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Black Canyon City TH to Little Pan Loop - BCT, AZ

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Guide 30 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Prescott > Black Canyon
3.9 of 5 by 7
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 10 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,053 feet
Elevation Gain 500 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,170 feet
Avg Time One Way 3.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 13.9
Interest Historic & Perennial Creek
Backpack No
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8  2018-03-10
Little Pan Extended Loop
20  2018-03-10
Little Pan Loop-Table Mesa TH to Black Cyn TH
9  2018-02-26 rcorfman
60  2018-01-06
Table Mesa TH to Black Canyon City TH - BCT
33  2017-11-12
BCT Yo-Yo No Go
10  2017-01-02
BCT Mas Agua Fria
25  2016-12-17
Frustum #21 / BCT Soap to Little Pan
23  2016-01-02
Black Canyon Trail to Home - Part 3
Page 1,  2
Author MEWhiteman
author avatar Guides 40
Routes 91
Photos 790
Trips 351 map ( 2,703 miles )
Age 75 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → 9 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:31pm
Official Route
8 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Hiking North to Go South
by MEWhiteman

This hike is along a section of the Black Canyon Trail (BCT) starting at the Black Canyon City (BCC) trailhead and going south as far as the Little Pan trailhead. Information and history about the BCT can be found at The hike is through desert scrub with numerous Saguaros and views in many directions as you wind around the hills. You cross the Agua Fria River twice during the hike and you should be prepared for high water in the spring or after heavy rains. Be aware for snakes on or near the trail as this is snake country.

This hike is best done with a car shuttle. There are two points to spot a car at the south end: either at the Table Mesa Road trailhead (12.7 mile hike) or at the Little Pan trailhead (10.0 mile hike). We chose to use the latter after we were able to locate the dirt access road in on our GPS maps and wanted the shorter hike after a two week layoff. Leaving the BCC trailhead you pass a sign-in register and go through a gate. The trail is well worn and easy to follow but can get a little confusing in a couple of areas where there are numerous jeep trails. It is closed to motorized vehicles but gets plenty of use from hikers and mountian bikers. At about .9 miles you will come to a fork in the trail. The right fork takes you north on the K-Mine section of this trail. For the hike I'm describing you'll want to go left. Also you'll get a view of the Agua Fria River and Horseshoe Bend below. Continue on, descending to the river level. As you approach the flat, sandy area at about 1.5 miles look across the rocks toward the river to spot where the trail ascends the embankment. There is a BCT sign there and this is your crossing point. There are some rocks there that you can use to cross and stay dry, but when the water is high your feet will get wet. If you don't want to get your boots wet, bring extra water shoes or sneakers to use crossing the river.

After crossing the river the trail swings left. After a short climb it turns right and then right again. Watch for BCT signs pointing the way as this area has a number of jeep trails. At about 1.6 miles (N34 02.495 W112 09.791) there is a fork in the trail. Go left. You'll see a white sign further down the trail which is a BCT sign pointing the way, but it is too far away at the fork to be readible. From here the trail is less confusing and gradually climbs the hill ahead of you with numerous switchbacks. It goes around the backside of the hill and continues climbing with many more long switchbacks. The trail snakes all over the place following the contours of the hills and valleys. There are several places with great views down the river, toward Black Canyon City and toward the southern Bradshaws. For a while the trail goes northwest which is opposite the direction you think you should be going. Eventually is does round the hills and heads south toward your destination. At 3.65 miles (N34 02.651 W112 10.381) you reach the high point of the hike. For those not wanting to go on to Little Pan Loop this would be a good turn around spot. From here the trail snakes around the hills some more and goes generally downhill. At 6.2 miles (N34 02.434 W112 11.379) you cross a jeep road; follow the signs across the road to stay on the trail. At 6.8 miles (N34 02.063 W112 11.537) you cross a wash; follow the trail diagonally across the wash. At 7.1 miles (N34 01.914 W112 11.455) you cross another road; follow the trail across the road. At 8.6 miles (N34 01.330 W112 11.014) you reach the top of Little Pan Loop. If you parked at Table Mesa Road trailhead you could take either side of the loop. If you parked at the Little Pan Loop as we did, you would want to go left from the intersection. Following the signs as the trail goes downhill to the dirt road on the left. Turn right on the road as the trail follows it for a while. Keep your eyes open for a BCT trail sign indicating a sharp right in less than a mile indicating where the trail leaves the road and goes down to the river. Continue following the signs and cross the river at N34 00.857 W112 10.711. Turn left leaving the trail and hike in the sand until you see a steep sandy jeep trail up the embankment to the right. This should lead you back to your car at N34 00.947 W112 10.413, if this is where you parked. Its a good idea to "mark" your car's GPS position when you park it so you can find it back here. There are a lot of jeep trails and parking areas. The place was surprising busy for a weekday when we did the hike. We saw several ATVs, jeeps, other 4wheel drive vehicles and a sheriff.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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.

2009-11-12 MEWhiteman

    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
    Black Canyon City TH to Little Pan Loop - BCT
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Little Pan Loop-Table Mesa TH to Black Cyn TH
    A dawn start at the Table Mesa TH, with nice temps and orange skys.

    I cobbled together a loop using the BCT-Little Pan Loop, the Agua Fria River and a side trip to Gillett.

    After last weeks all off trail jaunt, it was refreshing to have well groomed trails. Taking the CW options, we had the trail to ourselves until just before we started the drop to the Agua Fria towards the Black Canyon TH. Here we started seeing a few groups of bikes. Down at the river, we opted for the 3 mile out and back to the Black Canyon TH.

    This is evidently a popular family hike. Quite a few people/couples/families were doing this portion. It would make for a great Arizona Sampler Hike for out of town guests. Close to the valley, short, nice geology, and a riparian area.

    Off to the Gillett ruins via 1.25 miles of easy travel in the Agua Fria.

    Short History Lesson:
    The town of Gillett is incorrectly spelled as Gillette on most maps. It was named for Dan B. Gillett, the Tip Top mine's superintendent. It was where the mill for the Tip Top Mine was located and was a stage coach stop for the Phoenix-Prescott route.

    At its height in 1878, Gillett had six streets the Mill, post office, a bank, assay office, hotel, real estate office, livery stable, lumberyard, meat market, truck farm, dairy, warehouse, two blacksmiths, two stagecoach stations, four stores and nine saloons/gambling houses. There was also a cemetery with 40-50 plots.

    252, 25'X100' lots were for sale in Gillett in 1875 - 1878. The only obvious remains are that of the Burfind Hotel.

    We took the eastern potion of the loop back to the Table Mesa TH. The last hour or so was in a steady drizzle.

    Jack Rabbits, a swarm of Javelina, a gaggle of quail, and covey of Burros were among the fauna observed on the day.
    Black Canyon City TH to Little Pan Loop - BCT
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Little Pan Extended Loop
    Signage, tread and trail maintenance is remarkable. Passed several mtn bike groups, all friendly. Our loop included an out-n-back to Black Canyon City TH on the NE end of our loop. Apparently this 3 mi/340 aeg out-n-back to Agua Fria River is a popular day hike.

    Our return followed Agua Fria River for 1.2 miles. It was low enough to cross multiple times without major mishap. A biker said the river was much higher just a week ago. We explored Gillette Arizona. The area is very trashed since it's easily accessible by wild groups and not monitored.

    Then we picked up the east side of Little Pan Loop back to Table Mesa TH. Equally scenic to the west side. Appears less used and a hint less maintenance love.

    Great hike, recommended!

    ocotillo, that's it folks
    Black Canyon City TH to Little Pan Loop - BCT
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Table Mesa TH to Black Canyon City TH - BCT
    My second northbound section of the Black Canyon Trail was a solo one-day trip from Table Mesa Trailhead to the Black Canyon City Trailhead just behind Rock Springs, AZ. A friend of mine helped me shuttle my truck to the end, and he drove me back to Table Mesa Trailhead and asked me again "what the hell are you doing out here besides hiking?" I didn't really have a solid answer for someone who doesn't understand why we do this kind of stuff.

    The morning weather was comfortable enough at my 8:30am start for shorts and a light shirt, which is always a good thing because I hate hiking in long pants unless it's going to be cold all day. Compared to the sections south of Table Mesa, the desert here feels more remote and has much more vegetation and terrain change. With 4 liters on my back for the day, I got moving.

    Within only about 2 miles, you come across the first of 2 crossings of the Agua Fria River. This first crossing is less dramatic than the second one because the canyon is much shallower here. The river was just a 5 foot wide nearly stagnant trickle this time of year because of how dry our winter has been, but the interesting part was how the river disappeared under the gravel riverbed in a 100' section and re-emerges in pools right on the west bank where the trail resumes to the northwest. I sat on a rock on the west bank to take in the scenery and get some pictures.

    Moving on, the trail conditions are excellent for the next 3-4 miles. Smooth single-track makes for fast travel, and the little ups-and-downs through the drainages are smooth.

    Huge saguaros. Clusters of broken-up white quartz. Jeeps playing in the canyons below. Javelina. A family of burros. Moderate ups and downs through scenic ridges and drainages. This part of the trail had it all. In this section, I saw a little of everything as I approached the drop down into the Agua Fria River canyon again for the 2nd (and last) crossing of this part of the BCT. I had a bit of a sprained foot through this entire area, but the cool weather and the constantly changing views helped to ease the pain. I came around one ridge and had my first views of Black Canyon City and also the river canyon below. Only about 4 miles left to go.

    Once I reached the river, I just had to sit there and soak it all in again. The water was very low but it was flowing clear. This was a massive piece of the riverbed compared to the first crossing earlier in the day. It's amazing how different they were considering that the crossings were less than 10 miles apart. Completely different geology in each.

    Not only would this have been a great spot to refill on water, but it's a place that I could see myself coming back to explore and overnight camp in (I'll have to check local regs to see if that's allowed here). With shade, water and long views both up and down this canyon, I'd be happy to get lost back in this section for a few days just walking along the river.

    Well, the daydreaming ended and I hooked back up with the trail after an annoying walk across cobblestone river rocks, fine gravel, and horrible footing in deep sand. The debris field that I literally had to walk over to get to the water crossing must have easily been 15' higher than the current water level. This river can move some serious gallons per minute in the Spring when the snowmelt is racing through here. I'd love to hike down here from Black Canyon City and watch the sheer power of this river at its peak, but from the safety of the ridge above.

    I ground out the last couple of miles and got to the parking lot where my truck awaited. There are nice pit toilets and water (considered non-potable so bring your filter or water treatment), and it's a quick drive around some private lots and you're at the Rock Springs Cafe, famous for their pie (so they claim). Instead of my original plan to stop here for a late lunch, I headed home to put my feet up. I can't wait for the next section of the BCT.
    Black Canyon City TH to Little Pan Loop - BCT
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    My community has a hiking club and I joined 10 of them this morning. Trailhead is near exit 242 off of highway 17 (Black Canyon City). Gradual up,then down to a river bed with little water at this time. Turned around at first wash. Got in a huff about the sweep guy and the follow that was with him as they were lagging WAY behind and the rest of the group and we waited for 5 minutes several time. Oops... my bad when I found out he was legally blind! If anyone of you know the name of this section of the trail please let me know.
    Black Canyon City TH to Little Pan Loop - BCT
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Xterra Trail Run-- Black Canyon
    Awesome race, and I got first in my age group to boot!

    I took a risk and went against their recommendation to carry water, and thankfully I did fine with just the 4 water stations along the way.

    I got pretty miserable and cranky around mile 6 (when you start to feel like you're dying, and then realize you're not even halfway yet...) but luckily I came across 2 other women who were running at about my pace (actually a bit slower, but the moral support was well worth it)! We ended up accumulating a couple more runners, until there were 5 of us pacing together :]

    I started getting clumsy(er than usual) around mile 9, and had a couple close calls before I finally tripped and gashed my hand open. I thought I was fine and just wanted to keep going, but the guy behind me insisted on stopping to try to rinse off all the scratches, and he ended up giving me a Kleenex to hold on to to try to stop the bleeding-- really nice of him!

    Our group splintered shortly after the 11-mile marker, and one of the guys took off ahead of me. Naturally, I decided that I needed to pass him.. and I did, right before the finish line! (I also passed a few other people whom I had been running with earlier on in the race before they took off ahead of me, so that definitely felt good, too. No, I'm not competitive... why do you ask?) :D

    Immediately after finishing, I was directed over to the first aid station. When I looked down at the Kleenex in my hand, which I had totally forgotten about, it was totally drenched in blood, and there was more running down my arm and then back of my leg... Oops! Good thing I took the Kleenex, after all! :]

    This was my first trail race... I wasn't sure what to expect (or how prepared I was), but I'm glad I went-- it was a lot of fun! :]

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Strictly 4x4

    To hike
    Black Canyon City trailhead: The Black Canyon City Trailhead has ample parking space for cars and vehicles with trailers, but no amenities and no camping is allowed. From Interstate 17, either direction; take exit 242 (Black Canyon City and Rock Springs), turn west, proceed to stop sign, turn north (right) on the frontage road, drive about 300 ft to the first road on the left, Warner Rd, and turn left. Drive about 1300 ft to the first cross road, turn right and proceed to the parking area on the right near the end of the road, about 400 ft. GPS coordinates, using NAD27 Datum: N34? 3.140' W112? 9.048'

    Table Mesa Road trailhead: This is presently an undeveloped trailhead with limited parking. However there is ample parking within easy walking distance a short way up the side road. Trailhead signs are occasionally vandalized and removed, so it will be necessary to check your odometer and watch carefully for the side road to the right. From Interstate 17 take exit 236 (Table Mesa Rd), turn west then north on the frontage road, drive approximately 1.65 miles to the "Y" and bear left, drive approximately 1.38 miles and look for the side road on the right. Turn onto this road and the trailhead is immediately to the left. GPS coordinates, using NAD27 datum: N33? 59.076' W112? 10.063'

    Little Pan Loop trailhead: Directions to this trailhead don't appear on the BCT website so these are my own. I have also posted a track from I-17 to the trailhead. This is a high clearance 4WD road. Proceed as if you were going to the Table Mesa Road trailhead above. At 1.65 miles (N33 59.162 W112 08.721) take the right fork which is relatively straight ahead. After crossing under powerlines take the next road to the left at about 2.5 miles (N33 59.649 W112 08.906). Stay on the main track. You'll pass through a cattle guard and later a gate which you must open and then close when you have passed through. After a steep ascent and then descent you come to a large parking area on the right. Proceed through it to a lower parking area with lots of shell casings laying around and a fire ring or two. Park in this area (N34 00.947 W112 10.413) about 4.7 miles from the I-17 ramp.
    page created by MEWhiteman on Nov 12 2009 4:22 pm
    3 pack - loud whistle
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