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Pole Bridge Trail #264, AZ

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Guide 9 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Douglas
3.3 of 5 by 6
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 3.77 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,194 feet
Elevation Gain 2,372 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,375 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hrs
Kokopelli Seeds 11.68
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14  2016-04-24
Monte Vista Peak via Turkey Creek
27  2016-04-24
Monte Vista Peak
35  2015-09-16
Pole Bridge-Morse Canyon Loop
17  2013-04-27
Monte Vista LO via Pole Bridge/Morse Can
4  2012-12-01 Sredfield
14  2011-07-03 JuanJaimeiii
9  2010-12-19
Chiricahua & Monte Vista Peak Loop
5  2009-10-07 PrestonSands
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, May, Apr, Sep
Sun  6:05am - 6:16pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby

Likely In-Season!

Author Full Detail Guide
Starting just west of Sycamore Campground on Turkey Creek Road, this trail heads up forested Pole Bridge Canyon to connect with the Turtle Mountain Trail #219 and the Morse Canyon Trail #43, near 8850 foot Johnson Peak. An 8-mile loop is possible using the Pole Bridge Trail, Morse Canyon Trail, and about a mile and a half of Forest Road 41 (Turkey Creek Road).

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  • 100 Classic Hikes - 2007
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    100 Classic Hikes - 2007
  • Morse Trail 43 & Pole Trail 264 Map
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    Morse Trail 43 & Pole Trail 264 Map

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.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Pole Bridge Trail #264
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Monte Vista Peak
This was a fantastic day hike from the Turkey Creek area, and a great 2nd day in the Chiricahuas. If I had only one day to do a loop here, I would combine Morse Canyon, Monte Vista, Raspberry Ridge, Chiricahua Peak, and Mormon Canyon for the best possible loop. But you really can't go wrong with any of these options!

Morse Canyon 43
This is one of the nicest trails I have ever hiked. It climbs 2000 feet in 2 miles and you almost wouldn't know it. The trail cut is exquisite! (Seriously, when do you use that word for trail!?) Beautiful shaded pine forest, and consistent, steep grade. We did it in about an hour, and I remember thinking that JJ would probably motor up it in half the time. It would actually be a great trail for running (if you're a crazy person into that sort of thing!)

Turtle Mountain 219
We hiked this trail 1.5 miles around the north side of Monte Vista Peak to the summit spur trail. It's climbs gently through some patchy burn areas but is generally in great shape and there are no problems to hike it.

Monte Vista Peak
There's a short .2 mile spur from the Turtle Mtn/Raspberry Ridge/Monte Vista junction up the east slope of the peak. The views from the lookout were the highlight of the weekend. Make this one mandatory if you're in the area.

Turtle Mountain 219
We backtracked 1.5 miles to the top of Morse where we had come up earlier but continued on Turtle Mountain 2 more miles traversing around Johnson Peak and some other small peaks and ridges. This section of trail was in great condition and included a brief uphill stretch. There were a couple of short sections with easy deadfall, but for the most part this is pleasant hiking in unburned, healthy pine forest.

Pole Bridge 264
Upon reaching the saddle at the top of Pole Bridge Canyon, we began the steep descent. This trail was in fine shape and reasonably nice, but nothing compared to Morse Canyon. The first mile is steep, and features numerous switchbacks through an exposed burn area. There were a couple of spots where finding the trail took a second glance, but nothing treacherous. The grade moderated at the bottom of the canyon and the trail just followed the drainage, which was dry until the last mile or so when we encountered some pools of water. The bottom part of the trail appears to have once been an old road, and an older fire had burned through the area. Recent trail maintenance has made it fairly easy to follow, but the burn has left little shade and the lower elevation here makes it considerably warmer than the rest of the hike.

From the bottom of Pole Bridge, we had to hoof it a mile back up the road to camp in order to finish the loop. There were joined Kyle and Claire enjoying beverages by the fire before packing up and heading for delicious tacos at BKs in Tucson on the way home! :)
Pole Bridge Trail #264
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Monte Vista Peak via Turkey Creek
On Sunday our group, minus Claire & Jackie, headed up the Morse Canyon Trail. The four of us and dogs made good time up this steep trail. We were glad to find it in good condition overall. The trail makes a lot of switchbacks and the lower stretch is completely clear. The upper portion has some deadfall but it’s only a nuisance. We eventually topped out on the saddle next to Johnson Peak and discussed our options. Chumley & I wanted to push on Monte Vista Lookout while Kyle & FOTG and the dogs would return back down Morse Canyon.

The going to Monte Vista Peak is fairly straightforward as it follows the Crest Trail. There was more deadfall but none of it was too bad. The last stretch makes a good climb to the peak and you know you’re close when you see the lookout tower and cabin on the summit. The views up top were better than Chiricahua Peak as there aren’t as many trees. We enjoyed this peak tremendously and then returned to the saddle above Morse Canyon. From there Chumley and I continued around Johnson Peak and headed for Pole Bridge Trail. This top section was loaded with deadfall and was a pain to get through. I was a little worried but luckily it didn’t last too long.

The Pole Bridge Trail makes a steep descent through the forest as it switchbacks down the drainage. You eventually hit the creek bottom and follow that down. There was some deadfall along this trail but it was fine overall. The top section was the nightmare! We continued down and eventually hit the road and returned to camp thus completing our weekend getaway to the Chiricahuas. We packed up camp and then made a quick stop at Johnny Ringo’s Grave and then returned to Phoenix.

I really enjoyed the Chiricahua Mountains. I had no idea there were so many trails out here. A return trip is a must!
Pole Bridge Trail #264
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Pole Bridge-Morse Canyon Loop
Hiking and camping West Turkey Creek in the Chiricahua Mountains.

Randy (rwstorm) and I had a bad storm experience recently when camping on Mt. Graham in the Safford area, so we (Randy) put together another plan where we could get out for a couple of days of camping and get in some hiking too. A camping threesome included Paul (Randy's Tucson friend), Randy and myself. The convoy met up East of Tucson and we drove to Sycamore Campground on East Turkey Creek Road (FR 41) where we set up camp. The Forest Service maintained campground has about 6 large campsites and a clean bathroom surrounded by tall pines and even taller peaks all along a strong flowing Turkey Creek.

With the campsite quickly setup, I immediately took off to explore the areas along Turkey Creek. A short distance downstream from our camp was a super scenic waterfall where the creek tumbled noisily over about 12 feet of broken bedrock and into a thick brushy basin filled with colorful rocks surrounding it. I somehow managed to get down below the falls and took several photos looking up into the torrent of falling water. The 2015 Monsoon season may have ruined any number of camping and hiking events in Southeastern Arizona but it was a blessing on the streams that flow out of the Mountains in the Sky Islands and this mountain was no exception.

With wet shoes and sox, I sloshed my way back to camp, changed into dry shoes and sox and now all three of us began exploring the upstream portions of the creek. Randy was familiar with the upper portions of the creek so we followed his lead. It was only a short distance before we came to a concrete dam that had an approximate 15 foot vertical fall, tucked into a narrow canyon, where once again I'm on the verge of getting wet feet, but managed to get some shots of this falls too. Then it was just around the next corner along the trail and another falls came into view..... Whew, this is mind blowing. This 10 foot falls splits between the solid rock on either side as it gushes into a pool of swirling water at its base. I had to climb out on the face of the cliffs and stretch out to achieve some advantage where I could capture a shot of this falls, and even this wasn't enough to get the full effect of the scene.

We hiked a short distance up Mormon Canyon until it crossed Mormon Creek and followed that creek back down to where it entered Turkey Creek. This short vertical stretch of stream was full of riffles, falls and rapids as the creek flowed through a narrow canyon that, at times, was filled with boulders, thick brush and fallen trees.... and yes, I was walking again in wet footwear after a not very graceful but slippery crossing.

After all that excitement, we made our way back to camp where we indulged in some cold beverages and began preparing our evening meals while attempting to build a fire for later.... and changing, again, into dry footwear. The evening temps were in the mid 60's so a long sleeve shirt was the order and avoiding the smoke from the fire, the unspoken rule.... so not too much past sundown, it was time to call it a day.

The next morning it was a quick breakfast, a sip of coffee and off to the Pole Bridge Trail #264 a short distance down the road. Our intention was to hike up Pole Bridge Canyon to a saddle where it connects with Turtle Mountain Trail #219, follow that trail around the 8,890 foot Johnson Peak to another saddle where it connects with the Morse Canyon Trail #43 that will take us back to FR 41 for an easy stroll 1-1/2 miles back to our camp. The whole hike should be about 8 miles. [ description ] To view Randy's Route [ gps route ]

Some days it seems that nothing goes the way the plans were laid out, and this was going to be one of them days. As we left the road heading up Pole Bridge Canyon, we ran into an extensive growth of up to 5 feet tall grass that was in its seeding stage and gave off clouds of microscopic spores when disturbed. Soon Paul was sneezing and coughing from an allergic reaction to the dust. His reaction was so bad and the grass continued on for a long distance so he was forced to bail. Paul would therefore hike up Morse Canyon Trail and on up to the lookout tower at 9,355 foot Monte Vista Peak, then back to the saddle/trail junction where we would meet up for the return back to camp.

So Randy and I bushwhacked (literally) through the tall grass, constantly loosing the trail, and did I mention that the grass was wet from last night's dew? Well I was wet again as we continued up a hit-and-miss trail with but a few cairns hidden somewhere under the tall grass. Finally we got away from the major grassy areas and began to follow a somewhat readable trail heading up the side of the mountain. As the mountain got steeper, we began hitting an extensive network of switchbacks that seemed to be taking us further away from our goal at the saddle and through a burnout area that left lots of dead trees lying across the trail. Some trees were small enough to scramble over, others we could crawl under and the real nasty ones we had to go around em, but we kept heading up-hill, up, up up for 3.8 miles and around 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Occasionally we would reach a burnt area where we had views of the surrounding peaks, some with trees, others rocky outcroppings, but then it was back into the forest.

We finally reached a saddle that looked like it should be our trail junction with Turtle Mountain Trail, but with all the downed trees and a burnt post where a sign once stood, we couldn't be sure if we were at the right place. So after consulting Randy's torn and barely readable map, we headed East towards where the lookout tower should be, all the while following an old fence line and searching for the trail. At one point we decided that we were no longer on the trail and we should head up to a ridgeline and check Randy's map again. It was then that I found a small cairn and what looked like a trail going through a tangle of downed trees, new growth pines and New Mexico Locust. Our trail completely disappeared on a downed-tree-strewn ridge but we finally had our first views of the lookout tower, so we had a landmark, but no good way to get there so we bushwhacked again until we found the semblance of a trail again that took us to another saddle where trails met.

We checked Randy's map again, which by now, was two pieces of paper, and determined that we should head South, keeping the lookout tower in view. We got down that trail about half a mile where I pulled out my cell phone with Route Scout running and our trail showed that we were going farther away from our saddle where Paul should be waiting for us.... so we made an about face and returned to our last likely location and....yup, get out the map again. This time as Randy interpreted the map I looked around, and to my astonishment, found some aged signs that were barely readable but hadn't been burnt. These were the signs that would show us the way to the saddle and Morse Canyon Trail... and Paul, patiently waiting for us with a couple of cold brewski's. Okay, I made up that part about patient Paul and the cold brews but it was the right trail we were looking for.

For the last couple of miles my legs were cramping up and I had to keep moving to keep them from turning into a pair of twisted, worthless clubs so I kept plodding on towards the trail junction. When we got to the saddle, no Paul and no brewski's, but there was another sign that directed us down Morse Canyon to FR 41. This final dash was a 2 mile stretch of continuous downhill that would bring us down threw more than 2,000 feet of twisting zig-zag switchbacks and I wasn't sure if my legs were going to make it or not, but after what seemed like an interminable amount of agony and time, I could see the signs at the trailhead.

From the Trailhead, we walked the final mile and a half of freshly graded gravel road back to our camp, where the first thing I did was to grab that cold brew, that wonderful cold brew that was what kept me going those last miles, then after washing up in the creek, I started applying the muscle relaxers and rubbing my sore legs back from near oblivion. I don't know why my legs cramped up during our hike, it's something that has never happened before although, I frequently get night time cramps following a strenuous hike..... must be that darn “old age” creeping up on me.

In conclusion, I would have to say that this hike rated pretty low on my list of favorites but mostly due to trail conditions following the past forest fires and a lack of signage to help point out trails and names. Good distance scenery shots are very few and far between, even from the peaks and ridgelines. There are no points of interest like abandoned mines or areas of historic value (with the exception of John Ringo's grave).... but there are many challenges to the hiker whose hiking style demands it, like trail finding and peak bagging.

The Sycamore trees are showing the first signs of color.
Pole Bridge Trail #264
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Monte Vista LO via Pole Bridge/Morse Can
southpawaz hadn't been to this lookout before, so finally, it was one that i could show him. i pointed him in the direction that i had gone before, and he pointed me this direction. since i'm all for loopy hikes, i thought this was a winner. at its base, it's about half as much elevation and half as much distance as i had done before going to this peak. but then you add - you add the road walk, and you add the peak bagging. uh, oh. that means it's just about the same as i had done before.

anyway, great hike - especially not seeing hardly anyone on the trail. we did find that the lookout was on duty :) so i was pleased. and i was able to ask the guy my usual questions. his duty schedule is 10 days on, 4 days off. he had been working for the douglas ranger station for 28 years, and 20 of them had been on lookout duty. he reads; that's what he does to occupy his time. this was his second day of the season on duty. he had quite a few opinions about what went wrong two years ago as well.

the hike down was uneventful. i found my muscle memory of the hike down. fast in many places without rocks.

we got home to camp, where we had set up the tent. and sunday morning we took a little stroll up mormon canyon so we could see the dam and the waterfall above. good times.

also, bobby hadn't been down this road before. so i felt obliged to show him johnny ringo's gravesite on our way out.
Pole Bridge Trail #264
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Monte Vista LOT via Pole Bridge/Morse
Two years ago I had plans to hike to this tower from the south, but by the time the scheduled weekend came around the Horseshoe 2 Fire was in full fury. The Forest Service honored our reservation for the Rucker group site (though with a switch in location), so we spent a weekend camped on the side of the road east of Fort Rucker, watching the fire crews trying to hold a fire line along the crest of Raspberry Ridge. The Monte Vista Tower was a focal point, as they were using the area around it as a helipad to shuttle personnel up onto the mountain.

Cindyl and I chose a different route than I had planned then, and a different one than she had done previously. We drove in and set up camp Saturday morning at the Sycamore Campground, then walked down the road just a bit to get to the Pole Bridge Trailhead. From there we followed the Pole Bridge Trail up and then around to the south end of Johnson Peak, where we picked up the Turtle Mountain Trail which took us around to the Tower. Both trails have been cleared of deadfall since the fire, though there was just a little bit of new deadfall from the past winter. Pole Bridge Canyon did not burn too badly, but at a few of the creek crossings the trail was hard to spot due to severe post-fire erosion and rock deposition.

Once we got up to where we had a view, we passed through some areas that burned more severely; in spots new pines have come up. Parts of the Turtle Mountain Trail were little more than a foot's width of tread or less traversing slopes that have lost all their soil. Our first view of the Lookout Tower came before we reached Johnson Peak, but we still had a fair ways to go around to get there. Once we passed the Morse Canyon Junction, we saw signs of recent stock travel on the trail, and soon thereafter we met a trio on their way down from the tower who passed on the good news that a lookout was on duty.

We reached the tower and after looking around a bit, we were invited up and had a nice visit with the lookout and his two dogs, who had just gone on duty for the season yesterday. A longtime Douglas District employee, he had been stationed at Barfoot Lookout prior to the Horseshoe 2 fire.

After our visit we started back down the way we had come up, until we reached the Morse Canyon Trail, which we headed down to loop our hike. We made good time going down, stopping a few times for flower photos along the way. Once we reached the trailhead, we had about a mile left of road walk back to the campground. Due to a bit of a late start, we had only pitched the tent when we arrived, so we finished setting up camp, and had dinner cooked and eaten before sundown.

Permit $$

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To hike
From Tucson, take I-10 east for 72 miles to US 191. Turn south 21 miles to AZ 181 and drive 12 miles east to the Turkey Creek turnoff (FR 41). Follow this road 10 miles east to the Pole Bridge Trail sign on the right (south) side of the road (0.2 miles before Sycamore Campground, where one can park).
page created by PrestonSands on Oct 08 2009 12:27 am
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