This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Upper Buck Spring Canyon - Mogollon Rim, AZ

Guide 41 Triplogs Mine 0 4 Topics
4.1 of 5 
no permit
575 41 4
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 6.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,729 feet
Elevation Gain 276 feet
Accumulated Gain 470 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3.5-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 8.85
Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Possibly Connect
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4  2022-05-21
Ol Buck Leonard
10  2021-10-09 The_Eagle
13  2020-10-17 Nobody01
16  2020-10-17 OdinWiski
6  2020-10-15 caragruey
9  2020-10-11
Upper Buck Springs loop
40  2020-10-03
Upper Buck Spring Canyon (Autumn Colors)
8  2020-08-26
Buck Yeager
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author chumley
author avatar Guides 84
Routes 694
Photos 17,163
Trips 1,679 map ( 12,689 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Co-Author Grasshopper
co-author avatarGuides 47
Routes 492
Photos 9,105
Trips 557 map (5,423 Miles)
Age 76 Male Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep → 9 AM
Seasons   Early Summer to Late Autumn
Sun  5:33am - 7:29pm
Official Route
5 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimeteracres
🔥 1990 Dude Fire21.4k
Nearby Area Water
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Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
..Moist Pancake with a side of Maple Syrup..
by chumley & Grasshopper

Likely In-Season!
This most pleasant and easy to navigate "off-trail" day hike or backpack within lush-green, large meadow-like "Upper Buck Spring Canyon" has much to offer:
.. peaceful solitude and beauty as you enjoy a healthy forest environment of old-growth pines, spruce, sycamore, with an old cattle ranching roadbed spur (connecting to the main canyon) that offers a stunning hiking section of Big Tooth Maple Trees, that in our autumn season will make this hiking section alone worth the trip here;
.. hiking between a high of 7729 feet elevation and a low of only 7480 feet makes this hike an excellent summer Flagstaff, Phoenix, or Tucson destination;
.. possible deer, elk, and other wildlife sightings along this 6.5-mile round trip route;
.. two perennial springs for viewing and/or backpack water sources- Upper Buck Spring and Lower Buck Spring plus numerous water seeps within this canyon hiking route;
.. a visit to the historic Buck Spring Cabins Complex and its close by scenic water-dammed area; .. at Buck Spring Cabin Complex, easy access and connection to one of the five Mogollon Rim- Cabin Loop Trails (the Barbershop Trail#91 at its east TH Start);
.. an easy day hike or backpack for the entire family;

Early in the 20th century, the trails we know of as the Cabin Loop was built by the early forest service. These days, there were few roads on the forest, and these trails served as a link between administrative sites and remote cabins used to house forest workers and fire patrols. One such cabin site is the Buck Springs Fire Guard Station, near the water source at Lower Buck Spring. As part of the "land of multiple uses" that the Forest Service espouses to, trails such as these became an early way for cattle ranchers to drive their herds to summer grazing locations. There is some evidence that Buck Springs Canyon was a popular area for cattle grazing long ago. Eventually, the forest road system was expanded, and old trails were not needed as much to access grazing areas such as this. Today, many of those roads still exist. Some are maintained and used regularly, and others are just overgrown roadbeds that haven't been driven in decades.

While we have been unable to ascertain exact dates (trust us, we're working on it ... updates will be edited in later), it appears that this lush canyon was completely closed to motor vehicle access about 20-30 years ago, establishing a 3000-acre miniature "wilderness area." It appears that any grazing activities also ceased around the same time. However, along this hike, you will encounter an "ex-closure" area to research the effects of cattle grazing on the canyon's riparian meadow. Evidence exists of previous ranch fencing and gates, all of which are no longer in use. It appears that this is now a pristine natural canyon, with no human influences except for an occasional hiker meandering past on an old roadbed.

Perhaps indicative of the natural state of the area, you may encounter some researchers from the University of Montana's "Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit" who spend a couple of months annually conducting a variety of studies in the area, focusing on avian life, climate change in high elevation ecosystems, and the exclusion of large herbivores in the riparian ecosystem. You may encounter several birdhouses along the hike as part of their study.

This easy to navigate day hike or backpack is recommended for the entire family, but being an "off-trail" use-route requires a good sense of hiking route direction. It is highly recommended that the safest and easiest way to hike this 6.5-mile round trip is to have/use adequate maps, own a GPS, and be able to download (and correctly follow) from HAZ our posted 10/2/10 "Official" GPS Route that begins hiking in from the "Drive to Option 1 (Preferred) TH/Parking" location off FR161B. Hike Description GPS coordinates for all "key" waypoints should also be loaded in your GPS Receiver. Also, as with all AZ-Mogollon Rim hikes, this one being no exception, plan accordingly and use caution if you are hiking this area during our summer Monsoon season.

This hike begins at the Parking/TH Start location described in the hike driving direction section. From here, hike the approximate 50 yards to the intersection of FR137/643A and cross over FR137 and hike due east, through this easy to navigate forest section, downhill for .20 mile to connect with old, unsigned ranching roadbed "FR9714V" at waypoint N34.41882 W111.14828 (Note: if you are not using a GPS with our 6/19/10 default hiking route loaded in your unit for reference, then you will need to take note of your entry point at FR9714V for your later return trip exit back up to FR137 and your vehicle). Begin hiking north (down) this Upper end of Buck Spring Canyon for a total of .75 mile to view the perennial source of "Upper Buck Spring" at waypoint N34.42615 W111.14761; From here, your hike continues down the canyon on the right (east) canyon side for a total of 1.0 mile where you will intersect (a right turn-southwest) one of this trips main highlights, the old cattle ranching roadbed spur that offers a stunning autumn hiking section of "Big Tooth Maple Trees." Continue first SW, then south up this scenic roadbed spur to its end (a total of 1.75 miles in from your TH Start location). Return to the main canyon via this roadbed spur and continue to hike north (down canyon) on the canyon's east side. Here you will see and be hiking on the old, main ranching roadbed that once ran the entire length of this upper canyon section. At a total of 2.90 miles, you will reach the fenced-in "Riparian Study Area" of Upper Buck Spring Canyon.. follow the use trail along the east side of the fence. At a total of ~3.40 miles, you will begin to see the historic "Buck Spring Cabin Complex" on the canyon west side. Here you will need to crossover to the canyon west side to enter the cabin complex area, a great location for a snack or lunch break and some meandering-around (It should be noted that depending on the season and recent weather, finding a dry crossing spot from the east side to west side may be a challenge). Behind the two historic cabins and just past the entrance road gate (to the left of the gate), you will see the east TH Start for Cabin Loop Trail- "Barbershop Tr#91". From here, continue to follow the entrance road to the large parking lot area and on to cross into the "Lower Buck Spring Water Dammed Area" for viewing; From here, you continue to follow the east side of the dammed drainage area, hiking NE over a forest road to locate the source of perennial "Lower Buck Spring" (a cement enclosure within a fenced-in area) located at N34.44459 W111.13738 You should be a total of ~4.10 miles into your hike at this point. This is the far NE end of this round trip hike. At this perennial Lower Buck Spring water source, your return hike is via retracing your route in Buck Spring Canyon heading south (up canyon), hiking back to your TH Start on the scenic "west side" (right side) of the canyon.

Water Sources
Perennial Upper and Lower Buck Spring, dammed water area at Buck Spring Cabin Complex, plus numerous water seeps along this canyon hike (water should be chemically treated and/or filtered before drinking).

Numerous primitive backpack campsite possibilities within this 6.5-mile round trip hike.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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

2010-07-09 chumley & Grasshopper
    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
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    From the PHX area: From the PHX area: (For posted GPS Route- "Drive to Option 1(Preferred) TH/Parking")- This trailhead parking is 2-1/2 to 3 hours from Phoenix depending on how and what you drive. Get yourself to Payson via AZ-87, and continue north following the signs toward Winslow. On AZ-87, approximately 29 miles from the main traffic light in Payson, after passing through the small communities of Pine and Strawberry and ascending the Mogollon Rim, turn right onto the Rim Road (FR300) just past Milepost 281.1, Drive on FR300 for 20 miles and turn left (north) onto FR137, Buck Springs Ridge. Continue driving for 1.0 mile North-NE on FR137 to the intersection of signed FR137/FR161B. Bare right on 161B and continue driving 0.2 miles NNE to unmarked "TH Parking" on the right side of 161B at waypoint N34.41306 W111.14767 (this pull-off parking area will accommodate ~3-4 vehicles) photo. Note: The unmarked "TH Start" for this off-trail hike begins directly across 161B from the parking area (note small diameter metal post for actual TH Start location photo. As of this writing, there is a large, downed pine tree just a few feet in from this noted metal post.. so at this downed pine tree, hike left around this tree and then hike back into the same area "behind" the downed tree to see the actual hiking off-trail "use trail"). Please also see "Drive to Option 1 (Preferred) TH/Parking" Information Notes for further details to assist you at this TH-Hiking Start location.

    From the PHX area: (For posted GPS Route- "Drive to Option 2- TH Start/Parking")- This trailhead parking is 2-1/2 to 3 hours from Phoenix depending on how and what you drive. Get yourself to Payson via AZ-87, and continue north following the signs toward Winslow. On AZ-87, approximately 29 miles from the main traffic light in Payson, after passing through the small communities of Pine and Strawberry and ascending the Mogollon Rim, turn right onto the Rim Road (FR300) just past Milepost 281.1, Drive on FR300 for 20 miles and turn left (north) onto FR137, Buck Springs Ridge. Proceed 1.5 miles to signed, but easy to miss intersection of FR643A (on left side-west) and park approximately 50 yards past this intersection, off on the left side of FR137 (at waypoint N34.41927 W111.15144). This is a good place to park. There is no official trailhead parking and no trailhead start-signage here. See the hike narrative above for all hiking route details. There is a GPS route posted to this hike description for the 1.5-mile driving route to the trailhead parking area from the intersection of FR300/FR137.

    From the Flagstaff area: (For "Option 2- TH Start/Parking")- If you are coming from Flagstaff, you may wish to access this area from the north, near the Blue Ridge Ranger Station: From Clints Well proceed north on AZ-87 about 9 miles and turn right onto FR95. Follow FR95 for 6.5 miles until you cross the bridge at West Clear Creek. Veer left onto FR96 and proceed 5.1 miles to the "T" intersection at FR137. Turn right and proceed 8.0 miles on FR137. Park your car here (off the right side of FR137), which should be approximately 50 yards "before" reaching the intersection of FR137/FR643A (at waypoint N34.41927 W111.15144).

    Note: Trailheads are not official or marked
    page created by Grasshopper on Jul 09 2010 9:09 am
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills

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