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The Spine, AZ

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Guide 22 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Globe > Superior S
4.2 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 9.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,522 feet
Elevation Gain 1,005 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,477 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 21.89
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Creek & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
21  2016-12-17 chumley
7  2016-12-17 MountainMatt
4  2016-12-17 JoelHazelton
1  2015-12-12 JoelHazelton
25  2013-03-10 outdoor_lover
18  2013-03-10 Pivo
16  2013-03-10 SAMBA
27  2013-03-10 GrottoGirl
Page 1,  2
Author ssk44
author avatar Guides 19
Routes 12
Photos 2,250
Trips 274 map ( 830 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:09am - 6:28pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Hang on... It's going to be a ROUGH ride!!
by ssk44

Warning: As of 2015 the original initial route as noted in this hike description has been blocked near the Copper Butte Mine claim. Do not hike though the Copper Butte Mine. See attached map for off-trail route option bypassing the Copper Butte Mine claim.

Overview: "The Spine" is a steep and rugged narrow ridgeline that towers above the surrounding area, heading out to an amazing overlook of the Gila River valley. Its located within a small segment of remote State Trust land and is surrounded by BLM land. State Trust and BLM land are checker boarded throughout the area and it's important that you know where you are due to required recreational access permits on State Trust land. Seeing this ominous location on a topo map truly inspires curiosity. With the adventurous spirit that I have, it was basically mandatory to explore the location.

Hike: "The Spine" is a rugged cross-country route. There is no trail. The hike as posted begins at a large parking area next to a corral off of Battle Axe Road. You will initially be hiking on a jeep trail that ends up in a sand wash. Those with 4x4 vehicles could continue driving down the jeep trail and park near the base of the mountain. From the parking area, start walking southwest on the jeep trail next to the corral. There is a cattle guard at the start of the road. Follow the sand wash to the second side canyon near the mountain ("Mark 003", Lat. 33 degrees/8'/29.61"/N & Long. 111 degrees/3'/23.81"/W). This canyon has a spring along it and usually has water running in the bottom. Continue up this drainage until you reach a small fork heading off to the right ("Mark 004", Lat. 33 degrees/8'/23.97"/N & Long. 111 degrees/3'/5.76"/W). Continue up this small side canyon to a saddle ("Mark 005", Lat. 33 degrees/8'/21.85"/N & Long. 111 degrees/2'/59.81"/W). From the saddle you will begin the climb to the top. Don't panic, this climb is easier than it looks with mostly solid footing all the way up. There was minimal loose and dangerous rubble rock. From here you will be following a fairly defined wide ridge that heads up to the halfway point ("Mark 006", Lat. 33 degrees/8'/13.20"/N & Long. 111 degrees/3'/8.55"/W). At the halfway point the ridge ends and you will now be climbing straight up to the top ("Mark 007", Lat. 33 degrees/8'/8.01"/N & Long. 111 degrees/3'/14.14"/W). This last segment is steep and primarily consists of medium size boulders. The footing is good and solid. Take your time, pick your line, breathe out every once in a while and you will be on top in no time at all. Once you're on top the route is fairly self-explanatory.

The first part of "The Spine" is the most precarious with nothing more than a narrow line of large boulders and steep slopes on both sides. The boulders felt very solid and were perfectly placed for hopping from one to another. On the right there is an amazing hidden shelf about eighty feet +/- below the ridgeline. After you get though this stretch, things get easier. About half way along the ridge you will come up to a steep cliff drop that extends out to the north. Backtrack a little bit and you will see a line on your right (south) heading down and around the obstacle. You're almost there. The last stretch is pleasantly smooth and open. When you finally reach the end above the Gila River, there will be a fork heading to the right and left. Once you have come this far, you will have to explore both of these forks. They are very alluring and give better views of the river below. The main fork continuing on to the southeast has many up-and-down sections and had a considerable drop in elevation of about 280'. At the most prominent end of each fork were existing cairns from the brave few that were there before me. See maps for locations of GPS waypoints described in the text.

Summary: Hiking "The Spine" can only be described as epic. This hike delivers from start to finish. This hike is no pleasure cruise and should be treated accordingly. It's a rugged route that demands respect. Although somewhat difficult and precarious in places, it is actually a very manageable route with minimal bushwhacking. The feeling that comes from the ominous remote isolation, the steep rugged down slopes, the 360 degree views, the high gain in elevation above the valleys and canyons below, and the cold wind in your face can not be properly described. Trying to capture its grandeur in photos is almost impossible. You truly have to see it in person. Count on having it all to yourself if you go.

Check out the Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2008-12-28 ssk44
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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
The Spine
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Joel and Matt set up this overnight trip and Team Buford™ decided to join us. :y: This is a short overnight, but the destination is worth it.

I had scoped out a route that climbs at a moderate 1000fpm slope rather than the shorter, more direct route that climbs twice as steeply. I figured it would be more pleasant since we were carrying overnight packs. It also avoided any private property conflicts (note on that below).

The moderate ridge route we took topped out at the highest point on the spine, where we proceeded northward to the patio and set up camp. We each set out on our own, but the amount of daylight left prevented me from doing a trip down to the Gila and back. I wasn't in the mood for rushing back to camp after dark. I settled for a trip to the south end of the spine and back. It's interesting how the geology changes south of the high point. It goes from huge solid boulders on the north to pebbly granite and gravel ground cover similar to the Tom's Thumb area on the south end.

Back at camp, we enjoyed the fire and photos before settling in for a very chilly night. In the morning we set out to descend the northern ridge of the spine, but the fall line was pushing us straight west. So changed plans early and headed straight down the northeast slope working our way directly toward the truck, which was in clear view the entire time. It was very steep, and the bouldery terrain mixed with desert flora made travel slow and deliberate. Though longer in distance, the moderate ridge we had used for the ascent is the much preferred route.

In the wash below we found pools of water from the light rain that fell Thursday, and even a trickle of flow through some slickrock sections. There's a spring marked on the map, and some colorful Cottonwood trees, but due to the surface water from the rain, I wasn't able to identify the spring source. We made quick time up the wash back to the truck.

Private Property Access Notes:
Reading the notes and previous triplogs about this area left me unsure of what our route would be. We started at the Asarco fence along the road in the wash. We headed cross country to the east before turning south toward the ridge we ascended, barely clipping Section 30, which is owned by Asarco in it's entirety. On the return trip, we took the direct route. Besides where we parked the truck, there are no posted signs or fences except surrounding a solar powered water pump, four large enclosed water tanks, and two large troughs along the way that are fenced in (cattle can't drink the water!) and signed "No Trespassing" by Asarco. I didn't know mining companies maintain wildlife tanks! It should be noted that both the Pinal Assessor maps and clearly state that their website mapping can be incorrect and are not official. So there's that.

A couple of cottonwoods in the wash and color along the Gila.
The Spine
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So, I wussed out... :sl: The plan had changed to Camping just Saturday night, but with the weather and differing opinions on whether the wet Road in would be passable for a non 4x4, I opted out of the Camping and met up with the Group Sunday morning. The Norbys, and some friends, John and Chong, had Camped Saturday night, but Mark, his companion, and SAMBA had all opted for warm beds under a real roof. :sweat:

1st time out in this area, so all of it was new to me. The Drive in, once you turn off Battle Axe Road was interesting...The Escape got a little bit of a workout and got just a tad muddy... :sweat: I had printed out a Map of the Route in, but I missed an important landmark and sorta lost the concept of how far in I was. I think I figured it out eventually, and ended up stopping at an intersection to wait for Mark. Turns out I was only about 50 yards from where the Camp was at Option 2. I actually mistakenly branded Joel as a Cow on the Hill above me... :sl: I got there plenty early, so I had a little time to waste. It wasn't wasted for long with Photo Ops abounding.... :D

Fairly soon, the Camping Crew showed up with a change of plans. Instead of The Rincon, they decided to do The Spine. So we headed out, with Joel, Belinda and I holding our breath just slightly on an uphill and the Rock...We made it, me with a little tire spinning on the Hill and Joel with about an inch of clearance to spare, in his Subaru, going over the Rock... :sweat: It wasn't the last time I would hold my breath that day... :sl: (But we made Joel lead, so if the Subaru could do it, I knew I'd be fine... :D )

We met Mark and Samba coming in, so we regrouped and headed to The Spine. The Road in to that TH was a bit of a challenge, but we got there. Oh ya, you guys want to hear about the Hike! :sl: It was awesome!

We went pretty much straight up, arriving at the top right at the north end. And then the fun really began as you negotiate the Roller Coaster Ridge of Boulders... :y: I brought up the rear, which I expected, since I have done very little elevation since the beginning of the Year. The Crew was great though and it was a good time!!! Got to the end of the actual "Spine" and had some lunch. John and Chong decided to bail there and go down, and after seeing what else the others had in mind, I elected to join in on the bailout... :sweat: Just didn't think I was up for more elevation on this day.

So we split, and our little Crew of 3 navigated down the slope. We ran into one little area that had some Poppies, but beyond that, they were few and far between, with a few lonely Lupine showing up as well. But the ground was covered with several varieties of blooming ground cover type flora. And there were areas where you might as well have been on a Golf Green... :D

We caught up with the Drainage that takes you back towards the TH. We had followed this Drainage for just a bit going in and the Slick Rock areas were very cool. The 3 of us opted to take it all the way back and I'm glad we did. It was awesome. There was just a trickle of Water through most of it, I think a majority of the Water was running underneath the sand areas we walked through.

Got back to the Vehicles and I followed John out, eventually ending up at the intersection of Battle Axe and 177. I decided to wait for the others so I could say goodbye and make sure they got out. Took a nice nap and then the others rolled up. Said our goodbyes and we went our separate ways. I stopped in Superior at Los Hermanos for a bite and then on the drive out of Superior, I stopped and did a short Hike up Arnett Creek, which had a nice flow for a change... :) I was trying to kill a little time, so I didn't get tangled in the mess of vehicles coming out of the Renaissance Festival... :o

It was a great day! Thanks for the invite Belinda! It was good company and it's always nice to meet some additional HAZers! I definitely need to do more in this area! : app :

Last note: The Ford Escape I had did really well, but I don't think I would attempt either the road to the Spine or the road around Battle Axe in anything lower than the Subaru.... :o :sweat:

Only a few "groups" of Poppies and some lonely Lupines. In areas though, the ground was covered with tiny blooming foliage...
The Spine
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Stay away from this place, it's full of stickers, loose rocks and ghosts. Oh, and there's no view at all from the top.

We'd intended to go backpacking over New Year - but the weather just wasn't to our liking. Lets face it, when you live in a place with as many wonderful days in the year, it's just silly to knowingly head out during the lousy ones.
The Spine
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Although the road was pretty washed out in a few spots we were able to drive all the way to the north end of the base of The Spine, which cut the hiking distance significantly. Once on foot we followed the wash eastward until the incline up to the ridge was reasonable enough to climb when we turned right and headed up the hill. At the ridge we took a number of photos and set off across the back-bone of The Spine. A number of times when looking ahead of us Tracey would think, "no way, I'm not going there" yet when we got to those sections it was pretty much a piece of cake. Nowhere along the route we took did we encounter any place that gave pause enough to call it quits. Sure there were spots where if you looked down from an out-crop it seemed quite treacherous, but thankfully we didn't have to walk along there.
As mentioned in other triplogs the views were awesome all along the route. When we arrived at the last high point along the contiguous back-bone, rather than descending quite some distance down to a saddle, back up and out to the two "arms" as Eric did, with a longer hike on deck for the next day we decided to head back. Instead of returning via the same route we followed a moderate slope toward the NE down to a knoll where we took more photos, continuing down NNE along another ridge before heading eastward with the thought of checking out what appeared to be a cave that reminded us of various Native American ruins we'd visited in the past. But the closer we came the less it appeared to be a cave let alone ruins so when we came to an old 4x4 road we followed it all the way back to the wash next to where we had parked. We were glad to have taken a different route on the return for a different point of view back over our route.
After the hike we drove out a couple rough tracks that appeared at one time to have been roads to see if any would connect to where I had been from the other side a few days before. At one point the rocky road got so steep I got out and hiked some distance down to make sure if we couldn't get through that there was a place to turn around and come back up. While some distance down where it appeared the road stopped and there was a spot to turn around, before that point the washouts were so bad I didn't feel it was worth the extra 45-60 minutes of crawling down and back up it would take. I'll be out again soon to try driving farther from the west side and see just how close I can get to where we were from the east.
Overall, a great hike with plenty of jaw-dropping views.
The Spine
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The Spine (12/12/2009)

I truly love this hike. My periodic hiking partner Fred Kinzer and his awesome Australian Shepard Nicki joined me for this revisit. It was a great day. Things started out real dull and flat due to heavy cloud cover, but at around 3:00 PM everything changed. The heavens opened with beautiful sunlight, clean air, and mixed clouds. The undisputed best part of this hike is heading back. The Spine mostly slopes down heading towards the northwest and the late afternoon sun is stunning. Heading back does not even seem like the same hike. The views are incredible. The photos barely do it justice.

An added bonus to this day was some really nice fall colors along the initial riparian canyon that starts out the hike. The spring was running nice and strong. This segment is a great addition to the overall hike experience. The canyon has nice lush vegetation with many pour-over sections. Much of the canyon is solid rock. Very nice!

On this trip we took some extra time to hike down off the initial jagged ridgeline to the lower shelf that is shown in some of my photos from both trips. This location is indescribably alluring. If feels almost weird to walk around in the sunken area along the shelf. After reaching the bottom, we immediately noticed that there was zero wind or sound of any kind and when you talk there is an unmistakable echo. The location is completely hidden and sheltered from the wind. Although surrounded by rugged rocks and boulders, the shelf itself consists of soft dirt and is actually a large water catchment area. The entire shelf holds water during rainstorms and has an obvious water line! Amazing! I have never seen anything like it!

Throughout the day, I was heavily eyeballing the ominous Teapot Mountain to the northeast. This mountain first caught my attention last year and I still can't get it out of my head. There is a narrow ridgeline route on the northern slope, but it could be a little sketchy. Is it doable? If you don't try you wont ever know. Maybe someday when I'm feeling courageous and ambitious. Someday...

I actually forgot just how much of a butt kicker this hike is. It's a rocky roller coaster all the way out to the river view and rugged boulders keep your eyes glued to the ground most of the day. I was totally blown by the time we got back to the truck. I don't regret it one bit. I love this stuff!

Eric (ssk44) 8)

FYI... Also see nearby hike, "The Rincon".
The Spine
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The Spine (12/27/2008)

Truly epic hike. I can't emphasize enough that the photos do not begin to do it justice. You have to see it in person!

FYI... Also see nearby hike, "The Rincon".

Permit $$
AZ State Land Recreational Permits are available for an individual ($15.00), or a family limited to two adults and children under the age of 18 ($20.00).

Land Parcel Map

Map Drive
High Clearance possible when dry

To hike
From Mesa take US60 to Superior. From Superior, turn south on State Route 177 and drive approximately 9.50 miles to Battle Ax Road. Battle Ax Road is on the top of a saddle. Drive on Battle Ax Road for approximately 2.00 miles to the trailhead parking area. The parking area is next to a large corral. The condition of Battle Ax Road varies. Sometimes its graded and smooth and other time it's heavily rutted, washed out, and rocky. A high clearance two-wheel drive truck is usually sufficient when the road condition is poor.
page created by ssk44 on Dec 28 2008 7:57 pm
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