Clam Beds & Red Basin, AZ | HikeArizona
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Clam Beds & Red Basin, AZ

Guide 1 Triplog  0 Topics
  3.5 of 5 
30 1 0
The Arbuckles Lake
The Arbuckles Lake
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Difficulty 0.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 8.58 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,514 feet
Elevation Gain 18 feet
Accumulated Gain 328 feet
Avg Time One Way 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 9.67
Interest Off-Trail Hiking
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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30  2021-10-21 kingsnake
author avatar Guides 103
Routes 263
Photos 9,788
Trips 768 map ( 7,054 miles )
Age 60 Male Gender
Location Sunnyslope, PHX
Associated Areas
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Northeast Region
Historical Weather
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Preferred Apr, Mar, Oct, Nov → 7 AM
Sun  6:11am - 6:07pm
Official Route
0 Alternative

Howd da chowdah?
by kingsnake

Petrified Forest National Park has a program it calls “Off the Beaten Path”, which allows visitors to hike off-trail along certain general routes. (It’s okay to wander, but don’t stray too far.)

This hike has 11 waypoints along its eight-mile length. The trailhead (waypoint 1) is the pullout on the left of Blue Mesa Scenic Rd., at the one-way road split. From there, walk ⅓ mile back down the road to the wooden barriers (waypoint 2) on the other side of the road.

The wooden barriers are the official start of the hike. It is 1½ miles on the old jeep trail to the split (waypoint 3). In a ½ mile, just past Dry Lake Tank, turn right up a wash, towards the Clam Beds (waypoint 4), which are 200 yds. ahead, between the mesa and the left most of two conical buttes. The right butte is waypoint 5. The lone juniper (waypoint 6) is also visible.

From the Clam Beds, I recommend heading straight towards the other cone (waypoint 5), as the photos don’t always seem to match the route in the Petrified Forest’s 4.3MB brochure.

Aim left of the lone juniper (waypoint 6), per the brochure’s photo, even though the map seems to indicate going right, around the low ridge.

On the opposite side of the low ridge is a saddle (waypoint 7), this hike's high point. Geographically, anyway. The visual high point, Red Basin, is just ahead. Aim for the old fenceline, then follow it left a few yards to the Sand Castles (waypoint 8) -- which look exactly like some cosmic child played with a 1960s Wham-O sand toy.

Rather than try to cross Red Basin’s purple shoal complex (?), it’s easier to follow one of the numerous very twisty washes north from the Sand Castles. Dropping into the nearest wash is maybe 20 ft. After several very tight turns, where the wash begins opening up, look to your right for a butte beautifully layered with red, orange, lavender, purple, white & tan. Waypoint 9 is ⅓ mile north of the Sand Castles.

A massive petrified log is 150 yds. past waypoint 9, on the right, at yet another abandoned fenceline. It’s at least 60 ft. long and 5 ft. in diameter.

From the massive petrified log, follow the wide wash north-northwest to waypoint 10, which is otherwise unremarkable. Aim for the saddle between the mesa to your left, and the hills to your right. (Actually, ancient sand dunes.) At the top of the saddle, Billings Gap is spread out below. Blue Mesa is on the opposite side of Billings Gap.

From the saddle head down across the rosy brown shoal complex, towards the white sandy wash, following it left around another butte to the Billings Gap gate (waypoint 11).

If you have had enough for the day, follow the jeep trail 2½ miles back to the wooden barriers at Blue Mesa Scenic Rd.

Otherwise, staying on the official route, in ⅓ mile turn off the jeep trail, heading west for Blue Mesa. The Sandstone Congregate Amphitheater is ⅓ mile straight ahead, at the base of Blue Mesa. If you look up, at a fat spire, you may see a petrified log "speared" through it. (Actually, exposed by erosion.)

From the natural amphitheater follow washes and/or the edge of Blue Mesa southwest, 1½ miles back to the jeep trail. Take care to avoid the off-limits area, indicated on both the brochure and in this hike's official route. It is ¼ mile on the jeep trail back to the wooden barriers, then ⅓ mile back up the road to the trailhead.

Check out the Official Route and Triplog.

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.

2021-10-25 kingsnake

    One-Way Notice
    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.
    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 $$

    Petrified Forest National Park
    $20 per car (for 7 days), Bike/Walk-in $10 Petrified National Forest

    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix, it takes about the same time to drive to the Petrified Forest via I-17 and I-40, as it does taking AZ-87 to Payson, AZ-260 to Heber-Overgaard, AZ-277 and AZ-377 to Holbrook, and US-180 to the Petrified Forest. However, the latter is 50 miles shorter, with less traffic. Your call. Leave early: It's a four-hour drive.
    page created by kingsnake on Oct 25 2021 4:21 pm

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