Hiking North to Go South
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 www.bctaz.com. 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.
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.