This is a popular hike that circles the base of
spectacular Mazatzal Peak. In terms of "prominence", which simply put is the
difference from the base to the peak of a mountain, Mazatzal Peak is the
thirteenth tallest in Arizona. Can you guess which mountain is number one?
(I'll put the answer at the end.)
In the language of the Aztecs mazatzal means "an area inhabited by deer," but
just how the word reached Arizona, or what significance it holds, remains
somewhat of a mystery. Yes, deer inhabit the area. Yes, evidence shows that
humans, among them the Yavapai and Tonto Apache, have exerted their influence
here for at least 5,000 years. But there is no indication that the Aztecs
themselves ever journeyed to this rough desert region.
Okay, enough of the trivia, this loop hike circumnavigates Mazatzal Peak by
using the Barnhardt, Mazatzal Divide, and Y Bar trails. It is a well-published
loop hike and stated distances vary from 14.5 to 17 miles depending upon the
source. Between my GPS and mapping software, I settled on about an even 15mi.
It is a rather difficult day hike due the distance and the total accumulated
elevation Gain/loss of 4750' that goes with it. I did the loop counter
clockwise, having experienced the Y Bar trail and knowing what a grind it is,
opting to take it downhill.
The hike starts westward on the Barnhardt trail to the intersection with the
Mazatzal Divide trail at about 6 miles. For details please refer to the "Barnhardt
At this point you will take the Maz Divide trail, which is part of the Arizona
Trail, left to eventually join with the Y Bar trail. It is interesting that the
portion of this trail between the Barnhardt and Brody trail intersections,
although shown in many hike descriptions, is not accurately depicted on any map
I could find. This may be one reason for the widely varied distances published
for this hike. Part of my "mission" was to map it with my GPS and thus further
the cause of HAZ and its continuing fight to make the hiking world safer for our
The trail is easy to follow and very pleasant as it gently contours the slope as
it heads south through
shady pine and oak forest
leaves are beginning to turn
. At about the 7.5mi point you'll reach the
Brody Trail intersection. At this point you will be rewarded with a
sudden breath taking view
of the Maz Peak escarpment. The trail
a bit open and brushy
, but the views make up for it.
From here you head directly for the bottom of the escarpment and get a
continually changing view of the cliffs above and the
. Looking west you'll get a panoramic view of the South Fork
Dead Man's Creek (Don't you just love names like Dead Man's Creek and Suicide
Ridge? I do:). At this point I tried to get a shot of the so-called
"Monkey's Face" on the cliff
, but it didn't really turn out.
You can look ahead and see where the trail begins its last steep little climb to
, but fortunately it looks much worse than it ends up being.
From this area up to the saddle and on down to Y Bar Basin is actually quite
scenic. The ground and trail is comprised of a smooth shale-like rock and the
fir and deciduous trees are well spaced giving it a pleasant, open, airy
appearance. I came across a nice Whitetail deer in this area, but she refused
to stick around and pose for a photo.
Windsor Saddle itself is very nice and would be a
superb area to camp
, as others obviously have done. Windsor
is marked with a nice little sign and is right next to the signed Y
Bar intersection which reads 7mi to Barnhardt trailhead, which I'm convinced is
closer to only 6 miles. The spring looked quite rancid and unsuitable for any
amount of iodine or filtering.
At the 10mi point you'll be in Y Bar Basin and facing a seemingly endless trudge
back on the Y Bar trail. It starts out with what will thankfully be your last
bit of climbing up to Cactus Saddle. From here it's pretty much downhill all
the way. It's not that it isn't a pretty trail, because it is. But there is
something about it, possibly the never-ending bowling ball-sized rocks that do
make it a chore. Anyway, for more a detailed description of this final leg of
the journey refer to the Y Bar trail description.
For those of you who enjoy the Mazatzals like I do, this is a must hike and I
would recommend it equally as a day hike or a two day backpack. Happy trails!
(Answer: The most "prominent" peak in the state of Arizona is Mt. Graham at
6320' base to peak) - Nov 04 2001 Fritzski