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Bull Spring Trail #34, AZ

Guide 23 Triplogs  0 Topics
  2.7 of 5 
no permit
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 7.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,377 feet
Elevation Gain 1,860 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,460 feet
Avg Time One Way 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.5
Interest Historic
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Page 1,  2
Author jacobemerick
author avatar Guides 31
Routes 74
Photos 1,147
Trips 152 map ( 1,712 miles )
Age 36 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Nov, Dec
Sun  6:17am - 6:17pm
Official Route
11 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 Willow 2004117.2 mi*
🔥 2004 Willow Fire120k
🔥 2004 Willow117.2 mi*
🔥 View All over Official Route 🔥
*perimeter length in miles

Long Haul to a Hilton
by jacobemerick

Tough haul up from East Verde River into the remote, rolling hills of the northern Mazatzals. Half of this trail is part of the AZT and is well-maintained and easy to walk, the other half requires constant attention and long pants. For the few that travel its full length there is a rustic cabin with large trees waiting at the end.

The entire length of this trail was damaged by the Willow Fire, which heavily impacts route-finding beyond the AZT.

Reaching the start of the trail is a two-part process. First, getting to Doll Baby Trailhead can be a muddy slog depending on the condition of FR 406. Second, the road is gated at Doll Baby, and hiking Bull Spring Trail means a 3.6 mile walk down a rocky two-track (aka FR 406W). However, if you're doing a longer trek along the AZT, chances are that this road walk will not be necessary and you'll start as it connects with either Brush or Saddle Ridge Trails.

The eastern end of Bull Spring Trail makes a quick climb from the road over a wide, rocky grade as it ascends the side of Copper Mountain. Ignoring the rolling rocks underfoot, this can be a pleasant section, with junipers on each side and pleasant views back towards LF Ranch and the East Verde River. At 0.4 miles a saddle shows up and the grade lessens, and then at 0.7 miles there is a slight drop near Bullfrog Canyon. The junipers began to fade as the fire damage of '04 takes over and the rest of the hike will be through shortened vegetation with no shade.

The real climb begins on the far side of Bullfrog, just over a mile in. In 2.3 miles the trail gains 1700', though the tread is wide and footing solid, most likely the result of a road from yesteryear. A few of the drainages have small stands of trees that have sprung up since the fire that could provide meager shade for breaks. More interesting are the views along the climb - the Mogollon Rim is clearly visible, as is the northern mesas of the Mazatzals. At 3.3 miles the AZT heads south along Brush Trail and, after some more climb, the less-traveled half of Bull Spring Trail finally ascends a saddle and heads west in earnest.

Beyond the AZT junction the trail narrows into a single-track and becomes more difficult (at times) to follow between the crowding brush on each side. As of 2018 there were no cairns to assist, just the lonely track to hunt. Once past the first saddle the wide, barren basin at the start of Red Metal Canyon shows up. The trail swings along the north side of this basin and passes near an old mining prospect and dry tank. At 4.7 miles the trail leaves this basin, enters another, smaller one, and then at 5.6 miles the final saddle is reached and an expansive view of Bull Basin shows up below.

The descent is quick along a shallow ridge before it swings next to, and then crosses, the rocky drainage of Bull Spring Canyon. The trail continues to follow this drainage, never straying more than a few dozen yards from it, making the rocky bed a good navigation aid when the tread inevitably fades away. At 6.5 miles Bull Spring shows up just off trail and makes for a great water-up spot. Alternatively, Bull Trap Spring is located at the end of the trail right next to the LF Line cabin. From here one could set up camp, go back the way they came, or ambitiously continue west on Wet Bottom Trail.

Water Sources
The eastern half, with the AZT, doesn't have much to offer outside of a unreliable Bullfrog Spring and, a bit north of the trail, the East Verde. On the far western side are two more reliable springs, Bull Spring and Bull Trap Spring.

The area around Copper Mountain, with the stands of juniper, could make for an okay campsite. Otherwise there are a few flat spots west of the AZT, and, of course, a great location and fire ring at the LF Line cabin.

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.

2018-12-20 jacobemerick

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    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 / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To City Creek Trailhead
    From Highway 87 in Payson, take Main Street west. Pavement ends after a couple miles, and road becomes FR 406. About 9 miles from end of pavement, City Creek trailhead and parking are on right. If you come to a ranch house and out buildings beside the road, you've gone about a quarter mile too far.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) - 97.0 mi, 2 hours 11 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) - 195 mi, 3 hours 41 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) - 116 mi, 2 hours 41 mins
    page created by topohiker on Dec 20 2018 9:36 pm
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