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Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring Loop, AZ

no permit
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Guide 14 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
3.8 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 22.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,086 feet
Elevation Gain 3,186 feet
Accumulated Gain 4,505 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8-12 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 45.13
Interest Historic & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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11  2018-11-01 Metalrunner
30  2018-06-09 jacobemerick
17  2017-04-06 jameslcox44
24  2017-03-04 friendofThunderg
8  2016-04-07 phlak
16  2013-04-02 topohiker
17  2013-02-16 BiFrost
5  2011-12-04 LittleKnee
Page 1,  2
Author topohiker
author avatar Guides 13
Routes 112
Photos 4,377
Trips 1,731 map ( 27,689 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Feb, Apr → 7 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:25pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Dedicated to GPSJoe for Track
by topohiker

Back in 2009 GPSJoe sent me a track of this hike and told me how wonderful it was. I finally got to check it out and he was right.

From a sign at the site: "The Old Verde River Sheep Bridge. The original Verde River Sheep Bridge, also known as the Red Point Sheep Bridge, was constructed at this location in 1943 by Flagstaff Sheep Company, which had been grazing sheep in the area under a Forest Service permit since 1926..."

"Erected with hand tools and a few mules during World War II, the bridge was constructed largely with salvaged materials. Overall length of the structure from cable anchorage to cable anchorage was 691 feet, and the distance between the towers was 568 feet. The walkway was 476 feet long and three feet wide. The towers originally were constructed with wood, as was the walkway. Soon after the bridge was completed, the wooden towers were reinforced with concrete buttresses. Each main suspension cable consisted of a pair of... lock-coil, spiral strands, which were obtained from an abandoned tramway that carted copper ore..." Only the towers of the old bridge remain.

"Although several other bridges of this type previously had been built in Arizona, Verde River Sheep Bridge was the last of its kind in the Southwest when it was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. In 1988, weakened by years of service and floods, the bridge was disassembled. In 1989 the bridge found here today was erected. Reminiscent of the original structure, the new bridge recalls the ingenuity of the pioneer sheepmen and a way of ranching that has virtually disappeared from the Arizona scene."
Many remnants from this bridge are still visible at the site.

This is a loop hike through the remote western Mazatzal's. You start out low (2,100) and climb high (5,000). You loop the Willow Springs, Dutchman Grave and the Verde River Trail. You get awesome views and Vistas on almost every step of the loop. You go from high desert to the mountains.

You cross the Sheep Bridge and follow the foot path down to a wash (Horse Creek). Be sure to cross and not take the spur trail that follows the creek/wash. In a short distance you'll come across signed intersection. This is where the loop begins and ends. This is the intersection of the Verde River Trail (11) and Willow Spring Trail (223). You can hike clockwise or counter. For this hike I did it counterclockwise. You take the Willow Spring trail and climb a little hill. The trail starts out very flat and open. It's well marked and worn. About 2 miles in you'll pass the Mazatzal Wilderness sign, then a gate. The trail will start to slowly climb and follow the Horse creek. Then the trail climbs more aggressively. The trail comes to a saddle with a signed intersection for the Willow Spring. I've been told this spring flows perennially. Stay on the Willow Spring Trail. You'll climb to the high point of 5,020 and then drop down into a wash. You'll come across a couple of intersections for the Mountain Spring (perennial), Deadman Trail (25), Davenport Wash trail (89). Continue towards the Mountain Spring and then you'll come across another intersection with for the Dutchman Grave(22), Red hills (262). Take the Dutchman Grave trail. The Dutchman Grave trail starts out by going through a grassy field then it stats to drop down via switchbacks and you eventually cross Sycamore Creek. The trail climbs out and then you have a couple of short ups and downs before starting the descend. The trail starts to get a little hard to follow. There's grass growing over and on the trail. Some of the cairns are obscured by bushes and grass. Take your time and look for the cairns / trail.

Next you'll come across the intersection for Red Hills Trail (262) and Fuller Seep. Stay on the Dutchman Grave. As you pass campsites, watch out for spur trails. You then have to do a couple more climbs and descents. Eventually you'll reach the HK Mesa and the trail becomes flat and easy to follow. The Sycamore Creek is to your left. The trail ends at the Verde River Trail. Turn left and cross the Sycamore Creek. Shortly later you'll be back by the Verde River / Willows springs intersection. This completes the loop. Return to the trailhead and finish the hike.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a more difficult hike. It would be unwise to attempt this without prior experience hiking.

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.

2011-03-13 topohiker
    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
    Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    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...
    Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    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:
    Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    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.
    Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    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
    High Clearance 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 topohiker on Mar 13 2011 1:06 pm
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