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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Sawmill Trail #39, AZ

no permit
156 10 0
Guide 10 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine S
2.7 of 5 by 3
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 5.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,587 feet
Elevation Gain 2,959 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,031 feet
Avg Time One Way 5-6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.7
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
51  2016-05-27
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
27  2016-05-27
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
19  2016-05-14
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
15  2016-05-14
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
6  2016-05-14 slowandsteady
24  2015-07-17
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
35  2014-07-17
Primitive Blue Range East
5  2009-11-07 BelladonnaTook
Author friendofThundergod
author avatar Guides 18
Routes 278
Photos 7,651
Trips 711 map ( 8,339 miles )
Age 37 Male Gender
Location AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep → Early
Seasons   Late Spring to Late Summer
Sun  6:00am - 6:22pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
"I came, I saw, I hiked."
by friendofThundergod

Likely In-Season!
Sawmill trail is a starting point for reaching several less-traveled Primitive Blue Range East trails culminating at the summit of Bear Mountain. The trail is generally easy to follow with the appearance of trail construction near the bottom, however, as you approach Telephone Ridge Trail it becomes a little eroded and overgrown in spots. A moderate trail by P.B.R. standards, however, the upper sections may be a little overwhelming for beginners and some may find the route along Telephone Ridge a little overgrown for their liking. The trail serves as an ideal starting point for the 3000 foot climb to the summit of Bear Mountain, or entry into the scenic Largo Canyon which features a section of trail from Scott Warren's 100 Hikes in Arizona. The more ambitious could use Sawmill trail as a starting point for longer treks into New Mexico and the Apache and Gila Wilderness areas.

The trailhead is well signed and clearly indicates the beginning of the trail. There is an established area for parking with a kiosk and register for signing in. A quick glance at the sign in sheet indicated that the majority of traffic on this trail comes almost exclusively from hunters. After a quick series of switchback under a nice stand of trees, the trail is generally devoid of shade. However, soon you will be paralleling a small drainage under the canopy of some larger trees. Keep in mind there are probably very few times when water will be available along this trail. You will climb through a nice forested pine area, but the section of trail to Telephone Ridge is a little underwhelming. There are some nice stands of Ponderosa along this portion of the trail and a few quaint areas with enough redeeming qualities to enjoy a quick break. However, the more scenic sections of this trail are at the higher elevations, as the more elevation one gains, the better the views get. Be sure to take a minute and check your six and take in some of the views to the west as you make the final ascent up Telephone Ridge. One should clearly be able to make out the very distinct Steeple Mesa, the highest point in the Blue Range, Blue Peak and its distinct neighbor, Indian Peak. The top sections of the trail may serve as a challenge for some, as the trail gets a little steeper, with some erosion in spots and a few overgrown sections. However, the rough sections do not last long and you will soon reach Telephone Ridge and the signed junction indicating the distance to the Blue River and Bear Mountain. The route along Telephone Ridge is pretty straightforward, however, the trail is a little overgrown. From Telephone Ridge your nice views will switch primarily to the east and into New Mexico. After navigating the ridgeline, one has a relatively easy climb to the summit from the intersection of WS Lake Trail #54. The views from Bear Mountain are very limited due to the height of the trees, however, there is enough interesting stuff at the summit to make it a worthy destination. The more adventurous may want to climb the fire tower to increase their viewing pleasure. If looking for some extra miles, or in desperate need of water there is the option of a side trip to Bear Spring, the only reliable water source in the area according to the Forest Service. But remember it’s a one way trip and it will add an additional four plus miles to your day and approximately 1500 more feet in elevation gained.

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2015-07-14 friendofThundergod

    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
    Sawmill Trail #39
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    Lee took the lead on planning this one and it turned out to be a great introduction to the PBR. I was a little surprised to find that this area is much more like the rim country near Payson than the White Mountains as I was expecting. The Blue River valley is only 5500 feet, and while our route took us up to higher elevations, the landscape overall reminded me of the same Mogollon Rim 120 miles farther west.

    The upper portion of Sawmill along Telephone Ridge was the highlight of day 1, with big views and a pleasant climb after the steep connector that climbs up from Largo. Bear Mountain is obscured by trees, and the old lookout tower isn't tall enough to see over them. Maybe that's why it's been decommissioned!

    Bear Valley is a great spot. I could set up a base camp here and explore. The trip down Little Blue was a great suprise with running water and amazing geology. Huge spires loom above the canyon. I climbed up the ridge adjacent to the canyon to get a better view, but the afternoon sun made it tough to capture any photos. I tried to find trail 341 on the way back to Bear Valley, but I couldn't find even the slightest sign of old tread amongst the fire deadfall and new growth.

    Saturday we made the quick trip over to Franz spring and set up camp near the old cabin before heading off to check out the Tige Rim. I had been excited to see this area, but found the reward not to be worth the rest of the hike. It's just a long, hot, dry slog to get to a couple of great view points. In retrospect, I'd skip the loop and just hike the south part of the loop to the views and head back from there.

    We returned to camp to find a huge group of people camped right next to us. I'm guessing it was a meetup kind of thing. Apparently they don't backpack into the wilderness looking for peaceful solitude because it didn't occur to them to find a spot to camp that might be just out of view or earshot of others. I've encountered this before, and it is something I will never understand. Might as well have headed for Woods Canyon Lake! :-({|=

    In the morning we headed down Lanphier back toward the trailhead. We passed numerous groups along the way. It was actually quite surprising even on a holiday weekend in the Blue. We figured that articles last year in Backpacker (Nov 15) and possibly AZH (July 15) contributed to the 21 cars :o in the parking lot. (We were the only car when we started).

    While Lanphier is a pleasant canyon with shade and a stream, I'm not sure I'd like to use it for the ascent. It is steep in places and I could see it really taking it's toll on somebody carrying a heavy pack.

    Thanks to Lee for the intro to the PBR. Sorry we didn't make it down to Ladrone. Next time!
    Sawmill Trail #39
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    Originally, I had planned a four day three night trek into the Primitive Blue Range. However, on the day of my departure I decided I would at least inquire about the weather. My go to guy painted a pretty bleak outlook for the weekend. I decided I would just remain flexible and car camp if necessary and complete several day hikes in the area. I think my weather man was in a bit of a fear mongering mood because the conditions ended up being closer to pretty normal July conditions for the P.B.R. Areas of the high rim country certainly got hammered, but I did not endure through that much nasty weather during the entire trip. That being said, Chumley is pretty spot on most of the time with his weather so I opted for a large day hike on day one a car camp and then playing the rest of the weekend by ear. Sounds like the big storm never really materialized on my side of the state leading to the pretty normal monsoon season conditions for that area.

    There were some dark clouds in the morning when I started which provided some immediate reinforcement to my decision to change plans. However, things changed quickly and the rest of the day apart from one small shower was beautiful. In fact, I spent most of the day cursing the fact that I did not bring my camping gear as I passed numerous picture perfect sites nestled away in the Blue Range. However, I know if I had got caught in a nasty electrical storm and downpour I would be cursing the fact that I was not sitting inside my warm well-grounded Xterra listening to a ballgame on satellite radio.

    The loop I hiked quickly erased any real disappointment that may have popped up. I borrowed the loop idea from the 100 Hikes in AZ book and basically followed JJ's track from a few years ago, except the four mile detour down into the very scenic and remote Bear Valley. Without overstating the hike too much it was truly memorable and certainly one of my better ones in recent memory. This was due in large part to the amount of wildlife I saw on the hike, the interesting summit of Bear Mountain, a chance encounter with a local and the very scenic Lamphier Trail/Canyon to finish up the day.

    Blanco and I had a real cool moment with a sow and her cub appropriately near the summit of Bear Mountain. I spotted the cub first and grabbed Blanco as mom made her way into the picture. She stared at us for quite a long time at a distance of about 30 meters or so, however, I made no threatening gestures or movements towards her and just calmly held Blanco while snapping away with my IPhone of course. She definitely noticed Blanco but just nonchalantly walked away with her cub closely behind after a few minutes. I will be honest if she charged us my plan A involved unleashing Blanco, but it never even came close to that and turned out to be a pretty cool encounter.

    Bear Mountain has a pretty interesting summit, but the views are less than spectacular due to the trees. The real nice views will be coming up Telephone Ridge and exiting the mountain via WS Lake Trail #54. I loved Bear Valley, saw my first bobcat/lynx for an extended period of time in AZ, very cool. I ran into an interesting guy at Franz Spring who turned out to possess a wealth of knowledge about the area, more on that in next trip log, but it involves rock piles. I loved the setting at Franz Spring so much that I decided it would be my destination for an over-night trip via Bonanza Bill Trail #23 the next day.

    Lamphier Canyon is a little rugged but very scenic especially as you approach the lower elevations and the creek becomes perennial. It was in Lamphier that Blanco and I had our final bear encounter of that day. It was another mom and her cub, however, this sow was much larger and the situation was a little bit more sketchy in the narrow confines of the canyon. I gave her a very wide berth pulled Blanco the other way and did not even attempt a picture until she was far to shaded and in too thick of brush to show up on any pictures taken from my IPhone. Turns out the wettest I got all day was from crossing the Blue.
    Sawmill Trail #39
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    Primitive Blue Range East
    I made another semi ambitious trek into the Primitive Blue Range. More specifically, I made my first significant indents into the more remote eastern portions. I say "semi ambitious" because I took along Cup and had to scale back some of my ambitions. However, Cup ended up doing just fine, Blanco loved carrying her food and we only had to alter our day two plans slightly in her consideration.

    Day 1: I stayed at the Foot Creek Trail head and decided to just make the quick 2-3 mile drive up 191 in the morning to the trail head for P-Bar Lake Trail. Foot Creek TH is further off road has basic restroom facilities and forest service does not mind. The P-Bar Lake Trail is literally just a pull-off on side of road, not conducive to car camping with dogs. Day one miles seemed to go by and pile up fast. Grant Creek Trail is a really solid trail with minimal areas of complete fire devastation. The Paradise Park area is certainly in recovery phase, but looking very promising, with some stubborn ponderosa still alive and healthy guarding the meadows edges and several young 3-5 feet pine starting over among a mixture of fast growing aspen. Grant Creek Trail is a tad bittersweet though, as one can't help but think that eventually 9000 feet will have to be reached again after hitting a trip low of about 5,100 feet above sea level on the first day. Made camp at the intersections of Lanphier and Largo Canyon, great spot, probably pushed cup a little hard, (16.5 miles)threatened several times to storm but no significant rain.

    Day 2I wanted to go the Bear Mountain look out, but Cup was a little beat after a tough day one, so I decided to skip Bear Mountain and return to the Blue River via Telephone Ridge Trail and Sawmill Trail. Was nice to finally get some data for this area of Primitive Blue Range. It will come in handy when I make my next trek there, hopefully to finally include a little dual state action and a quick cross over into New Mexico. Something I think Blanco and I could have knocked out with about a 55 to 60 mile trip, oh and maybe another day. Day two camp superb, had Cup off trail very early in afternoon, read some, prepped camp, cooled off in creek.

    Day 3: A pretty standard hike out, however, did make a slight detour back down to Grant Creek via Paradise Trail #74. I am just trying to accumulate as much info for this area as I can, and I had not did that trail yet. In terms of miles, small detour, however, certainly added some more AEG to hike that I probably did not need and Cup almost certainly did not want. But the trail proved to be great! A real slice of "paradise" in spots, a tad tough to pick up near creek, some dead fall and erosion have really taken their toll on this trail's once much deeper cuts along the steep hillside leading down into Grant Creek. For a good laugh see my GPS Track where I turned around to go get my nice 16 dollar map, then stopped just under two tenths of a mile to return to pack where I was now sure I put it. Nope not in pack went back for map again, found about 100-200 feet further up trail from when I turned around first time. I had set map down to move a log in trail, never picked back up, but certainly not to proud to turn around twice in an attempt to recoup a $16.95 map.

    Final Notes: AEG is probably a tad inflated, however, hard to hide from AEG in Primitive Blue Range easy to rack up out there and while it may look high, it is probably not as off as some might think.

    Had to do more road walking then what I generaly like, but spirits were brightened by seeing a random white van with no windows driving around remote back roads with a personalized plate reading AMBRLRT, my thoughts exactly! At least he comes about it honestly.

    Product Review I brought out my new Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum. Two thumbs up, was initially worried about durability with dogs, however, had both in tent by second night, no issues. So light and compact, found myself stopping to make sure I packed tent! I was not able to field test it in a good storm, but nice results for steady lighter drizzles.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix: Take AZ-87 N, Hwy 260 E, US-60 E and then US-191 S to Greenlee County. You will then take Red Hills Road to Blue River road (13.9 miles) and the location of the trail head directly off the road.
    page created by joebartels on Jul 14 2015 8:43 pm
    128 GB Flash Drive... $14
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