Recent precautionary closures within Tonto National Forest have been frustrating my first visit to the Pinal Mountains. Just last weekend a planned Icehouse/Telephone/Sixshooter loop hike had to be changed to an alternate destination. Noticing the area reopened on July 3rd, we were determined to explore the area this weekend!
Lynn, Skippy the Springer Spaniel, and me left our home at dawn on Saturday. After traveling close to 100 miles and nearing the 8000 foot elevation level, we managed to explore Kellner Canyon Trail #242, Icehouse Canyon Trail #198, Signal Peak, and Pinal Peak.
We parked our vehicle at the FR651 trail head and began to make our way down Kellner Canyon. There was no water running in the canyon, but plenty of greenery! The tall trees and elevation near the 7000 foot mark made for comfortable hiking. After travelling about a mile and a half down the canyon, it was time for the butt-kicking uphill climb to the trail head.
We were surprised to see cottages near the Pinal Peak summit and took note of the many empty camp grounds that may merit a return visit...
Our route to the upper trail head was different than the HAZ description;
1. Take US60 from Phoenix towards Miami/Globe.
2. At junction of US60 & US188 (route to Lake Roosevelt), turn right (south) onto Russel Road. GPS coordinates N33o 24.993' W110o 49.621'
3. Continue south along Russel Road about a quarter mile. The main road will bend to the left becoming Golden Hill/Central Avenue. Russel Road will branch to the right. Remain on Russel Road! CAUTION - easy to miss this intersection (just like we did)!
4. When the pavement ends, FR55 begins. Stay on FR55 until you reach the junction with FR651. Distance from US60 to FR651 junction is about 6 miles. GPS coordinates N33o 20.482' W110o 49.526'
5. Continue along FR651 winding your way up Signal Peak towards Pinal Peak. CAUTION - there are many branch Forest Roads marked "FR651B or FR651M" or the like, stay on "FR651" proper...
6. About 13.7 miles from US60 you will arrive at the Kellner Canyon #242 trail head. GPS coordinates N33o 17.981' W110o 50.696'