Backpack to Heaven
The Mogollon Crest Trail is a perfect trail for the beginner backpacker. I have taken a Boy Scout Troop on it several times. I would like to personally apologize to the romantic couple camping at Hummingbird Saddle when our boy's descended on the meadow. So much for a romantic get-away. Maybe the experience resulted in some serious birth control. Having children may not look so great when 12 teenage boys keep you awake all night.
The trailhead starts at Sandy Point which is a giant gravel parking area with a bathroom and NO WATER. The trailhead is at 8700 feet which takes a lot of the climbing out of the trail. The first 5 miles of the trail is a slow constant elevation rise though dense old growth forest on the north side of the ridgeline and ends at Hummingbird Saddle which has several good campsites and a spring about a quarter mile down Whitewater Creek Trail (207) . The spring isn't a gusher but allows canteen pumping and has been consistently running the times I have been there. About 3 miles from the trailhead there is a recent plane crash site about 20 feet off the trail. We had a great discussion of what we would do if we found a duffle bag with a million dollars in it.
The trail from hummingbird saddle takes off the northeast corner of the meadow and wraps around Whitewater baldy peak and crosses the ridge to center baldy. Iron creek trail heads off to the north and the Holt-Apache trail goes south about 3 miles from the saddle. Here the trail makes an abrupt left turn and heads to the West fork Saddle about 2 miles away. Here the west fork trail drops off to the right and the Crest trail is to the left. Not well marked. The trail begins the long and most significant climb for the next 2 miles going from 9500 ft to almost 11000 ft. You pass two reliable springs in the path and magnificent views off the ridgeline. A fire about 10 years ago allowed growth of a whole hillside of 8-15 foot aspen trees which turn magnificent gold in the fall. Mogollon peak fire lookout is your final destination which is manned or womaned in the summer. Sometimes they are friendly and sometime not. Play it by ear and don't take water from there cistern without asking. It is a valuable resource up there and a hell of a hike to get more. There personal cabin is not for your use unless invited, even though is has a great covered porch. There is no camping here. An alternative is to hike about 1.5 miles further to Snow Park.
We do the 14 mile hike from Hummingbird saddle to the look out and back as a day hike then spend another night at HUMMINGBIRD Saddle and hike out the next day.
The trail has obviously been cleared of down trees recently and is in great shape. Be aware of the weather. We left hummingbird saddle on a crystal clear day and by the afternoon it was pouring. Bummer for the scout that left his tent fly off to air out his sleeping bag. The Gila makes it's own weather.
Bursam road is also closed a lot due to wash outs , snow and is gated in the winter so call ahead to the reserve ranger district before venturing out.
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.
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.