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WCC / AZT Loop
Starting at the Pine Trailhead thru-hikers can begin a fun summertime canyoneering loop hike, by taking the Pine Canyon Trail NOBO connecting with the General Crook Trail and into the West Clear Creek Wilderness via the Point Trail. Exit on the Maxwell Trail to complete the 3 miles WCC Wilderness stretch. Use Willow Crossing Trail over to get resupplies at the Happy Jack Lodge and Steakhouse. From there the loop makes its way back 9 miles to the AZT at East Clear Creek Crossing aka Blue Ridge Reservoir via an old Jeep track down Kinder Draw!
Direction of Travel
It is best to saunter the 80-mile WCC / AZT Loop round trip in a clockwise direction starting and ending at the Pine Trailhead. The well-built and maintained Pine Canyon Trail switchbacks are by far much gentler climbing uphill onto the Mogollon Rim rather than the super steep straight-up, rocky scramble north of Washington Park on the AZT! Hiking the loop clockwise will eventually lead downhill to Washington Park and back to the Pine Trailhead. Furthermore, hiking downhill on the Point Trail into West Clear Creek is a lot easier, and using the longer Maxwell Trail switchbacks is the favored route out of the canyon in the same clockwise direction.
The loop makes its way up Pine Canyon Trail #26 switchbacking higher on top of the Mogollon Rim to arrive at the Cinch Trailhead. From there it briefly overlaps the General Crook Trail #130 in a northwesterly direction towards WCC.
The GCT is not that hard to pick up at certain points but with the WCC’s route preloaded, I had no trouble at all. There were marked trees and a few cairns along the way NOBO from Forest Road 9385 where I started and a gate leading to the V29 point east of 29 Mile Butte and the old logging road to Forest Road 144 was signed as 9385G and in the booklet as V28! I could imagine horse-drawn wagons crossing this area with supplies back in the 1880s.
After connecting to Forest Road 144, leave the General and follow backroads northwesterly towards WCC. There were a few turns onto the 149 and eventually the 142E Forest Road leads out to the West Clear Creek Point Trailhead. Expect some awesome thickly forested camping spots along the way. This tighter doubletrack 142E was exceptionally beautiful! On a Tuesday I was passed by just one vehicle during my hike that had three ladies in it going out to West Clear Creek. I passed them once again while I hiked down to the creek and they were sauntering back up the 700 foot 1/2 mile Point Trail.
The Point Trail descends sharply lower into West Clear Creek. I refer to the Point Trail as Jacob’s Ladder a never-ending staircase to the rim over boulders and fallen trees.
After enjoying some awesome upstream canyoneering, It then heads back topside to the canyon's north rim first on the Maxwell Trail #37 and then using a series of remote backroads linked in the middle with the Willow Crossing Trail #38.
The loop makes its way towards the Happy Jack Lodge and Steakhouse for resupplies. There is a seasonal water truck at Clint’s Well Campground which costs about $10 a night. Water and full supplies are at the Happy Jack Store.
I am happy to say this tiny store is packed having just about everything any thru-hiker would need including gas canisters, first aid supplies, microwaveable Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches (I had one), and plenty of Gorp, ice cream beverages, and souvenirs! The owners mentioned they were Arizona Trail Members who support the AZTA! There are even food trucks on weekends, restrooms, and a super small United States Post Office to receive supplies.
Together with the Happy Jack Lodge and Steakhouse, these two places will have your backs packed. The store is located one mile closer than the Lodge at approximately 7.5 miles from the Arizona Trail’s East Clear Creek crossing via Kinder Draw.
After a long day of Hiking and Bikepacking the Arizona Trail High atop the Mogollon Rim, the Hangry Housholder Family Saunterers highly recommend having a delicious dinner at Jack’s Place Restaurant and Steak House; a giant dining and dancing hall with live music located inside the Happy Jack Lodge!
We scarfed down the Saturday Night Prime Rib Special cooked up by the former owners of the Long Valley Cafe who moved into this new location a year ago. The Prime Rib Special comes with soup or a trip to the salad bar, baked or mashed potato with gravy and corn on the cob. I enjoyed the Mushroom Bisque soup and Karolien made a nice-sized salad with her order that was so large she split it with Ben, while Bryce had a ginormous Guacamole Bacon Cheeseburger and Bianka enjoyed her Kids Grilled Cheese.
Our next time out Arizona Trailing we look forward to taking grandma and great-grandma here! There is even a gift shop packed with souvenir t-shirts and enough camping supplies to feed a hungry mob including all kinds of drinks and plenty of ice cream as well!
The Happy Jack Lodge and Steakhouse is the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs and resupplies along the West Clear Creek Loop. Together with the town of Pine they act as two resupply points on the 80-mile summertime loop! Please note, Jack’s Place Steakhouse is closed on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday! Plan on eating there from Thursday to Sunday!
Next heading back lower in elevation on the old Kinder Draw decommissioned Jeep route rejoining the Arizona Trail inside East Clear Creek near the Blue Ridge Reservoir.
To reach Kinder Draw From Highway 87, hike along Forest Road 9033H. The first half mile is into the Coconino Forest. After passing some large camping spots and curving slightly south there will be a locked gate prohibiting all off-road vehicle use like side by sides, quads and Jeeps. On the side of the large gate, there is a smaller gate for hikers to use. Please latch the gate behind you!
Forest Road 9033H curves downhill in a large “C” pattern and will split once turning briefly into Forest Road 6033C for a tenth of a mile, before arriving at Kinder Draw where you follow the Creek gently downhill into a nice canyon.
Here are remnants of the old decommissioned Jeep route which has been rock-walled at various points to stop any off-road vehicles from entering! Most of this old Jeep route is turning into singletrack which is now perfect for hikers or horseback riders. On a Friday I was the lone person out here and I heard no other traffic anywhere at all, only birds singing and water flowing once I entered East Clear Creek!
Upon entering East Clear Creek you will continue to follow the old Jeep route into the creek itself which made for some very nice splashing that might have been mostly dry during normal August circumstances but this year, in 2021, Arizona has experienced near-record Monsoon rainfall amounts making this an exceptional saunter full of flowing water perfect for Fenix to enjoy or any horses to drink from!
Hiking or horseback riding East Clear Creek in a northeasterly direction will eventually lead back to the Arizona Trail before flowing into Blue Ridge Reservoir.
The loop links up with the Blue Ridge - AZT #27 at the East Clear Creek crossing. From that point, it is roughly 32 to 34 miles south back to the Pine Trailhead. Take the Arizona Trail SOBO past Battleground Ridge towards the General Springs Cabin which is part of the Fred Haught Trail #141. Shortly after the General Springs Cabin cross over Forest Road 300 aka “The Rim Road” and proceed sharply downhill on Highline - AZT #26 towards Washington Park. There is perennial water approaching Washington Park Trailhead on the East Verde River. From Washington Park use the Highline Trail #31 west towards Boy Scout Camp Geronimo at Weber Creek which is normally flowing and can be counted as a good water source. Finally continue onwards SOBO around Milk Ranch Point to the 80 mile round trip loop’s finish line at the Pine Trailhead.
Check out the Official Route.
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.