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Pine Canyon / Donahue loop, AZ

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Guide 20 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson N
4 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Loop 11.77 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,391 feet
Elevation Gain 2,219 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,906 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 26.3
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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43  2018-08-30 DixieFlyer
14  2017-07-29 BiFrost
3  2016-09-03 JuanJaimeiii
5  2016-06-19 JuanJaimeiii
10  2015-07-02 The_N
32  2015-06-18 rayhuston
5  2015-06-14 JuanJaimeiii
19  2014-09-01 BiFrost
Page 1,  2
Author topohiker
author avatar Guides 13
Routes 112
Photos 4,377
Trips 1,731 map ( 27,689 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Jun, Aug, Sep → 9 AM
Seasons   Early Spring to Early Summer
Sun  6:10am - 6:30pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
A lung busting hike
by topohiker

Likely In-Season!
On this loop you hike the Pine Canyon trail to the East Rim trail. Then bushwhack to the Milk Ranch point road to the Donahue trail. Then the Donahue to the Highline, back to the Trail head.

You start at the Pine trail head just south of the city of Pine. We started up the Pine Canyon trail and followed it to the intersection of the East Rim trail. Read the Pine Canyon trail write-ups for a description of the trail to this point. The intersection of the East Rim trail is about 4.3 miles into the hike.

The waypoint is N34 25.019 W111 26.053. I was a couple of feet into the trail before I remembered to record a waypoint. The East Rim appears not to be an official forest service trail. There is a sign that looks like it was hand made by the girl or boy scouts. There is a girls scouts camp about another mile or so down the Pine Canyon trail. The sign looks like the other trails signs around the girl scouts camp. Now this East rim trail is a lung buster! In six tenths of a mile you climb a 1,000 feet! The trail is not 100% well defined, but there are ribbon trail markers in the trees and scrubs. The trail is very well marked with these ribbons. There's a ribbon every 5 of 6 feet (at least!). There is a lot of dead fall to work around and the ground is very loose to the point were it feels like scree. I had to use the dead fall and tree branches to help keep my footing. I would not advise hiking on this trail when its raining. I would not want to hike down this trail either. There are about three to four false summits. After hitting the first false summit, the trails turns into a scramble on boulders. This section was not hard. We took our time. One good suggestion is to take your time to locate the ribbons. At times you have to stop and do a 360 to see the next ribbon. Never just try to bushwhack where you 'think' the next one should be. If you you'll probably get into trouble or waste a lot of energy backtracking. After the rock scramble, the trail returns to the dirt and starts to level off a bit. After another false summit or two, you start to get views of the rim. At the end of the .63 miles, there is another hand made sign stating this was the end of East Rim trail (waypoint N34 24.810 W111 25.686) and another sign pointing to Jacks Canyon. There was a different set of color ribbons for the Jack's Canyon. I've seen other signs for Jack's Canyon on the Pine Creek trail closers to the girl's scout camp, but that adventure / loop would have to wait until another day.

Now the bushwhack starts. This was a pretty easy bushwhack. I would suggest downloading my GPS route and following. But if you like to figure things out and don't mind adventures, it's not to hard to figure this out. From the sign we hiked to the south east. I hiked the same direction of the rim and tried to slowly work my way to the left. I knew I would eventually cross over the Milk Ranch road. We took the path of least resistance (avoiding the thorn patches and fallen trees). We still had to climb a slight incline for another 1/4 of mile or so. We got lucky and ran into an old abandoned forest road. We followed this road figuring that all roads in this area must lead back to the Milk Ranch point road. (I also keep a close eye on the GPS to make sure we were going the right direction). This old road lead us into forest road 9382L. FR 9382L (which is behind a locked gate) lead us right into the Milk Ranch Point road. Now we just followed this road to the intersection of forest road 9385 (waypoint N34 23.593 W111 24.447). There are three roads here. One main road and two smaller ones. Take the main road. There was a cardboard sign nailed to a tree showing where the trail is. Follow the main road and ignore the spur roads. The Donahue trail is at the end of this FR. Two years there was a sign for the Donahue trail, but this time all that was left was a wooden post in some rocks. The waypoint is N34 23.397 W111 24.895. At first you'll question yourself if this a trail or not. But keep a lookout for cairns and the trail will be come more defined.

The Donahue trail will take you to the edge of rim and drop you down into the Highline trail. At the intersection of Donahue and Highline, make sure you make the correct turn to right (away from the Geronimo TH). Just follow the Highline trail back to the Pine trailhead. This section of the Highline trail is part of the Arizona trail. Read the Donahue and Highline write-ups for descriptions of these trails.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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.

2009-08-16 topohiker
    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
    Pine Canyon / Donahue loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I was hoping to beat the heat, but I'm not sure this qualifies. It was 90 at the trailhead when I finished, 97 in Payson when I stopped for lunch. I knew it was going to be warm, so I slowed the pace and drank a lot of water. This turned out to be a very fun hike in spite of a warm sun.

    I saw an abandoned fawn at Dripping Spring. Leaving the fawn bothered me, but there was nothing I could do for it. Later, I saw an adolescent bear on Milk Ranch Rd. I was leaving a camp site I just checked out when I stepped back onto the road. As I looked ahead, the bear emerged from the pines onto Milk Ranch road about 50 yards away, heading towards me. It was beautiful, it's coat shining in the bright sun. I paused, wondering how this was going to shake out. I didn't have to wait long, as the bear dashed back into the woods as soon as it saw me. I waited a minute, wanting to make sure the young bear's momma didn't come charging out. Nothing, so I continued on.

    The hike itself was very enjoyable. The Pine Canyon trail is beautiful. I thought momentarily about skipping the loop and staying on this trail for awhile longer, then return the way I came. But I stayed the course. The trek up the East Rim trail is steep. The last section is a fun rock scramble. As noted in other trip logs, a GPS track (or map and compass) is helpful to get through the off trail section from the East Rim trail to FR9283L. I didn't mind hiking on the forest roads. Plenty of pines all around, so I just pretended it was an extra wide trail.

    The descent on Donahue provides excellent views, but watch your step; the trail is pretty rocky. I tripped up a few times trying to take in the views. I was happy to see Highline. I knew the rest of the journey would be on good trail under the cover of pine. By now it was not just warm, but getting hot. I consumed most of the three liters of water I brought plus a 20oz bottle of Gatorade.

    Good hike!
    Pine Canyon / Donahue loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This was a really fun loop hike and the weather, if you don't mind a little wind, is perfect right now around and on the rim. The East Rim Trail, as described in the hike description, is a steep one but the trail is pretty well defined even without all the markers and the views are fantastic. The short bushwhack across the rim is fairly intuitive however it was nice to have the track loaded in the GPS to make sure we were headed in the right direction. We didn't see anyone else on the trail until we hit Donahue which made the road hike very pleasant. One thing to note, when you hit FR 9385B there is now a trail sign to the right of the road that gets you back on a trail sooner, versus hiking 9385B itself.
    Pine Canyon / Donahue loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    My leg has been feeling better so I did a hike with some elevation. I started out at the Pine TH and took the Pine Canyon trail to where it meets the Beeline on top of the rim. I explored some of the old jeep roads and found nothing of interest. I did find the General Crook trail and followed that up to FR300. I took the General Crook trail a bit down the rim road before I had to backtrack to FR218. I went past the turn for Milk Ranch Point to explore down this rim view road. It rained for about a half hour.

    I saw something new on the rim. There was a Waldo's catering van pulling a smoker down the road. I guess you can get 'delivery' on the rim. That's one way to rough it! :sl:

    I turned back and headed down the Milk Ranch Point to the Donahue trail. My leg tightened up on the downhill. It took a long time to get to the Highline. I got back to the Jeep by moon light.
    Pine Canyon / Donahue loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I did the East Rim loop with a twist. Instead of taking the West Webber or the Donahue trail down I would take the Turkey trail down and meander around the Geronimo area trails before heading back on the Highline.

    I started hiking at 8:30 on the Pine Canyon Trail. I hit the East Rim intersection by 10am. The climb up was challenging as always. I made it up to rim and was not looking forward to the thorn bushes. This time I stayed to the far left (north) as possible with without going down Jack's Canyon. The vegetation was thinner near the canyon and I was able to get though with only a scratch or two. I found a horse trail that helped reduced the exposure to thorn bushes. I soon made it to FR218 and turned left (North). I turned down FR 9381F. The Turkey trail has some fire damage, but it's been cleaned up pretty good. The upper section has some over growth and a little of route finding/tree hopping. The Turkey Spring was bone dry. I decided to go down the East Webber trail. I haven't been in this area in about 3~4 years. I got off on a side trail and wound up at a LDS church/camp site. I got back on the East Webber for a bit until it became 100% sun exposed and decided that I didn't want to hike in the sun at 5,600 feet.

    I then decided to hike the East Webber trail to the Milk Ranch trail. Both of these trails are almost 100% shaded. I headed back to the Turkey trail and caught the East Webber. The East Webber has some dead fall and overgrowth, but it's well marked with red ribbons. I made it to the intersection to where I 'though' the Milk Ranch trail came it, but for the life of me I couldn't find it. It was frustrating because I just hiked that trail about a month ago. I wasted about 40 minutes looking and going back and forth. Now it was 3PM and I knew even if I did find it I had about 11~12 miles back to Jeep. I wanted to be back to the TH by 6PM. I decided to bit the bullet and cut across the Milk Ranch point again. I hike up the West Webber to the rim. This would make my second rim climb in one day but, this would cut out a lot of miles. Once on top of the rim, the temps became cool again. I headed down Milk Ranch point to the Donahue trail.

    When I hit the FR 9385 junction, there was a hiking sign. The Forest Service extended the Donahue trail to this point. For the first 1/4 mile, the trail was on an old jeep road, and then it turned into a new single track. Then the trail hit FR 9385 right before the original Donahue TH. The Donahue trail was cleaned up all the way to edge of the rim. Then there was overgrowth and minor dead fall. I headed down. When I hit the highline the temps were still warm. As I hit the Pine TH, the temps started to fall. I had a little time left, so I hiked down the Oak TR. I made it back to the jeep by 6:10.
    Pine Canyon / Donahue loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I've always had a special attraction to hiking below and up to the Mogollon Rim from the Pine, AZ, area trailheads. On numerous occasions I have much enjoyed hiking in from the Geronimo TH which offers great trail access via the Geronimo Tr, Highline Tr, Milk Point Tr(un-official), East Webber Tr, West Webber Tr, Turkey Creek Trail, and the Donahue Trail. Many of these trails, all documented here on HAZ, offer very enjoyable day hiking loops below and/or up to the RIM and back.

    Recently documented via this new "Pine Canyon/Donahue Loop" hike, topohiker has now exposed another interesting way to access the Mogollon Rim and all these above referenced trails via the Pine TH by starting on the Pine Canyon TR#26 to the "un-official" East Rim Trail then up to the RIM at 7502ft. This new trail loop option is by no means recommended for a beginner hiker, but if you qualify via topohiker's HAZ hike description with good route finding ability (HAZ downloaded GPS Route recommended), enjoy boulder scrambling, and hiking in this area of our Mogollon Rim, then you should consider hiking this one!

    With little exercise for the previous twenty-nine days, I had this great vision of me hiking this one to also include the "Turkey 217/West Webber 228 Loop" :lol: . I thought I had done some good planning via downloading both HAZ GPS Routes and analysis of the HAZ MyTOPO detail to obtain additional FR info for the needed bushwhack (see pic#16) from the top end of the East Rim Tr to Milk Point Ranch Rd(F218), but it just did not work out as planned.. this FR9388N we needed to access to cut-off some mileage to the Turkey Creek TH I could not locate and of course being out of shape my body was not up for adding another 4.5mls of hiking plus a lot more AEG. Physically I guess that I'm just going to have to accept the fact that I can't just hit the road running like I use to be able to do at age thirty ;) .

    Following this hike description, downloading and paying close attention to topohiker's posted HAZ GPS Route should help assure the qualified hiker an enjoyable hiking adventure as it did for me.

    I have posted my attached pic set for this loop hike to concentrate on documenting (with my pic captions) the most difficult/confusing part of this hike- from the lower end TH Start of the East Rim Trail to the upper end TH Start of the Donahue TR#27.
    Pine Canyon / Donahue loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    We started the hike with a cool overcast a dark set of clouds to the north. The Pine Creek trail has had some major trail work done. The trail is now free of any downfall for the first four miles. We made it to the East Rim intersection and started the massive climb. At the end of the East Rim trail we decided follow the ribbons to Johnson canyon, then to a un-numbered forest road that Grasshopper found on a topo map. We found Johnson canyon but, we didn't find the Grasshoppers road. We did run across the forest road that took us to Milk Road. We got some rain, but it felt good. WE hiked to the Donahue trail, then down to the Highline. I hiked a mile and half towards the Geronimo trailhead.
    Pine Canyon / Donahue loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    The temps were below nornal in the valley, so we decided to hike a little closer to home. The temps were nice to a bit warm. The highline trail has been re-routed a bit near the Pine TH. We got done hiking at 3:50, so we decided to to another hike. See my Oak Creek trail triplog for part II

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Pine Trailhead
    87 north to Payson. Continue through Payson on 87 @12 miles to Pine Trailhead. Trailhead sign will be on your right.

    Pine Trailhead is a very well maintained trailhead, with vault toilets and neat horse corrals. A very short distance from the trailhead is a mountain cabin where some lucky person lives.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 102 mi - about 1 hour 55 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 200 mi - about 3 hours 15 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 98.9 mi - about 1 hour 44 mins
    page created by topohiker on Aug 16 2009 1:04 pm
    1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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