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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Government Trail, AZ

no permit
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Guide 13 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine N
4 of 5 by 4
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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
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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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 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 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  6:02am - 6:19pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
get high, courtesy of the government
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
The Government Trail #119 offers hikers an alternative and more aggressive route to the heights of Escudilla Mountain, as well as providing the possibility 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 atop 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 the route of an old closed road. 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. 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 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 on 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.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Government Trail
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Tried out the HAZ Tracks on my Android phone on this one. What fun!

I've wanted to do Escudilla since before the fire, and while I'm sorry that I missed it's old glory, the landscape today is still beautiful and full of life! I thought the trail was such a delight - but maybe a little easy for me today. So, when I saw how well the HAZ Tracks was doing, I thought I'd put it to the test on the Government Trail. I had downloaded the track before my hike, figuring that I might get ambitious. There weren't any trip reports since the fire, so I really didn't know what to expect.

From the junction with the Escudilla trail (which has a post, but no sign), it's easy enough find the track if you head toward the tree line and know what to look for. Even with the tall grass of late summer, I was able to find the track without checking the GPS. As it heads down the switchbacks, there is a discernible trail - however it takes some real route finding skill to stay on it and not get lured into diving straight down the hill on the many mini-landslides that resemble trail. There were some downed trees to navigate, but not nearly as many as I'd expected.

At the bottom of the switchbacks, there's a tiny, half-fallen down cairn that would be pretty tough to find under the weeds if you were headed up-hill. It would be particularly difficult given the fact that between that cairn and the next (at the top of the old road bed), there is nothing that even remotely reminds one of a trail. There are elk tracks to follow, and when all else fails one can simply try to follow the right bank of the Hulsey Creek. This .5 mile portion of the hike took me longer than the whole mile and a half before, as I ducked under fallen trees, dodged thorny shrubs and crashed through the aspens. Here, it was very nice to have the HAZ Track active - it helped me get to the right spot in the meadow where the old road bed starts at a large cairn.

From the large cairn, it's a cake walk. The forest here wasn't as badly burned as the steep slopes above. The old roadbed is wide and grassy - a superhighway compared to the brush-whacking stuff above. There were a couple of spots where trees down across the trail showed none of the usual signs of people bypassing them - so I suspect that there really isn't much travel even on this portion of the trail.

I knew there would be a road walk when I got to FS56 - what I didn't anticipate was how long and hot it would be. Even at this elevation, the sun is toasty, and all of the shade along the road has been removed by the post-fire tree clearing process. It's a pretty big climb, too, back to the Escudilla Trailhead. I was passed by 5-6 cars, and I tried to flag them down hoping for a lift back, but none even rolled down their windows. No trail angels today. I'd texted Gary (who was picking me up), and luckily he got the message before I had to complete the whole miserable walk.

I was accompanied by my favorite hiking dog, who ripped her feet up good on a critter chase in the roughest part of the country. I felt terrible for her on the road walk, she had to be in real pain with those messed up pads. Maybe she was the reason I wasn't offered a ride earlier - but she was also the reason I really wanted one.

Should also mention that I saw the largest bull elk I've ever seen - of course, he was too savvy for me to shoot him with my camera. But between him and the 3 others that I spotted, I know this is a real hot spot for those boys!

Fun trip - I love route finding, and the new toy was fun to play with, too!
Government Trail
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After meeting joe and preston in globe we drove out to the government trailhead and then escudilla to set up a shuttle. i found both trails to be excellent and the aspen were in peak color. the government trail has an hint of "enchanted forest" feel to it in the upper stretches. the way down escudilla offers up a fabulous view during one of the short clear sections, though afternoon light is bad for the photo ops it affords.

afterwards we drove around looking for a campsite, ultimately finding one off some FSR up on a mesa. i spent most of the freezing night telling joe he is a " crazy bleeper for making me do this" and listening to the elk bugle nearby. what a great day & night!
Government Trail
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Met Nick and Joe in Globe, then we drove through Show Low to the Escudilla and Government trailheads to set up a shuttle. The weather was perfect, and aspens were blazing gold. On top of Escudilla, we climbed the fire tower for a better view, had a snack, then headed down the Escudilla Trail. The Escudilla Trail with its continuous aspens was at maximum color, and photo stops were frequent. Afterwards we checked out a couple of side roads, settling on a mesa top site above Eager to camp out for the night. With a hot fire and quesadillas for dinner, we stayed warm in the steadily dropping temps. Elk bugled throughout the night. Woke up to a 24 degree morning, packed up, then we headed off to Mount Baldy.
Government Trail
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Preston, Nick and I did this as a shuttle hike with Escudilla. Autumn foliage is in it's prime! Perhaps "Extreme", I rated "Substantial" as there's no mix of maples or oaks. We probably took ten times the photos necessary but it was fun. I prefer the mature Aspens on the Government Trail. It was good to finally see this part of Arizona I'd yet to witness. Great company as always!
Government Trail
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Having been curious about this trail, I planned to check it out on the way home from working in Show Low. The mid-May monsoon had eased up, and it looked like it would be a decent afternoon when I arrived. A mom, dad, and a baby were hiking out as I headed up the trail, otherwise I didn't see anyone until the Escudilla Trail. The scenery is absolutely beautiful, and so is the trail, despite being "unmaintained". Arriving at the meadow on top of Escudilla, the skies were looking a bit nasty, but a thunderstorm never developed. On top, Don the lookout man and I talked for awhile up in the tower, watching ragged clouds drift by and admiring the mind-blowing view. I didn't have time for an Escudilla loop, but that gives me a reason to come back :) Heading down, I saw 3 backpackers coming in, before I turned back down Government. Got back to the trailhead at dusk, bought a sandwich in Alpine, then headed for home through Luna and Glenwood. This is an outstanding hike and I highly recommend it!

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 the 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
3 pack - loud whistle
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