Remote Gem of the Mazzies
Remote trail in the Mazatzal Wilderness that ascends Wet Bottom Mesa into a rare, unburnt forest of pines before dropping into Bull Spring Canyon. Western few miles may be used to connect Verde River and Highwater Trail, the rest is seldom traveled.
Reaching the western end of this trail is difficult. The simplest approach is to park at the end of FR18 (high-clearance), hike the length of Red Creek (over 4 miles), cross the Verde River at Red Creek Rapids (no bridge), and then follow a short section of Verde River Trail to the trailhead. Other approaches would include hiking longer distances of Verde River or Highwater that could make for excellent multi-day adventures. This trail was not designed for easy access.
Once at the western end, Wet Bottom Trail makes a steady climb up the tip of Wet Bottom Mesa. Over the first few miles it gains 700' by utilizing a few convenient hills and some switchbacks. There are large cairns to mark the way and some great views north of Table Mountain and Squaw Butte. At 2 miles the trail drops slightly onto a depression on the mesa and a signed junction with Highwater Trail shows up.
The tread remains well-defined beyond the junction, with a few cairns to mark the way eastward, though at 2.3 miles the surrounding terrain changes. Hills began to rise where the mesa was once flat and the trail slides along the north side, sweeping in and out along the numerous drainages. It mostly tracks the contour lines until 3.8 miles, when it cuts south and climbs a shaded drainage with plenty of pines, picking up a few hundred feet before entering a valley of catclaw and mesquite.
Getting through this valley without bleeding may be a challenge, though if you're hiking the Mazatzals this is an accepted part of the journey. At 4.3 miles the tread firms up on the far side and climbs steeply along a drainage, gaining 400' as it crosses two rocky washes. Once it crests the saddle on top there is a brief respite, a short bit of following the contour along a semi-defined route, and then at 5.3 miles the trail begins to climb the growing ridgeline to the south, swinging in and out of drainages, choked by plentiful growth, and finding a way forward often means embracing game paths. This section is difficult and will take plenty of time to do safely.
At 7.2 miles the grade begins to lessen (though it is still present) and junipers surrounded by fields of grass began to show up, a welcome respite from the thicker vegetation of earlier. The cairns are often large enough to make out in the grass ahead. That ridgeline that the trail had spent so much time dancing along is crested and huge views open up to the south, including Midnight Mesa, Wet Bottom Creek, and even Mazatzal Peak in the far distance. Up here the trail may be difficult to track, yet it barely matters, with so much to see and such open area.
The highpoint of the trail is reached and a spur trail to Childer's Seep show up around 9.1 miles. Unfortunately, this also marks the edge of the Willow Fire, and burn damage will begin to fade in, soon reaching devastating levels. After the spur there is one short drop into a drainage, one that has some rock tanks just off-trail for a possible source, and then a quick climb on the other side. Once past the drainage there is a good view down at Bull Spring Canyon at 9.7 miles before a steady drop down to LF Cabin and Bull Spring Trail, where one can continue east to the more traveled parts of the wilderness.
The only dependable water source is on the far eastern end of the trail, Bull Trap Spring, located next to LF Cabin. Otherwise there are some drainages along the trail that may hold water, or a short venture off-trail will lead to Childer's Seep, Canyon Creek, or Bull Spring.
LF Cabin in Bull Spring Canyon would make for an excellent campsite. Also, there are a few spots along the trail, especially on the western half, with fire rings and flat pads for dry campsites.
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.