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Mazatzal Peak Loop, AZ

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Guide 97 Triplogs  4 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson W
3.8 of 5 by 34
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Loop 15 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,200 feet
Elevation Gain 2,400 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,200 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 31
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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44  2019-01-30
Barnhardt - Y Bar Basin Loop
15  2018-11-04 adv_trev
7  2018-05-24 Jim_H
4  2018-05-13 JuanJaimeiii
2  2018-02-18 The_N
7  2018-02-04 JuanJaimeiii
2  2018-02-03 hikerdw
5  2018-01-06 The_N
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 8
Author Fritzski
author avatar Guides 43
Routes 0
Photos 597
Trips 59 map ( 132 miles )
Age 66 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
6 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
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Some more Maz for HAZ
by Fritzski

This is a popular hike that circles the base of spectacular Mazatzal Peak. In terms of "prominence", which simply put is the difference from the base to the peak of a mountain, Mazatzal Peak is the thirteenth tallest in Arizona. Can you guess which mountain is number one? (I'll put the answer at the end.)

In the language of the Aztecs mazatzal means "an area inhabited by deer," but just how the word reached Arizona, or what significance it holds, remains somewhat of a mystery. Yes, deer inhabit the area. Yes, evidence shows that humans, among them the Yavapai and Tonto Apache, have exerted their influence here for at least 5,000 years. But there is no indication that the Aztecs themselves ever journeyed to this rough desert region.

Okay, enough of the trivia, this loop hike circumnavigates Mazatzal Peak by using the Barnhardt, Mazatzal Divide, and Y Bar trails. It is a well-published loop hike and stated distances vary from 14.5 to 17 miles depending upon the source. Between my GPS and mapping software, I settled on about an even 15mi. It is a rather difficult day hike due the distance and the total accumulated elevation Gain/loss of 4750' that goes with it. I did the loop counter clockwise, having experienced the Y Bar trail and knowing what a grind it is, opting to take it downhill.

The hike starts westward on the Barnhardt trail to the intersection with the Mazatzal Divide trail at about 6 miles. For details please refer to the "Barnhardt Trail" description.

At this point you will take the Maz Divide trail, which is part of the Arizona Trail, left to eventually join with the Y Bar trail. It is interesting that the portion of this trail between the Barnhardt and Brody trail intersections, although shown in many hike descriptions, is not accurately depicted on any map I could find. This may be one reason for the widely varied distances published for this hike. Part of my "mission" was to map it with my GPS and thus further the cause of HAZ and its continuing fight to make the hiking world safer for our children!!:)

The trail is easy to follow and very pleasant as it gently contours the slope as it heads south through shady pine and oak forest where the leaves are beginning to turn. At about the 7.5mi point you'll reach the Brody Trail intersection. At this point you will be rewarded with a sudden breath taking view of the Maz Peak escarpment. The trail itself becomes a bit open and brushy, but the views make up for it.

From here you head directly for the bottom of the escarpment and get a continually changing view of the cliffs above and the valley below. Looking west you'll get a panoramic view of the South Fork Dead Man's Creek (Don't you just love names like Dead Man's Creek and Suicide Ridge? I do:). At this point I tried to get a shot of the so-called "Monkey's Face" on the cliff , but it didn't really turn out.

You can look ahead and see where the trail begins its last steep little climb to Windsor Saddle, but fortunately it looks much worse than it ends up being. From this area up to the saddle and on down to Y Bar Basin is actually quite scenic. The ground and trail is comprised of a smooth shale-like rock and the fir and deciduous trees are well spaced giving it a pleasant, open, airy appearance. I came across a nice Whitetail deer in this area, but she refused to stick around and pose for a photo.

Windsor Saddle itself is very nice and would be a superb area to camp, as others obviously have done. Windsor Spring is marked with a nice little sign and is right next to the signed Y Bar intersection which reads 7mi to Barnhardt trailhead, which I'm convinced is closer to only 6 miles. The spring looked quite rancid and unsuitable for any amount of iodine or filtering.

At the 10mi point you'll be in Y Bar Basin and facing a seemingly endless trudge back on the Y Bar trail. It starts out with what will thankfully be your last bit of climbing up to Cactus Saddle. From here it's pretty much downhill all the way. It's not that it isn't a pretty trail, because it is. But there is something about it, possibly the never-ending bowling ball-sized rocks that do make it a chore. Anyway, for more a detailed description of this final leg of the journey refer to the Y Bar trail description.

For those of you who enjoy the Mazatzals like I do, this is a must hike and I would recommend it equally as a day hike or a two day backpack. Happy trails!

(Answer: The most "prominent" peak in the state of Arizona is Mt. Graham at 6320' base to peak)

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.

2001-11-04 Fritzski
  • book
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  • 100 Classic Hikes - 2007
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    100 Classic Hikes - 2007
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 of 44 deeper Triplog Reviews
Mazatzal Peak Loop
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Light dusting of snow on Barnhardt Trail in patches above 4200 feet. Divide Trail and Y-Bar are in near perfect shape outside of a couple downed trees.

The Big Kahuna has a climbers rope hanging in the waterfall area. I don’t normally trust other people’s ropes but this time I decided to climb up and take a look around. Rope seemed secure. Water on upper perch looked to be about 4 feet deep. Otherwise just a great day in the Mazzies.
Mazatzal Peak Loop
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Decided to head a little north for cooler temps this weekend. Great loop hike. The last time we were on the Y-Bar Trail was 5 years ago doing this same loop. Some small patches of snow still remain but its melting quickly. Saw no others on the trails until we were within 2 miles of the trail head.
Mazatzal Peak Loop
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Headed back to the Mazatzal for a fun overnighter with Kyle and Karl. Kyle and I started around mid morning and hiked up the Y Bar Trail. We took a break at the saddle below the peak trail turnoff. I checked my phone and Karl texted saying he's on his way and will meet us at camp. We continue on and detour over to Bear Spring where we set up camp. I took a walk over to the spring and it was covered in leaves and sticks. I cleared it out and it looked good. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and mostly gathering fire wood.

Karl showed up before sunset and we settled in to an evening around the campfire. The wind gusted at times but nothing serious. We started day two out around the campfire and eventually packed up and started the hike out. We opted for the longer route that would lead us down the Barnhardt Trail. The miles blurred by and we were done by early afternoon.

This is a great option for an easy overnighter. The spring is reliable and the drive is reasonably short. The Mazzies never disappoint.
Mazatzal Peak Loop
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We decided we wanted to do a backpack this weekend but didn't really feel like putting together any plans. Bear Saddle is one of my favorite spots to camp so that would work. I headed up the Y-bar with 9L and Lily. We made camp pretty early and Karl met us a few hours later. It got pretty chilly and windy at night. I was a little colder than I like to be but I think I packed enough stuff to keep Lily tolerably warm all night-- she'll never appreciate me packing it all out there. We took the long way back on Sunday looping around Mazzie Peak and then down the Barnhardt. It was pretty cool all day and we kept moving pretty good-- 4.5 hrs to the trailhead including breaks.

It was pretty quiet on the trails all weekend. The only people we saw were some attempting a Mazzie Peak Summit in the distance and then one pair on Barnhardt.
Mazatzal Peak Loop
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I was heading up to do the Horton Derrick Loop and then I got a change of heart and decided to do The Barnhardt Trail. Then when I got to the Divide Trail I decided to go ahead and make a Loop out of it. My decision hinged on if the Fenix registered over or under 100 degrees when I hit the Divide Trail. It said 99 so that meant I was doing the loop. Just before reaching the Y-Bar it got up to 101 and then was at 104 back at the Trailhead.

The three trails are in great shape overall with Y-Bar still being my least favorite. It just too rocky but at least it was fairly clear this time around. All in all a nice hike.

Saw one other guy at the trailhead that just moved here from Illinois but that was it. Oh and some cows too...
Mazatzal Peak Loop
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Mazzy Peak Loop with Bear Spring Spur
I'd never done Y-bar or the Mazzy Peak Loop. When Joe offered it up, I though it might be on the hot side. Checking the HAZ weather forecast had highs of 78 down low and 71 up high. It wasn't too far off of that. The winds help keep things cooler. The warmest I was all day was on the steepish climb up Y Bar. Another plus is this one is in the 100 hikes book that Denny is trying to complete. But no Denny. :(

Y Bar was not as bad as the rumors. The bottom section was cleared. There was one short section before getting into the gloriously cool pines, that could use a bit-o-work. The pines were a glorious 67 degrees, perfect for a break.

Good to be on the AZT again! heading over to Bear Spring. The 1/4 mile to Bear Spring were a slice of heaven. Bear Spring, while full of water, unfortunately had a dead bird in it.

Back on the Divide trail we headed 6 miles over to The Barndardt Saddle and trail. The trail is in great shape with only a few trees over the trail from winter. Great views.

The top of Barnhardt is not my favorite, but made a lot more palatable now that it's an 8' wide trail! All the fun on this one is still from Big Kahuna to the Trailhead.

Saw 2 Whitetail, 1 dead snake on the way in, one Blacktail Rattler and one Gopher on the Divide Trail. One Gopher snake that I could not avoid driving out. One Gopher Snake that I did avoid on the way out.
Mazatzal Peak Loop
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Mazzy Peak Loop with Bear Spring Spur
Needed another non obstructive hike so I picked Mazzie Loop and added Bear Spring to put a little meat on the bone.

Up Y Bar and down Barnhardt. I think whichever you go down you will like least. That said, down Barnhardt is the wise choice.

An unburnt pocket or two and the stand of pines is heaven to me on Y Bar. A break in the pines was the magic of the day. A solid 3 out of 5 hazopelli. Bee hive along trail is marked on my route.

Windsor / Y Bar saddle over to Bear Springs has great views. Torched for the most part but the AZT has it in near pristine condition.

The spur to Bear Spring was possibly the nicest part of the hike. Manicured trail and lush.

Divide over to Barnhardt has nice views and the trail is in good condition. Not on my favorite list. The views up to Mazzie Peak are sweet.

Barnhardt is unique as always. It doesn't seem as smooth descending as ascending. Passed one hiker in the final quarter mile the entire day. Nice temps.

good variety
paintbrush, lupine w/beans, poppies, sego lilies, antelope horns, claret cup, various daisies
Mazatzal Peak Loop
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This one has been lurking in the back of my mind for a month or two. Then I saw Tynert2's trip log and that was the push I needed to go get it done. The road in has recently been graded enough so that a passenger car could easily reach the trailhead. Upon arrival I met a young couple with a pet duck (Pippin). A little odd but hey who am I to judge?

As stated before the Barnhardt Trail is in superb shape. The Divide Trail was excellent as well. As for the Y-Bar it is okay but rough by comparison. The last couple miles on the Y-Bar are in great shape but the upper 3 miles or so need some work. Wild Flowers are scattered and water was flowing on both the Barnhardt side and on the Y-Bar. I would expect it to dry up within a week or so.
Mazatzal Peak Loop
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After seeing a lot of recent posts about this area, I thought I would check out what the big deal was. I have spent exactly zero time in this part of AZ, and this was a great intro to the Mazatzals. First off, the Beeline from Fountain Hills to Mt Ord was covered in an ocean of yellow. Just stunning! (use your imagination its dangerous to take photos while driving :) ) I decided to do the Barnhardt, Divide, Y Bar loop. The initial climb up Barnhardt was really nice. I noticed as the elevation increased, that the rock was becoming more rugged and sharp, very similar to Squaw Peak but it seemed much older and crumblier. What sounded like wind blowing through the canyon was actually a lot of small waterfalls down in the canyon below. The trail crosses many drainages that were merely a trickle compared to the huge waterfalls from a few weeks ago. I was surprised to see so much water up top, though. There were seeps everywhere, and one part of the trail was a small stream from the several seeps in a row that kept feeding it. As I got over the saddle and made my way over to the Divide Trail, the views to the west were great and I even spotted Horseshoe Lake. You can also really see the damage done by the Willow fire. The lower areas were green and beautiful but was notably missing the larger Juniper and Pinyon that are now just blackened skeletons all over the place. Now on the Divide trail, the smooth path maintains a steady elevation as it curves back around southwest until you hit another saddle. The views of Mazatzal Peak were amazing. A very few spots of snow remain very high up. I stopped for a snack and then pushed over to the next saddle. The Y Bar area had a lot more burnt out skeleton trees, it was kind of creepy descending through there. The springs on the southeast side were flowing very nicely. I thought I would speed through the last few miles, but it was pretty rough going down, with mostly rocky trail and a very steady decline. Though the path was faint at times, it was easy to follow. Total hiking time was just over 5 hours, I thought I made pretty good time. Amazing that I didn't see a single person the whole day. The solitude was much needed.
Mazatzal Peak Loop
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Spent a beautiful Saturday hiking the Mazzy Peak Loop with Kyle and his buddy Tommy and two dogs.

We hit the trail around 8:15am and headed up the Y Bar Trail. We made steady time as the trails climbs in elevation. We took a break when the trail levels out and then continued our loop. It was a nice day but chilly when the wind blew. We kept at it and connected onto the Barnhardt Trail. There was a group of 6 backpackers and they wanted a weather update. We told them about the rain in the forecast and one of them decided he didn't want to deal with that so he hiked out Barnhardt while the rest of his group continued north along the AZT.

From there we continued another mile and then took our lunch break. The last few miles blurred by as we headed out. We talked to the guy hiking out roughly a mile out and he was getting a ride from another day hiker. The hiking community always come through for each other!

Anyways, this was a nice hike and didn't take all day. The Mazzies never disappoint. One last note it's very dry out there. There was some water in Big Kahuna & Barnhardt Canyon. That's about it.

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Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To Barnhardt Trailhead
From the corner of SR87 & SR260 in Payson go south on SR87 for 14.5 miles to the signed turnoff for Barnhardt trailhead (forest road 419). Follow FR419 5 miles to its end. The parking area is fairly large. Barnhardt trailhead is located at the west end of the parking area. From Phoenix take SR87 north out of Mesa to Payson. The turnoff to the trailhead is 4mi north of the 188 intersection. (think rest stop)

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 83.4 mi - about 1 hour 45 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 182 mi - about 3 hours 4 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 126 mi - about 2 hours 31 mins
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