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Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring Loop, AZ

Guide 17 Triplogs  0 Topics
  3.9 of 5 
no permit
181 17 0
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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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7  2020-12-19 azlaurie
6  2020-02-27 toddak
11  2018-11-01 Metalrunner
30  2018-06-09 jacobemerick
17  2017-04-06 jameslcox44
24  2017-03-04 FOTG
8  2016-04-07 phlak
16  2013-04-02 topohiker
Page 1,  2
Author topohiker
author avatar Guides 14
Routes 114
Photos 4,615
Trips 2,560 map ( 38,592 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  5:33am - 7:33pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 Willow 2004117.2 mi*
🔥 2005 Cave Creek Complex169.4 mi*
🔥 2004 Willow Fire120k
🔥 2004 Willow117.2 mi*
🔥 1988 Cedar Fire4.4k
🔥 View (All) - over Official Route 🔥
*perimeter length in miles

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. The 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 low (2,100) and climb high (5,000). You loop the Willow Springs #233, Dutchman Grave #22, and a short leg of Verde River Trail #11. You get awesome views and Vistas on almost every step of the loop. You go from the high desert to the mountains.

You cross the Sheep Bridge and follow the footpath 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 a 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 counterclockwise.

For this hike, I did it counterclockwise. You take the Willow Spring Trail and climb a little hill. The trail starts 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 Horse creek. Then the trail climbs more aggressively. The trail comes to a saddle with a signed intersection for Willow Spring. I've been told this spring flows perennially. Stay on the Willow Spring Trail #233. 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 Mountain Spring (perennial), Deadman Trail (25), Davenport Wash trail (89). Continue towards Mountain Spring and then you'll come across another intersection with the Dutchman Grave(22), Red Hills (262). Take the Dutchman Grave trail. The Dutchman Grave trail starts by going through a grassy field then it starts 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 (12.7-mi NE). 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 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 / Willow 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.

    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
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills

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