhead. It's actually more of a stroll. It does not require a permit and passes a cliff dwelling.
At the Aravaipa East boundary, a road leads to the left. Simply take this road south. It passes several wilderness campsites and parallels the stream bed. It is a shaded walk through the Arizona Sycamores and junipers. Once you pass the loading shoot and through the corals watch for the cliff dwelling on the left (west) hidden behind the trees. A short trail leads up to the cliff dwelling. An informational sign explains the history of the dwelling and indigenous people who inhabited the canyon. Explore the dwelling and return to the trailhead via the same route.
Directions: The access road is not regularly maintained, and crosses Aravaipa Creek several times in the last 10 miles. High-clearance vehicles are recommended. Towing assistance is 50 miles away. Flash flooding can make the road impassable. Call ahead (928-348-4400) for road conditions. From Safford (53 miles, 1 to 1.5 hours) Take US Highway 70 west past Pima and turn left on the Klondyke Road. On this graded dirt road, go 24 miles to the "Y" intersection, turn right and go another 16 miles to the trailhead. Go through the gate to park at the trailhead. From the trailhead parking and kiosk, it is a 1.5-mile hike through Nature Conservancy land to the east wilderness boundary.
Turkey Flat to Angle's Orchard
This moderate rated hike begins at Turkey Flat Trailhead and climbs uphill through the firs and gambel oaks toward the ridge line. The climb provides a hiker views of the road snaking up the mountain and Heliograph Peak in the distance. After a 300 foot climb, the Turkey Flat Trail meets the Ladybug Trail in a saddle on Veach Ridge. Someone has constructed a nice rock sitting area here.
After a mi le on brushy Veach Ridge, the Ladybug Trail begins a long, final descent to the bottom of Jacobson Canyon. The vegetation changes to oak trees, brush, cacti, and occasional ponderosas during the 1600 foot drop. There are some great views during the descent: the long ridges of the Pinaleno Mountains, the town of Safford, Angle Orchard, and the twisty Swift Trail. At the bottom of this long hill, the trail crosses Jacobson Creek, where there are even several maple trees growing amongst the sycamores and oaks in a pleasant riparian area. Once across the creek, the Ladybug Trail crosses an irrigation ditch, then climbs a little ridge for a short distance before ending at forest road 4515 near Angle Orchard. Distance is approximately 4 miles. A few steep areas created by erosion are safely negotiated with the aid of a walking stick.
Moderately easy 1.7 miles round trip
There are lots of trail on the mountain, some are on maps; some are not. We read about this abandoned trail on Hike Arizona website, and we found it!
This is a very short trail, 1.7 miles roundtrip. The trail can be located across the road from the Shake Trail #309 parking area and trailhead. It starts out with a steep climb up the eroded embankment. About 25 yards up the left side of the hill, a faint trail will be found. It continues upward to the ridge above. The trail wanders through mixed conifers and oaks. The trail is a bit rough, and there is a lot of duff on the trail. There are stacked rock sections along the trail reminiscent of the trail work done elsewhere on the mountain by CCC. There are also a couple of windfalls to negotiate around or over. After about 3/4 of a mile, hikers come to the ridgeline and the burned area left from the 2004 fire. Shad is abundant until you reach the ridge line.
Skirting around the south side of the ridge, continue to the east. There really isn't a well defined trail but lots of animal trails. If one stays at the same elevation, he can top out at a higher elevation with views of both sides of the mountain and nearby Heliograph Peak. Hikers can continue up a short section of trail, along the rock face towards the bluff, and find access to the top by climbing a rock fall under the large oak tree on the south side. An amazing 360 degree view awaits you.
Webb Peak Trail #345
Moderately easy rating
The 10,030 summit is the highest point hikers can access in the Pinaleno Mountains (The mountain is closed around the telescope above 9800 feet for the protection of the Mt. Graham Red Squirrel.) Webb Peak is the site of the Webb Peak Lookout Tower. Constructed in 1933 by the CCC, the steel tower is approximately 45 feet high. It was placed on the National Historic Lookout Register in 2033. It is used only when fire danger warrants it, but the broad, far-reaching views from the tower are well worth hikers braving the height and wind.
Directions: From Safford, drive south 8 miles on US 191 to AZ 366 (the Swift Trail). Turn right (southwest) onto AZ 366 and drive 29 miles to the Columbine Visitor Information Station. Just past the Station, on your right, parking is available at the public horse corrals. Or, you may continue along the Swift Trail to the Webb Peak Road turnoff where parking is also available.