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Mescal Ridge Trail #186, AZ

no permit
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Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson E
2 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 2.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,946 feet
Elevation Gain -154 feet
Accumulated Gain 268 feet
Avg Time One Way 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.09
Interest Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
13  2014-10-13
Bear Flat Trail #178 - Tonto NF
12  2014-09-26
Bear Flat Trail #178 - Tonto NF
9  2012-11-11 DarthStiller
5  2012-06-23 sventre
Author sventre
author avatar Guides 13
Routes 67
Photos 403
Trips 61 map ( 272 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Mesa, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, Nov → Any
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  6:09am - 6:28pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flat this isn't
by sventre

Note: Stats are for actual #186 one-way segment only.

This hike begins with a strenuous climb from the Bear Flat Trailhead. Once atop the ridge, it is a moderate roller coaster (mostly flat)all the way out to Horse Pasture Tank. Fate, in the form of the Forest Service, dictated that I make this hike today. Concerned with the extreme dry forest, the Service had closed practically all of the Rim Country trails north of SR 260; but, fortunately, they also cancelled the 2012 closure order for FR405 that had been occasioned by a "bear attack" (what constitutes a threat I will leave to your own judgment).

The hike: I began before sunrise in order to avoid the quick temperature increases that occur each morning in June. The TH (Bear Flat #178) is easy enough to find even in the dark, but once you have crossed the Tonto Creek (almost immediately as you begin) you will encounter the marker for trail #178. What was confusing for me was that the directional arrow on the sign points straight ahead, but with the minimal lighting available I could only discern a game trail to the right. For the next 45 minutes I zig-zagged across the slippery slopes from one game trail to another thinking these were some sort of switchbacks to reach the top. Pine needles covered much of this "trail" which altered from about 12 to 3 inches wide as I made my way up and then down again hopelessly trying to find the real trail. What I discovered on the return trip was that I should have began the hike by beginning with an immediate left turn after crossing Tonto Creek and following the fence line of the private property. The GPS route accompanying this description leaves out the "fun stuff"; but, if your into nearly vertical ascents with no firm footing, clinging to every sapling you can find in order to avoid sliding back down to the camground and crawling over deadfall then turn right at the trail marker.

Eventually, I decided to simply attack the mountain head on and made my way which point I connected with the real deal, Trail #178. From there is was still more climbing along an abandoned jeep trail and into the Hellsgate Wilderness. Soon thereafter the jeep trail narrows and you will reach the intersection with Trail #186. The tough part is behind you and its time to enjoy mostly flat hiking. Bear right and follow the trail as it rides the ridgeline, passing 2 tanks and providing some fantastic views from on high across Hellsgate.

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2012-06-24 sventre

    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
    Mescal Ridge Trail #186
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    I return to the Bear Flats TH to finish off the connector trails. I got to the TH at 8:30 and it was cold. The Tonto creek was higher than the last time I was here, so I crossed the bridge instead of the creek to start the hike.

    The trails I did were:
    Bear Flats
    Mescal Ridge
    Mail Trail
    Big Ridge

    Bear Flats
    Within minutes I went from shaking cold to sweating buckets on the steep climb out of the creek. It looks there’s been recent trail maintenance or high activity. A lot of the high grass has been cleared away and some of the brush has been cut back.

    Mescal Ridge
    The trail offer nice views of the surrounding area. The trail is easy to follow. The trail ends at a tank. At the tank, I found another old road/trail and followed that until it turned into a cattle path.

    Mail Trail
    This was an impromptu trail for me. I read Stillers comments about a trail that’s not on any maps. The trail starts about 1.3 miles from the Bear Flats TH. There’s a wilderness boundary post. Others have seen a trail sign, but I didn't. I saw a long plank of wood on the ground that might have had writing on it at one time. There a distinct trail heading up the side of Christopher mountain. The trail follows a drainage and is steep (as if the climb out of the Tonto Creek wasn't!). Soon the trail left the drainage and started to switch back. I could see a saddle and I pushed for it. At the saddle I saw a lot of signs of cattle activity. The trail pushed forward going up the side of Christopher mountain. The higher I got, the more cattle / horse tracks I saw. Near the top there was cairns. The cairns would help on the way down due to the numerous cattle paths. Near the end, the forest was burned out. The trail ended at the Christopher mountain RD. I turned around and went back to the Bear Flats Trail. I might come back to explore around Christopher mountain. The Mail Trail is maintained. Almost all of the fallen trees have been cleared away.

    Big Ridge Trail (aka the big climb out)
    The Big Ridge trail is about 6 miles long. For the first 2+ miles it stays around the 6,000 feet mark. Then it starts to drops. It doesn't drop gradually. It drops from shelf to shelf by hundreds of feet. You’ll drop about 200 feet, then it flats for a little bit, then repeat. The drops are very rocky with loose dirt. The scenery changes with each drop. The trail drops into the Salt Canyon where it ends. The maps show the trail ending in the canyon, but the road continues on another 2~3 miles to the wilderness boundary. I took lunch by the running stream. I wanted to continue on the road, but I knew I had a long climb out. The creek elevation was 4,350 and I had to climb up to 6,000. I may come back to finish off the road.
    I had hoped to check out the Ellinwood ranch. I went down the road (to the ranch) to where it started its steep drop and turned round. It was getting dark, plus I didn't need any more extra climbing for the day.
    It might be possible to connect the Mescal Ridge and Rig Ridge trail if you bushwhack and do some canyoneering. If someone figures out a safe route, I might be convinced to try it out.

    It was typical Arizona Fall weather day. Cold in the morning extra warm around noon and extra cold after the sun dropped. This was the maiden voyage for my new Ospray backpack. My old pack shoulder straps were started to rip off. The Ospray worked out nice.

    The adventure didn't end with the hike. I had a tire blowout 1 mile from the bee-line. It wasn't fun changing a tire in the dark when your freezing.
    Mescal Ridge Trail #186
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    This was my first time to the Hell’s Gate Wilderness. The trail-head was nice and cool. I crossed the Tonto creek and got on a spur trail that looped me to the old jeep road. Boy that road is steep! After the Mescal Ridge intersection, the Bear Flats turns into a single track until it leaves the Wilderness. Then it turns back into a ranching road.

    The Bear Flats trail is like the old joke “I walked to school uphill both ways”. The Bear Flats trail has a bunch of rolling hills. You bounce around between 5,500 and 5,800 for most of the day. The neat thing is that there’s a lot of shade on this trail. You’re in a thick forest for most of the trail.
    There’s numerous tanks everywhere. I went to the end of the trail at FR200. I took FR200 to Fisherman’s Point and went down to Haigler creek. I then headed to Haigler Canyon campground and had lunch by the creek.

    I went back on Bear Flats trail and went down the Big Ridge Trail. Up to this point it was a mostly sunny day , but now the clouds rolled in. It started to rain, then it poured. Then there was two quick flashes, then 2 huge booms. I decided it was time to start heading back. The rain stopped about 45 minutes later. I went down Mescal Ridge trail for a bit as well. Usually I don’t hike on a new trail in the dark, but this one was pretty easy to follow with a flashlight.

    The last drop into the Tonto was steep. I’m not sure if it’s harder coming up or down this section. It was an interesting hike. I’ll be back to finish off the Mescal Ridge & Big Ridge trails.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To hike
    From Phoenix, drive east on Loop 202 and connect to Highway 87 north (Country Club Drive). Continue north on Highway 87 for about 90 miles to the town of Payson. Once in Payson, go right (east) onto Highway 260 and continue for 11.4 miles to the turn off for FR 405, Bear Flat Road . Continue on FR 405, for another 1.7 miles to the signed junction for Bear Flat and FR 405. Follow FR 405 for just over 3 more miles to the Bear Flat campground. FR 405 is a good dirt road but is narrow and has several abrupt hairpin turns and steep drop offs. There are ample pullout areas for passing but it is advisable to drive slowly and with caution.
    page created by sventre on Jun 23 2012 12:07 pm
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