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Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range, AZ

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201 8 0
Guide 8 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine S
3.3 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Distance One Way 18.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,623 feet
Elevation Gain 2,920 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,660 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 30.7
Interest Peak
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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28  2016-05-27 friendofThunderg
51  2016-05-27 chumley
27  2016-05-27 BiFrost
15  2016-05-27 John9L
19  2016-05-14 BiFrost
15  2016-05-14 uphill_junkie
24  2015-07-17 friendofThunderg
22  2012-04-05 JuanJaimeiii
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
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Preferred   Oct, May, Apr, Sep
Sun  6:04am - 6:13pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
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Flora Nearby
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This is a moderately difficult hike.

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  • 100 Classic Hikes - 2007
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    100 Classic Hikes - 2007

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
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
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FOTG has spoken glowingly about the Primitive Blue Range and pics of the area looked intriguing. I jumped at the chance to go when he mentioned it a couple weeks ago and said he would drive. Chumley & Karl joined us and we made a loose hiking itinerary and headed out.

Our group of four, plus Blanco, left Phoenix on Thursday after work and made the long drive to the Primitive Blue Range. We car camped off Red Hill Rd at roughly 8,000ft elevation. I had a hard time sleeping that night. We woke early on Friday and drove to our trailhead and started the hike in. I wasn’t feeling too well from the lack of sleep and was partially dehydrated. Plus I was carrying a heavy pack so that didn’t make things easy.

We started off with the Largo Canyon trail and hiked in several miles and took a break by Dutch Oven Spring. From there we connected onto the Telephone Ridge Trail and headed for Bear Mountain at 8,550 elevation. The climb to the summit took its toll on me and I was glad to finally reach it. We took a break there and then headed southeast for Bear Valley where we set up camp. The others then went for a short hike while I stayed in camp to filter water, prep the fire ring & relax. I was finally feeling better when the others returned and we settled in for dinner and a nice campfire.

We woke on day two and packed up camp and headed northeast for Franz Spring & the cabin. We wanted to get there early hoping to beat other groups to the prime camping spot next to the cabin. We made good time as we climbed the trail to Campbell Flat and then continued on to Franz Spring where we arrived to a vacant camp around 9:30am. We spent the next hour setting up camp and filtering water and then headed northeast for the Tige Rim for a hardy day hike.

The lasso loop around Tige Rim was long, dry & relatively slow going. Most of this section was okay and there were some nice views on a ridge around the halfway point. The heat took its toll on us and Blanco seemed to be having a hard time as he rested in shade every chance he got. Chumley, Karl & I shared our water with him while FOTG looked on with indifference saying he’s been through worse. We continued our lass loop and finally topped out on the high point and it was relatively easy going back to camp as we headed downhill.

We arrived back to Franz Spring to find a large meetup group camped close by. They had a fire going and were very noisy and generally crappy neighbors. One of them walked through our campsite several times to use the outhouse rather than going in the woods. It was annoying but didn’t ruin the weekend for us.

All of us were up early on our third day and packed up camp and hit the trail. We headed down Lanphier Canyon and passed several groups making their way in. The Blue was busy this weekend! We arrived back to the trailhead late morning and packed up our gear. Our backpacking portion of the trip was over and we had plans to day hike & car camp that night.

The Bear Mountain loop is fantastic with great views and the trails are in good condition. I expected more solitude but wasn’t totally surprised considering it was a holiday weekend. I would definitely like to explore more of this area another time.
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
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Lee took the lead on planning this one and it turned out to be a great introduction to the PBR. I was a little surprised to find that this area is much more like the rim country near Payson than the White Mountains as I was expecting. The Blue River valley is only 5500 feet, and while our route took us up to higher elevations, the landscape overall reminded me of the same Mogollon Rim 120 miles farther west.

The upper portion of Sawmill along Telephone Ridge was the highlight of day 1, with big views and a pleasant climb after the steep connector that climbs up from Largo. Bear Mountain is obscured by trees, and the old lookout tower isn't tall enough to see over them. Maybe that's why it's been decommissioned!

Bear Valley is a great spot. I could set up a base camp here and explore. The trip down Little Blue was a great suprise with running water and amazing geology. Huge spires loom above the canyon. I climbed up the ridge adjacent to the canyon to get a better view, but the afternoon sun made it tough to capture any photos. I tried to find trail 341 on the way back to Bear Valley, but I couldn't find even the slightest sign of old tread amongst the fire deadfall and new growth.

Saturday we made the quick trip over to Franz spring and set up camp near the old cabin before heading off to check out the Tige Rim. I had been excited to see this area, but found the reward not to be worth the rest of the hike. It's just a long, hot, dry slog to get to a couple of great view points. In retrospect, I'd skip the loop and just hike the south part of the loop to the views and head back from there.

We returned to camp to find a huge group of people camped right next to us. I'm guessing it was a meetup kind of thing. Apparently they don't backpack into the wilderness looking for peaceful solitude because it didn't occur to them to find a spot to camp that might be just out of view or earshot of others. I've encountered this before, and it is something I will never understand. Might as well have headed for Woods Canyon Lake! :-({|=

In the morning we headed down Lanphier back toward the trailhead. We passed numerous groups along the way. It was actually quite surprising even on a holiday weekend in the Blue. We figured that articles last year in Backpacker (Nov 15) and possibly AZH (July 15) contributed to the 21 cars :o in the parking lot. (We were the only car when we started).

While Lanphier is a pleasant canyon with shade and a stream, I'm not sure I'd like to use it for the ascent. It is steep in places and I could see it really taking it's toll on somebody carrying a heavy pack.

Thanks to Lee for the intro to the PBR. Sorry we didn't make it down to Ladrone. Next time!
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
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I headed back to the Blue Range for Memorial Weekend and for the first time, I brought company. We had a loose plan to cover some pretty good ground with a relatively ambitious loop that involved some must-see side trips in my opinion. The plan was enough for myself and Karl, but Chumley and John were not at ease without having everything perfectly laid out. But I assured them it was a little flexible and we had a few plan Bs and Cs worked in there and they were pretty cool with the rough plan I laid out to them.

We drove up Thursday night and despite being pulled over twice on the way (both warnings), we made great time. In fact, we were there in time to enjoy a fire and relax a little. We woke up to frozen water on the rim, but our day got noticeably warmer as we made the last part of the drive down Red Hills road to the trailhead.

We made good time up Largo, but it was a tad dry and warm to appreciate. Telephone Ridge was a bit of a big boy climb with full packs, but we all had enough energy to drop our packs for a quick trip up Bear Mountain. After Bear Mountain, we decided Bear Valley was starting to look like an ideal first night's camp. This was further confirmed when we arrived at the quaint meadow, rich with prime campsites and a trickling creek. After setting up, myself, Karl, Chumley and Blanco hiked further down the Little Blue Trail. This turned out to be an excellent hike, as the trail was in great shape, there were stretches of flowing water and it took a path through some very cool narrows before opening up to a nice section dominated by giant rock spires and monuments. After seeing what seemed to be about the best 2.5 mile section of that trail, we headed back to camp.

On day two we opted for a short trip with our big packs and then a rather large loop into New Mexico via the Tige Rim Trail. We chose Franz Spring and cabin area to camp. After setting up, we all took off for a 15 mile day hike. The Tige Rim loop was hot and dry. The views from the rim were nice and there were a few cool stretches, but the warmer temps and lack of water took away from some of the loop's normal appeal. We we got back to Franz, the worst possible scenario had played out. A group of no likely less than ten people had popped a squat next to us. I knew there was a chance we might bump into some backpackers, but I could have never imagined running into that many people out there. They ended up not being the worst neighbors and our dogs got along, but they were definitely louder than our small group and they insisted on using the outhouse for some reason. To each their own, but it was probably not designed for large backcountry groups with its three feet deep hole, no maintenance and no chemicals. Nevertheless, it was business as usual at camp and we still enjoyed the great spot and did get a chance to chat with a few from the large group. No sour grapes about sharing one of the nicer areas in the Blue Range, I was just not ready to share it with ten people and it ended up not being the nice serene spot I had described. So a small damper on the backpacking trip in my eyes.

A lot of hikers on the trail on the way out, but a quick hike with pretty good trail and very scenic along the flowing sections of Lamphier. A small disappointment on day two, but I enjoyed my three days in the the Blue. I would have liked to cover some more new ground, but it was nice to revisit some spots that I had been intrigued by before and the section of Little Blue we covered on the first day will instantly go on my list of favorites for the area. But overall great times as usual with these guys and I hope the newbies to the area were happy with the change of scenery.

Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
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Originally, I had planned a four day three night trek into the Primitive Blue Range. However, on the day of my departure I decided I would at least inquire about the weather. My go to guy painted a pretty bleak outlook for the weekend. I decided I would just remain flexible and car camp if necessary and complete several day hikes in the area. I think my weather man was in a bit of a fear mongering mood because the conditions ended up being closer to pretty normal July conditions for the P.B.R. Areas of the high rim country certainly got hammered, but I did not endure through that much nasty weather during the entire trip. That being said, Chumley is pretty spot on most of the time with his weather so I opted for a large day hike on day one a car camp and then playing the rest of the weekend by ear. Sounds like the big storm never really materialized on my side of the state leading to the pretty normal monsoon season conditions for that area.

There were some dark clouds in the morning when I started which provided some immediate reinforcement to my decision to change plans. However, things changed quickly and the rest of the day apart from one small shower was beautiful. In fact, I spent most of the day cursing the fact that I did not bring my camping gear as I passed numerous picture perfect sites nestled away in the Blue Range. However, I know if I had got caught in a nasty electrical storm and downpour I would be cursing the fact that I was not sitting inside my warm well-grounded Xterra listening to a ballgame on satellite radio.

The loop I hiked quickly erased any real disappointment that may have popped up. I borrowed the loop idea from the 100 Hikes in AZ book and basically followed JJ's track from a few years ago, except the four mile detour down into the very scenic and remote Bear Valley. Without overstating the hike too much it was truly memorable and certainly one of my better ones in recent memory. This was due in large part to the amount of wildlife I saw on the hike, the interesting summit of Bear Mountain, a chance encounter with a local and the very scenic Lamphier Trail/Canyon to finish up the day.

Blanco and I had a real cool moment with a sow and her cub appropriately near the summit of Bear Mountain. I spotted the cub first and grabbed Blanco as mom made her way into the picture. She stared at us for quite a long time at a distance of about 30 meters or so, however, I made no threatening gestures or movements towards her and just calmly held Blanco while snapping away with my IPhone of course. She definitely noticed Blanco but just nonchalantly walked away with her cub closely behind after a few minutes. I will be honest if she charged us my plan A involved unleashing Blanco, but it never even came close to that and turned out to be a pretty cool encounter.

Bear Mountain has a pretty interesting summit, but the views are less than spectacular due to the trees. The real nice views will be coming up Telephone Ridge and exiting the mountain via WS Lake Trail #54. I loved Bear Valley, saw my first bobcat/lynx for an extended period of time in AZ, very cool. I ran into an interesting guy at Franz Spring who turned out to possess a wealth of knowledge about the area, more on that in next trip log, but it involves rock piles. I loved the setting at Franz Spring so much that I decided it would be my destination for an over-night trip via Bonanza Bill Trail #23 the next day.

Lamphier Canyon is a little rugged but very scenic especially as you approach the lower elevations and the creek becomes perennial. It was in Lamphier that Blanco and I had our final bear encounter of that day. It was another mom and her cub, however, this sow was much larger and the situation was a little bit more sketchy in the narrow confines of the canyon. I gave her a very wide berth pulled Blanco the other way and did not even attempt a picture until she was far to shaded and in too thick of brush to show up on any pictures taken from my IPhone. Turns out the wettest I got all day was from crossing the Blue.

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Map Drive

To Largo Canyon Trailhead
From Alpine head east towards New Mexico on highway 180 to FR 281 (Blue River road). Turnoff is across from Luna lake. Head approximately 23 miles to the Blue Administrative site and that's were the TH starts. On drive down Blue River road you will pass numerous awesome car camping sites. You'll have to ford the Blue river in your vehicle to get to the TH. I've been to the TH between 5-10 times and the Administrative site has always been vacant and locked. No services in Blue.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) - 278 mi, 6 hours 42 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) - 260 mi, 5 hours 44 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) - 232 mi, 5 hours 14 mins
page created by joebartels on Mar 12 2012 11:13 pm
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