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Of the trails that start on the western end of the Mazatzals and climb to the main backbone, this one is the most approachable. It is fairly easy to access, from either Horseshoe Dam or by fording the Verde River, and much of the length was spared from fire damage. This is also the shortest way to access Club Cabin and can be part of several good overnight loops, such as the Davenport / Sears Loop.
A 1.5 mile-long section of trail between Red Rock Spring and South Fork Deadman Creek was damaged by the Willow Fire. Segments of it may be difficult to follow through thick undergrowth and washed-out tread.
Reaching the western trailhead is the first challenge. Unless you have a vehicle that can ford the Verde River, the best way to reach the trailhead is by crossing under the Horseshoe Dam spillway and a 3.3 mile roadwalk on FR 479. The actual start of the trail is barely marked - from the chalk cliffs on FR 479 (about 3 miles past the dam) take the right fork, follow the track across a wash, walk past the Sears Trailhead sign, and then follow left fork at the old trail sign for Club Springs onto an old two-track.
The first few miles of Davenport Wash Trail follows the old road. It crosses a field of cholla, makes a quick climb onto a mesa, then slowly gains more elevation on the mesa towards the wilderness boundary. With the exception of the quick climb and some loose rocks along that, this section is easy to follow and quite enjoyable, offering good views all around. Wilderness boundary is at 2.5 miles, though the old road continues until a corral at 3.2 miles.
Follow the south, then east, side of the corral, picking up the trail on the other side, which has now changed to single-track with periodic cairns. It slowly creeps along 3129', sliding along the south side in a general easterly direction. At 4.5 miles there is a saddle where some excellent views of the hike ahead open up. Table Mountain is the large monster that rises up on the left side, which is the approximate halfway point of the trail.
A quick drop waits on the other side of saddle, and then some dancing along a slope, before entering the main wash at the bottom of this drainage. There may be water either up or downstream of the trail crossing - just look for the cottonwoods to track it down. The tread may be tricky to follow in the wash so keep a close eye out for cairns to find the correct way out. The path continues up to a shallow saddle next to 3821', reaching it at 5.7 miles. There's no drop on the other side here, only a twist to the left and more climb to the next shallow saddle at 6.5 miles.
By now the trail is about even with the end of Table Mountain and will play along the southern slope, which will only become larger and more oppressive on the way to Club Cabin. Also, the trail continues the pattern of having a small saddle every mile or so. It completely passes Midway Spring, regardless of what the older topographic track shows, staying high on the hill to the north instead. It does stick close to Dog Spring. While the trail may start to become boring with the constant uphill slope, narrow tread, periodic drainage crossings, and regular saddles, the views ahead remain inticing.
There is one last little saddle at 8.9 miles before a sizable drop to Rock Spring. This spring also marks the point where Sheep Creek Trail climbs from the south, for those inclined to use that trail. Davenport Wash Trail continues east, swinging along the side of a hill on a narrow track before meeting the bank of Davenport Wash itself. There is a sign for the junction with Deadman Trail near an overgrown corral, though it's not clear where exactly this trail begins its northward journey. Near this junction is where Davenport Wash Trail crosses the wash itself, heads over to another small corral at 10.2 miles, goes through a gate, and starts a quick haul up a catclaw-covered slope to the site of the old Club Cabin and spring.
Club Cabin, with its dependable spring, makes for an excellent overnight location. While the cabin itself burned some years back, the old stable is still standing as of '17 (heavily listing to the side) and some metal objects remains of the old home. There are a few flat spots for tent/tarp sleepers and an awesome view of Table Mountain to the west. Plus, the fence surrounding the area may be suitable for horses to run free, though it's best to double-check that it is still fully enclosed.
The trail crosses the outlet from Club Cabin spring below the old stable, which may be difficult to track through the growth. On the other side the tread picks back up and is easy to follow all the way to Red Rock Spring, another dependable water source. On the far side of this spring is a decent 800' climb, which first zips up the side of a ridge, then tracks along a slope for a while, and finally swings onto and stays on top of another ridge. After this climb the trail is only five hundred feet below Table Mountain, if that is any consolation.
Fire damage begins to get bad at 12.6 miles, with a mix of brush overgrowing the washed-out tread and few cairns to guide a way through. It generally sticks to the same elevation, following the side of the slope in and out of a few drainages, never really climbing too much. Things clear up at 13.7 miles just in time for the trail to turn sharp east and head downhill, beginning the long descent into South Fork Deadman Creek.
Dropping down a slope into a drainage, there are several large cairns to help guide over to a well-constructed tread that picks up on the right bank. This tread circles around a hill and then follows a ridge downhill, dropping quickly under a scattered forest with a few loose rocks to roll over. It then cuts more to the right, half-following another drainage down, before a final slide to the bottom of a very rock Deadman Creek at 14.6 miles. This creek is highly seasonal and varies from a challenging crossing to a dry, rocky hop.
The trail picks up on the other bank, sliding north up the hill as it climbs above the creek. Once it hits a grassy ridge it begins hauling uphill over tight switchbacks that may be difficult to track - simply keep climbing on the ridge. At 15 miles there is a slow curve to the right as the trail avoids a rocky cliff band above, and eventually it hops over the far right side and swings back around, following the contour. Beyond the cliff band is manzanita and large rocks to contend with before finally reaching Chilson Camp. A large cairn marks the eastern end of the trail.
Club Cabin and Red Rock Spring are the two most reliable sources along the trail. There may be water at Dog Spring, Davenport Wash, and South Fork Deadman Creek depending on the local conditions.
Club Cabin is the most established campsite along the route. Rock Spring also has a few clearings (yet little appeal). Chilson Camp, located at the eastern end, is a well-established area with healthy traffic from AZT hikers.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
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.
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