Starting from FR22, the boulder creek loop follows the current AZT passage 21 to a point where it intersects with the original AZT 21 and returns on the original passage. This is a moderate loop of just over 10 miles. Re-routing of the AZT 21 was a little confusing for me since I hiked there several times over the past 2 years and a new section opened in May 2008. So new signs and new cairns popped up that surprised me. I found 5 AZT signs on the original AZT 21 that should not have been there. So I emailed the AZT 21 steward with some questions and in a later telephone conversation he explained the history behind this segment and plans to remove the signs.
The Boulder Creek trail description goes all the way to FR422. Topohiker posted a GPS track for that hike as well. I had that track loaded on my GPS when I did that hike so I did not have the problems he described because I could always see where the trail went and where the confusion points were. Thanks to topohiker for the track. This is what GPS hiking is all about!!!
The map graphic shows (last picture in the set) all of my hikes on very hikeable routes in that area as yellow track lines on top of the Tonto Forest Service map of that area. AZT21 today and the original routes are shown with blue or white arrows. I have submitted a GPS track for the loop hike.
On a previous hike I went through Boulder Pass to Boulder Bob's Cabin and on to FR1704. That rarely hiked route does involve dealing with some cat-claw.
Exciting shuttle hike possibilities here are:
Ballantine TH to FR22
FR1704 to FR22 (FR1704 is a tough 4WD road. I would park at the bottom past Sycamore Creek.)
And maybe most exciting is Park Trail 66 TH (near Punkin Center) up and over the mountain to FR22.
All the above hikes should be done in cool wearing plenty of sunscreen.
One of my hiking friends is planning a 17.5 mile shuttle from Mt Peeley TH to FR22 (the entire AZT passage 22). That, without a doubt, would be the most scenic hike rating at least 4 and maybe 5 stars. It would also be a little cooler due to elevation and some forest cover for parts of the hike (less than half however).
Note: Park 2 on the map is a second place to start hiking from. Driving north on highway 87 you turn left instead of right at mile marker 218.5 and head south a short distance to the first paved road off to the right. Drive up the hill a quarter mile and park off the road on the right. Hike only a quarter mile starting along the fence line to the second tube on your left. Go past the barber wire fence on the left side (or under it) and you are on the Sunflower trail. Hike under the highway through the tube and in ½ mile you will be at the intersection of the Sunflower and Boulder creek trails. During snow melt season Sycamore Creek can have high water making dry crossings more difficult. Using this starting point you can limit the number of crossings to just one each way while hiking the Boulder Creek trail both ways.