Overview: This hike uses the Granville #572, Frye #12, and Pinal #713 trails to create a scenic loop in the mountains north of Clifton, Arizona. The Granville Loop offers a challenge in route-finding, but it rewards hikers with solitude and dramatic views of the Blue River country and eastern Arizona. Footing on this hike is often difficult, consisting of loose rock on a narrow and often barely recognizable track. However, trail junctions are signed, and the route is consistently marked by tree blazes. Described here is a clockwise loop, beginning on the Granville Trail, where it leaves Granville Campground (mile 0 for this description).
History: Granville Campground was the site of an early logging camp and summer retreat known as Granville. The logging operation here supplied the copper mines of the Clifton and Metcalf areas with lumber. Today, the only structures remaining in Granville are the more recently built forest service cabins. Several trails radiate from this forested, hanging valley at the head of Chase Creek.
Hike: At the high point of the eastern side of the Granville Campground loop road, there will be an old side road heading uphill to the north, away from the forest service cabins, marked by a fiberglass signpost with the word "trail". This is the start of the Granville Trail, follow it uphill.
Upon crossing through a barbed wire fence at 0.1 miles, the Granville Trail passes the junction with the Pinal Trail, while staying high on the east bank of Chase Creek. Climbing past stands of Arizona cypress and gambel oak, the route passes a defunct spring, and the old road that serves as the trail gradually deteriorates, disappearing into the creek bed. Continue to follow the bed of Chase Creek upstream for a short distance.
At 0.45 miles (33.19459 N, 109.37918 W), the Granville Trail emerges from the creek bed and makes a hard right near a grove of bigtooth maples, to follow a little side drainage. If you look carefully, you will see old blaze marks cut into the alligator juniper trees on each side of the faint trail. A trail sign is nailed to one of the trees. Begin following the path east, as it climbs up the fir, maple and ponderosa filled side drainage. There is a cairn and an ancient overgrown mine at 0.7 miles, stay left.
A few hundred feet beyond, the Granville Trail climbs atop a little mound on the north side of the drainage, and begins a steep climb up a brushy hillside. A closer examination of the loose, gray limestone rock in the trail reveals thousands of tiny, donut shaped crinoid fossils, as the trail nears the top of the hillside. One can look to the west at this point and see the Eagle Creek area in the distance. The Granville Loop soon reaches its high point in a saddle at 7330 feet.
First heading northeast from the saddle, the trail soon turns east, where it clings precariously to the brushy south slope of a long ridge. The trail rapidly downgrades into a narrow, rocky, and barely recognizable footpath, while descending gradually along the ridge. Gaps in the brush reveal forested Frye Canyon below, along with pyramid shaped Walker Butte in the distance. Behind them, endless series of canyons and mountain ranges stretch to the horizon. The trail passes a rocky viewpoint at around 1.9 miles, where one can see Mitchell Peak and Sardine Canyon to the north.
Just past the viewpoint, the trail makes a brief bend to the south, before turning north again to make its final descent off the ridge. Finding the trail is especially tricky in this area. Watch for blazes and occasional cairns. The Granville Trail arrives at the Frye Trail at 2.8 miles, in a small saddle at the 6400 foot contour. A trail sign in a tree marks the junction (33.20157 N, 109.35593 W).
Turning south onto the somewhat less primitive Frye Trail (part of the Grand Enchantment Trail), the hike levels out somewhat, roughly hugging the 6400 foot contour, while negotiating a series of pinyon covered ridges and steep, shallow ravines.
Upon entering Frye Canyon, the Frye Trail drops into the bed of Frye Creek, before making a vigorous climb up the south bank several hundred feet upstream. The ruins of an old cabin lie a short distance further upstream, off trail. The Frye Trail meets the Pinal Trail on a mountainside at around 3.9 miles. Cairns and a sign in a tree mark the junction (33.19379 N, 109.36067 W). Turn uphill onto the Pinal Trail.
Turning west onto the best maintained portion of the loop, the hike makes a quick climb up the Pinal Trail to a flat hilltop campsite, before angling southwest to hurdle two small ridges. Openings in the thick vegetation allow for distant views of the Gila Wilderness and the Blue River area.
The Pinal Trail reaches its highpoint at 5 miles, in a broad saddle shaded by ponderosa pines and gambel oaks. Descending gently to the west from the saddle, the hike passes by an outcrop of white conglomerate rock just off the south side of the trail, where one can enjoy a nice view of Chase Creek canyon, framed by numerous 7000 foot peaks.
Continuing on, the trail crests one more small ridge, and begins to descend into Chase Creek canyon, turning northwest. Pinyon-juniper forest obscures most of the views, and the Pinal Trail comes to an end at 5.9 miles, where it suddenly stumbles onto the Granville Trail. Another sign in a tree and a fiberglass signpost mark this junction (33.19048 N, 109.38218 W).
Make a u-turn onto the Granville Trail, and follow it south for 0.1 miles back to the Granville Campground loop road.