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Kentuck Trail #217 - Prescott NF, AZ

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Guide 7 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Prescott > Black Canyon
3 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,017 feet
Elevation Gain 665 feet
Accumulated Gain 704 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.02
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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11  2016-04-16
Bradshaws Fort Loop
15  2015-05-27 AZWanderingBear
20  2012-03-17
Kentuck-217 Coal-203 Jim-235 Willow-236
19  2012-03-17
Kentuck-217 Coal-203 Jim-235 Willow-236
23  2010-06-02
Horsethief Lookout
36  2008-08-27
Crown King - After the Fire 2008
Author AZWanderingBear
author avatar Guides 27
Routes 62
Photos 2,620
Trips 700 map ( 4,689 miles )
Age 63 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, May, Mar
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:13am - 6:35pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
To the Tower With You!!!
by AZWanderingBear

The Trail leaves the Kentuck campground and climbs the entire distance to the Horsethief Lookout Tower.

The drive from Crown King to the trailhead is on a seldom maintained dirt road and may be closed during winter months. 4-wheel drive is not required, but moderate clearance is a must.

The 1930s was a busy time in the Horse Thief Basin of the southern Bradshaw Mountains. The CCC was busy building the dam for Horse Thief Lake and the campgrounds at Hazlett Hollow and Turney Gulch and the primitive Kentuck Campground (now restricted to day use only). Meanwhile, the Forestry Service constructed the Horse Thief Lookout tower in 1934.

The Kentuck Trail connects the Kentuck Campground (named for a colorful civil war veteran who settled in the area to mine and ranch) with the Lookout tower. This description begins at the Kentuck Campground.

The abandoned campgound has plenty of parking since you will likely be the only one using this relatively abandoned trail. Veer left as you enter The trailhead signage will be on your left.

The trail begins with a moderate upslope which increases as you get closer to the tower on the ridge line. A large granite formation is just off to the left a few hundred feet into the hike. The lower part of the trail is fairly obvious. Some pines are blazed with a large rectangle below a small square. Many of the blazed pines were lost in the Lane 2 Fire of 2008. The devastation of the fire is present throughout the hike, though the area is coming back. Pines, manzanita, oaks and dominate the landscape.

Approximately .8 miles into the hike, the terrain becomes must steeper and the trail much more difficult to follow. A gps track here is helpful, though several tracks deviate significantly from the original trail. Watch for cairns and keep going uphill.

The trail will emerge onto the tower access road. Straight ahead is the tower cab perched on a 40 foot steel tower frame. If occupied, expect you will be invited up for some world class views. On my first trip up in the tower I could see the Grand Canyon's North Rim and Baboquivari Peak south of Tucson. Tony was working the tower that day. He's a bit of a legend in Crown King, was in the tower at the start of the Lane 2 Fire, and often plays in the early band at the Saloon on Friday nights. Most of the folks manning the tower are long time Crown King residents and possess a wealth of history about the area which they willingly share.

After ogling the views you can head back the way you came or try out the Coal Camp Spring Trail which also ends up near the Tower.

Water Sources
Water is available at the Ranger Station, Hazlett Hollow Campground and Turney Group Campground (maybe turned off in winter months).

Nearby Hazlett Hollow Campground is open Spring through Fall. Multitudes of dispersed camping sites available.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2015-06-02 AZWanderingBear
    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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Kentuck Trail #217 - Prescott NF
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    Bradshaws Fort Loop
    A while ago Bruce the Eagle gifted me with a custom made GPS loop he thought I'd like - thought I should give it a whirl.

    The road to the trail head is pretty rough, definitely high clearance required. The Kentuck trail up to Horsethief Overlook was nice. Looked to me like the attendant was away...maybe a Saturday in town.

    After the overlook I needed some IT help. (Invisible Trail) But not too dense and easy enough to keep heading the right way. This whole area has burned and though it's much more green than black these days I think the net effect is that some old roads have disappeared. Eventually I hit a Jeep Rd / ATV track and took that to South Fort. The rocky outcrop has a commanding view and is a natural defensive site but just a single stacked wall.

    From there I followed another track to East Fort. This one is much more impressive with some extensive high walls - better than I expected. This fort overlooks Perry Mesa - maybe it's considered part of the line-of-site communication network thought to be operative 700 yrs ago. I saw just a couple small pottery pieces there.

    Continuing on from East Fort there were more IT problems and a lot of deadfall in the places the old road could be seen. But again I soon hit another Jeep Rd and looped back to the start.

    This hike was quite a change of pace for me. The granite strewn country is nice (though being more ATV than hiking trail-dominated detracts) and the whole walk occurs, more or less, on top of the mountain. I'd sort of been planning a beer and burger in Crown King on the way out, but the timing was wrong and the center looked crowded (this is a relative term), so I just headed back.
    Kentuck Trail #217 - Prescott NF
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Came up the night before and camped at Hazlett Hollow just up the road. After a hearty breakfast we headed over to do this trail as the first of several for the day. Weather was cool and just a bit overcast, prefect for a good hike.

    Found the trailhead easy enough. First part of the trail was pretty easy to follow, but got more interesting as we got higher up the ridge. A little backtracking here and there, but made the top of the hill pretty quick. As we walked out onto the tower access road, the tower observer drove up in his truck. "Thought I heard voices down here. Want to come up in the tower?" Apparently it is quiet out here or one of us is kinda loud when she hikes. Or maybe both.

    Took Joe up on his invitation to climb the tower. Hazy, but still some pretty good views. Caught up on all the local Crown King gossip with Joe. He had several guitars in the tower cab to pass away the time. Plays in a band that starts off the entertainment at the saloon on Friday nights along with my old tower friend Tony. They quit early he explained cause they are a "geezer band". I think a Friday night at the Crown King Saloon is in my future.

    Offered up our appreciation and headed back down the trail. One of us is far more into maintenance than the other, so there are now a few new cairns along the trail and old ones are a bit taller. One was on the Jeep just so I could find it when we got back to Kentuck. Guess I'll just leave the GPS home next time.
    Kentuck Trail #217 - Prescott NF
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    Kentuck-217 Coal-203 Jim-235 Willow-236
    My Quest to see if any other trails still existed in the Horsehief Rec Area.

    Based on Trail descriptions received from the Crown King General Store a few years back, I'd drawn up the supposed tracks using the HAZ-Route Manager for these and others up there. I first do a simple trace using the TOPO! Map and the track indicated on TOPO!. Then switch to the Satellite view to move/add to the track to where it is now-a-days. The problem with most of the tracks in the Bradshaw's, is that they have not seen much traffic since the fire back in 2008.

    Our route was:
    - Kentuck #217 to the Horsethief Lookout -
    Nice little hike to the Lookout. Route is thin, GPS Track helpful
    Views from the Lookout are top notch

    - Coal Camp #203 to Jim Creek #235 - Nice little Connector to both Willow Springs and Jim Creek TH's from the Lookout. Route not bad, GPS Track helpful

    - Jim Creek #235 to Milk Ranch ruins -
    Hard to find the start of this trail. Track gets worse the farther South you go.
    If you are lucky enough to be "On Trail", be careful not to trip on overgrown Cairns.
    GPS Track "Extremely" helpful

    - Willow Springs #236 to FR 696 (W/Side trip to South Fort Ruins)
    From Milk Ranch a "Very Rough" 4 x 4 track until you get to Willow Spring. Willow Spring area is real Cool. The climb out of the Spring area gets thin in spots. (GPS Track very Helpful) Views of Lake Pleasant are sweet. The .5 mile RT side trip to the South Fort Ruins area are the highlight of this trail and hike for me. Not that the ruins are that spectacular, but the views are some of the best up there.

    - FR696 to FR52 (Senator Highway)
    Road walk back to the Start

    As always, Dinner back at the Crown King Saloon / Brothel was "Interesting", but there is plenty of history hanging on the walls.

    No wildlife seen on this hike, including Cows or Elephants, but that's not too unusual on hikes w/ Joe.

    A big thanks to Joe for driving.

    I'm glad John got to "Experience" Crown King". Thanks for joining us!
    Kentuck Trail #217 - Prescott NF
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Kentuck-217 Coal-203 Jim-235 Willow-236
    Fourth trip into the upper Bradshaw range. Algonquin / Horsethief / 201 Loop remains my favorite. Not interested in doing this one again yet it had some nice moments. Most notably the stellar views of Lake Pleasant on the Willow Springs Trail #236 and the Willow Spring area.

    We lost the trail heading down Jim Creek #235 near the end. The bushwhacking slowed us down. Luckily it wasn't horrible cats claw, just undesirable dense whatnot. Found the trail at the bottom so it's probably much easier than we made it. Tore my shirt to smithereens.

    Lost the trail briefly heading up Willow 236. Luckily that was short lived and the trail got consistently better heading up. Cats claw is overgrown often on 236 yet no war wounds to heal.

    Water: carried 4 quarts, only consumed 2... overcast all day and breezy cool enjoyable

    Whistle Pitch: the difference in tones proved interesting. Opinions still differ yet I believe we can all agree we need more cow bell.

    Partners: Bruce seems to enjoy hiking without sleep now. John just doesn't complain enough for 50 consecutive days of hiking.

    Wildflowers: spotted Indian Paintbrush often and small verbena or such on occasion

    Locals: shiny happy people holding hands
    Kentuck Trail #217 - Prescott NF
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Horsethief Lookout
    This is triplog 2 of 3 from the Prescott Nation Forest including Horsethief Basin Rec Area and the Castle Creek Wilderness.

    This hike included two marked trails:
    #217, Kentuck Trail TH 34.1750 -112.2768
    #31, East Fort Trail TH 34.1630 -112.2615

    About 2 miles further up FR52 from Horsethief Lake is the Kentuck Campground and the TH for the Kentuck Trail.

    The description I found says "The trailhead is located on the inner circle of Kentuck Springs Campground between camp spaces #14 and #15." I saw no indications that showed camping space numbers.

    Through parts of this trail you see indications of the fires in 2008, but the area seems to be coming back. The trail itself is faint in spots but is cairned and taped for the most part. I'd recommend a GPS track to help you. I lost the trail for about 1/4 mi. once I got to the ridge that goes to the Tower, but you can see the tower at this point, and that is your first destination.

    The views at 6702' from the Horsethief lookout are just incredible in all directions. The sign said they were open at the time I was there, but there was no answer and a lock on the hatch when I tried going up. You get a pretty good sense of the damage the fires out here caused.

    Here's a somewhat shaky 360 from the Lookout.

    From here I hiked down the FR .8 mile to get to the TH for the East Fort Trail #31. This hike starts on an old 4x4 track which ultimately dead ends at the Castle Creek Wilderness gate and a nice trail getting to the top. It is a bit over a mile long to get up from the TH. I'd swear the area back in here is right our of an old cowboy movie. This is the place all the Bad Guys went to hide out. Once again the views at the top are great. At the top are the East Fort ruins. It's basically a series of rock walls that are up to 12' tall in sections and run about 40' long. I spent 20 minutes or so playing around and exploring at the top, taking pictures, turned off my camera, and then started down.

    I took 2 steps off the top and came face to face (20' away) with my first Mountain Lion!!!!

    I took me 2 or 3 seconds to take in how cool this was, and by the time I even thought about getting the camera out, he turned around and scampered back down the mountain. I was really bummed that I got no pictures, but happy I'd seen one, and that he went back down the mountain instead of coming closer!

    The rest of this portion of the hike was uneventful on the loop back to the car.

    Permit $$

    Prescott Forest
    Prescott National Forest Pass

    Only trailheads with six "amenities" have fees. Amenities are picnic tables, trash, toilet, parking, interpretive signing and security.

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To hike
    From Phoenix take I-17 north to the Bumble Bee Exit 248. Follow the Crown King dirt road 27.5 miles to Crown King. Continue through Crown King along the Senator Highway for .5 miles and turn left on Horse Thief Road. Follow Horse Thief Road 8 miles o the entrance to Kentuck Campground.
    page created by The_Eagle on Jun 02 2015 4:22 pm
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