This hike is described in a Falcon Guide : "Hiking Arizona", Bruce Grubbs & Stuart Aitchison at page 138. I did it starting from the trailhead at the end of Bull Pen road (FR215) which is better, in my opinion, than starting from the Blodgett Basin Trailhead on FR214. Going up the Blodgett Basin trail in the morning and following FR 214 and FR214A takes out about 2,200 feet of the 3,000 feet of climbing that gets done on this loop. Also, there are no wet creek crossings until 9 miles into this 14 mile loop. I stayed dry until the last 5 miles where you do 4 wet creek crossings but end up back at your car after that.
This hike has both easy and difficult parts. Not much signage along the way and trail finding skills are required in some parts. After reaching the West Clear Creek trailhead on FR214A the hike down the canyon there is very steep. One misstep is all that is needed for us to make the 6 o'clock evening news in Phoenix. For these reasons I would only recommend this loop for physically fit sure footed experienced hikers looking for a bit of a challenge. I gave this a level 4 difficulty rating even though there are substantial parts of the hike that are easy.
Starting from the trailhead at the end of Bull Pen road I hiked back up the road I drove in on only about 200 feet from the restroom where there is a 3 foot high cairn in a wire cage indicating the start of the Blodgett Basin trail. There is no sign for that trail but there is a sign in box shortly up the trail. At 2.6 miles on the Blodgett I arrived at a spur dirt road and turned right to continue on the Blodgett for another 0.5 miles to its intersection with FR214 (at 3.1 miles). I then hiked on FR214 for 1.2 miles to the intersection of FR214 and FR214A (aka Bald Hill road) where I turned right of FR214A and hiked another 1.2 miles on FR214A to the West Clear Creek (WCC) trailhead there (at 5.4 total miles to this point).
This was a total of 2.9 miles of easy hike on dirt road that reached a high elevation of just under 5,800 feet (the low point was at 3,600 feet at the start of the hike). The views of the terrain down toward WCC were good but the best was yet to come. The hike on the WCC trail from the top was relatively flat for more than a half mile and then became very steep after that. Frankly it was a little intimidating but the views were stunning here. I was glad to have two extra legs with me (my hiking poles) while I slowly made my way down this trail heading towards WCC. As I approached the bottom I got off trail there for about 1/4th mile as I proceeded to a cairn actually at creek level. There I met the only other person I saw all day on the hike who was gathering bait for some fishing he planned on doing. Fortunately for me this guy was a local who claimed to hike/run the loop I was doing 3 times a week when he was younger. He told me I was off trail and the trail was above my current position. I then hiked the creek bed for a short distance and climbed up and found the trail quickly. No more off trail after that.
At the creek I had hiked 7.3 miles and there was almost 7 more miles to go to get back the TH and my car. After a little over 9 miles I arrived at the first of 4 wet crossings of the WCC. I was using worn out boots just for these crossings so without delay I did all of the crossings. Hiking the last 7 miles along the WCC creek was easy to moderate and very scenic with several rolling hills to climb along the way. There was some trail finding to do after a couple of the crossings since the continuing trail was not totally obvious or well marked. But that was a lot of fun for me.
As I said at the start I would recommend this hike for strong, experienced hikers seeking a challenging and scenic hike. I will do it again in the future sometime.
- Apr 30 2008 gpsjoe