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Steeple Mesa - Grant Creek, AZ

no permit
5 4 0
Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine S
3.8 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Distance Loop 28.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,128 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3-4 DAYS!
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
23  2018-05-26
Hannagan Meadow Grant/KP Creek Loop
23  2015-05-23
Upper Grant Creek Trail #65 - Blue Range
71  2014-06-21
Blue Range Primitive Area
5  2001-11-26 Lizard
Author Lizard
author avatar Guides 15
Routes 0
Photos 403
Trips 17 map ( 75 miles )
Age 39 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Sep, May, Aug, Jun → Early
Seasons   Early Summer to Early Autumn
Sun  5:59am - 6:27pm
2 Alternative
3-4 day backpacking trip
by Lizard

Likely In-Season!
Summary: A three to four day backpacking trip in one of Arizona's undiscovered jewels, the Blue Range Primitive Area, linking trails 76, 75, FR281 and trail 73.

Maps: Blue Range Wilderness and Primitive Area (pub. by Apache National Forest)

Description: From the Hannagan Meadow trailhead, head out east on trail 76. This well-maintained trail winds through beautiful, deep dark woods for 3.4 miles to P Bar Lake. This "lake" is more of a cow pond, but the environs around it is pleasant enough. It sits on the end of small meadow ringed by aspens. Given the long drive from any major city in Arizona, P Bar Lake makes a good campsite for the first night. Beware the mosquitoes!

In the meadow, there is a signed junction with trail 75. Turn south on this trail, which descends down into a ponderosa pine forest. While hiking through this forest I heard a canine baying, and to me it sounded deeper in pitch than a coyote. The Forest Service considered the Blue Range wild enough to release wolves into its depths- this fact lead to wild speculation during my hike as to the origin of the baying.

Wolves or no, continue along on trail 75. After 3.8 miles from the junction, you reach a spur trail that leads over a rise to White Oak Spring. This spring was gushing water when I visited in August, and I would hazard a guess that it is reliable. Just after the spring, the trail begins a long descent into the Grant Creek drainage. The trail reaches Grant Creek, which was flowing well when I visited, and follows it for several miles down to the Blue River. The Blue River is fairly deep (it came up to my thighs), and it is necessary to ford it to reach the road beyond it.

Follow this dirt road, FR 281, south past several ranches nestled in one of the most beautiful canyons I've ever seen. After a few miles, the road crosses the Blue River, and a shallower ford is necessary here. Where the road meets the river, it is possible to hike and rock hop south slightly along the shore. There are big boulders here which shelter small beaches on which a discreet camp can be made. I camped here, and swam up the river to where it flowed down through the boulders. There were several deep pools with cascading waterfalls, and I spent several hours swimming before returning to my campsite.

After crossing the river, the road climbs uphill for a bit to a marked trailhead for trail 73 (the Steeple Mesa Trail). Head west on this trail. It climbs steeply up onto KP Mesa. The view during this climb are absolutely outstanding, the best of the trip. On top of the mesa, the trail snakes through a pinyon pine and juniper forest. It may be a bit hard to follow the trail here, as cows graze heavily here and their trails crisscross yours.

At any rate, eventually you will reach a corral at Mud Spring. This spring lives up to its name. It was flowing but not that well. It would have been smarter to have gathered water from further up Steeple Creek, which flows intermittantly all the way up. Follow Steeple Creek up, up and up. The trail climbs relentlessly and mercilessly. Eventually, you will top out near a junction with trail 315, the KP Rim trail. It is worth striking out a few hundred feet to the south to check out the view from the KP Rim. From the junction, follow the Steeple Mesa Trail the rest of the way to the Hannagan Meadow Trailhead. This last stretch of trail was my favorite of the entire trip. The conifer forest here is dark, deep and beautiful, and interspersed with brilliantly green meadows. On the whole this is a fantastic trip if you would like to escape to heat and the crowds of most Arizona trails.

Check out the Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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2001-11-26 Lizard
    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
    Steeple Mesa - Grant Creek
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    I made my favorite five hour drive this weekend. The destination was none other than my beloved Primitive Blue Range. I planned a weekend of exploring new trails, a little fishing and gathering some much needed data on the area to share on HAZ and use for own personal planning. There is simply not a lot of beta floating around for the P.B.R and the several trails systems in the area.

    The first day was designed to be a light creek fishing day with the incorporation of two new trails for me: Upper Grant Creek Trail #74 and Long Cienega Trail #305. Both the Upper Grant Trail and Long Cienega fall under the forest service's primitive trail designation. The Upper Grant Trail was actually a very pleasant little trail, with signs of trail maintenance and a nice setting among the upper stretches of the perennial Grant Creek. I saw my first Apache Trout in a small pool at 7,700 feet from there on one can witness several shy trout darting in and out from the danger of the well lit water to the safety of the shadows and depths of their pools. The trout are actually ubiquitous to some small sections of the stream here, however, the nice trout are much further down stream and require a considerable amount of effort to reach.

    On our way down stream while trying my luck in a new hole and with Cup by my side attentively watching Blanco stirred up a bear that was probably not 20 yards from us. I think until Blanco stirred him up, the bear's strategy was probably to just wait us out. Blanco gave the bear a strong initial effort, however, nothing beats a bear scurrying up the side of a bank in heavy brush, could not even get a picture, but a real treat none the less and my first bear sighting in the B.R. Meanwhile, the fishing proved to be great once again.

    We ended up going off trail down stream much further than I had anticipated, imagine that I low-balled the miles total, that never happens to me. Anyways, making our way down and up stream off trail was some pretty nasty terrain for Cup, so I decided to forgo Long Cienega. I had finally looked at the trail closely on a map and I noticed its terminus was in a real nasty burned out area I had hie through the year before. The aforementioned coupled with the fact that the beginning of the trail did not look all that enticing, led me to opt for the known trails out and a much nicer exit for the dogs.

    Less than a 3000 foot climb out, but a tad strenuous in spots. The climb out was pretty uneventful, however, the trails were generally pleasant.
    Steeple Mesa - Grant Creek
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Blue Range Primitive Area
    Made another pilgrimage east to the Apache-Sitgreaves, more specifically the Primitive Blue Range area, or as my map says the Blue Range Wilderness and Primitive Area. However, even the latter is a bit of a misnomer, as currently the Blue Range has not achieved wilderness status in the eyes of Congress and to this day remains the last "primitive" designated area in the United States. Not sure what any of that means, however, anyone who knows me, knows that I would have a natural attraction to any area with the word primitive in its title. Similarly, since my first visit about a year ago, this area has really intrigued me. It was in this are that Aldo Leopold (arguably the founding father in American conservationism and ecology) obtained his first position working under the federal forest service. Leopold saw much in his day, he spoke fondly of the "mountain" in fact, one of his most famous written works, "Thinking Like a Mountain" is based off of his expediences in and around Escudilla and the Escudilla Wilderness area. So the question for me: could I find what gravitated Leopold to this area and transformed him into perhaps America's first conservationists, but 100 years later and after the greatest forest fire the Southwest has seen in contemporary times? Spoiler alert the answer is a resounding yes!

    A chance encounter with a game warden around 10:00 p.m. on Friday changed my plans slightly for the three days. He had personally just conducted a "shocking" and fish count of Grant Creek and gave me some pointers on where all the trout were congregated. However, if I were to hit these areas, I would have to modify my original route of Grant Creek Trail which stays high above the creek until crossing around the lower elevations where the Game Warden officer told me all the fish had been killed or can no longer exist due to warmer water temps caused by the destroying of their natural shade and the naturally warmer water at lower elevations. So from the intersection of trails #76 Foot Creek and #75 Grant Creek I took trail #306 down to Grant Creek and decided I would just fish and hike the whole stream length off-trail to its southern intersection with trail #75. If the fishing and beauty of Grant Creek were not as great as they were, this might have turned out to be a negative experience. Movement down stream was very slow at times, however, as I stated earlier the fishing was amazing and the creek beautiful so it negated the slow moving pace of boulder hoping, and down climbing water falls complete with three day pack and pole in hand, oh and along with keeping Blanco floating and upright through some of the deeper pools and obstacles. From there I made good time to the Blue River, passed through a little bit of civilization as I walked the forest road that connected my ambitious loop. I took the first opportunity to camp at a place marked the "box" on my map. This was one of first areas where there were not a dozen no trespassing signs or signs proclaiming the owner's willingness to shoot me if I stepped foot on their property. Day one turned out to be a little over 17 miles, camping was nice, but not spectacular, ate well, slept well.

    I thought day 2 would be a much easier day, however, that did not turn out to be necessarily true, thanks in part to some of my decision making. I hate to give a negative trail description, because with trails everyone has their own opinions, and I would not want to steer someone away from an area. However, Steeple Trail #73 is probably a trail one could leave off their to do list for the time being. The upper sections of the trail have really been damage by fire and the trip across KP Mesa is enough to make one yearn for a very quick change of scenery. However, that is simply not the case as you seem to hike forever to simply cross KP Mesa's fire damaged landscape where one can easily see areas that suffered 100 percent devastation from fire. From Steeple Trail #73 I took trail #70 into the KP Creek area. However, this trail got no better! In fact, I will give a fair warning, if you do not have a G.P.S route for this trail or sound topo reading skills, I would avoid this section of trail all together. One can safely say to some degree that this trail ceases to exist in several spots, littered with dead fall, washed out and very faint in the good spots. Nevertheless, we were doing just fine, traversing the several drainages leading to K.P. when I had the great decision to cut a mile or so off route and explore some off-trail sections of K.P. Creek. The whole situation reminded me of something my friend Jim always says when I am pondering short-cuts and more direct off trail routes. He always says, "if that way is shorter or easier, that would be the way." Well in this case that held to be 100% true. I could tell from cliffs along opposite side of creek that there was potential for not being able to cut down to creek and man did that hold true, cliffed out once, then took a side drainage only to come to an impassible pour-over so intimidating that I did not even snap a photo, Blanco and I finally broke through down about a 4-5 foot wide scree shoot, hit the creek where Blanco drank profusely and I silently chastised myself. One would think at this stage in the game I was done making those kind of mistakes, but something tells me that won't be the last time. We slowly made our way up the lower section of K.P Creek where the trail is a little tough to follow and made camp at a superb location.

    The final day was just an easy hike up K.P. Creek to K.P. Rim Trail, back to the upper section of Steeple Trail and back to the TH. Everything on this hike went well except finding my short connector trail to complete my K.P. Rim loop. Similar to the hike description, the turn-off for the trail is very hard to find and the forest fire certainly did not make it any easier. In fact, the author wrote had we not had the route downloaded we would have never found the turn-off. Unfortunately, the author failed to post "said" route to description, I guess his way of adding a little excitement for the next guy, we found it but you are on your own I guess. After accepting defeat I was reserved to back-track and make the less than 2 mile trek down 191 to my TH. However, this whole thought was leaving a bitter taste in my mouth, almost like a surrender, or a walk of shame in my mind. First a small voice contemplated just going off-trail the whole way until I found something to walk on. However, this voice was quickly drowned out by about 1000 sane other voices in my head who still had yesterday's folly fresh in their minds and they quickly and probably for the better got that thought out of my head. I then looked down and could clearly see the meadow I needed to get to, but no trail to get there. I said to myself I will go exactly .25 miles to meadow look for Steeple Trail #73, if I don't find, I turn right around. As luck would have it, after about 100 feet off trail I ran into my long lost connector trail.

    The trail now ran in a complete opposite direction of the trail featured on my G.P.S! Oh well no time to curse and dwell, I was happy to be on trails and heading back to car, went through some pretty bad burnt out sections, but oddly enough found some beauty in them. Whether it was the stubborn trees that refused to burn or the half million or so 5 to 15 feet tall Aspen blowing fiercely in the wind and the numerous reinvigorated meadows and cienegas, I found beauty in it all.

    Even with the adventure in finding my connector trail, Blanco and I still hit TH by 11:30 in morning.

    Final Notes:

    HAZ Appreciation I used a hike description from Arizonaed written in 2004 and it turned out to be pretty much spot on. Which is something to say, as he obviously wrote pre-Bear Wallow Fire. Route might need some small adjustments, but overall great hike description!

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Steeple - Foote Creek Trailhead
    Drive 23 miles south on US 191 to the south end of Hannagan Meadow and turn left (east) on Forest Road 29A to the Steeple /Foote Creek trailhead and parking lot. For lower access: Drive Forest Road 281 for 22.7 miles to Blue Administrative site and trailhead on right (west).

    Backcountry Access: Foote Creek Trail #76 is accessible via Horse Ridge Trail #38, Tutt Creek Trail #105, and P-Bar Lake Trail #326.
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