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Cactus Butte Trail #60 - South, AZ

Guide 5 Triplogs  1 Active Topic
  3.6 of 5 
no permit
1 Active
105 5 0
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 10.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,434 feet
Elevation Gain 2,046 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,140 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 26.1
Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Historic, Seasonal Creek & Peak
Backpack Yes & Connecting
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
11  2018-01-27 The_Eagle
12  2018-01-27 joebartels
50  2014-10-27 CannondaleKid
16  2009-01-31 ssk44
16  2009-01-31 Grasshopper
Author ssk44
author avatar Guides 19
Routes 12
Photos 2,302
Trips 288 map ( 830 miles )
Age 46 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, Nov, Mar, Apr → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Early Summer
Sun  5:14am - 7:38pm
Official Route
1 Alternative

Room With A View
by ssk44

The Cactus Butte Trail 60 is a remote backcountry hike, located within the Tonto National Forest in the Sierra Ancha Mountains north of Roosevelt Lake. This hike is all about big and vast views throughout the entire trip. The trail follows the western boundary of the Salome Wilderness, yet never actually enters the wilderness. TR60 is a very old pack trail decommissioned from the Tonto National Forests list of maintained hiking routes many years ago. However, the sign at the trailhead remains. Along this route, you will find a variety of high desert vegetation, mainly consisting of juniper/cedar and oak. Along the bottom of Methodist Creek, the canyon that the trail follows was a long stand of healthy cottonwood trees.

The hike as posted is from the trailhead to the southwestern point of Panther Mountain. TR60 technically goes about one mile northeast from the upper ridge towards Chubb Mountain and then turns into a rugged jeep route from there. This trail is in surprisingly good condition considering how old and lightly used the route is. On the south side of the road accessing the trailhead is a large parking area. The trail begins as a short jeep route heading to Cactus Butte Spring. Just before the jeep route leads down a hill towards the spring, you will see a moderately sized cairn. The first mile of this hike involves a big 1100' vertical climb to a ridgeline overlook of Methodist Creek. To my surprise, this trail was very well marked by well-placed moderate to large cairns throughout most segments of the route. The first quarter-mile of the hike is probably the vaguest due to the route following the crest of a broad rounded grassy ridge.

Keep your eyes open for the cairns, and you will be ok. After this section, the trail becomes more pronounced. While climbing up, you will see a fence line on your left that, within approximately another quarter-mile, will cross the trail with a gate. The remaining segments of the trail are relatively easy to follow due to a distinct trail bed and well-placed cairns. Basic compass and topo map reading skills will keep you on track. However, you will need a sharp eye due to areas of overgrowth. I should add that there was very little cat's claw on the entire hike, and overall, bushwhacking was mostly tolerable and manageable. From the Methodist Creek overlook, you will be rewarded with about two miles of mild up and down hiking to catch your breath while following the main canyon heading northeast. After this two-mile segment, the canyon bottom will be just below the trail, and from here, the route heads up a gradual grassy slope to a saddle. The trail will disappear on this open grassy area with a few small cairns to mark the way. Once on the saddle, you will pass an old fence corral to the east noted on topo maps.

Final Segment: From here, things get a little ugly. The first thing you need to do is get the whole "trail thing" out of your head. The trail from this point is gone due to very little use and a century of erosion. What you are looking at is a rugged 3/4 mile, 640' vertical climb. Pause for a few minutes to study the terrain, commit to a game plan, and go for it. All you are doing is following a ridge straight north to the upper main ridgeline that leads either southwest to Panther Mountain or northeast to Chubb Mountain. Just before the top, you will encounter a line of boulders and small bluffs that can be navigated with caution. After you reach the top, things get easier.

Panther Mountain Segment: You will now be leaving TR60 and will be heading southwest up a gradual hill to the summit and outer point of Panther Mountain (Lat. 33 degrees/48'/30.19"/N & Long. 111 degrees/8'/21.18"/W). The upper ridge heading towards Panther Mountain is rather nasty walking with deep grass hiding sharp cantaloupe size rocks and numerous small cacti. The cactus hides in the grass like a serpent waiting to strike, so you will want to keep a sharp eye looking towards the ground.

This is the epitome of a true backcountry hike with killer views, rugged terrain, and solitude. The main attraction on this hike is the vast 360-degree views of the surrounding area. Greenback Peak is to the northeast, the Mazatzal Mountains to the northwest, Four Peaks to the southwest, Roosevelt Lake, and the Superstition Mountains to the south, Armer Mountain and Thompson Mesa to the east. If you have an appreciation for the Sierra Ancha and love remote, rugged hikes, this trip will not disappoint. Count on having it all to yourself if you go.

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.

2009-02-01 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.

Permit $$

Map Drive
High Clearance possible when dry

To TR60 Trailhead
From Mesa, take Highway 87 (The Beeline) to highway 188, which goes to Roosevelt Lake. Just before you reach Roosevelt Lake you will be turning onto FR60 (A-Cross Road). FR60 (A-Cross Road) is marked with a large sign along the highway just before the turn. If you are starting to see the lake along the highway to your left you have went too far and will need to turn around. FR60 is suitable for high clearance two wheel drive vehicles when dry. Almost immediately after turning off the highway, FR60 crosses Tonto Creek. FR60 follows the upper hills above Roosevelt Lake and is the road that accesses the trailhead. The approximate distance following FR60 to the trailhead is 9.30 miles.

(Special Note) FR60 crosses Tonto Creek before heading to the trailhead. The crossing at Tonto Creek is gravel only and can be dangerous to cross for long periods of time following heavy storms and periodically throughout the spring during heavy snow runoff. It is advisable to check the CFS stream flow the day prior to your trip to unsure that you won't be driving all the way over there for nothing. Typically, any number higher than 200 CFS at this crossing is not advisable without four-wheel drive. When in doubt, wait five to ten minutes for one of the locals to cross so you can see how difficult it is. See USGS Website for "Real-Time Water Data". Select "Tonto Creek Above Gun Creek, Near Roosevelt, AZ" from the "Statewide Stream Flow Table" for current CFS. If the crossing at FR60 is impassable, there is a second crossing back to the northwest along highway 188 that is accessed by the "Bar-X Road" which is marked with a large sign along the highway. The Bar-X Road crossing is typically easier and used by all locals during high flow rates. After using this crossing you will turn right at a fork and drive through a residential area paralleling Tonto Creek heading southeast to rejoin FR60.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 102 mi, 2 hours 21 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 155 mi, 3 hours 48 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 159 mi, 3 hours 27 mins
page created by ssk44 on Feb 01 2009 7:19 pm
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