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KP South Fork, AZ

no permit
331 30 1
Guide 30 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine S
3.9 of 5 by 10
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5.9 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,960 feet
Elevation Gain -1,303 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,438 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 13.09
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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3  2018-05-27 MountainMatt
6  2017-09-03 friendofThunderg
9  2017-07-01
KP Trail #70
12  2016-05-30 friendofThunderg
11  2016-05-30 chumley
10  2016-05-30 BiFrost
12  2016-05-30 John9L
35  2014-08-02
Primitive Blue Range
Page 1,  2,  3
Author Rodney
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 0
Photos 249
Trips 2 map ( 0 miles )
Age 66 Male Gender
Location Indian-a
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Sep, Oct → Any
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  6:02am - 6:21pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Waterfalls in forest of pine
by Rodney

Likely In-Season!
Out-n-back, 2.8 miles down to KP North Fork then back up. Also available is the full 9.0 mile KP Trail #70.

The hike begins in a sub-alpine meadow with black and white butterflies clinging to Grayhead Coneflowers next to a rivulet. The forest then begins to draw you in with beautiful pine trees saluting the sky. The path, softened by a carpet of pine needles, follows the rim for about a half mile before descending to rejoin the water which has now grown to a small stream. Wildflowers of all kinds, including Queen Anne's Lace, Indian Paintbrush, Showy Daisy, Star Thistle, and a surprising variety of mushrooms abound. There is also quite a bit of moss and lichen and some maidenhair fern. The forest of green is punctuated with small stands of majestic Aspen and Douglas firs to add dazzling white and red to the color palette. We were surprised at the amount of trail maintenance that had recently occurred. A lot of deadfall had been cleared from the path by chainsaw and axe. At one point, though, a fallen tree was so large (about 3 1/2 feet in diameter) that the trail had been made to detour around the roots. Other deadfall was left in place as a means to cross the stream or to keep the forest floor as natural as possible.

As you proceed along the path there are numerous stream crossings but at this time of year (unless the monsoon hits which it did as this photo taken at 2:00 in the afternoon shows!) you needn't get soaked. Here and there are waterfalls which get progressively larger the deeper in you get until you finally meet the KP North Fork (#93) trail (this is right after 3 descending switchbacks) where the confluence of two streams creates beautiful 10+ foot waterfalls. If you proceed a little farther along the KP #70 trail, toward Blue River, you will see below you, next to a series of small waterfalls, a very special spot with a fire ring that should make for great camping! There is also a small fire pit nearby beneath an overhanging rock. The music from the falls should lull you to sleep. (NOTE: As always, consider the weather and possible flooding when choosing a campsite!)

After having encountered two gentle showers on the way in, we headed back up the trail as the roar of the thunder indicated to us that the monsoons were upon us. We were very soaked as we made our way back to the campground from the trailhead and very excited to jump in the car, add some heat, and dry out. Our fingers had gone numb and the GPS went on strike (shut itself down) due to the weather.

We finally broke camp when the rain let up somewhat and decided to head back home to Phoenix via US 191 south in the hopes that we could outrun the storm. This however became a real adventure in and of itself. The speed limit went from 30 mph to 25 mph and then to our amazement 15 mph. After about 20 miles, the speed limit became 10 mph for 30 miles or so. No guardrails here, thank you very much. We did finally outrun the storm, but it took 3 hours to drive the first 60 miles toward home. Lesson here: If you're heading back to Globe, do NOT take the southern route!

For those that might be interested in the Wolf Recovery Program, the Cienega area is the third largest area where wolves have been tracked since their release 3 years ago. Unfortunately, we didn't spot any on this trip.

NOTE: Our original intention (which we ruled out due to the weather) was to proceed from the junction of KP #70 and KP #93 onward along KP #70 to the junction with #71 Blue Lookout trail, hike trail #71 south (with an intermediate hike up to the Blue Lookout via #321 Blue Cabin trail) to an unidentified trail which winds back and forth across FR 84 which leads west and close to the Cienega campsite. Be sure to check your topo maps on this one!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2001-08-13 Rodney
    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 of 12 deeper Triplog Reviews
    KP South Fork
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    KP South Fork, KP North Fork, Ackre Lake, then trying to loop out.

    KP South and North Fork are clear of downed trees and the forest service continues to work on erosion control on these trails. In general these seemed to be in fairly good shape and I saw a trail crew when hiking, so the FS is continuing to try to improve the conditions.

    Water in both forks and flowing nicely near the confluence. It dries up quickly moving up North Fork.

    Ackre Lake is a lovely little pond, probably my favorite find of the trip. Trying to make a recommended loop out of Ackre lake proved a horrible decision, but I did make it back to the highway.
    KP South Fork
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    The final hike of our trip to The Blue. We wanted something relatively short & mild because we’re heading back to Phoenix afterward. The KP South Fork was the perfect choice.

    The hike in went really well as you follow the drainage down. This area was severely burned in places and there was some deadfall to negotiate but is in good condition overall. Our group took our time and took a variety of pics. We eventually hit the bottom with the junction with the North Fork and took a break after admiring the waterfall. Karl, FOTG & myself were chilling on the trail above the river when FOTG noticed a bear walking up the trail. We took several pics as it sauntered up the trail and then stopped where FOTG & I climbed down to the river. We knew it was on to our scent and after a minute the bear turned around and calmly walked back the way it came. This was a sweet experience and my first Arizona bear! It was the perfect way to end our trip.

    After the bear sighting we started the hike out. It was relatively slow going for our group as we climbed out of the drainage. We were back to the TH around 11am and then prepped for the drive back to Phx. Our trip to The Blue was complete and it left me wanting more. We had a great group and thanks FOTG for planning the trip and driving! Let’s do it again.
    KP South Fork
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    This must have once been an absolute gem!

    There are some excellent stretches of scenery here, but there are also some disappointing fire scars. The creek itself looks quite healthy.

    It is obvious that the FS has put a lot of work into keeping this section of trail clear. Lots of deadfall has been cut and cleared, and huge cairns have been built to make it easy to connect the dots. Despite the work, it's still a rough trail right now. There must be continual deadfall, and for all that has been cut, there are dozens of trees that cross the trail. The raspberries are taking over, and those thorns will tear you up.

    Somehow I'd still recommend this one. It's a treat, and as time passes after the fire, I think it will only get better as long as the FS puts in a little effort to keep it clear, which from the work that's been done so far, I would assume will occur.
    KP South Fork
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    This was our last hike in the Primitive Blue Range before going home. We stayed at a great car camping spot the night before, complete with a meadow, some solid views from the rim and 3G. I chose this as the representative hike for what the higher elevations of the Blue Range offer.

    After seeing how much everyone enjoyed the first few miles of KP, I did have a little regret that I did not plan our backpack for this area. Someone even commented, "Its like Humphrey's, but with a flowing creek." The trail does have a few burned areas, but they are short and not overly taxing. We made the 1500 feet descent in pretty good time and were at the two cascading forks of the KP after about an hour or so. We enjoyed the modest cascades and unique area for a few minutes and then found a nice spot to have a quick snack. After a couple of minutes, I noticed something coming up the trail. At first I thought is was Chumley lumbering up the trail, as he had left to go shoot some more cascades. However, very quickly I realized it was a bear that was making its way up the North Fork Trail. John held an indifferent Blanco and we shot away with our Iphones. There seemed to be no rush to get a good picture though, as it was coming right for us and the shots were sure to get better. It was at about this moment that the bear had its "ah ha moment." The bear stopped exactly at the use trail we had used to reach the creek. It picked up our scents and definitely discerned that we had just been there moments before and most likely still in the area. The big guy or gal seemed to think about going up trail for a minute, but then as calmly as it walked up the trail, it turned around and walked back.

    No great photos as far as I know, but an awesome 3-5 minute viewing experience at a safe distance for us and the bear. It was John's first bear sighting in AZ and it validated my statement that it was not a matter of "if" but "when" which I was basing on past experiences in the area. It took until mile 51 and our last hour or so in the Blue Range, but we finally saw our bear! As soon as the bear left, we realized that the variable all weekend was Chumley. No way we see that bear if Chumley was there, as the silence of the canyon we enjoyed would have undoubtedly been broken up by electronic bird chirping noises and Chumley telling us we were wrong about something.

    Quick hike back up, not the worst 1500 feet of gain you will ever do, but a little climb nonetheless.
    KP South Fork
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    Primitive Blue Range
    This was intended to be a nice and easy over-night hike with hopefully some good fishing and a nice camp site along the creek.

    The fishing turned out to be a dud, nothing like Grant Creek. I just don't see how any of the sections I fished could sustain Apache Trout. The conservation officer's grim outlook for KP Creek still supporting Apache Trout seems to have been warranted. He felt the fire had probably simply got too hot along large stretches of KP Creek and damaged to much of the valuable canopy needed to shade and keep the water cool. The lack of fish was not the end of the world to me, in fact, it was somewhat expected yet, it did change my plans slightly as I really was not ready to just set up camp at 11 in the morning, one can only do so much reading. I decided to just keep progressing on loop and maybe find a nice campsite in the higher elevations.

    I never found a nice campsite in the higher elevations and some real nasty storm clouds had me considering skipping Blue Peak for the moment and pushing for the car. I could car camp somewhere that night and hit a whole new trail the next day. I was happy I went for the car! Although, it did not take much distant thunder and light rain to expedite this decision. My scientific method of looking at the water in the dog's dishes leads me to believe the dogs and I got about 2.5 or more inches of rain dumped on us from Saturday evening until our Sunday morning retreat.

    Trail Run-Down.

    KP South Fork-Pretty good shape for Primitive Blue Range, easy to follow, ends at two beautiful waterfalls. I was a day light on really seeing them push some water.

    Blue Lookout Trail-I give this trail two emphatic :pk: :pk: based on my new unofficial Primitive Blue Range Trail rating system. The pumpkins represent a fraction of poor language used to navigate this overgrown, non-existent, and slightly steep trail.

    Blue Cabin Ruins Trail- See above trail rating guide. Missed the cabin ruins, missed a few of upper switchbacks and can't really say for sure how much of this very short trail I actually covered.

    I ended up staying at the TH for Blue Lookout Tower and Indian Peak also the beginnings of the Blue Cabin Ruins Trail and the Mckittrick Trail. However, I woke up to torrential rain and about 25 meters of visibility. At that point it was hard to justify the effort it would take to navigate the very rough looking McKittrick Trail for the 50 meter panoramic views from atop the largest peak in the Primitive Blue Range. I cancelled that mission, regrouped and headed for the first trail without rain.

    Side Notes:

    I am going to do some route manager work on my last two Blue Range trips, as there are some desperately needed official routes in there that could fill voids on some description pages for that area. The area in general is so deficient on reliable current information all the standard forest service excerpts on the description pages are pre-fire and only worth so much. However, I kind of like that aspect of making the long trek out there it certainly makes it interesting. I will have to say there are probably not too many wilderness areas in AZ rivaling the Blue Range in terms of ruggedness and challenge. Some of those trails have simply been lost to time and lack of use. Most have already given way to nature's advance or are regressing rapidly. However, I am here to tell you there are still some areas worth visiting out there, rumors of the areas demise are perhaps a little over-stated.
    KP South Fork
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    Blue Range Primitive Area
    Made another pilgrimage east to the Apache-Sitgreaves, more specifically the Primitive Blue Range area, or as my map says the Blue Range Wilderness and Primitive Area. However, even the latter is a bit of a misnomer, as currently the Blue Range has not achieved wilderness status in the eyes of Congress and to this day remains the last "primitive" designated area in the United States. Not sure what any of that means, however, anyone who knows me, knows that I would have a natural attraction to any area with the word primitive in its title. Similarly, since my first visit about a year ago, this area has really intrigued me. It was in this are that Aldo Leopold (arguably the founding father in American conservationism and ecology) obtained his first position working under the federal forest service. Leopold saw much in his day, he spoke fondly of the "mountain" in fact, one of his most famous written works, "Thinking Like a Mountain" is based off of his expediences in and around Escudilla and the Escudilla Wilderness area. So the question for me: could I find what gravitated Leopold to this area and transformed him into perhaps America's first conservationists, but 100 years later and after the greatest forest fire the Southwest has seen in contemporary times? Spoiler alert the answer is a resounding yes!

    A chance encounter with a game warden around 10:00 p.m. on Friday changed my plans slightly for the three days. He had personally just conducted a "shocking" and fish count of Grant Creek and gave me some pointers on where all the trout were congregated. However, if I were to hit these areas, I would have to modify my original route of Grant Creek Trail which stays high above the creek until crossing around the lower elevations where the Game Warden officer told me all the fish had been killed or can no longer exist due to warmer water temps caused by the destroying of their natural shade and the naturally warmer water at lower elevations. So from the intersection of trails #76 Foot Creek and #75 Grant Creek I took trail #306 down to Grant Creek and decided I would just fish and hike the whole stream length off-trail to its southern intersection with trail #75. If the fishing and beauty of Grant Creek were not as great as they were, this might have turned out to be a negative experience. Movement down stream was very slow at times, however, as I stated earlier the fishing was amazing and the creek beautiful so it negated the slow moving pace of boulder hoping, and down climbing water falls complete with three day pack and pole in hand, oh and along with keeping Blanco floating and upright through some of the deeper pools and obstacles. From there I made good time to the Blue River, passed through a little bit of civilization as I walked the forest road that connected my ambitious loop. I took the first opportunity to camp at a place marked the "box" on my map. This was one of first areas where there were not a dozen no trespassing signs or signs proclaiming the owner's willingness to shoot me if I stepped foot on their property. Day one turned out to be a little over 17 miles, camping was nice, but not spectacular, ate well, slept well.

    I thought day 2 would be a much easier day, however, that did not turn out to be necessarily true, thanks in part to some of my decision making. I hate to give a negative trail description, because with trails everyone has their own opinions, and I would not want to steer someone away from an area. However, Steeple Trail #73 is probably a trail one could leave off their to do list for the time being. The upper sections of the trail have really been damage by fire and the trip across KP Mesa is enough to make one yearn for a very quick change of scenery. However, that is simply not the case as you seem to hike forever to simply cross KP Mesa's fire damaged landscape where one can easily see areas that suffered 100 percent devastation from fire. From Steeple Trail #73 I took trail #70 into the KP Creek area. However, this trail got no better! In fact, I will give a fair warning, if you do not have a G.P.S route for this trail or sound topo reading skills, I would avoid this section of trail all together. One can safely say to some degree that this trail ceases to exist in several spots, littered with dead fall, washed out and very faint in the good spots. Nevertheless, we were doing just fine, traversing the several drainages leading to K.P. when I had the great decision to cut a mile or so off route and explore some off-trail sections of K.P. Creek. The whole situation reminded me of something my friend Jim always says when I am pondering short-cuts and more direct off trail routes. He always says, "if that way is shorter or easier, that would be the way." Well in this case that held to be 100% true. I could tell from cliffs along opposite side of creek that there was potential for not being able to cut down to creek and man did that hold true, cliffed out once, then took a side drainage only to come to an impassible pour-over so intimidating that I did not even snap a photo, Blanco and I finally broke through down about a 4-5 foot wide scree shoot, hit the creek where Blanco drank profusely and I silently chastised myself. One would think at this stage in the game I was done making those kind of mistakes, but something tells me that won't be the last time. We slowly made our way up the lower section of K.P Creek where the trail is a little tough to follow and made camp at a superb location.

    The final day was just an easy hike up K.P. Creek to K.P. Rim Trail, back to the upper section of Steeple Trail and back to the TH. Everything on this hike went well except finding my short connector trail to complete my K.P. Rim loop. Similar to the hike description, the turn-off for the trail is very hard to find and the forest fire certainly did not make it any easier. In fact, the author wrote had we not had the route downloaded we would have never found the turn-off. Unfortunately, the author failed to post "said" route to description, I guess his way of adding a little excitement for the next guy, we found it but you are on your own I guess. After accepting defeat I was reserved to back-track and make the less than 2 mile trek down 191 to my TH. However, this whole thought was leaving a bitter taste in my mouth, almost like a surrender, or a walk of shame in my mind. First a small voice contemplated just going off-trail the whole way until I found something to walk on. However, this voice was quickly drowned out by about 1000 sane other voices in my head who still had yesterday's folly fresh in their minds and they quickly and probably for the better got that thought out of my head. I then looked down and could clearly see the meadow I needed to get to, but no trail to get there. I said to myself I will go exactly .25 miles to meadow look for Steeple Trail #73, if I don't find, I turn right around. As luck would have it, after about 100 feet off trail I ran into my long lost connector trail.

    The trail now ran in a complete opposite direction of the trail featured on my G.P.S! Oh well no time to curse and dwell, I was happy to be on trails and heading back to car, went through some pretty bad burnt out sections, but oddly enough found some beauty in them. Whether it was the stubborn trees that refused to burn or the half million or so 5 to 15 feet tall Aspen blowing fiercely in the wind and the numerous reinvigorated meadows and cienegas, I found beauty in it all.

    Even with the adventure in finding my connector trail, Blanco and I still hit TH by 11:30 in morning.

    Final Notes:

    HAZ Appreciation I used a hike description from Arizonaed written in 2004 and it turned out to be pretty much spot on. Which is something to say, as he obviously wrote pre-Bear Wallow Fire. Route might need some small adjustments, but overall great hike description!
    KP South Fork
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    We decided to head up to the blue range for a hike and check out some of the area since the wallow fire. There was quite a bit of fire damage made me sad to see it all burned, but the good news is the aspen trees are coming in nicely.

    The start of the hike was very green, yellow wild flowers are all along the trail. Be aware there are quite a few fallen trees over the trail, about 20 or so. I also decided to wear shorts for the hike, bad idea. There are a lot of thorn bushes in a few places along the tail so my legs got some scratched up!

    Kp creek was beautiful and green, the creek crossings are easy to pass without getting wet. The fire damage was not as bad as I expected on the trail, the only bad parts was the flood damage. There where a lot of birds in the area even saw a nest with an egg in it.

    We decided to stop at the valley before the confluence of the two creeks in the flat area to have lunch. It was a nice spot with the small waterfalls going down the creek. It seemed like a good idea at the time then we where going to continue on to the larger 10+ft water fall. Before we where done a storm moved in and it started raining on us we had to pack up and head back without seeing the larger of the falls. :(

    The hike back up was a nice little workout my son did awesome he is a trooper. Overall a good hike very green lots of flowers, just surprised we did not see and animals. I would have liked to see this hike before the fire.
    KP South Fork
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    Took my annual trip up the Coronado Trail to Springerville to be with family. First stop along the way was the KP South Fork trail. I was a little pressed for time to get to Springerville so I only ended up hiking down the trail 1.5 miles before turning back. Nice meadows at the trailhead/campground and I'll have to return in the future to complete this one.
    KP South Fork
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    Around noon, the storm clouds started to roll in as I descended from Blue Peak to KP creek. The clouds detoured me from exploring the 'narrows' a couple miles down which was a good thing since the many creek crossing, down trees, soar legs, and light downpour made for a long, arduous yet enjoyable hike back out. :lol: On this section, I tons of flowers, mushrooms, & berries, yet another small black bear, dozens of mini-falls, and 100ft+ trees swaying in the wind from a deep blue thunderhead rolling in...
    KP South Fork
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    I did a little bit different variation loop hike than posted. I went from the KP Rim TH thru the semi-burned ridge, but continued straight on the Steeple trail down the creek and then swung right around the rim into KP creek above a possible 'narrows' section and continued up the North KP trail back to my vehicle. The burnt ridge was a tad disheartening and difficult to navigate but i kept pushing and enjoyed the great views across the canyon. Steeple creek was rather pleasant but the real treat was hiking along KP creek with all its many mini-falls, berries, flowers, mushrooms, and massive trees. This place is definitely worth another visit just for this creek section. :bigth:

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    Take US 60 east from Globe, then US 180 south from Springerville to Alpine. From Alpine, continue on US 191 south for 27 miles and then look for the KP Cienega Campground sign on the east side of the road and follow the signs to the trailhead.
    Drive south from Alpine 28 miles on US 191 to the 1.3 mile road leading to KP Cienega Campground and the trailhead marked by a parking area and a posterboard.

    The KP Trail is accessible via a number of trails, including the North Fork Trail #93, the Blue Lookout Trail #71, and the McKittrick Trail #72, all of which provide additional access from US 191. The Steeple Trail offers access from either US 191 or the Blue River Road, Forest Road 281. The first three trails combine with KP Trail to provide strenuous but manageable day hikes. A Steeple Creek/KP hike in one day would be long for most hikers at 17.2 miles.
    128 GB Flash Drive... $14
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