This short hike
in the Pinaleno Mountains has plenty to offer: alpine forest, wild flower filled meadows, a perennial creek, a waterfall, and big views. The main attraction of this hike is a spectacular overlook of Grant Creek Canyon, at the bottom of which four major creeks come together. Visible from this overlook is a 200 foot cascading waterfall, where Moonshine Creek plunges over the edge of the 2000 foot deep canyon. State highway 366, which provides access to this hike, is closed yearly due to snow from November 15 to April 15, about 3.5 miles before the trailhead.
The hike starts at the Grant Creek trailhead in the Cunningham Campground. Begin hiking down the Grant Creek Trail, which descends through a cool forest of fir and white pine. The trail soon enters one of the Pinaleno's most attractive alpine meadows
. Waist deep ferns and wild flowers carpet the meadow, while quaking aspens guard the edges.
At the north end of the meadow, the Grant Creek Trail starts a series of switchbacks up the slope to the west. Near the top of this slope is a signed trail junction. Turn right at the trail sign and head north toward Moonshine Creek.
The Moonshine Creek trail descends gradually among aspens and more little fern and wildflower filled meadows until it reaches Moonshine Creek. Cross the creek, then wade through the lush riparian greenery for a few feet, and you'll come to a junction (32.68554 N, 109.89665 W
) with a two-track, four wheel drive road, marked by a cairn
. Turn left (west), and follow the primitive road down Moonshine Creek's fern filled valley.
A little ways down, the road forks
. The less traveled left fork dead ends at the creek in a few hundred yards. Take the right fork, which climbs a little and soon dead ends at a flat camping spot near Grant Creek canyon. Head southwest towards the edge of the canyon from the end of the road.
About 500 feet from the road's end, a rocky butte should come into view, sticking out from the canyon rim. Scramble up the granite butte and check out the view from the top (32.68368 N, 109.90109 W
). On three sides of you the land falls away into Grant Creek's 2000 foot deep gorge. Fort Grant prison can be seen at the mouth of the canyon, while the Pinaleno's highest summits rise up behind you. To the southeast is Moonshine Falls
, cascading down the bare granite cliffs in a jet of white water. A telephoto lens is helpful if you are looking to photograph the falls.
You can return the way you came, or take the Moonshine Creek 4x4 road back to the Swift Trail, and follow it back to the Cunningham Campground. - Aug 17 2007 Preston the yeti