This small and short hike will take you to a beautiful wooded setting at Oak Spring. It starts on the Hardscrabble Road near the town of Pine and takes you into a shaded creekside area and continues on at a mildly downhill rate for 2 easy miles. The area around Oak Spring is neighboured by a large meadow with tall grasses, the usual junipers, manzanita and of course, oaks. The spring was flowing in May, I imagine it would be enough to fill a bottle even in dryer months.
At the Oak spring area there are 2 trails connecting. One is the Oak Trail #16 to Pine trailhead- 3 miles long heading due East.
The other is the Walnut Trail #251, part of the AZT which heads Southwest towards Tonto natural bridge.
Continue down the trail into Oak spring canyon to reach Pine creek near a small community, and access Tonto natural bridge by boulder hopping downstream if you wish. The creek was dry, and wide enough to make the going a little slow, but nonetheless enjoyable. There are some small bluegill filled pools.
If you are feeling froggy
, near the point where the trail meets Pine creek you can explore upstream about 1/2 mile to the "narrows". This point seemed impassable without some serious scrambling and perhaps rope assisted climbs.
It is possible however to pick up the "narrows" from the Pine trailhead side, ditching the trail and heading directly into the canyon would make a cool 2-3 day clockwise loop hike. However, not much info is available besides the Buckhead Mesa quad- so I cant allow for mileage info at this time.
I would classify this as a "quick getaway" or a great date hike. - May 23 2005 te-wa