To the Tower With You!!!
Overview: The Trail leaves the Kentuck campground and climbs the entire distance to the Horsethief Lookout Tower.
Warning: 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.
History: 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.
Hike: 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).
Camping: Nearby Hazlett Hollow Campground is open Spring through Fall. Multitudes of dispersed camping sites available.
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.