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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop, AZ

no permit
313 15 2
Guide 15 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Clints Well
3.8 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Loop 5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,571 feet
Elevation Gain -425 feet
Accumulated Gain 740 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5.0 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 8.7
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
21  2017-08-26 Grasshopper
3  2017-07-25
Camp Grasshopper - Mogollon Rim-C/Site#4
25  2014-09-29 kingsnake
18  2014-09-29 trekkin_gecko
26  2014-09-29
West Bear Cyn Alternate - FR 398 LOOP
15  2014-09-28
Upper - West Bear Cyn X via FR398 Off-Trail
11  2013-09-29 Oregon_Hiker
24  2013-09-29 Grasshopper
Page 1,  2
Author Grasshopper
author avatar Guides 42
Routes 458
Photos 8,104
Trips 508 map ( 5,318 miles )
Age 74 Male Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Sep, Oct, Jun
Sun  6:12am - 6:23pm
Official Route
6 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
excellent autumn colors
by Grasshopper

Likely In-Season!
Upper Bear Canyon and West Bear Canyon "off trail" hiking can be compared to hiking sections of our Mogollon Rim- Barbershop Canyon and Dane Canyon with significant seasonal water flow and pooling in the Bear Canyon Upper sections as of this June'12 posting. In Autumn, with surprisingly numerous large stands of Big Tooth Maple within the West Bear Canyon section, this LOOP should provide some excellent autumn colors. West Bear Canyon is mostly easy to navigate with only the lower ~1/3 mile section requiring moderate rock/boulder scrambling with creek downfall to negotiate. Upper Bear Canyon from its intersection with lower West Bear Canyon is nicely shaded in the afternoon with numerous, active animal routes to follow. It is recommended to download and follow the "official" GPS Route posted herein.

Also Note: For the stronger hiker with off-trail route finding ability, this loop hike can be combined with the Bear Canyon(Middle) hike description for a longer 12+ mile "lolly pop" loop hike... if planning this option it is recommended to start/end from the Bear Canyon (Middle) Park/TH Location unless planning a shuttle hike which is also an option.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2012-06-24 Grasshopper
    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 Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    The purpose of this shorter loop hike within only "West Bear Canyon" was to view the wild fire damage (if any) from the aftermath of the June'17 lighting ignited "Bear Fire".. and..

    I'm very happy to report (as my picset hopefully confirms) that in my estimation at least ~95% of the large BIG TOOTH MAPLE stands are still happy and well !! :DANCE:

    So, for those soon looking for a recommended "Mogollon Rim- Big Tooth Maple" Autumn 2017 display, plan to be here around the last week/weekend of September or early the first week in October (view/download my posted GPS Route dated 9/24/14 [ custom map ] for this recommended shorter, ALTernate Autumn Season loop route).
    Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    On my 7/25/17 drive out on Rim Road FR300 after seven days of vehicle camping down FR139C, I decide to checkout the aftermath of the June'17 "Bear Fire" viewtopic.php?t=10094 to see what was left of favorite Mogollon Rim (FR398) Autumn Campsite #4. I have attached three pics to show the burn which was not that bad but I don't think I would be interested in camping here again until the burn/soot smell went away and until some new green undergrowth started back.

    My biggest concern was not the campsite burn status, but rather if one of our primary Autumn off-trail Big Tooth Maple hikes- :next: [ Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop ] survived this most recent Bear Fire? Unfortunately, I did not have time to hike the short off-trail distance to enter the upper section of West Bear Canyon to confirm one way or the other.
    Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    got a last minute invite from kingsnake to do one of grasshopper's off trail bear canyon loops
    we picked the west loop as preston hadn't done it yet and hoped for some fall color
    got an early start and were on forest road 300 in no time
    i hadn't been on this end of the road before
    thought it was in pretty good condition
    good views off the rim
    temps in low 50s, clear skies
    parked just off forest road 95 so took a slightly different route than the official track
    dropped into upper bear canyon and immediately found flowing water
    as we got lower, some oaks and maples were just starting to turn
    the canyon is very scenic
    had to cross the creek to find the best footing, and it got narrower at times
    took our time, and plenty of photos
    came to the confluence with west bear canyon and continued down for a few hundred feet until we found a good spot for a snack break
    headed up west bear canyon, which was wider and more open
    not as many deciduous trees in here, but plenty of moss and fungi
    very lush and damp with a good flow of water in the canyon
    had to cross a few times
    often found a faint trail to follow
    climbed out of the canyon and went cross country back to our starting point
    really enjoyed this area and would like to spend more time here
    so much more to experience
    thanks for the invite, preston
    this was something i wouldn't have done on my own
    Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Upper - West Bear Cyn X via FR398 Off-Trail
    This is an "Out & Back" hiking route via first hiking 1.1 miles down seldom driven 4WD FR398, then off-trail following this attached GPS Route to access the scenic "X" intersection of Upper Bear Canyon at the lower end of West Bear Canyon.

    Please Note: It is highly recommended if downloading this GPS Route to follow, plan to hike the OUT route segment for both your planned Out & Back hike.
    Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This was day hike two of three for me during this, my planned late September'13 seven day vehicle camping trip to our Mogollon Rim on the prowl for early :FG:

    Today's Loop Hike Route: This loop hike begins at the recommended FR398 "Park/TH Start" location, then continued on an easy through-the-woods off trail route (follow my posted 9/29/13 GPS Route) to enter West Bear Canyon (Upper) drainage. Hike continues down West Bear Canyon drainage to a recommended and listed way point exit location for the necessary off trail and up hill segment to connect with lower FR398. This loop hike then continues up FR398 back to Park/TH Start. One may also continue past this above mentioned and listed way point exit location to complete the hike description 5.0 mile loop (which will include the segment of Upper Bear Canyon) as published per the "official" GPS Route.

    During this same September hike day last year-2012, this West Bear Canyon was absolutely ablaze 8) in prime Autumn "Big Tooth Maple" colors.. . I had planned this years' Sept Camping/Hiking trip to coincide with another hopeful prime Autumn showing.. but we were about 7-10 days too early..what a difference a year makes.. but still a :FG: winner in my books!!
    Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I went to search out some color. Hank had been spending time in the Bear Canyon area on top of the rim, so I prodded Hank for his personal suggestion.
    He popped up with West Bear / Bear Canyon loop. :FG:

    I parked across the FR, from all that remained of Hank's latest Foodfest. I diligently searched the area, but not even a single morsel was left for me... All that remained, was the perfectly formed fire ring.

    On the walk down the FR398 to drop into West Bear Canyon, we passed up a Yellow Jeep, that I find out later is owned by HAZ Member "BigRedJeepChick".

    We dropped into West Bear and made our way down through the autumn hues. It was probably a week or so past the peak, but there was still plenty of color in the canyon. The leaves that had fallen, left carpets of red and yellow. Part way down I was surprised to run into HAZ's skatchkins (Michael) and his friend Noel. They had the same idea and were going in the opposite direction. Great to meet both of you!

    I made my way out of the canopy of the canyon walls and walked it until it met up with East Bear Canyon.

    The return trip up Bear Canyon did not have as much color as West Bear, but still substantial. It was also a lot flatter going up, than coming down West Bear Canyon was going down, so I knew there had to be some climbing somewhere. It was all in the last .25 miles of the hike.

    tHANKs for the suggestion. : app :
    Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Substantial+ Autumn :FG: :FG: Big Tooth Maple bliss on our Mogollon Rim :GB:
    (West Bear Canyon was "ablaze" for this early season show)
    Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Bear Cyn Upper Exploratory from FR398 TH
    This trip log, associated picset, and GPS Route are intended to document a "second" entry and/or exit route from the FR398 TH for the Bear Canyon Upper Main Drainage.

    In the process of confirming this new and recommended "off trail" route in my exploration snooping, I may have also located a possible Bear Den in this uppermost section of Upper Bear Canyon :)
    Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Having now completed this enjoyable new loop hike we now have three different Mogollon Rim hike options available within Bear Canyon, each with a different FR access road-TH Start available:

    Bear Canyon (Middle) - Mogollon Rim..
    Bear Canyon (Upper) - Mogollon Rim...
    Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop..

    These three new overview hike descriptions including picsets with captions/tag notes, posted GPS driving/hiking routes with info notes/key reference waypoints, and associated trip logs pretty much tell the story of this recommended beginner "off trail/route finding" canyon hiking area. It should also be noted that these three hike descriptions have options available for combinations of a planned longer "out and back, shuttle, and/or loop hike" (some of these additional hike options are discussed briefly in each hike description).

    For this new "Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop" I am going to take advantage of the best way to describe all its amenities by deferring to my hiking partner (Pam) with her nicely written 6/23/12 trip log for this hike..

    In July'12 I plan to again hike the "Bear Canyon (Upper)" hike description beginning at the designated Park/TH Start at the end of FR300G, but this trip I will hike down Upper Bear Canyon to intersect the Middle Section of Bear Canyon where I elected to bail-out on my previous 6/7/12 exploratory hike.. If I am able to pull-off my July plans, then I will have hiked (as I define it) the entire Middle & Upper Sections of Bear Canyon including West Bear Canyon.

    In late September'12 I will surely be back to again hike this Upper Bear Canyon/West Bear Canyon Loop to view what should be the beginning of an outstanding
    Big Tooth Maple :FG: display.
    Bear Canyon Upper - West Bear Canyon Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I got to ride in "The Grasshopper"... :GB:

    Hank wanted to partake in the Ham Radio Field Day up on the Rim with Brian (BEEBEE), but didn't really want to make the drive up by himself. Since Brian and I are friends too, he invited me to join him. Brian wasn't going to be up there until after work on Saturday so I suggested to Hank that we make the most of the drive, take the whole day and do some Hiking. :D Hank seemed to like the idea and asked me if I was ok with, and up to, doing some offtrail exploring. I had to do some "serious" soul searching for a split second before I told him that I would be fine with that. :-k :lol: :DANCE: He warned me that it could be some rough going.... :o :scared: :y:

    Got to Hank's about 6:30, helped him finish getting The Grasshopper ready and away we went. We had taken the side windows out before starting, so it was a wonderful, open air drive up to the Rim. Haven't been in a opened up, heavy Jeep like this in a number of years and thoroughly enjoyed it. That would come back to haunt Hank later in the evening.... :D

    Got up to the Rim and made good time to the TH. My first impression of the area, other than it's beauty, was a little sad. It was apparent that the Bark Beetle is here and established. You can't really see much damage yet visually, but the "sound" said it all. They were busy.... :(

    Hank had plotted out exactly what he wanted to do, so I just followed his lead. We walked for just a bit further down the road that we came in on and then took an abrupt left and went down into West Bear Canyon. Got to the bottom and started following the Creek bed which was dry at this point. It was pretty easy going and there are alot of Game Trails down there. Man, it must be Deer/Elk Central down there in the evenings. Scat everywhere and the Trails in many places were very well defined. Where we started from, there were alot of skeletal remains as well, so I guess the Predators know about this Canyon as well...During the day however, it was Butterfly Central. Hundreds upon hundreds of Butterflies, mostly dominated by one species, but several different species were spotted.

    And then there were the Maples....Wow! This place is going to be a big hot spot come Fall. There were areas along West Bear Canyon where you were literally walking underneath a canopy forest of Maples... :FG:

    There were a few standing pools in the Creek, but nothing was running, although it appeared as though it wasn't too long ago that it was. The Hike down the Creek was never too much of a problem until probably the last 1/2 mile of the bottom end before it joined up with the Creek in Upper Bear Canyon. That last part was not impassable, but there was a little more bouldering/scrambling involved as the Canyon and Creek closed in a little tighter. Would love to see this area with the Water tumbling down... :) Some of the time, we were still able to bypass the Creek part and catch a Game Trail to go around, even though it was not entirely necessary, just easier.

    The Rock formations in this Canyon were pretty cool too and in some areas the rocks actually formed some pretty cool little caves. One of these "caves" seriously looked like it could be used as a Bear Den and I even crawled in to take a look, since it went back over 20 feet. Couldn't see any hair or evidence of Bear, but it sure looked good. It was chock full of a swarm of Mosquitos though, holy cow!!! :o That was most of my blood donation for the day... :sweat:

    We got to the junction where West Bear Canyon and Upper Bear Canyon meet and at that point both of the Creeks out of West Bear and Upper Bear Canyons were flowing... :y: Hank wanted to go down Upper Bear to where he left off the Trip before, so we hung a left and followed the flowing Creek down to where he had stopped before. There were some beautiful pools along the way and we ended up taking a break and having a little lunch, at the Pool where he had stopped before. The Water was an interesting color and had a cloudy appearance, but it was not from being stagnant. The Minnows didn't seem to mind it...It almost reminded me of pictures of Fossil Creek where the characteristics of the water is dictated heavily by the mineral content.

    After the break, we started back up towards the Upper Bear/West Bear Canyon Junction. This whole area is a big, long, continuous meadow that most certainly sees alot of Wildlife Activity in the Mornings and Evenings. I thought some of the Game Trails in West Bear were good. They didn't hold a candle to the Game Trails here and further up Upper Bear Canyon. These Trails would put existing, maintained, human trails to shame...Would love to backpack in here, I think the Wildlife Photo opportunities would be endless at certain times during the day....Continued up Upper Bear Canyon and lost the flowing water pretty quick, but the Butterflies continued to flit around us in great numbers. This Creek was very easy to walk in as well, but there were times at this point, we actually elected to use the Game Trails for more speed. I was wearing my "backup boots" on this trip, :roll: so my feet and legs were starting to feel fairly bad and I think we were both ready to finish it, as enjoyable as it was. Beautiful scenery in this Canyon as well, with Maples, Pines and Firs dominating the landscape, along with more cool rock formations. This whole area has really got to be something in the Fall, especially with the Water flowing..... :)

    Come to an area where another large drainage comes in and Hank says, ok, time to start the climb up out of the Canyon. I'm really glad he didn't say that 1/2 mile ago as the climb looked to be straight up... :o Here it was only semi-straight up.... :sweat: It was also a more relatively short climb here and we ended up only switchbacking it once, even as steep as it still was in spots. Got up through the steep part and Hank states that it's just a short jaunt back to the road we came in on, and back to the Jeep. Just a slight incline a little further up and lo and behold, not only were we back to the road, but Hank's very excellent GPS and Route Plotting skills put us at both the road and The Grasshopper at the very same exact moment. Very impressive Hank!!! : app : :worthy:

    Took a nice break at the Jeep before continuing on to the Radio Field Day location. (Separate Log and Photoset). After watching the fun there, I somehow convinced Hank, :pray: :D even though it was starting to get chilly, to not put the side windows back on the Jeep. Being the good sport he was, even though he was in shorts and just had a thin, fleece vest for warmth, he agreed. So I zipped my legs on, put on my jacket, :lol: and away we went....I think by the time we got off the Rim itself, he was secretly thanking me, as he felt the need to even stop and shed the vest.... :lol: We were both pretty tired at this point, but I made sure I kept Hank awake on the drive home by constantly annoying him every 3 minutes. : rambo : :sl:

    One heck of a day Hank!! Thank you so much for the invite!! Even though you and I had met before this, it was awesome to finally get a Hike in with you!! Look forward to more adventures and exploring.... :y: It was a real treat! :thanx:

    My first Hiking video. If you would like to see a very novice, pathetic attempt to both make a video and capture Butterflies on film, you can see it here:

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    From the Phoenix area- Drive Hwy 87 north through Payson, Pine, and Strawberry.. approx 10.5 miles north of Strawberry on Hwy 87 at MP281.1, turn right at signed FR300 (the Rim Road) and continue on FR300 for ~13.2 miles to the intersection with easy to miss but signed FR398. Turn left onto FR398 and continue for ~.30 miles to road left side Parking/TH Start for this off-trail hike (at waypoint 34.44440 -111.23384). It is highly recommended that you download and follow the Driving Route (with key waypoints) posted above to this hike description;
    page created by Grasshopper on Jun 24 2012 2:26 pm
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