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Bear Canyon Lake Trail #112, AZ

Guide 58 Triplogs  3 Topics
  3.9 of 5 
no permit
449 58 3
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 3.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,650 feet
Elevation Gain -150 feet
Accumulated Gain 150 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4.25
Backpack No
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9  2020-07-29
Bear canyon lake
9  2020-06-09
Bear Canyon Lake from See Canyon
6  2020-04-16
Promontory Butte - Bear Canyon Lake Loop
10  2019-08-31
Bear Canyon Loop - Mogollon Rim
7  2019-08-30
Bear Canyon Lake Alternate Loop
8  2019-08-29
Upper Bear Canyon Lake Meander
15  2019-08-28 Oregon_Hiker
5  2019-08-10
Bear Canyon Lake
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6
Author chumley
author avatar Guides 78
Routes 679
Photos 14,601
Trips 1,522 map ( 11,329 miles )
Age 47 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Jul, Aug → Any
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:35am - 5:41pm
Official Route
14 Alternative

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Stage 1 Fire Restrictions Oct 9th to Dec 31st
Hike, swim, fish
by chumley

2017 Note
Listed as #112 on old FS topo maps. Current topo maps show #506. One sign suggests different.

This isn't as much of a hike, rather a destination. The Sitgreaves National Forest has designated the trail along only the west side of Bear Canyon Lake. However, the trail continues around the entire circumference, maintained by regular traffic from anglers.

Bear Canyon Lake is not directly accessible by vehicle (there's no boat ramp). Still, vehicle access to two parking areas on the lake's west side along Forest Road 89A is available. From either parking area, well marked and maintained trails lead down a steep slope, switchbacking about 1/4 mile down 150 vertical feet to the shoreline.

The areas near the parking lots tend to have more people enjoying the shore, so if you're looking for solitude, pick a direction and start walking. I headed south toward the head of the lake. The trail is easy to follow and gets plenty of traffic. Because the lake is in a fairly steep canyon, most of the trail is not on level ground, but on the steep slopes leading into the lake.

Despite the slope, the hiking is easy, with few obstacles and good footing. At the south end of the lake, the terrain flattens out, and the trail passes through an open grassy meadow and the two drainages that feed the lake. Between the drainages is a beautiful point with a lone Aspen tree overlooking the lake. There are signs here indicating that camping is prohibited, though a couple of fire rings show that not everybody has always followed these rules. There's a spur trail here that leads up the hill to the south and a vehicle access point at the end of FR208.

From the lake's head, the trail heads back north along the eastern shore, a similarly steep slope. After about a mile, the trail heads to the right around an inlet that opens the lake to its widest point. It continues from here to the dam, where another access trail leads up a closed road to the north. Cross the dam and head back down the shore to the trail you used to access the lake. A short climb back out of the canyon will have you in your car.

This lake tends to be busy on weekends in the summer. Weekdays or early/late season visits will be much more peaceful. Thankfully, the short, steep hike to the lake prevents the boombox and beer crowd.

If you're just in for a beautiful hike, this can be done in a little over an hour, or if you want to take it leisurely, bring a picnic and relax at the head of the lake or near the dam for a while. I took a few swimming breaks as the weather was great, and the water was clear and cool.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2007-07-15 chumley
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Payson, head east on Hwy 260, about 30 miles to the top of Mogollon Rim. Turn left on FR300 (Rim Road) and proceed 12 miles to FR89. Three miles north on FR89 to Bear Canyon Lake Road (FR89A). There are two different official parking areas, and numerous trails lead down to the lake and the loop trail.

    If you're coming from Flagstaff or Prescott, access the Rim Road (FR300) about 10 miles south of Clints Well on Hwy 87. Follow it east for about 30 miles to the junction with FR89.
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