Overview: This hike follows an abandoned, dead-end logging road into the lush alpine bowl of upper Grant Creek, in Arizona's Pinaleno Mountains. This trail can be done in conjunction with the Cunningham Loop Trail, which it connects with, although it is a worthy hike on its own. The hike is easy, with little elevation gain, and no route finding involved. July and August bring wildflowers, raspberries, and of course, bears. Be sure to bring a bell on this one!
Hike: From the east Cunningham Loop trailhead, hike up the road past the vehicle barrier gate. Just past the gate, the road forks. Go right (uphill). A few hundred feet later, the road forks again. Go right again (the left fork is the Cunningham Loop Trail). The road now turns northeast to begin a steady climb along steep, fir clad slopes.
A little ways in, the trees part long enough to allow for a fine view of the 10,000 foot peaks looming above Grant Creek's densely forested basin.
At around the half mile point, the old road pretty much levels off, and begins to contour along the mountainside at the 9400 foot level. Highlights on this stretch include old growth firs, an aspen grove, and occasional mini-meadows.
The one mile point finds the trail rounding a prominent ridge, where there is an unexpected and outstanding view down Grant Creek canyon of the Sulphur Springs Valley and the distant Galiuro Wilderness. Around the corner, the trail wades through knee-high greenery below towering engelmann spruces, before turning north near a small, nameless creek.
The vegetation now turns extremely lush, with sunflowers, ferns, and raspberry shoots crowding the trail. Spruce, aspen, and rocky mountain maple mix to create a mountain lover's heaven.
The next drainage crossing brings another nameless creek of clear, cold water, and a small campsite.
One more ridge is rounded before the ancient and practically overgrown logging road comes to a sudden end in a side drainage of Grant Creek. A strong flow of cold water and a tangled mass of enormous bracken ferns and cow parsnip plants greet you at trail's end. Return the way you came, and enjoy some of the finest country the Pinaleno Mountains has to offer!
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.
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.