This was my first time in the Pine / Cedar Bench wilderness(s). The drive in was pretty easy. Dugas road was recently graded. There was one interesting sign stating that it is illegal to drive on the road when it’s wet. That’s one way to keep the road in good condition
My original plan was to a big loop with the Verde Rim trail. When I got to the parking spot and got out, the wind was so fierce that it closed my jeep road for me. The wind was bitter cold. I didn't want to spend the day fighting the wind. I went to a plan B, hike down Pine mountain to the Verde River.
I parked 2 miles from the Oxtail TH. The road starts to get rocky after this point. The wind was brutal along Dugas road. I had to wear a wool hat and gloves under I dropped under 4,500 feet!
The Oxtail trail
The trail starts right off of Dugas road by a tank. You enter a gate and take a hard turn to the left. The trail drops fast down to drainage. I lost the trail for a couple of minutes in the drainage. The trail was well cairned and very easy to follow. There was a cairn almost every 15 feet. Sometimes there were to many cairns. This is a very old trail and there’s been recent trail maintenance done to it. The views on the trail very great. I saw snow on Humphreys. My only gripes is the amount of rocks and drops off. There are a lot of rocks on the trail, sometimes it’s almost like scree. There are sections with drops. Sometimes you would get both. Scree rocks with drop-offs! This made for a very slow moving hike. The trail ended at the Brown Spring TH. I took the Towel trail to the Verde. The Towel trail is an old road that follows and crisscrosses the Towel creek. The Towel trail crosses the Verde and continues to Fossil Creek RD. This was an great place to explore, but I had a big climb ahead of me so I didn’t stay long.
Cold Water trail
The Cold Water trail is an old jeep road that doesn’t believe in switch backs! The trail has some great views of the Verde valley. After the Cedar Bench the road turns into trail. The cold water trail is also very easy to follow. There’s been recent maintenance done to this trail as well. Shortly after the Tule Rim intersection, the Cold Water trail takes a sharp turn to the right and climbs up to Dugas road. This was the monster climb of the day. The trail gained 1,000 feet (5,200 to 6,200) in a little more than a half mile. I felt like I should have had a climbing rope! Half way up, the wind started to blow. The Cold water trail ends about a quarter mile from the Verde Rim trail. Once on top, the wind died down.
I went a little down the Verde Rim trail just to see what I pasted up for the day. Once I got on the trail section, I was not impressed. It started out right as a cairn hunting exercise. I liked the Cedar Bench trails better.
It was a fun hike. The Cedar Bench wilderness is a cool area. The trails are cleaned up and the views are great. The cold wind was a bit much. I’ll return on a warmer day.
This was my first hike with HAZ tracks. It was cool to get hiking stats as you hike. The only down side is that the HAZ lady reminds me how slow I am at climbing