Overview: The Black Canyon Trail is a trail in construction. It is a multi use trail for bikes, horses and hikers. It will be about 62 miles long stretching from Carefree Hwy 74 to near Prescott. It follows along the bottom of the Bradshaw mountains. There are 4 trailheads now that connect 27.5 miles of trails. The trailheads are Emery Henderson Trailhead, Table Mesa Trailhead, Little Pan trailhead, and Black Canyon City Trailhead. There is access at the Carefree Hwy but is a difficult place to get to and not very good parking. The Emery Henderson Trailhead is the only trailhead at this time that is finished and has facilities. There is restrooms, paved parking, ramadas with picnic tables, grills and horse rails. This is day use only park but with a permit from BLM camping can be done. The Black Canyon Trail, when finished, will include ten trailheads conveniently spaced to allow easy access.
History: The history of the trail is that it started as prehistoric Native American trail and has been used since the 1600's for people and animals. In 1919 the trail was established by the Department of the Interior for livestock from the valley to the mountains. The Espil family took the last sheep on the southern end of the trail in 1974. North of highway 69 it still is used. It was dedicated in 1969. In the Black Canyon Trail corridor has about 4000 acres. And 13.3 miles in Maricopa county segment was completed in 1992.
There are a few segments that are completed. There is the Emery Henderson Section, Boy Scout Loop, Doe Springs section, Little Pan Loop, and the new completed Skyline segment brings you all the way to the Black Canyon City area.
Hike: The part I will describe now is the Boy Scout Loop via the Emery Henderson Trailhead. It starts out on the north end of the parking lot. There is a sign in box at the beginning of the trail. It is very well marked with both the Black Canyon Trail signs as well as signs that inform that it is a No Vehicle trail. It winds thru many types of desert forests. The trail crosses many roads along the way but it is easy to find as you go along because of the trail markers. There is Cholla cactus forests, staghorn cactus forests, Creosote bushes, Barrel cactus forests, saguaro forests, and different bushes all along the way. Care should be taken in going off the trail in some areas due to the density of the Chollas. The first 4 miles or so are very flat and is easy for anyone.
The trail goes across a pipeline road and there are a few areas that shooters go for "target practice" and has some trashy areas where shot up things are. There is one little hill you climb the side of to get a really nice view of the desert to the west. You cross a few creeks that don't seem to run except after the heaviest of rains. The trail winds around and then ends up on a road that you follow for awhile. Just keep to the road until you see the trail markers again. You then follow the trail up to a junction that is the Boy Scout loop. It is about 4 miles to the loop from the trailhead. There is a sign at the junction (it was laying against the trees at this time) You can take the loop either to the east or the west. I think the best is to the east first. The trail is being realigned as of this writing of the description and will be even better on the contours when they are finished but most of the east side is redone. You will know when you get to the top of the loop and the side of a hill when you find the other Boy Scout loop trail sign. Then you can go on back to the trail head or on down the trail farther. The next segment is the Doe Springs Section. If you come on back down the trail to the Emery Henderson Trailhead follow the trail down which changes to a road then when you come to a junction the only thing to know that you have the right trail is a little triangle sign on the east. It is hard to see and the wording is faded. Follow this trail until you are back at the junction. There are also a few white covered hills with quartz all around as well as prospect pits where they were checking out for minerals. This makes a nice loop for a day hike. The Loop itself is a little bit steeper and more rugged but makes a little bit of a challenge on an easy hike. With the loop included it is about 11.5 miles. There was a notice about needing to check with BLM if overnight on the trail.
AZ State Land Recreational Permits are available for an individual ($15.00), or a family limited to two adults and children under the age of 14 ($20.00). Permits are valid for one year from the date of purchase. Exceptions to this requirement are licensed hunters actively pursuing game in season and certain archaeological activities permitted by the Arizona State Museum. Recreation under this permit is limited to hiking, horseback riding, picnics, bicycling, photography, sightseeing, bird watching, and camping. Permits can be obtained through the mail by calling 602-364-ASLD(2753) or by visiting the Land Department office in Phoenix.
To hike Southern Trailhead: With the Arizona State Land permit in possession, take exit 232, turn west on New River Road, drive approximately .1 mile to 42nd Ave (sign is on the right). You can park here if you wish, it is one mile to the trail, or drive part way. Vandalism is possible anywhere, so exercise judgment. Drive north on 42nd Ave, the road bends left, then continue straight for approximately .6 mile to the intersection, a gas pipeline easement. You should not drive further with a low clearance vehicle. Continue straight on the same road for .4 mile (rough and rutted) to the next intersection, where you must park your vehicle. The Black Canyon Trail is at the bottom of this short hill, to the right, and is non-motorized.
Note: Only the above access requires a State Land Permit. The following (which includes this hike) does not require any permit.
Emery Henderson Trailhead: From Interstate 17: Take exit 232, turn west on New River Road which is all paved road, drive approximately 3.3 miles, look for sign on the right, turn right into Emery Henderson driveway.
Table Mesa Trailhead: Trailhead signs are occasionally vandalized and removed, so it will be necessary to check your odometer and watch carefully for the side road to the right. From Interstate 17: Take exit 236 (Table Mesa Rd), turn west then north on the frontage road, drive approximately 1.65 miles to the "Y" and bear left, drive approximately 1.38 miles and look for the side road on the right. Turn onto this road and the trailhead is immediately to the left.
Black Canyon Trailhead: From Interstate 17, either direction; take exit 242 (Black Canyon City and Rock Springs), turn west, proceed to stop sign, turn north (right) on the frontage road, drive about 300 ft to the first road on the left, Warner Rd, and turn left. Drive about 1300 ft to the first cross road, turn right and proceed to the parking area on the right near the end of the road, about 400 ft dirt road at the end.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.