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Government Trail #119, AZ

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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,835 feet
Elevation Gain 2,042 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,100 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18.5
Interest Peak
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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15  2016-09-24 Tortoise_Hiker
12  2014-08-30
Escudilla Trail
14  2010-10-08 hhwolf14
8  2009-10-01 joebartels
13  2009-10-01 fricknaley
19  2009-10-01 PrestonSands
10  2009-07-30 azbackpackr
28  2009-05-23 PrestonSands
Page 1,  2
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 169
Routes 148
Photos 5,629
Trips 1,542 map ( 7,871 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Jun, Aug, Sep → Early
Seasons   Late Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:00am - 6:23pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimeteracres
🔥 2011 Wallow Fire29.45

get high, courtesy of the government
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
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The Government Trail #119 offers hikers an alternative and more aggressive route to the heights of Escudilla Mountain. It allows for a loop hike using the Escudilla Trail #308 (a.k.a; the Escudilla National Recreation Trail) and Forest Road #8056. This hike delivers outstanding views from Arizona's highest fire lookout on one of the state's highest mountains. Distance listed in the statistics is for a round trip hike to the Escudilla lookout tower and return. The actual length of the Government Trail, though, is around 2.9 miles one way.

Start early to avoid lightning during monsoon season!

The unsigned Government Trail begins at a gated entrance to a wildlife habitat area, 2.6 miles up Forest Road 8056 from U.S. Highway 191. The Government Trail leaves this informal trailhead (33.93026 N, 109.14743 W) following an old closed road route. Alternating between heading east and north, the trail gradually gains elevation in a peaceful ponderosa pine forest.

At 0.5 miles, occasional blue diamonds nailed to trees begin to mark the route as the trail turns north. Then, just after crossing the marshy course of Hulsey Creek at 0.8 miles, the road curves east to ascend a long, ramp-like ridge. This stretch of the Government Trail, still on a closed road, is characterized by open stands of tall trees, which allow for sporadic views of the Escudilla lookout tower, and Profanity Ridge.

The one-and-a-half mile point brings the Government Trail to a small, ridge-top meadow at 9220 feet, where the old road forks (33.93855 N, 109.1308 W). Go uphill (right) past a large cairn. The trail becomes noticeably steeper, and the old road increasingly vague as the hike enters lush coniferous forest along the upper reaches of Hulsey Creek.

At 2 miles, the ancient road makes a sudden swing to the left (north), where it encounters the Escudilla Wilderness boundary and a decrepit sign for the Government Trail (33.9363 N, 109.1231 W). At this point, the Government Trail leaves the old roads behind, turns east, and resumes its relentless climb up the north side of Profanity Ridge, via a long series of switchbacks shaded by moss-covered stands of Engelmann Spruce.

Just above the 10,200-foot contour, the trees part momentarily to reveal a talus slide at the head of Milk Creek. From this jumbled stack of basalt boulders, one can enjoy a rare view to the west of the White Mountains.

Above the talus slide, the ascent begins to ease, and the Government Trail enters a large sloping meadow at 10,400 feet. The trail disappears in the grass, but a trail signpost soon comes into view, marking the junction with the Escudilla Trail at about 2.9 miles (33.9387 N, 109.11188 W). At this point, you will likely want to continue to the fire lookout, which lies a little over a mile up the Escudilla Trail.

Turning north onto the Escudilla Trail, the climb continues as the trail crosses the expansive mountain top meadow, once again following the route of a closed road. The trail soon reenters spruce forest and begins to curve west at 10,700 feet. The Escudilla Trail makes a short dip and then a brief, final climb before reaching its end at the lookout tower and unofficial summit at 10,877 feet. I say "unofficial", as the true summit, at 10,912 feet, is a little over a half-mile to the north.

One can enjoy great views from the end of the trail or, for a spectacular 360-degree view, climb the fire tower. One can see much of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico from this incredible mountain.

Return the way you came, or take the Escudilla Trail and Forest Road #8056 back to your starting point for an approximately 9.3-mile loop.

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.

2009-06-06 PrestonSands
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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
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
From the Highway 180/Highway 191 junction in Alpine, AZ, head north on Highway 180/191 for about 5.5 miles, to the turnoff for Forest Road #8056 on the right, at milepost 420.9. Turn right onto Forest Road #8056, and follow it for 2.6 miles to a wildlife habitat area entrance sign and gate. This is the unsigned trailhead for Government Trail #119 (gps coordinates: 33.93026 N, 109.14743 W). (see hike description)
page created by PrestonSands on Jun 06 2009 5:17 pm
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