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Sunflower Trail #344, AZ

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Guide 25 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
3 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Distance One Way 5.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,416 feet
Elevation Gain -500 feet
Avg Time One Way 2.5-3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.93
Interest Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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9  2019-01-01
Little Saddle Mountain Loop
9  2018-11-08
Saddle Mountain - AZT #22
8  2018-11-04
AZT #21 and #22
12  2017-11-25
Alder Creek
23  2017-06-11
S Mazatzal Roundup
29  2017-01-03
Adler Creek and quick sand surprise
52  2016-03-12
AZT Trail: Picketpost to Pine
13  2015-02-20
Alder Creek
Page 1,  2,  3
Author DarthStiller
author avatar Guides 15
Routes 230
Photos 6,011
Trips 434 map ( 3,778 miles )
Age 50 Male Gender
Location Mesa, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Apr, Feb → 7 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:15am - 6:22pm
Official Route
6 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Topless Grasslands Await
by DarthStiller

The Sunflower Trail #344 starts at the junction with the Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244 approximately a half mile from the Cross F Trailhead. Its total length is approximately 5.1 miles, where it joins the Boulder Creek Trail about a half mile east of SR87 and just east of the ranch that now has the "TOPLESS CABARET" sign that is so conspicuously prominent. The total elevation change is about 500', but there are a few uphill climbs on your way down.

After the junction with the Little Saddle Trail, the trail heads into a canyon, where it becomes rather faint in places. After crossing a wash, it rises back up to meet FR393 at the 0.6 mile mark. There you will walk under some rather low powerlines. The trail descends again into another small canyon between two buttes until you get to a cattle tank. At this tank you encounter the first of several gates and begin to follow what appears to be an old ATV road at the 1.4 mile mark. The terrain here is mainly open grassland. At 1.7 miles, this junctions with a more prominent ATV road. A plastic "Trail #344" marker is there. Head east on this new ATV road and you will soon find a plastic "AZT" marker that will tell you you're going in the right direction. The views to the northeast of Mt. Ord are very nice.

This unnamed ATV road will take you about 1.5 miles to Diamond Ranch, where it will veer south to another gate. The grassland turn more to scrub brush here and the trail is more prominent and marked well with cairns. The views to the south of Diamond Mountain are very good. At least two more gates are encountered before it goes under SR87 through a culvert. After SR87, the trail is easy to follow and marked with yellow ribbons. The brush is much thicker in this segment, but no bushwhacking was necessary when I did this hike. The trail ends at the junction with the Boulder Creek Trail, where the markers say that it's a half mile north to FR22 and 7 miles south to FR422.

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.

2008-10-02 DarthStiller

    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 Triplog Reviews
    Sunflower Trail #344
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    NOBO to Peeley TH on very well maintained trails. Minimal water - saw small pools and slight trickle flows: 1) north of the Cross F trail junction, 2) McFarland Canyon 3) lower end of Cornucopia.

    Exited down DC45. Intermittent / light water flow starts about a mile down from Peeley and persist nicely until near the canyon mouth. The first ~3 miles of trail have had some recent maintenance and are very pleasant, after that it's moderate thrash until you near the canyon mouth.
    Sunflower Trail #344
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    AZT Trail: Picketpost to Pine
    I was kind of looking to see where I was at for another big trek this summer and Karl was looking to experiment with a lighter weight higher mileage backpack, so I proposed Picketpost Mountain, or the beginning of section 18 of the Arizona Trail to Pine and the end of section 26 of the Arizona Trail. Karl was down for four days and had a somewhat flexible plan for ending his trip when he needed to. Meanwhile, I was about 50-50 if I could do the entire hike and was content with just seeing how far Karl and I could get and then playing the rest of my trip by ear, or I should say by body.

    Day 1: 29.92 miles 6268 aeg

    We made it to our planned first night's campsite on day one, Walnut Spring. Section 18 really exceeded my expectations. This is about the best time of year to be walking though that desert right now and Whitford proved to be a real treat with the flowing water and abundance of green. The climb was grueling and relentless but it offered some very solid views of the area and was really made manageable by liberal use of switchbacks. Karl was so confident with our performance at that point in the day that he insisted we bag Montana Mountain while we were up there. I agreed, but only because I was born in Montana and I said it had to count it as our break. Reavis Ranch looked like Daytona Beech and I had not apprehensions about making the short trip past it to my cozy little campsite at Walnut Spring. Got to Walnut just at headlamp time. Blew through camp chores, made a fire, ate and got to bed as soon as we could.

    Day 2: 25.67 miles 6392 aeg

    We came up a little short on our proposed campsite on this day, but the hiking was great so no worries. No stranger to the Eastern Supes, but Sunday still offered me all new areas after Two Bar Ridge. Cottonwood Canyon was great! No shortage of water in there and some cool little sites in this random little riparian jungle in the far corners of the northwestern Supes. A little bit of road and then it was the traverse from hell along the 188 waiting for that damn bridge to come into sight. From the bridge it was up the stairway to heaven. Where fittingly we had a trail angel waiting for us with tons of snacks and H20. After our sugar, hops, and caffeine binge at Mills Ridge we decided to just push for Buckhorn Creek. However, on that side of Four Peaks, pushing for a few extra miles usually entails a nice chunk of aeg as well, so we earned it. I did find a set of Indian ruins though along the way, so that was cool. We were both excited to learn that after carrying all that fresh water from Mills Ridge, there was water flowing in Buckhorn Creek. Oh well no filtering to do, quicker camp set-up, quick fire and in bed even earlier than previous night.

    Day 3: 31.24 miles 5239 aeg

    Day three was all new ground for me. Four Peaks makes you work, but alas the beauty of nature is enhanced by the ardor of the journey. I really enjoyed this section, an instant new favorite! I hiked through perhaps one of my nicest sunrises in a long time and marked several rock pile sites along the trail for future exploring. This section just kept getting better for me as we neared Four Peaks and started contouring towards Pigeon Spring. The lingering and previous snow had some of the creeks flowing nicely along this stretch and the trail got very nice as we approached its end. The road felt a little like Mad Max with the amount of Jeeps, trucks and atvs out. However, I must say not one negative experience with any driver and I do not think I have been offered as much water in such a short amount of time as I was along that 11 mile stretch of road. One guy asked, "is there anything else I could give you?" I said I could use some sunscreen and he offered up the whole bottle. The hike down into Sycamore was also very nice, again a great time to be in the lowlands, a little water, some flowers and green. However, it was hard to appreciate at times with the fatigue and anxiety over coordinating a last minute drop off of some additional things I felt I needed, if I was going to have any chance of reaching Pine. The drop and pick went smooth, a small adventure, but relatively smooth. We did not get an ideal spot to camp, but spirits were high after our resupply.

    Day 4: 24.7 miles 6297 aeg

    This was the day Karl and I would be saying our goodbyes. Karl decided on a Peely exit and I would push on to Bear Spring from there. More new trail for me to start the day and again I was not disappointed. The canyons on the way up to Saddle Ridge were picturesque, there was a lot of water and signs of some pretty extensive trail work in spots. I will admit things got a little dicey after we left the quaint McFarland Spring area, but we endured. The trails definitely need some work in there. I found myself kind of embracing the ruggedness and challenge the area presented. However, I could see that area becoming another hiker's hell if they were not expecting it. Karl and I parted at Peely. Losing Karl sucked, as he and I had a good thing going the first few days. Karl was keeping our pace in the areas where I tend to day dream and I was doing what I could do to keep us at a respectable place for some of the more stout climbs. But no time to dwell, I was solo now and needed to reach Bear Spring, just another 2000 feet of aeg and a shade under ten miles. There is no sense harping on the point, but the Divide Trail is getting nasty along there and I did make it to Bear Spring before head lamp conditions, but I was obliterated from that last little push from Peely. I replaced Karl with another Carl at Bear Spring. I am going to assume he spells his with a C. Anyways, I ran into Carl, better known as Spiced Rum on HAZ. He was on the final night of a backpack to gather some information for future work in the area. We chatted it up for awhile and I am not ashamed to admit I took some extra snacks from him. He was leaving a day early and I could not believe the amount of food I was going through on these long days, so I had no problem taking the charity. Superb stuff too, some great dried fruit, trail-mix and a Rice Crispy treat. Good guy all around and a source of wealth on some other major trails that I am interested in. And what a nice little spot to camp near Bear Spring, that saddle is great, I see why toughboots is fond of the place.

    Day 5: 26.9 miles 4051 aeg

    This was my make or break day. I had my city creek trailhead bailout option if needed, or I was pushing for the East Verde via the dreaded Red Hills and making my final push for Pine from there. The divide trail has its ups and downs, both in terrain and condition, but overall it was pretty smooth going. There is a section of Divide Trail that is now immaculate from about the intersection with Brody Seep to the intersection with Barnhardt. Kudos to that trail crew. I stopped for way too long to soak my legs and filter water and then realized I was looking at about ten more miles to include the worst part of the Red Hills and it was nearly three. My rational side said, "set up camp here, hike out LF or Saddle Ridge tomorrow," however, my other side said, "quit making excuses and finish the original plan." I am not sure what it was, but I was really dreading the last half of the Red Hills. Out of paranoia of being too exhausted to complete the entire section and having to dry camp somewhere I carried way too much water. This weighed me down and annoyed me even more as several of the creeks and main valleys I crossed had running water in them. As it turned out, while my worries were warranted, I did just fine and to be honest felt the area did not seem as bad as it had before and I must give props to the horse(s) whose tracks I followed through the entire Red Hills section, a doable stretch, just may require more time and detail. Camped at the Verde where I was serenaded to sleep by cows, frogs, chickens, maybe peacocks, cats and perhaps even a species of monkey. A very lively river at night.

    Day 6: 23.08 miles 4329 aeg

    This was the one I was waiting for, the "easy" day. A nice early start, I don't think there is a better place to be in the world than a half hour before light in the mountains somewhere, just pure serenity. There were ankle breakers abound on this day of Whiterock and Hard Scrabble. A nice steady pace was all I tried to keep and I followed a liberal break plan, as I crawled into Pine. The final two sections were not my favorite, but they were also the last two sections of a 160 mile trek so they would have had to have been perfect to really capture my imagination. Nevertheless, I got through both of them and endured the lava rock tread and bland road. I did find the last few miles to be more redeeming with the scenic Oak Spring and Bradshaw tank area. It was a reunion at the trailhead with Jackie and the pups, Del Taco and then home.

    Final Notes

    I need to work on a better nutrition plan for these big ones. I simply did not bring enough caloric energy for the type of days I was doing and the amount of energy I was putting out. I need to go healthier and more efficient, just a good lesson to learn.

    Karl played a huge role in getting me through those first four days, very glad to have him through there, he was missed later.

    A good song to have stuck in your head while hiking is Passion Pit, "Take a Walk."

    I can definitely go lighter on these ones too, I packed light, but by no means did I make any attempts to go ultra-light. In the future, that may be needed to knock out some of these more ambitious multi day treks.

    The hardest days by far were Day four with its nearly 7000 feet gained and day five with its 27 legit miles through the Mazzies without as much as a foot of road relief until the very end.

    About normal to not so great, to really good in spots. Most action in the first few sections though.
    Sunflower Trail #344
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    Alder Creek
    We started at the Cross F TH and looped the AZT back to FR393. We took FR2138 and checked out the corrals and tanks. We bushwhacked from one tank area to another. Then we headed back to FR393. Fan took lunch and an extended break by the Chinatown spring / Alder creek area.

    I headed down Alder creek to Bartlett lake. This was the best part of the hike. Alder creek has intermittent water running through it. At times there’s big canyon walls and sometimes there’s big tracks of grassy fields. The only issues I had was having to push through occupational trees and vegetation. When I got near the lake I noticed 2 sets of boots prints in the wash. I took lunch on a drought exposed rock outcropping. As I ate, I felt someone watching me and turned around and saw 2 young backpackers looking at me. They were near the start of the Maverick mountain wash(about a 1/3 mile away). I waved and they walked away.

    I looped back to FR393 by taking the Maverick Mountain wash. I saw the backpackers footprints go down a side canyon/wash :-k .

    Animal sighting:
    My 1st Gila monster of the year :) ! The Gila Monster said we only have 5 more weeks of spring left :sl: !
    Big animal prints in the mud :scared:
    Dead fox on FR393

    It was an interesting hike with some new areas that I hadn’t explored before. The overcast held back the heat, but it did get cold when we got above 3,500 feet.
    Sunflower Trail #344
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    Bartlett Lake via Cross F/Bee-Line
    I parked at the Cross F TH. There was a light rain that stopped 5 minutes after I started hiking. I was surprised to see that the Alder spring was dry. Adler creek had a very light flow to it.

    I took one of the washes down to the lake and had lunch. By now the sky was mostly sunny. As I headed back from lunch, the western sky turned black. Soon there was one of the localized thunder storms. There was numerous lighting strikes on the west side of the lake. The black cloud covered the entire sky. I quickly put on the rain gear (again). This was the first time I got to use my waterproof fishing gloves. The gloves keeps the hand dry and very warm.

    Through the day I seen about 10 javelinas. There was pair (adult and baby) that started to charge at me! I yelled at them, and then they stopped and ran the other way.

    The temps dropped fast when the sun dropped. It was so cold at the end of the hike that the Jeep had ice on it! The windshield was one sheet of ice.
    Next time I want to check out the Alder Creek wash down to the lake.
    Sunflower Trail #344
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    I had no real agenda for the hike. I started out at the Bushnell tanks and headed North on the AZT.
    I saw the AZT trailer sitting near the TH. I took the new minor redirect and followed the cairns to the Sycamore creek. The water was pretty deep and fast moving. I found a narrow spot and was able to make a crossing with a small tree trunk.

    I headed north and literally tripped over a new area to go exploring!!! :y: As I crossed over FR393, I wondered where this well maintained road leads to. I went to the Cross F TH to see the new sign and had a snack break by the creek. I did some quick research on the GPS and discovered that FR393 went down to Bartlett Dam / Verde River! Score! :y: I changed my original plan of checking out the fire damage on Little Saddle MNT to exploring FR393.

    FR393 starts about 1/3 mile from the Cross-F TH. It more or less follows the power lines and is very well maintained. The road passes by numerous camping spots and drainage's. After a couple of miles, the road go by Upper Alder spring and (I believe) this is the start of the Alder creek. After this point you can see the Alder creek below you to the south. There were some nice green trees down there. The views view fantastic. After a mile or two more, I could start to see the town of Cave Creek.
    The road slowly loses elevation. The high point was 3,900 feet and it looks like it ends about 2,000 feet (at the lake).

    I picked a turnaround time because I didn't have enough time to make it to the lake. Shortly after I turned around a family on quads/4x4 golf carts passed me. They went to the lake and returned. They said the road was about 14~15 miles one way and there were other trails where it ended. I had lunch by the Alder Creek.

    On the way back (by the town of Sunflower) a couple of free-range horse started to follow me and got pretty close. I suspect they were looking for apples.

    I returned it back to the Beeline/AZT 14 with 2 hours of daylight left so I went down the Boulder trail. I hopped off the trail and returned FR22.

    There are 3 creek crossings on FR22. The first one (heading back) was low enough where I walked on the metal berm that defined the road. The second crossing was nasty. The creek was split into three sections. After I crossed, I realized that the creek was running down the road and the 2nd & 3rd crossing merged into one. I crossed again and found faint trails that lead me (dryly) to the cattle guard.

    I was a great day! Once the sky clouded over, the temps were perfect. And I got to explorer a new area of the Mazatzal's!!!
    Sunflower Trail #344
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    I was starting to have AZT withdrawals!! Thanks Denny for letting Joe drive your car to the Peeley TH yesterday. That saved us a good 1-1/2 hours this morning in shuttle setup. (and allowed extra sleep).

    The hike started out with a jaunt from the Bushnell Tank parking area, down a 1 mile brisk and breezy Highway 87 to the route to get under 87. The first bit of the hike is non descript, but the rest was pretty special. We passed through quite a few riparian areas, running water and big ole' trees. We took lunch at the Sheep creek, Thicket Spring intersection. After Denny and I checked out the mine that is right there. We got back in about 40' or so and I decided to retreat with bees exiting the mine.

    We kept our eyes our along the trails for any potential clues for GPSJoe. We did find a Green Campo Glove 6.7 miles from the Peele TH (N33 57.101 W111 30.790). We left it where we found it. More than likely lost by a hunter. There is a picture in the forum thread.

    A big thanks again to Denny for letting us set up the Shuttle yesterday, and to Grace for shuffling Denny around at hours that most significant others are fast asleep.

    I can't wait until our next AZT adventure?
    Sunflower Trail #344
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    I like the Bushnell Tanks / Ballintine area. It's close to Phoenix and it has a lot of old trails to explore. My plan was to hike to Boulder Bob's cabin and then continue on to FR1704 and see how bad the road is. I downloaded GPS Joes track and headed out. The recent rains did a number on FR22. About a quarter mile from the Beeline, FR22 was washed out. The creek over flowed to about 500 feet wide. Crossing was it was easy. The road was a lot worse by the FR22 / trail split (for the AZT). The cattle guard was all busted up. The creek was deep and running fast. It took me some time to find a good crossing point. FR22 is gone at this point, it's just a creek bed for about 2,000 feet. It's no longer passable by car (even if the forest service allowed it). I followed GPS Joe's track down the old roads. Some of the roads are washed out and are more like hiking trails. The route hops on the AZT for about 200 feet and then it crosses two creek beds and starts to climb up Boulder Pass (this section was hard to follow). I ran across cairns when I started to climb up the pass. This sections was very well cairned and I saw fresh footprints. I started to get excited thinking the cabin must have been great thing. Why else would there be all of these cairns in the middle of nowhere. I made it to the top of pass and started to look for the cabin. I climb down a bit and ran across the remain of an old fireplace. This was the cabin. The only thing that remained was the fireplace/chimney and the outline of the foundation. This was pretty anti-climatic for me. I continued on for about another quarter mile and the trail disappeared and the cat claw got thicker. I wasn't having fun at this point, so I turned around and headed back. I followed the cairns all the way back down Boulder pass, and then came across a series of fresh places red ribbons. They lead me across the creek and right on the AZT. (N33 50.274 W111 26.389). In fact there a cairn with a stick/ red ribbon right the intersection of the two trails. If I were to do this again, I would hike down the AZT to this waypoint and follow the red ribbons down to the creek and then follow the cairns up the pass. I would still bring GSP Joe's track to made sure you don't get off-trail.

    I took the AZT back to the Sunflower TH. I then hiked the Sunflower trail to where it ended at the Little Saddle MNT trail. I headed back to the Sunflower TH and took FR2 back to the Jeep.
    It was a perfect day for hiking. Not hot or cool.
    Sunflower Trail #344
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    Today we had planned to be in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness for a 14 mile R/T hike to the Moody Point Ruins, but due to the hotter temps this weekend, no vehicle AC, six hours of driving time, and a work day manana, we opted for something closer to home just outside the Mazatzal Wilderness.

    This new Stiller hike description is part-of the 16 mile AZT-"Saddle Mountain Passage" and a section of trail that we had yet to hike out of the Cross-F TH. It turned out to be a good exercise hike and a better choice hike to wait for cooler winter temperatures, but a must do if you are trying to complete segments of the AZT as we are slowly but surely trying to do. After finishing up this hike trek at the intersection of the Boulder Creek TR#73, we decided to hike the extra .5ml to see where and what FR22 was all about. In the process of doing so we discovered a nicely shaded creek spot(off a drainage to Sycamore Creek) before ending at FR22. It turns out that this FR22 is a recommended parking location heading north(exit at MP219.1) off Hwy 87. Parking in this general area off FR22 at way points N 33 51.849 W111 27.777 will give you quick access via the .5ml hike back to the trail 344/73 intersection where one can connect with this Boulder Creek TR#73 to begin the southeasterly hike on the 18 mile "Pine Mtn./Boulder Creek" AZT Passage which ends at the Four Peaks-Lone Pine Saddle TH... maybe the next AZT passage we will try for once it cools off some. ;)

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix, take the Beeline Highway north until it joins FR627 at the turnoff for Mt. Ord. Turn to the left to get on FR627, crossing the highway. There is a turning lane there to make this possible. Take FR627 approximately 3 miles south to the Cross F Trailhead, which is on the east (left) side of the road.
    page created by DarthStiller on Oct 01 2008 11:01 pm
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