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Gold Ridge Trail #47, AZ

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Guide 33 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson W
3.5 of 5 by 13
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 5.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,400 feet
Elevation Gain 2,700 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,820 feet
Avg Time One Way 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 14.9
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3  2019-06-20 LJW
21  2019-05-11
South Fork - Gold Ridge Loop
24  2019-03-30
South Fork - Gold Ridge Loop
13  2019-03-30
South Fork - Gold Ridge Loop
6  2018-08-18
South Fork - Gold Ridge Loop
8  2018-02-22
South Fork - Gold Ridge Loop
5  2017-09-23
Gold Ridge - Mount Peeley
14  2017-07-08
South Fork - Gold Ridge Loop
Page 1,  2,  3
Author jacobemerick
author avatar Guides 31
Routes 71
Photos 795
Trips 96 map ( 1,037 miles )
Age 34 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, Nov
Sun  6:13am - 6:24pm
Official Route
9 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Quick Climb to Mazatzal Heights
by jacobemerick

Of the three trails that start from Deer Creek Trailhead, Gold Ridge Trail is the only one that stays out of a heavily vegetated (and often difficult to follow) creek and does not cross into the Mazatzal Wilderness. This trail is mostly on an exposed ridge, follows an old road for part of the way, and isn't technically closed to wheeled / motorized traffic, making it one of the more passable routes in the area. It can be combined with South Fork Trail for a solid loop or Deer Creek Trail for longer adventures.

From Deer Creek Trailhead, head down South Fork Trail about 0.4 miles to the start of Gold Ridge Trail. There is a trail sign here, plus a well-trod path and helpful cairns to guide you through a grassy pasture. Good chance there'll be some cattle roaming around here as well. At 1.0 miles there is a gate to pass through - please make sure to close it behind you - and then the climb begins.

Over the next mile and a half the ridge gains 1400', with few switchbacks or breaks to ease the way. There are some sections of loose rock, too, to up the difficulty a bit. Vegetation is mostly low manzanita that does little to block the sun yet does provide some good views to distract from the climb. At the top of this section there is a morale-boosting view back down to the trailhead.

There is still elevation to gain, though now it is done in a more gentle manner. The trail winds around some hills and crosses some saddles and slowly gains ground. At 3.0 miles the trail takes advantage of an old road and becomes much easier to walk on. More views began to open up, including some great angles of the Mazatzal Mountains in the north and a few brief glimpses of Mt Ord / Four Peaks / Roosevelt Lake to the south. Eventually the trail swings up a small hill and ends on FR 3348. Turn right on the road to connect with FR 201 and other trails along it.

Water Sources
None on the trail. Pigeon Spring is the closest, over on South Fork.

There is a fantastic car-camp site at the top of Gold Ridge Trail, as well as some additional flats along FR 3348.

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.

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

2017-10-03 jacobemerick

    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 of 17 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Gold Ridge Trail #47
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I started at 6am from trailhead. Forecast in Phoenix was for 100. Temperature was pleasant the whole trip and even cool feeling at top, other than the final few miles when the heat and lower elevation made it a bit warm.

    Gold ridge was as advertised, easy to follow and well maintained for the most part. Steep in many sections, with few switchbacks.
    South Fork has three different sections from my experience.
    Mile 0-2 from Hwy 87 trailhead: This is mostly open desert and fairly level. Some parts of trail are faint, but route finding and bush whacking is minimal.
    Mile 2-4 from Hwy 87 trailhead: The trail gets more difficult as elevation increases and there are a number of up and down sections that rise above the stream and back down to it. Route finding is fairly straight forward still and trails not really over grown.
    Mile 4-6 from Hwy 87 trailhead until the junction with forest road: This section sucks. Lots of up and down. There is no trail at all for about the first half mile from the forest road. It is very easy to miss where the “trail’ takes up one bank or another and then comes back down. Some sections are very steep and the trail is washed away, making for a few treacherous steps here and there. Surprisingly I didn’t have to do a lot of bush whacking, but route finding was very slow going. The trail varies between very faint and gone in this section. Still some decent shade though. I started with Gold Ridge and came back this way. Thankfully only the first 2 or so miles were this bad, or I would have gotten back much later than I had planned.

    Thankfully, not many catclaw or other thorny plants.

    Overall, i thought the views on Gold Ridge were awesome and the adventure through South Fork was pretty fun. Still a decent amount of vegetation and trees along South Fork. I’d recommend the hike, just make sure to plan extra time for South Fork.
    Gold Ridge Trail #47
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Up YB > SOBO on AZT > FR201 > down GR to finish off MDT23 & AZT23. This is a very nice stretch of the AZT, except for a few dozen downed trees across the trail. Bike shuttle between Barnhardt and Deer Creek trail heads.

    Approaching Peely trail head, two military jets (F-4's I believe) came screaming out of the west and dropped way down deep into Deer Creek canyon, following it east - awesome!
    Gold Ridge Trail #47
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I have driven past the Deer Creek TH a number of times and had always wondered what the trails there were like, so Tracie, my intrepid hiking partner, and I decided to find out for ourselves. We did this loop clockwise, i.e., we went out on the Gold Ridge Trail and came back on the South Fork Trail. After doing the hike, I would recommend doing it this way.

    The Gold Ridge Trail was well maintained and easy to follow. It was somewhat steep -- we climbed around 2,000 feet in the first 3 miles and around 1,000 feet in the next 3 miles. The trail was mostly dirt and the footing was pretty good. You could see a lot of dead, burned pine trees that were still standing from the Willow fire of 2004. There was a lot of vegetation -- mostly manzanita and holly bushes -- that had grown back since the fire. There was almost total sun exposure, and I would not want to do this hike in hot weather. The views were OK on this hike -- in places you could see Roosevelt Lake, and the Mogollon Rim could be seen off in the distance; however, as for scenery, I much prefer the Barnhardt Trail which isn't too far away.

    The South Fork Trail was totally different that the Gold Ridge Trail. In places it was difficult to follow the trail, so I was glad that I had a GPS track. There were a lot cairns and some pink ribbons tied to tree branches, which helped to follow the trail. However, to me this was much more like a social trail than an "official" trail. There were lots of fallen trees over the trail that you either had to climb over or navigate around. We had to make numerous creek crossings, and in some places we had to climb up above the creek and then get back down into the creek to avoid overgrowth in the creek. The creek was mostly dry, but there were several springs that were running with water. There were lots of dead, burned trees still standing from the 2004 fire.

    I think that this hike would have been a nice one back before the fire in 2004. Unless you really enjoy some scrambling in a creek bed, and aren't all that focused on scenic views, then I would recommend hiking on the Barnhardt Trail instead.

    My Garmin GPS recorded the hike as being 14.3 miles with close to a 3,600 foot AEG. When we were on FR 201 we walked right past the trail marker to the South Fork Trail and had to backtrack a bit; so the actual distance was probably a tad less than 14 miles.
    Gold Ridge Trail #47
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Gold Ridge - Mount Peeley
    I knew it would be a great day to summit Peeley, that was the goal. I also knew it would be a great day to get some decent milage in the Mazzies. I started from Deer Creek TH and took Gold Ridge up. Always a great workout with 1800ft gained in the first 3 miles. Great tread, well-maintained and awesome views along Gold Ridge. Then it was FR3348 to FR201 to Peeley TH at mile 9. I passed 3 runners trotting down 201, that was it for human sightings. Continued up Peeley to the summit for a quick breather and views. Wind wasn't bad, just enough to get cool and dry. Started back down and was cruising. The gradual uphill once back on FR201 was enjoyable, and broke up the downhill sections. Made a side trip down to Pigeon Spring to grab a liter. There's a well-worn game trail that leads right to it. Finished off the downhill strong and arrived at the TH having achieved my goal of finishing in 8 hours or less. There were 4 cars at Deer Creek TH and 2 at Peeley TH (1 Haz ride) but I didn't see any other hikers all day. I enjoyed this day. Great weather at all elevations. Finally some cooler temps in the Mazzies.

    Oak near Peeley summit have started to yellow.
    Gold Ridge Trail #47
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Headed back into the Mazatzal for an interesting loop. Kyle and I fought our way up South Fork a couple of years ago and were forced to turn around due to time constraints. We wanted to return and this was the day. Chumley joined us for the hike.

    We started with Gold Ridge and it was a grind. The trail is in good condition as it makes a steep climb. With much effort we topped out and took a lunch break at Camp Grasshopper. This would be a great spot to car camp. From there we walked the road for a short ways and started down the South Fork trail at the trail sign.

    The hike down South Fork is a mixed bag. We did fairly well at following trail tread whenever it was present. It completely disappears at times and you have to fight your way down canyon. There was a good flow of water and the upper canyon is very scenic. There were two solid waterfalls but they are heavily overgrown and the mid afternoon sun cast too many shadows for good pics. The lower half of trail had some trail maintenance & is fairly easy to follow.

    I'm really glad we knocked out this loop. It's much better going down South Fork. Thanks Kyle for driving!
    Gold Ridge Trail #47
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Have never even been to this trailhead before! :o

    Gold Ridge is meh. The lower part is steep and seems to have forgotten about switchbacks. The upper part is actually pretty nice, but would have been a whole lot nicer pre-fire.

    I took a short side-trip up to the Gold BM. It took a minute to find as it had been protected by a few rocks piled above it. There was some wire from a survey structure or height of light that made me look for it in the right spot. Didn't see any obvious reference marks, but didn't search too hard either.

    South Fork offers nicer scenery but more challenging routefinding. I enjoy finding old trail tread, though there were times that it didn't seem logical. The leaves are just sprouting so it was still a little bit gray and bare. Plenty of water from the very top to the very bottom. Some pools plenty deep for full immerson, though not really large enough to actually swim. It got warmer on the way down and I considered taking a dip but ultimately decided to just hoof it back to the car.

    It was nice to meet 9L. :sweat: Thanks to Kyle for driving.
    Gold Ridge Trail #47
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    This one has been on the list for as long as I can remember. I'm glad we finally knocked it out. Now that things are starting to warm up, I figured it was a good time to do it and a relatively short drive. We went up Gold Ridge first-- I knew Lily would appreciate the water in South Fork when it got warmer in the afternoon-- she would have been really unhappy had we come down Gold Ridge. Gold Ridge is a little boring but the views are nice-- well, they aren't amazing. We headed down South Fork after a lunch break. This is a fun trail and there's tons of water right now and a couple pretty nice little waterfalls. I was pretty tired by the end-- I'm gonna blame my allergies and the slight yearly asthma they bring with them but it was really just this first taste of summer coming.
    Gold Ridge Trail #47
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    My third jaunt into my favorite mountains and this turned out to be the hardest one yet. I guess I should've listened better when Nick told me the trail disappeared but I needed to do this loop. Deer Creek had left me disappointed when I had to turn around (but it's probably a very good thing that I did). Nothing frustrates me more than losing a trail but I am so glad I had a great hiking partner with me. The first few miles were okay but once the trail disappeared it began to get frustrating. The trail really does disappear. Random cairns show up along the way as you get towards the end of the trail, but they do not really help when the trail keeps disappearing. I enjoyed the beginning of the trail but became extremely frustrated as I realized that we had to keep going along the creek or up the side of a mountain when I had no idea where the end was. Thank god for Nick. That man is amazing. I was surprised how much water there was down in the canyon as Deer Creek was pretty dry. Definitely wear pants if you don't want your legs to get all scratched up because they will be. We didn't quite make it to FR201 which will be my goal when I go back but we cut up the side of a mountain to the road that connects to Gold Ridge and I don't think I have ever been more happy to see a road in my entire life. Gold Ridge was absolutely amazing. The trail was beautiful and well maintained and all downhill. I became incredibly happy and hyper on the way down. Despite the absolute frustration I felt in the canyon this hike was worth it. I will be back one day to conquer the entire loop, and knowing what to expect, I will get to FR201 but perhaps when winter is over and the snow melts. Would absolutely love to hike up Gold Ridge in the snow. Bet that's a sight to see!
    Gold Ridge Trail #47
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Finally made it back up South Fork and completed this loop as a day-hike. I was hoping to catch a little fall foliage in this canyon. Alex experienced Deer Creek recently and had her mind set on this loop. I gave her a complete description of this hike and the punishment that comes with the beauty beforehand. The first few miles up South Fork was in good shape and easy to follow. No water flowing. Just some nasty looking pools. At around 4 miles the flow is better but the terrain and trail conditions worsen. Lots of boulder hopping, route finding, log jumping and fighting cat claw and other brush. I kept us on the path of least resistance for quite a while until all remnants of a trail were gone. The cat claw turned to locust. The downfall became more numerous. Even had a couple climbs up dry waterfalls. The grueling pace was getting to me but I had to become slave driver / emotional support as Alex had become frustrated and realized she was in over her head a little on this one. I must've said "almost there" & "keep pushing" dozens of times in that last few miles of South Fork. I'm pretty sure she stopped believing me after a while. Having now hiked South Fork in both directions and completed this loop in both directions, I can now say I'm done with it for a while. Still a very beautiful area and the entire hike was fall like and scenic. Hungry and bleeding, we were thrilled to finally reach the road and start on down Gold Ridge. It was all downhill from there. Recent trail work on Gold Ridge made this stretch very enjoyable today. The rains held off and we soaked in the wide open views after several hours in that canyon. Made it back to the TH just as the last bit of daylight left the sky. Long day, tough hike but Alex sure was proud of her accomplishment in the end. Gorgeous day in the Mazzies, overall. Wouldn't hike it again anytime soon but it's a great loop with a rugged canyon and stunning ridgeline views for someone looking for something a little more adventurous.

    Substantial relative to the area. Mostly Sycamore and Cottonwood. Add Maple and Oak in the upper elevations.
    Gold Ridge Trail #47
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Been wanting to check out the Gold Ridge Trail so thought today would be a nice day to climb up to cooler temps. The steepest climb started at mile 1 and ended roughly at mile 4. Crossed paths with a hunter who was out testing his new pack. Once we hit the top of the trail we hiked out the FR3348 to FR201 and then made our way over to Pigeon Spring where we found some shade and had lunch and did a little exploring. Going down we had a nice breeze which kept the temps at bay as we descended to the lower elevation. Ryan crossed paths with a AZ Black Rattlesnake but when I arrived he had already made his escape so no picture. Next up will be the South Fork Trail.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    To Deer Creek Trailhead:

    Take AZ-87 to Deer Creek Trailhead, which is located directly across from AZ-88 intersection. Trailhead is a basic lasso structure, just park along the side where there is space. Cattle may be grazing nearby / on the dirt lot.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 70mi 1h 10m
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 170mi 2h 40m
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 110mi 2h 10m
    page created by joebartels on Oct 03 2017 3:53 pm
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