A taste of Big Bug
Rationalization: I've been very curious about the Big Bug Mesa area lately for a couple reasons. First of all, I've found very little info on hiking in the area. Any trail write-ups I've come across were limited to Grapevine Spring and a small, vague description of this hike. Second of all, and more importantly, it seems to be the quickest access to ponderosa pines from the west side of Phoenix. This, of course, may be incorrect, but I know roundtrip I used significantly less than half of a tank of gas coming from the Glendale area. I can't complain about that!
Hike: The hike begins on a jeep track and passes several nice campsites in the first short stretch in the shade of huge pine trees. After about 0.25 mile you may spot a sign on the left (west) side of the creek that says "9345". Ignore the sign and continue straight on the trail on the right side of the creek. Soon the trail leaves the cool creekbed and climbs over some small hills and in and out of a couple washes as it passes the mouth of Pipeline Canyon. At mile 1.1 you enter the shade of some tall pines and encounter an old corral. This is a good cool down spot if you decided to hike on a 90+ degree day as we did. Soon the trail leaves the shade, but re-enters at mile 1.35. This short stretch in the bottom of the canyon is very enjoyable. The pines are tall and the shade is cool, and the crunch of pine needles under your feet is relaxing. Enjoy, because you will quickly exit the shade and commence fighting through overgrown scrub oak and manzanita as the trail deteriorates. The are small cairns at many of the creek crossings, red flagging on the trees, and eventually a barbed wire fence on your right to help keep you on the trail.
At mile 2.9 you will run into another corral and an unsigned trail junction. I built a cairn at the junction. To your right you can follow red flagging off trail to the top of Little Mesa. We opted to go left. Follow the trail left, still along the left side of the fence. Cairns and yellow flags lead you to a steep drainage that takes you up the side of Big Bug Mesa. It is 0.5 miles and 650 feet up the side of the mesa before you reach the top. The views on the way up include Mayer, Highway 69, the Black Hills, the Bradshaws, and the Mazatzals in the far distance. A large cairn in the trail confirms you are at the top, and you are welcomed with a cool forest of mixed conifers and several flat campsites. The views from the trail on the top are non-existent, as they are blocked by trees, but an off-trail jaunt to the edge of the mesa would probably provide some great views. The trail continues, but at this point we took a nap at one of the many great primitive camp spots and then headed back.
Summary: We did not encounter a single person on this hike on a Saturday afternoon. Awesome! I would certainly recommend this hike for solitude, a decent workout, a variety of terrain, decent views, and proximity to Phoenix. It would probably be perfect when the creek is running... Just be aware, it is very warm during the summer.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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.