Solid off-trail exploring.
I continually come back to the Eagletails, but not once have stuck to the Ben Avery Trail. It is always an off-trail day and doesn't properly fit under the Indian Springs trail log as only now and then do I pass the petroglyphs. This has led me to create a hike so I have a place to log it...and to share with you. Since I never do the same hike twice here, I call it a day wandering in the Eagletails...so we now have the Eagletail Mountains Wander. If you need a map take a look at the Indian Springs description as everything I say below is just off memory.
For anyone new to hiking off-trail, I highly recommend this location. It is easily accessible, has an easy entrance trail, and has numerous recognizable peaks to help you keep your bearings. Oh, not to mention the Eagletails are excellent for wildlife viewing...I am a little biased as well as this is only place I've seen a cougar. Other perks include extremely cool ridges and mountain tops to hike with an uncountable number of grottos and alcoves to shelter animals...and you for a night in the desert. If you're a plant-person, this is one of the nicest pieces of Sonoran desert I've hiked. And of course there is cultural history here ranging from prehistoric to mining activity. Basically, this is an incredible spot to come explore the Sonoran desert.
I gave it a 3 for route finding and difficulty because you can make it as hard as you want, and off-trail-wise I feel the land is recognizable enough to not make it a 5. Elevation gain will vary depending on your route, so I just put 1000 feet. Mileage too is up to you, it won't necessarily be 10. Could be 4, could be 20. Ok, enough of the preamble, I like this spot, we all get it!
I start us at the Ben Avery Trailhead, take you into what I call the Bowl, and then leave you to your devices from there. From the TH follow the old jeep road into a fairly sandy wash. Take a right, SW if I remember correctly. This wash will eventually get you back to the old jeep road, a mile maybe from the TH. The wash is typically flagged at bends to lead you to the old jeep road. It'easy. As you come out of the wash you enter the Bowl. I name it this because, well, it feels a little bowl-like. As you scan your horizons you'll see that you're pretty much penned in by mountain ridges all around. Ok, turn around and look at Courthouse Rock, this is the feature you parked your car at, lock it in. This is now you point of reference and can be seen from quite a distance. Also, look to the east and you'll see a few namesakes of these mountains...eagletails. Ah, pretty cool, makes you wish you had some climbing gear. We'll stay on the trail slightly longer, and then you're loosed. Carry on until you hit a big, sandy wash again. This is roughly an hour in and has been an easy hike. Now, look on the horizon for what looks like the coolest ridge and go tackle it...that's it. To the left in the wash you'll find the petroglyphs another 15 minutes up; and any other humans out here. Behind you is what I call Cougar Ridge as that is where I spotted a cougar. Beyond the ridge are a few eagletails and some mine shafts. Northwest of you is Neon Top (my name), it is the light brown, bald looking peak and covered in green lichen up top. En route you may pass, or see, a large alcove...it's been used as a vulture roost in the past. If you stick to the jeep road across the wash you'll shortly come on an AGFD stock tank, Dead Deer Tank (real name). Follow the game trails beyond the tank towards Two-Holes (you may have noticed this to the west as you hiked across the Bowl, at least from a distance you can see one hole clearly). Plod in, around, and over arroyo after arroyo to a real nice and rugged area. Pop out of the Bowl and go climb those rocks...a passable route always appears. I don't know, just go explore anywhere. The ridges out in this range are awesome. Just bring a map just in case you are not familiar with off-trail. But, as you'll see out here, the horizon offers many distinguishable shapes to use as a bearing. So, let your adventure unfold and go wherever the terrain or an animal or a thought leads you.
Well, that's the hike more or less. I've spent 3 hours here...I've spent 10 hours. It's all up to the hiker really and how many ridges you want to climb. This is a sweet spot and I always have great success in finding something neat here. If you get off trail, you're going to see more animals. Have fun and don't tell too many friends as I have been enjoying not seeing humans out here!
Refer to Indian Springs Petroglyphs for the Ben Avery Trail section.
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BLM Division Reports Location and Description
The 100,600-acre Eagletail Mountains Wilderness is about 65 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona, in Maricopa, Yuma, and LaPaz counties.
The wilderness includes 15 miles of the Eagletail Mountains ridgeline and Courthouse Rock to the north, Cemetary Ridge to the south, and a large desert plain area between the two ridgelines. Several different rock strata are visible in most places, with natural arches, high spires, monoliths, jagged sawtooth ridges and numerous washes six to eight miles long.
Recreation such as extended horseback riding and backpacking trips, sightseeing, photography, rock climbing and day hiking are enhanced by the topographic diversity, scenic character, size, as well as the botanical, wildlife, and cultural values of the area.
From Phoenix, travel west along Interstate 10 to the Tonopah exit. Travel south from Tonopah to the paved Salome Highway, then west to the Harquahala Valley via the Courthouse Rock Road. Roads near the wilderness include the pipeline maintenance road on the north and East Clanton Well Road on the south. High-clearance or four-wheel-drive vehicles are needed for access to the wilderness boundary.
Some lands around and within the wilderness are not federally administered. Please respect the property rights of the owners and do not cross or use these lands without their permission.
As with other types of outdoor activities, wilderness travel poses some potential hazards. You may encounter flashfloods, poisonous snakes and insects, poisonous plants, or lightning storms. Be aware of your exposure to heat or cold. Don't panic if you get lost. Carry an ample supply of water with you since many areas may have inadequate or contaminated water sources.
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.