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Bear Flat Trail #178 - Tonto NF, AZ

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Guide 13 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson E
3 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Distance One Way 8.02 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,957 feet
Elevation Gain 1,127 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,930 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 14.45
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12  2016-05-14
Hunter Creek - Bear Flat - Gordon Canyon Loop
15  2016-05-14
Hunter Creek - Bear Flat - Gordon Canyon Loop
6  2015-10-24 hikerdw
7  2015-10-10
Christopher MNT / Bear Flats Loop
12  2015-05-02 topohiker
8  2015-04-08 The_N
13  2014-10-13 topohiker
12  2014-09-26 topohiker
Page 1,  2
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, Nov
Sun  6:07am - 6:33pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
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Culture Nearby

Author Full Detail Guide
An old jeep trail that is very easy to follow, the first quarter mile after leaving the Bear Flat Trailhead is steep, but passing through an unexpected grove of mixed conifer rewards the visitor.

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    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
    Bear Flat Trail #178 - Tonto NF
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    Dang, where's a guy gotta go to get a little solitude? ;)

    Started from the east end of BF #178, then headed down BR #177 towards Salt Canyon. I was scouting potential Haigler Creek exit points for a future descent of Haigler and loop back to the start, wanting to avoid the long shuttle when exiting via Hellsgate #37.

    I found that the first drainage upstream of Salt Canyon was not too bad, so I headed back towards the Big Ridge trail. Coming through the trees was the instantly recognizable chumley, with joelhazelton, jonnybackpack and moutainmatt, on their way to try and get to Haigler via Salt Canyon! Hopefully their route is even better than mine. Amazing to cross paths with HAZ'ers that far from anywhere!
    Bear Flat Trail #178 - Tonto NF
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    Hunter Creek - Bear Flat - Gordon Canyon Loop
    As others that have mentioned, park off the west side of Colcord Road .3 mile off Rt260 in the small dirt area. Pass through the gate and pick a route west to get down to the creek area.

    Hunter Creek Falls
    This is a pleasant stroll, generally following the creek bed. There are areas where a tread may be visible, more than likely due to game. On our hike there were scattered pools of water and some minimal flow in spots. We had to cross 4 or so barb wire fences but there was nothing to indicate private property. The falls area while interesting was lacking... a waterfall.

    Christopher Mountain
    From the Falls area we went off trail and uphill for a short bit to catch FR146. This climbs steadily to Christopher Mountain and has some nice 360 views

    Mail Trail
    The first of two planned off trail segments ended up being a trail. This made the 1000' 1 mile drop much easier.

    Bear Flats Trail
    This trail roller coasters through stands of pine, juniper and oak. Quite nice

    Gordon Creek Falls
    This was the second section of planned off trail. Once again, we found trail the whole way. Some was well worn, some was marked with very old blazes in the trees. This was the gem of the day. The southern portion of this does not see much traffic, but if more knew about it, it would. It'd be a great place to spend the day hiking and swimming through the pools. We had to hike back to Gordon Creek Falls, which is nice, but the south portion of the canyon made the day.

    Video :next: ... tWaU
    Bear Flat Trail #178 - Tonto NF
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    Hunter Creek - Bear Flat - Gordon Canyon Loop
    Hunter Creek 8am
    A pleasant area with nice tall pines and marshy meadows. The squishy areas will probably dry up soon. Follow the creek best you can. There is an intermittent use trail. We headed west and took what we got. We hopped several fences along the trickling creek. Didn't see much in terms of falls. Either a small cascade or I missed it. Nice break spot in the cascade/falls area. The highest forecasted high for our loop was 82 degrees. 75 at the start erased hope for a cool spring hike.

    Christopher Mountain 9am
    We ascended off trail straight up Christopher Mountain. It's steep and loose for a couple hundred feet, then gets reasonable quick. Shockingly not a whimper out of the eagle. Views open up to the rim a little ways up. We took forest roads to the west end of the mountain. I had an off trail track to descend a ridge to #178. We lucked out and found a nice unsigned trail! The upper third was wide, raked and dreamy. Then it's more what you'd expect from a less used trail. Still mighty fine.

    Bear Flat Trail #178 Noon
    Essentially a forest road through the pines. I enjoyed it. Just as it was getting toasty unexpected storms rolled in and saved the day. It sprinkled on occasion but never let loose. The east trailhead is unsigned. Unless you reside in the large metropolis of Pleasant Valley ( Young ) this is the middle of nowhere for most.

    Gordon Canyon 3pm
    A good two miles separated us from Gordon Falls. I anticipated this to be slow travel. A couple use trails, narrow canyon pine views and Gordon Falls made this the highlight of the day. Most will access Gordon Falls from the north. Which is a solid 3 out 5 in my book. It is nice, easy and good for those that enjoy a less meaty bone.

    carried 4 quarts, 6oz leaked out of cheap hundred dollar pack, ran out with a half mile to go

    lots of lupine in a couple areas, isolated paintbrush, tiny whites and yellows
    Bear Flat Trail #178 - Tonto NF
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    After a summer of minimal hiking I am trying to get myself back into condition so the 10 to 12 mile range hikes are a good choice right now. Nice drive to the trail head, although I had forgotten the steep section down. We crossed the creek to a trail sign and then turned right (left would have taken us to the official start up the trail/road) where we followed a steep faint trail up. After a short bit we joined the trail/road at the top and continued on the trail. Nice area but mostly 2 track road hiking. The tanks we crossed and checked did have water but all the creeks were dry. On the way back to the TH we took the official trail/road down and I would say the faint steep trail is the better choice.
    Bear Flat Trail #178 - Tonto NF
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    Fan's never been to the Bear Flats area so we did a tour of the area. We started at the Tonto creek and crossed over at the bridge.

    We took the Bear Flats trail to the Big Ridge trail. It was warmer than Fan likes, so she stopped at the salt Canyon. The creek was dry. I continued following the Big Ridge across the canyon and it ended at the Wilderness boundary. I followed a couple of game / rancher trails. I came across a neat water collection device. The views are great from this area. At one point your looking down at the Hell's Gate area. You can see the canyons that hold the Tonto and the Haigler creeks meet.

    When I returned to Salt Canyon, Fan had found a big pool of water so we could top off our water supply :y: .
    As we got close to the TH, it started to sprinkle on us. The morning was coolish with overcast.
    As we got to the sun exposed section of Big Ridge, the clouds lifted and it got toasty.
    Bear Flat Trail #178 - Tonto NF
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    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.
    Bear Flat Trail #178 - Tonto NF
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    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.

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    page created by joebartels on Nov 24 2012 8:57 pm
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