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The REAL West Fork LCR trail!
Government Springs Trail is a very enjoyable hike along the West Fork of the Little Colorado. In fact, this should be the West Fork trail as it actually follows the river!
While it's not an officially maintained trail, there are obvious signs that someone is taking care of it. The trail does get overgrown, and there are a few tricky spots to navigate, but overall it's a very rewarding hike and a nice way to link up to the Baldy trails at Sheeps Crossing.
The trail starts to the left of the toilets and is well-traveled for the first couple of miles. Over the course of this section, you'll enjoy a pleasant walk along the west bank of the Little Colorado River. As you make your way upstream, you'll pass by two fish dams that have been put in place to keep non-native species from making it upstream.
Up to this point, you'll have dealt with some slight overgrowth of grasses, some marshy areas, small rock slide areas, and maybe a little deadfall. Nothing too difficult to handle, and route-finding is easy if you're paying attention.
Past the second dam, the trail becomes a bit vaguer, and you'll need to pay closer attention as several use-trails branch off the main trail. In general, if you're starting to get far from the river, then you're likely off the main trail. In this upper section, the obstacles get a bit more annoying, but not enough to make this a really challenging trail. There is one large rock slide to navigate, and I remember the mud and marshy sections becoming more frequent.
As you continue upstream, the canyon opens up, and the trail will turn to the west. While you're not right next to the river anymore, you are still following its course as it turns. The use trails branch off in multiple directions here, so it might be worth keeping an eye on a GPS track or map to make sure you end up going in the right direction. If you continue on one of the westbound spurs, you'll end up on AZ273 near the small parking area opposite the West Baldy trailhead.
The route I chose (and is reflected in the GPS track) continues to follow the stream under AZ273 to the Sheeps Crossing area, where it hooks up with the Railroad Grade trail and a spur of the West Baldy Trail.
This is not a difficult hike, but you might have to deal with a lot of water, mud, and overgrown plants, depending on the season. Hiking poles are extremely helpful in maintaining stability and helping to find solid ground under the grass. Go into this one, assuming that your feet will get wet and muddy!
The trailhead has ample parking and vault toilets, but the trail itself isn't mentioned in any USFS maps or literature. Note that the trailhead parking area is signed as day use only, and there is a gate. I'm honestly not sure if the gate is ever closed, and I had no issues with my truck parked there for 3 days. If you're concerned about issues with your vehicle being left long-term, you might want to park at the East Fork trailhead a little way back up the road (just outside the gate).
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.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.