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Dutchman Grave Trail #22 - Mazatzal, AZ

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Guide 15 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
3.3 of 5 by 6
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 11.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,155 feet
Elevation Gain 2,730 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,800 feet
Avg Time One Way 6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 23.96
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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35  2018-09-03
Midnight Mesa Loop - Mazatzal
30  2018-06-09
Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring Loop
24  2017-03-04
Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring Loop
7  2014-03-27
Midnight Mesa Loop - Mazatzal
8  2014-03-27
Midnight Mesa Loop - Mazatzal
19  2014-03-15
Midnight Mesa Loop - Mazatzal
16  2013-04-02
Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring Loop
17  2013-02-16
Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring Loop
Page 1,  2
Author jacobemerick
author avatar Guides 31
Routes 71
Photos 795
Trips 96 map ( 1,037 miles )
Age 34 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Mar, Feb, Apr
Sun  6:15am - 6:24pm
Official Route
9 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
A Mazzie Dutchman
by jacobemerick

A beautiful, varied trail in the western Mazatzal Wilderness that provides a challenge that continuously pays off. The route is well-chosen and should be easy to track even without regular maintenance. Can be used with nearby trails to make for great backpacking trips, such as Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring Loop and the more extreme Midnight Mesa Loop.

Reaching the western trailhead means driving to Sheep Bridge, which is a long haul over rough dirt roads (at least two hours for most). It's a great trailhead, with multiple recreation possibilities, and the remote area keeps the crowd levels down. The drive does make for a hefty commitment for most day hikers. Once you cross the bridge you'll need to follow Verde River Trail for three-quarters of a mile before the start of Dutchman Grave Trail, hopping over both Horse and Sycamore Creek along the way.

Follow the sign and take the right fork. It slowly climbs up the base of HK Mesa, gaining a few hundred feet over the first mile. The tread is well-defined and there are plenty of cairns to guide through the Sonoran desert. Once on HK Mesa things ease up and one can enjoy the views of the Mazatzal Mountains on the horizon. At 2 miles the trail swings close to the south edge of the mesa, providing views down into a lush Sycamore Creek and the old site of HK Ranch. In the early morning this creek becomes a cacophony of bird sounds.

After a small climb around the side of a short hill the mesa ends at 3.3 miles, forcing the trail up a sharp 400' climb. There are a few switchbacks to help catch the breath. On top of the saddle a great view of the valley ahead opens up, where Sycamore Creek flows down from the Red Hills and joins with the Dutchman Grave springs. Trot down and enter the scenic valley. At 4.3 miles you will cross the creek, and then over the next mile the route plays along washes, passes the Red Hills Trail junction, swings into a few lovely riparian areas with established campsites, and passes at least two decent water sources. This is a good spot for a break (or an overnight) before the steeper half of the trail.

At 5.4 miles the trail goes through an old gate and leaves the valley behind, climbing the slope of 4165' before swinging off to a saddle on the side. Then it mostly stays level, darting in and out of a few drainages, with a few short climbs. This section of the trail may be difficult to follow with multiple game trails criss-crossing the official route. Cypress Butte towers to the north, a distraction from the rough going. At 7 miles the trail finally leaves 4165' behind, taking a saddle across to the bottom of Midnight Mesa and shooting up a rocky drainage, cresting around 4300'.

For the next mile the trail stays at the base of the mesa above, winding around to avoid some drainages to the south. This is pleasant going through open grasslands with big views opening up all around. Also, some of the largest cairns in the Mazatzals appear to live in this area - perhaps the grass makes them grow taller out here. At 9 miles there is a short drop across one of the drainages and a 800' climb waiting on the other side. This final exhausting incline deposits you within an easy trot of the eastern end of the trail, near the verdant Mountain Spring.

Water Sources
Both Lower and Dutchman Grave Spring are mostly dependable, though it may take some hunting around to find a pool large enough to pull from during dry times. The trough at Mountain Spring is dependable year-round.

Several good campsites sit around Dutchman Spring with fire rings and clearings for tents, usually within view of the trail. Mountain Spring is a relatively well-known site in the heart of the Mazatzals and has water, fire ring, a table (!), and great shade.

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.

2018-06-15 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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Dutchman Grave Trail #22 - Mazatzal
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    I could not make up my mind this weekend on something to do and was all over the place when this backpacking idea popped into my conscience, as a lighter alternative to the Midnight Mesa Loop, which had been on my to do list for a long time. I got some last minute details from Joe, which included a good review of Dutchman Grave Trail, and an assurance that I could not go wrong with the Western Mazzies this time of year.

    Joe was definitely right, the western Mazzies are a special place right now. One could get away with charging admission to the Dutchman Grave Trail right now; perhaps the desert at its finest and with the rugged ridgeline of the Mazzies as a backdrop, hard to beat. Similarly, the trail itself was in pretty good shape too. There are some faint areas and a few areas where a second look may be necessary, however, it is generally pretty easy to follow and marked well with some very tall and well constructed cairns. The final stretch into Mountain Spring is a little strenuous, but very scenic, maybe one of the nicer stretches of trail in the entire wilderness in my opinion. The strenuous part was the 670 feet climb from mile 11-12 that just seems to come out of nowhere, just when you think you are almost to Mountain Spring, oh if only we hiked in the manner the crow flied, sigh. Mountain Spring was an excellent spot to camp and there was plenty of water in the cement trough and adjacent creek bed. I enjoyed a nice fire and a perfect night for sleeping.

    The hike out on Sunday went pretty quick and I was back to the TH in less than five hours. I made a detour down Willow Springs Trail #244 to Willow Spring on the way out and was very impressed by the area. It may be one of the nicest destinations in the Mazzies right now. The creek is flowing nicely through there right now and there are a few nice cascades and swimming holes in the spring area. The trailhead area was bustling when I got there, but I saw nobody on the trails all weekend. A really awesome area and I left feeling very satisfied with my hastily planned venture into the western Mazzies. In fact, I would not mind returning for a multiple day and night trip to do some more exploring of those trails and areas in the interior I still need to get to, one of my more memorable Mazatzal destinations. Thanks for the last minute beta and good call @joebartels.

    More significant on the drive in, as large swaths of yellow have taken over many of the hills on the way to the TH, but some pretty good action along some sections of Willow Springs Trail too...
    Dutchman Grave Trail #22 - Mazatzal
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    After the seemingly never-ending drive to the trail-head, we set off on the faint, but fairly easy to follow Willow Springs Trail, making it to Mountain Spring before nightfall. Unbeknownst to us, a mountain lion had made a deer kill within the last week about 10 feet from where I had setup my tent, and some critters, including a fox, visited during the night to try to snack on the little that had remained.

    The next day was mostly a pleasant surprise, trail conditions were pretty good, to nearly highway like, along the remainder of the willow springs trail and the midnight trail. There are only two areas where it gets bad: the first is the area where willow springs trail intersects the midnight trail. The fire heavily damaged this area, and the beginning of the midnight mesa trail is not clear. The second is where the midnight mesa trail first meets Wet Bottom Creek. Though I was sure we were on the trail, the 6 ft tall bushes we had to wade through suggested this 100 ft span has already reverted to its natural state. A large camp was found setup at Wet Bottom Creek, and presumably this group had done the maintenance on the remainder of the Midnight mesa highway to its junction with Red Hills. :thanx:

    The Red Hills trail from here on is pretty much a disaster, and is pretty much non-existent in several places, and overgrown (badly) in the remainder. Other than the nice part where it crosses Wet Bottom Creek, it was not enjoyable.

    Thanks Fan for joining me! The 3 days went by quickly. The fact that some of the crazy people on this site hiked this in a day is mind-boggling. And from their GPS tracks, they only did about 70% of their loop on the actual trail.
    Dutchman Grave Trail #22 - Mazatzal
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    Ken and I knocked this out two weeks ago. I really enjoyed what I saw. Unfortunately 9 hours was in the dark so I didn't get to see half of the hike.

    jj and I started out 40 minutes before sunrise with just enough light to avoid headlamps. Well at least I thought so until the Travelocity Gnome scared the crap out of me. On closer inspection I was looking at the vertical attention of a skunk's tail. Lucked out and moved on.

    Dutchman Grave Trail #22
    Still the trail I fell in love with weeks ago. Not as many yellow wildflower varieties, just green green green everywhere!

    Red Hills Trail #262
    The first few miles are outstanding. Experience paid off on this bad boy. Navigation was easier. I can now say this one takes the most time in route finding having done the others in daylight. Still unique and worth it once for those that haven't checked it out. Well at least the portion in this loop anyhow.

    Midnight Trail #272
    Not on my favorites list for the Mazzies. Yet easier to follow in daylight. The best part being my two planned bushwhack detours worked out great. Willow Springs Trail came quicker than anticipated.

    Willow Springs Trail #223
    The moment of truth. Ken & I had a heck of a time negotiating the 0.5 miles of trail around Midnight Mesa. Today in was still sketchy for a tenth of a mile. Yet easier to see, negotiate and didn't look so steep in daylight. That's it right? Head down and it's over.

    Not so fast. The hike down was phenomenal. Perhaps the weather. Perhaps the stunning views all the way down. I really enjoyed this trail in the daylight. Nice backside views of Peeley, Sheep and Saddle Mtn too!

    Second scare of the day was looking straight down the purple throat of a gila monster. I'm beginning to notice a pattern after a week of three snakes, a skunk and a gila monster at close range... jj is in the back wolfing down taffy!

    How it panned out
    I felt better on this loop. 20 hours was outta my comfort zone. JJ would probably knock off an hour or two without me and I'd probably add an hour two without him. So a nice medium. I hit 40g protein, 3 quarts of water, 2 Qts Gatorade, four ibuprofen, sunflower seeds, pistachios, half a pepperoni beef stick, 1 large chewy yet crunchy sweet tart. Feel great now a few hours afterwards. Of course jj survived on unfiltered creek water and his typical plethora of sugar Also tried one super anti histamine to ward off the quickened paced snots a couple hours in. Yeah that worked for maybe ten minutes.
    Dutchman Grave Trail #22 - Mazatzal
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    Joe's summed it up well.

    I've finished the Red Hills and the Willow springs trails.

    I doubt I’ll be back on the Midnight Mesa / Willow Springs junction. That area is just too much rock scramble / climbing for me :scared: .

    I brought 6 liters of water and filtered 3 more for a total of 9 liters consumed.

    It was way too cool going to Richard’s avatar spot.
    Dutchman Grave Trail #22 - Mazatzal
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    The inner Mazzies have intrigued me since 2001 when I created a FLASH map of the wilderness. Ken suggested this loop. I spent a solid twenty minutes throwing it together with his previous routes. Posting my gps route realized Richard did this loop CCW as a 4 day backpack. I should have known... lol!

    Driving across the Verde shaves about 1 hour off the drive to Sheep Bridge. Even with Horseshoe releasing 5 cfs the Verde was bone dry. We started the longest day hike of my life at 8:05am. "Wow" expectations where pretty low for this hike. If there is a cool hike in Arizona surely I know about it... right? Storybook temps albeit breezy set the stage.

    Dutchman Grave Trail #22
    Enjoyed this trail the most. Spring was dancing and changing tunes along the way. Healthy, out of idiot range, saguaros cover the hills.

    Red Hills Trail #262
    Some of the coolest mazzie terrain. Notably in two less burned creek areas and one mine area. Finding the trail is difficult. Year 'round water in the pools? One of 'em seems likely...

    Midnight Trail #272
    Welcome to the show. Dreams are filled with ridiculous access trails in the middle of large wilderness. The sun was setting and a full moon rose as we stepped into dreamland. The 2004 Willow Fire has destroyed a majority of the route. Extremely difficult to follow at night. Probably easier in daylight. Considerable amount of cairns. Unfortunately most are spaced out of view leaving no clue, aside from gps, which direction to go.

    Wind was really cranking. Plenty of water. My growling stomach was so loud it sounded like it was digesting internal organs. Ken whipped out the best mint chocolate Cliff bar I've had in my life. Then came the cherry on top. Literally too! A BAG of dried cherries. Wow, wow, wahoo! Christmas isn't usually this good!

    Willow Spring Trail #244
    Back to reality. #244 skirts the ESE side of Midnight Mesa proper for a half mile. Either we missed the trail or it is gone. Ken was not liking it. He slipped down and started yelling in Stiller tongue. A little further, then he slipped in a precarious spot. Looked like Luke hanging onto the edge of the weather vane under Cloud City. The situation called for some emergency jedi training. Ken used the force and denied the wrath of the dark side. Yoda would have been proud.

    We made it to some cairns rounding out the final third of the half mile skirt. Perhaps we just missed the rest. From there the majority of the trail down is easy to follow. Night hiking under a full moon is cool. Even better when the wind stopped.

    Horseshoes - 6
    Mylar Balloons - 1
    Crested Saguaros - 1
    Gila Monsters - 1
    4am Finishes - 1

    Carried 5 quarts, consumed 6

    Anyone interested in a predawn start at a quick pace or jog a few flats hit me up for a redo!

    predominantly along Dutchman Grave Trail #22
    Blackfoot Daisies are abundant 2200-2700ft, crazy hopbush for a half mile, claretcup, strawberry hedgehog, blue dicks, poppies, lupine, Dudleya, Cream Cups, Desert Anemone, Desert Phlox, Verbena, Dune Primrose, Filaree, Narrow-Leaved Popcorn Flower
    Dutchman Grave Trail #22 - Mazatzal
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    I really like the Sheep Bridge area, but the drive is a pain. The road from the 24/269 intersection was in better shape than the last time I took it. A lot of the minor rock steps were gone. I think the recent rains deposited a lot of dirt on the road and evened out the rock steps. The Tangle creek was flowing a bit higher than usual.

    Two unusual/interesting/weird events happened this day. One was at the start and the other was at the end of the hike.

    Just as a started hiking on the bridge a helicopter landed on the beach!! At first I was thinking it was a rescue, but the helicopter was not police or SAR. Neither the pilot nor the helicopter had any official markings. The pilot stood in the river with some device taking readings or pictures. I thought about asking for a ride to a remote spot in the Mazzies, so I could do a one-way hike back :sl:. Maybe the other end of the Verde River trail.

    Now for the hike:
    The original plan was to hike to the Willows Spring / Midnight Mesa intersection as an out and back. The Willows spring is well defined and in good shape, but now it's obscured with the tall grass. It took me much longer than expected to reach the Mountain Spring area. I checked out the Mountain spring and the water looked yucky :yuck: with algae. The spring itself is shaded with tall trees.

    The Willows spring trails gets nicer past the Mountain spring. There were 5~6 foot cairns leading the way up a saddle. The Mazzies make you work hard, but they reward with amazing views. I was past my turn around point, but the trail and views were so nice that I couldn't bring myself to turn-around ;) . I'm pretty sure I turned around at the Lost Spring trail. I either missed the sign or the sign was missing.

    Since I fell short of hitting the Midnight Mesa trail ](*,) , I returned on the Dutchman's Grave trail aka the Mountain Spring loop. About a 1/2 mile down the Dutchman's grave, I found a 5 point elk antlers by a tree :) .
    There's a little bit of route finding on the Dutchman's grave trail. I personally like the Willow Spring trail better.

    I returned to the Sheep Bridge in the dark. I did notice that most all of the creek was dry. I was hoping to see waterfalls and gushing water like people have been seeing by Eastern side of the Mazzies.

    Now for the 2nd unusual/weird event of the day. As I got closer to the Verde River I could see a pair of tail lights on the road. They were parked for a long time. At first I thought it was someone setting up camp. After a bit the lights moved a bit. Then the road was out of sight and then I stopped seeing the lights. When I hit the sheep bridge, I saw a pair of tail lights right next to my Jeep. Something seemed odd about the tail lights. Then it dawned on me, it was a sedans tail lights! It was a Nissan Altima!

    When I got to my Jeep, a young kid came out with a crude hand drawn map of the Verde River. He asked if he could hike on banks of the Verde. I was tired / confused and weird-ed out. I told him to wait till morning and just hike on the Verde trail.
    He told me that it took him all day to get to this point. He had tried to drive over the Horseshoe Dam and was turned away. He was going to spend a couple of days at the Sheep Bridge.

    Then it gets better. All of a sudden he starts yelling *!?* :tt: , *!&@ :tt: . He locked his keys in the running car. He had to bust out the passenger window to get back in the car.
    There's more, but I digress... :out:
    Dutchman Grave Trail #22 - Mazatzal
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    I've wanted to check this area out for a couple of years. My timing has always been off. Due to the road, you shouldn't go during the rainy season and with the lower elevations, mid to late spring doesn't work out. I finally found my window. Armed with GPSJoe's track I headed out. I left my house at 5:15am. I made to the FR24/FR269 intersection by ~7:15. Now I started the 12 mile rough road. About 9 miles in, I started to hear a new odd sound coming from my front passenger tire :scared: . I jumped out and looked, but didn't see anything wrong. I went another mile before deciding to stop driving. I read reports that he last two miles of the road were the worst, I parked at mile 10 on FR269. This is where I started my hike. Without knowing what the road conditions were ahead, I didn't want to chance my Jeep breaking down. By this point I had driven 70 miles and it took me 3 hour to it.

    I hoofed it down to the bridge. The remaining two miles on the road was OK. But still that new sound worried me. The views were awesome. I'm glad I brought my good camera. There was a bunch of people camping at the TH. There was one person camping on the beach. I headed over the bridge. The Verde River was flowing well. I started up the Willow Spring trail. It was cool looking at the eastern mountain range of the Mazatzal's. Typically I'm in the mountain ranges looking west at the Verde. I came across two backpackers getting water in the Horse Creek. As the morning heated up, I started to climb to the higher elevations and into the cooler temps. As I started my climb down, it started to get warm again. I pumped some water at the Sycamore creek. The Dutchman Grave had a couple of areas where I needed to refer to GPSJoes route. The trail gets obscured by grass and I wasn't paying 100% because I was taking in the views

    At 4:30 I saw my first Gila monster for the year! I noticed that every Gila monster I've seen has been in the 4 o'clock hour. I also explored a little up the Verde River trail. I got back to the Jeep just at night fell. I took the drive back slow as to avoid that new dreaded sound. It took me four hours to get back hour.

    This area is a new playground for me :y: It has numerous trails with a lot of connectors. There a lot of exploring to do! The only bad thing is the long slow drive out.
    Dutchman Grave Trail #22 - Mazatzal
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    Started from Sheep Bridge: Willow Springs - Midnight - Red Hills - Dutchman Grave - Sheep Bridge.

    Day 1
    Willow Springs trail was in good condition to Mountain Spring.

    Day 2
    Trail became sketchy at times beyond MS. Saw a deer just before the traverse around Midnight Mesa. Midnight trail was even harder to follow with just occasional cairns but not much sign of the trail. Lower down we did find some trail on the east side of the creek descending to Wet Bottom Creek. At the upper crossing of WBC the trail was a little clearer but after leaving WBC and going over the shoulder and into the next creek the trail disappears among a large burned area. We went cross county uphill to the Red Hills trail and followed it down to the lower crossing of WBC. This is my favorite place in the Mazatzals and it mostly survived the Willow fire :D

    Day 3
    Left WBC and followed the cairns and faint trail up hill for a mile or so and then entered another large burn where the trail completely disappeared. Found the trail at the ridge top and followed it okay for the next few miles. A couple of places you lose it for a little while. Descended down in the next creek and then up the other side towards Cypress Butte then along the mesas past some Indian ruins and the mine and down the drainage and larger creek to Dutchman Grave Spring.

    Day 4
    Straightforward hike out from DGS and along HK Mesa.
    Dutchman Grave Trail #22 - Mazatzal
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    Day 1
    We took Willow Springs trail to, you guessed it, Willow Spring. I guess the Willow fire started somewhere near here. :(

    Day 2
    Short day. We continued along WS to Mountain Spring. We thought we had stumbled into a large work crew and so we camped downstream from them. They had a large canvas tent with tables and then about 10 or more dome tents scattered around. :o We assumed they were out working and would be back soon but we never saw or heard anybody so we never found out what the story was.
    (Update: Next time back here in Nov 2010 there was no sign of any of the gear.)

    We camped at a small clearing perhaps 100 yards down from the spring and there was more bear scat than I have ever seen in one place - although it wasn't recent... :scared:

    We took Dutchman Grave trail to Dutchman Grave Spring. Saw 2 deer on the opposite of a canyon.

    Easy hike out to Sheep Bridge. Saw 2 javelina on the drive out.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To Sheep Bridge Trailhead
    Take Cave Creek road east and follow the directions to Seven Springs - Cave Creek Road turns into FR24. Take FR24 35 miles until it ends at FR269. Take FR269 another 12 miles to the southeast until it ends at Sheep Bridge. NOTE: the last 8 miles or so of FR269 is unmaintained! While it may be passable by car - I would urge something with more clearance and designed suspension.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 105mi 3h 38m
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 182mi 4h 50m
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 119mi 3h 44m
    page created by mazatzal on Jun 15 2018 2:28 pm
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