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KP Trail #70, AZ

no permit
149 6 0
Guide 6 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine S
3.6 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance One Way 9 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,932 feet
Elevation Gain -2,386 feet
Accumulated Gain 865 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 11.88
Interest Perennial Waterfall & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
23  2018-05-26
Hannagan Meadow Grant/KP Creek Loop
6  2017-09-03
KP South Fork
9  2017-07-01 nonot
11  2016-05-31 NorthWest
11  2016-05-30
KP South Fork
12  2016-05-30
KP South Fork
35  2014-08-02
Primitive Blue Range
71  2014-06-21
Blue Range Primitive Area
Author NorthWest
author avatar Guides 1
Routes 0
Photos 16
Trips 3 map ( 20 miles )
Age 29 Female Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Sep, Aug, Jun, Jul
Seasons   Early Summer to Early Autumn
Sun  6:02am - 6:21pm
Official Route
5 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Bring Gaiters
by NorthWest

Likely In-Season!
- 9 miles: KP Cienega to Steeple #73
- author went in about 5-6 miles
- FS description at bottom

Blue Range History
In 1540, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was the first European to travel through the area, and his journal writer described it as a huge trackless wilderness. In 1825 Mountain man James Ohio Pattie visited the Blue Range trapping beaver and marveled at the number of clear running streams, the lush vegetation of the canyons, and the plentiful wildlife. In 1905 Forest Service Employee W.H.B. Kent described the Blue Range as “no discernible mountain range, but rather a chaotic mass of very precipitous hills”.

In 1933 the Secretary of Agriculture proclaimed that the Blue Range should be managed for primitive uses to maintain the wildness of that area. In 1971, the President of the United States forwarded a recommendation for the Blue Range Wilderness in New Mexico and Arizona to Congress, who acted in 1980 on a portion of it, designating the Blue Range Wilderness in New Mexico.

The Blue Range Primitive Area is the last designated primitive area in the National Forest System. The Blue Range and the presidential recommendation additions together total 199,505 acres and by law are managed the same as congressionally designated wilderness.

Located on the edge of the Mogollon Rim and the breaks of the Blue River, this is a land of rugged mountains, steep canyons, and stark ridges that is at the same time remote and accessible through an extensive trail system. Elevations range from 4,500 feet in the southern portion to 9,100 feet along the rim. This rapid change in elevation results in interesting and unique ecological associations.

The most recent official topographical map of this area that I could find was from 1998, and is available for purchase through Amazon and the National Forest Service website.

In 2011 the Wallow Fire heavily damaged this area and it has not yet been cleared and assessed for trail safety. Be very aware of falling trees and limbs, stump holes, flooding and landslides. There are many standing dead trees which may present a hazard in wind. This area is also home to a healthy bear population, so bring a canister and be bear aware.

Our Journey
We headed out from Phoenix to this area early on Friday morning. From Phoenix it takes about 5 hours to get to the trailhead. The weather when we arrived was overcast, with possible thunderstorms moving through the next day. Luckily, it stayed clear and sunny for us the whole trip. The trail begins in a lovely meadow, and the trailhead is easily accessible by passenger car. We signed in at the trail register and noticed we were one of only 3 parties for the entire month of May. The party before us had some stock horses with them and stayed 3 days. The entire 3 days we were here we were the only visitors.

In late May, daytime temperatures were in the high 70's and nighttime temps fell to 34 degrees.

KP Cienega trail #70 descends from the meadow into a forest and follows KP Creek. We saw many wildflowers blooming as well as very diverse flora, including salmonberry, thimbleberry, wild strawberries, ferns, and a lot of poison ivy. The forest is slowly starting to reclaim itself from the wildfire of 2011. There are many standing dead trees and massive fallen old growth pines. The trail continues to follow KP Creek to the first junction, about 3 miles in. The junction is signed. We continued South East on Trail #70, which will be a right hand turn. It is very difficult to find a campsite in the area for a tent, hammock campers will be in paradise here as there are ample trees and the terrain is quite steep. We made our first camp at 4.05 miles in. There is a nice flat grass area above the creek with a fire ring. There is more than ample firewood and fresh water from the creek. This is a great spot to turn around and call it a trip. Be very cautious with fire practices and BE SURE TO DEAD OUT YOUR FIRES. This area is tinder dry and full of fallen wood.

If you choose to continue past this point, the trail condition deteriorates rapidly, you are essentially off trail. Constant scrambling and route finding makes for very slow going. The trail will continue to follow KP Creek past the first offshoot ( Blue Lookout #71 ), to a second offshoot ( McKittrick #72 ) and an eventual junction with trail #71. Were the trails cleared you could make a loop up to the Blue Peak lookout, which is what we had hoped to do. Unfortunately the trail became completely impassable past this junction point, and I strongly advise against going further at this time.

HAZ note on the balance of the trail:
• bknorby hiked the final 3.2 miles in 2011 on a backpacking trip. Based on the posted route it took 1h 45m.
• In 2014, friendofThundergod hiked the 3.2 mi backwards not using all of the trail and followed KP Creek in 2 hours.
• As of 2016 it is probably getting more difficult. There may be stretches of trail between problem points too.

We saw sign from a bear, but it was old. Also saw many fresh elk, coyote, and deer tracks. Also saw eagles, many lizards, and a baby diamondback in the trail.

This is a beautiful, barely used wilderness area. Please work hard to keep it this way. Use Leave No Trace practices. In 3 days we didn't see another single soul or any garbage from previous visitors.

1) Bring knee high gaiters. The trail is excessively overgrown with brambles and branches.
2) Be prepared for many, many fallen trees in the trail.
3) USE SAFE FIRE PRACTICES and check with the fire department to be sure there is not a ban in effect.
4) Be weather aware. This area can be prone to flash flooding and sudden storms, which can be very dangerous. Always know your way out.
5) Bring a bear canister. We saw a lot of older bear sign.
6) Carry a topo map and compass or GPS unit. Since the trail simply follows KP Creek, navigation is not terribly difficult, but the trail is incredibly faint and at times entirely gone.
7) Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. Your odds of running into other hikers in case of emergency are very slim here.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2016-05-31 NorthWest

    Apache - Sitgreaves FS Details
    Listed as 9.4 miles ( really about 9.0 )

    In the lush alpine meadow that serves as the setting for KP Trailhead, there is little indication you could possibly start here and, in a reasonably short time, find yourself deep in a desert canyon. But that's exactly what happens. From KP Cienega, with its stately spruces and emerald grasses, this 9 mile long trail traces the wandering course of the South Fork of KP Creek as it drops toward the Blue. As the trail switchbacks from meadow to stream, upland vegetation gives way to riparian community of Douglas fir and moisture loving hardwoods. About 3 miles into the trip, the trail drops sharply into a picturesque canyonscape where the South Fork and the North Fork join to form KP Creek. Each tributary celebrates this get-together with its own ten foot waterfall.

    Below the confluence, the canyon deepens as steep cliffs rise from the floor of the gorge. Stream and trail descend together here, between red and gray rock walls, as clear pools alternate with shallow riffles. Crossings become too many to count. At a few points, the trail climbs out of the inner gorge to avoid difficult going, and in the process offers access to broad views and a number of prospective campsites.

    For its last three miles, the KP Trail climbs out of the canyon to offer more great views. Riparian vegetation is replaced by high desert plants including prickly pear, cholla, yucca and scrub oak as the trail leaves behind the sheltered environment of the canyon for dryer, more exposed surroundings. Higher ground also brings broader views of Sawed-Off Mountain as well as of KP Canyon The vista widens to include Bear Mountain and the surrounding ridges of the Blue Range as the trail tops the ridge that separates KP and Steeple Creek Canyons. Views stretching into New Mexico form a panorama as KP Trail ends at its junction with Steeple Creek Trail atop the red, stony mesa.

    No mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) permitted in Primitive Area. There are trout big enough to fish for in the pools downstream of the confluence.

    Trail Log:
    0.0 KP Cienega Trailhead. Trail crosses meadow into the timber.
    0.9 Trail crosses creek after two switchback descent.
    2.7 Trail climbs out of canyon on north side.
    2.9 Junction with North Fork of KP Trail #93. Two waterfalls are directly downstream.
    5.6 Junction with Blue Lookout Trail #71.
    6.5 Junction with McKittrick Trail #72.
    6.6 Trail crosses creek for the last time as it contours out of drainage bottom to the north.
    9.4 Junction with Steeple Trail #73 at a gate. Mud Springs Corral is 1/8 mile away in Steeple Canyon.

    USGS Maps: Strayhorse, Bear Mountain.

    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
    KP Trail #70
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    KP South Fork, KP North Fork, Ackre Lake, then trying to loop out.

    KP South and North Fork are clear of downed trees and the forest service continues to work on erosion control on these trails. In general these seemed to be in fairly good shape and I saw a trail crew when hiking, so the FS is continuing to try to improve the conditions.

    Water in both forks and flowing nicely near the confluence. It dries up quickly moving up North Fork.

    Ackre Lake is a lovely little pond, probably my favorite find of the trip. Trying to make a recommended loop out of Ackre lake proved a horrible decision, but I did make it back to the highway.
    KP Trail #70
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    The final hike of our trip to The Blue. We wanted something relatively short & mild because we’re heading back to Phoenix afterward. The KP South Fork was the perfect choice.

    The hike in went really well as you follow the drainage down. This area was severely burned in places and there was some deadfall to negotiate but is in good condition overall. Our group took our time and took a variety of pics. We eventually hit the bottom with the junction with the North Fork and took a break after admiring the waterfall. Karl, FOTG & myself were chilling on the trail above the river when FOTG noticed a bear walking up the trail. We took several pics as it sauntered up the trail and then stopped where FOTG & I climbed down to the river. We knew it was on to our scent and after a minute the bear turned around and calmly walked back the way it came. This was a sweet experience and my first Arizona bear! It was the perfect way to end our trip.

    After the bear sighting we started the hike out. It was relatively slow going for our group as we climbed out of the drainage. We were back to the TH around 11am and then prepped for the drive back to Phx. Our trip to The Blue was complete and it left me wanting more. We had a great group and thanks FOTG for planning the trip and driving! Let’s do it again.
    KP Trail #70
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    This must have once been an absolute gem!

    There are some excellent stretches of scenery here, but there are also some disappointing fire scars. The creek itself looks quite healthy.

    It is obvious that the FS has put a lot of work into keeping this section of trail clear. Lots of deadfall has been cut and cleared, and huge cairns have been built to make it easy to connect the dots. Despite the work, it's still a rough trail right now. There must be continual deadfall, and for all that has been cut, there are dozens of trees that cross the trail. The raspberries are taking over, and those thorns will tear you up.

    Somehow I'd still recommend this one. It's a treat, and as time passes after the fire, I think it will only get better as long as the FS puts in a little effort to keep it clear, which from the work that's been done so far, I would assume will occur.
    KP Trail #70
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Primitive Blue Range
    This was intended to be a nice and easy over-night hike with hopefully some good fishing and a nice camp site along the creek.

    The fishing turned out to be a dud, nothing like Grant Creek. I just don't see how any of the sections I fished could sustain Apache Trout. The conservation officer's grim outlook for KP Creek still supporting Apache Trout seems to have been warranted. He felt the fire had probably simply got too hot along large stretches of KP Creek and damaged to much of the valuable canopy needed to shade and keep the water cool. The lack of fish was not the end of the world to me, in fact, it was somewhat expected yet, it did change my plans slightly as I really was not ready to just set up camp at 11 in the morning, one can only do so much reading. I decided to just keep progressing on loop and maybe find a nice campsite in the higher elevations.

    I never found a nice campsite in the higher elevations and some real nasty storm clouds had me considering skipping Blue Peak for the moment and pushing for the car. I could car camp somewhere that night and hit a whole new trail the next day. I was happy I went for the car! Although, it did not take much distant thunder and light rain to expedite this decision. My scientific method of looking at the water in the dog's dishes leads me to believe the dogs and I got about 2.5 or more inches of rain dumped on us from Saturday evening until our Sunday morning retreat.

    Trail Run-Down.

    KP South Fork-Pretty good shape for Primitive Blue Range, easy to follow, ends at two beautiful waterfalls. I was a day light on really seeing them push some water.

    Blue Lookout Trail-I give this trail two emphatic :pk: :pk: based on my new unofficial Primitive Blue Range Trail rating system. The pumpkins represent a fraction of poor language used to navigate this overgrown, non-existent, and slightly steep trail.

    Blue Cabin Ruins Trail- See above trail rating guide. Missed the cabin ruins, missed a few of upper switchbacks and can't really say for sure how much of this very short trail I actually covered.

    I ended up staying at the TH for Blue Lookout Tower and Indian Peak also the beginnings of the Blue Cabin Ruins Trail and the Mckittrick Trail. However, I woke up to torrential rain and about 25 meters of visibility. At that point it was hard to justify the effort it would take to navigate the very rough looking McKittrick Trail for the 50 meter panoramic views from atop the largest peak in the Primitive Blue Range. I cancelled that mission, regrouped and headed for the first trail without rain.

    Side Notes:

    I am going to do some route manager work on my last two Blue Range trips, as there are some desperately needed official routes in there that could fill voids on some description pages for that area. The area in general is so deficient on reliable current information all the standard forest service excerpts on the description pages are pre-fire and only worth so much. However, I kind of like that aspect of making the long trek out there it certainly makes it interesting. I will have to say there are probably not too many wilderness areas in AZ rivaling the Blue Range in terms of ruggedness and challenge. Some of those trails have simply been lost to time and lack of use. Most have already given way to nature's advance or are regressing rapidly. However, I am here to tell you there are still some areas worth visiting out there, rumors of the areas demise are perhaps a little over-stated.
    KP Trail #70
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Blue Range Primitive Area
    Made another pilgrimage east to the Apache-Sitgreaves, more specifically the Primitive Blue Range area, or as my map says the Blue Range Wilderness and Primitive Area. However, even the latter is a bit of a misnomer, as currently the Blue Range has not achieved wilderness status in the eyes of Congress and to this day remains the last "primitive" designated area in the United States. Not sure what any of that means, however, anyone who knows me, knows that I would have a natural attraction to any area with the word primitive in its title. Similarly, since my first visit about a year ago, this area has really intrigued me. It was in this are that Aldo Leopold (arguably the founding father in American conservationism and ecology) obtained his first position working under the federal forest service. Leopold saw much in his day, he spoke fondly of the "mountain" in fact, one of his most famous written works, "Thinking Like a Mountain" is based off of his expediences in and around Escudilla and the Escudilla Wilderness area. So the question for me: could I find what gravitated Leopold to this area and transformed him into perhaps America's first conservationists, but 100 years later and after the greatest forest fire the Southwest has seen in contemporary times? Spoiler alert the answer is a resounding yes!

    A chance encounter with a game warden around 10:00 p.m. on Friday changed my plans slightly for the three days. He had personally just conducted a "shocking" and fish count of Grant Creek and gave me some pointers on where all the trout were congregated. However, if I were to hit these areas, I would have to modify my original route of Grant Creek Trail which stays high above the creek until crossing around the lower elevations where the Game Warden officer told me all the fish had been killed or can no longer exist due to warmer water temps caused by the destroying of their natural shade and the naturally warmer water at lower elevations. So from the intersection of trails #76 Foot Creek and #75 Grant Creek I took trail #306 down to Grant Creek and decided I would just fish and hike the whole stream length off-trail to its southern intersection with trail #75. If the fishing and beauty of Grant Creek were not as great as they were, this might have turned out to be a negative experience. Movement down stream was very slow at times, however, as I stated earlier the fishing was amazing and the creek beautiful so it negated the slow moving pace of boulder hoping, and down climbing water falls complete with three day pack and pole in hand, oh and along with keeping Blanco floating and upright through some of the deeper pools and obstacles. From there I made good time to the Blue River, passed through a little bit of civilization as I walked the forest road that connected my ambitious loop. I took the first opportunity to camp at a place marked the "box" on my map. This was one of first areas where there were not a dozen no trespassing signs or signs proclaiming the owner's willingness to shoot me if I stepped foot on their property. Day one turned out to be a little over 17 miles, camping was nice, but not spectacular, ate well, slept well.

    I thought day 2 would be a much easier day, however, that did not turn out to be necessarily true, thanks in part to some of my decision making. I hate to give a negative trail description, because with trails everyone has their own opinions, and I would not want to steer someone away from an area. However, Steeple Trail #73 is probably a trail one could leave off their to do list for the time being. The upper sections of the trail have really been damage by fire and the trip across KP Mesa is enough to make one yearn for a very quick change of scenery. However, that is simply not the case as you seem to hike forever to simply cross KP Mesa's fire damaged landscape where one can easily see areas that suffered 100 percent devastation from fire. From Steeple Trail #73 I took trail #70 into the KP Creek area. However, this trail got no better! In fact, I will give a fair warning, if you do not have a G.P.S route for this trail or sound topo reading skills, I would avoid this section of trail all together. One can safely say to some degree that this trail ceases to exist in several spots, littered with dead fall, washed out and very faint in the good spots. Nevertheless, we were doing just fine, traversing the several drainages leading to K.P. when I had the great decision to cut a mile or so off route and explore some off-trail sections of K.P. Creek. The whole situation reminded me of something my friend Jim always says when I am pondering short-cuts and more direct off trail routes. He always says, "if that way is shorter or easier, that would be the way." Well in this case that held to be 100% true. I could tell from cliffs along opposite side of creek that there was potential for not being able to cut down to creek and man did that hold true, cliffed out once, then took a side drainage only to come to an impassible pour-over so intimidating that I did not even snap a photo, Blanco and I finally broke through down about a 4-5 foot wide scree shoot, hit the creek where Blanco drank profusely and I silently chastised myself. One would think at this stage in the game I was done making those kind of mistakes, but something tells me that won't be the last time. We slowly made our way up the lower section of K.P Creek where the trail is a little tough to follow and made camp at a superb location.

    The final day was just an easy hike up K.P. Creek to K.P. Rim Trail, back to the upper section of Steeple Trail and back to the TH. Everything on this hike went well except finding my short connector trail to complete my K.P. Rim loop. Similar to the hike description, the turn-off for the trail is very hard to find and the forest fire certainly did not make it any easier. In fact, the author wrote had we not had the route downloaded we would have never found the turn-off. Unfortunately, the author failed to post "said" route to description, I guess his way of adding a little excitement for the next guy, we found it but you are on your own I guess. After accepting defeat I was reserved to back-track and make the less than 2 mile trek down 191 to my TH. However, this whole thought was leaving a bitter taste in my mouth, almost like a surrender, or a walk of shame in my mind. First a small voice contemplated just going off-trail the whole way until I found something to walk on. However, this voice was quickly drowned out by about 1000 sane other voices in my head who still had yesterday's folly fresh in their minds and they quickly and probably for the better got that thought out of my head. I then looked down and could clearly see the meadow I needed to get to, but no trail to get there. I said to myself I will go exactly .25 miles to meadow look for Steeple Trail #73, if I don't find, I turn right around. As luck would have it, after about 100 feet off trail I ran into my long lost connector trail.

    The trail now ran in a complete opposite direction of the trail featured on my G.P.S! Oh well no time to curse and dwell, I was happy to be on trails and heading back to car, went through some pretty bad burnt out sections, but oddly enough found some beauty in them. Whether it was the stubborn trees that refused to burn or the half million or so 5 to 15 feet tall Aspen blowing fiercely in the wind and the numerous reinvigorated meadows and cienegas, I found beauty in it all.

    Even with the adventure in finding my connector trail, Blanco and I still hit TH by 11:30 in morning.

    Final Notes:

    HAZ Appreciation I used a hike description from Arizonaed written in 2004 and it turned out to be pretty much spot on. Which is something to say, as he obviously wrote pre-Bear Wallow Fire. Route might need some small adjustments, but overall great hike description!

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    Take AZ-87N to Payson, take AZ-260E for 87 miles. In Show Low, take US-60E for 49 miles. From Springerville, take US-191S for about 60 miles to the trailhead. Trailhead is "KP Cienega" campground.
    page created by NorthWest on May 31 2016 8:34 am
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