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Sunset Loop Drive to Galiuro Wilderness, AZ

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Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Safford
3 of 5 by 3
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Distance Loop 39.7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,349 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Interest Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
25  2016-10-29
Bassett Peak and B24 Wreck via Ash Creek
55  2012-11-09
Bassett Peak
22  2010-11-08
Bassett Peak
15  2009-11-08 Randal_Schulhaus
55  2009-11-07
Bassett Peak
19  2009-11-06 Randal_Schulhaus
Author Randal_Schulhauser
author avatar Guides 71
Routes 98
Photos 9,967
Trips 1,009 map ( 9,248 miles )
Age 59 Male Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Mar, Feb, Jan
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:05am - 6:24pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Guns and Gold (and Goats)
by Randal_Schulhauser

Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado crossed what is now southern Arizona in 1540, probably passing just east of the Galiuros. His army may have followed the San Pedro River Valley northward from Mexico, and then continued along the Sulphur Spring and Aravaipa Valleys with the Galiuro Mountains on their left. Somewhere near the Galiuros, Coronado's chroniclers noted a large abandoned structure they called "Chichilticale," or Red House. No one knows exactly where this structure was. One of the chroniclers wrote that the natives of the region lived by hunting and in rancherias, without permanent settlements.

The first gold discoveries nearly coincided with President Theodore Roosevelt's July 22, 1902 declaration of the higher part of the Galiuros as a Forest Reserve. Six years later the Forest Reserves in Graham County became part of Crook National Forest. The protection here was not for the timber, of which the Galiuros had very little, but for the watershed, which in desert lands is an even greater consideration. In 1953 the Crook National Forest was incorporated into the Coronado National Forest.

Early-day Forest Rangers had enforcement duties, which meant that they customarily went around armed. Occasionally they wound up in a gunfight, including the Kirby vs. Tucker skirmish in 1912 and the bloody 1918 Powers brother's shootout and subsequent manhunt that left 4 dead men. Ranching got its start in the Galiuros at almost the same time as mining. In the 1890's and through the first decade of the 20th Century, the principal type of livestock was probably Angora goats rather than cattle. Goat ranching paid well and the slopes of the Galiuros and neighboring hills were ideal range for these browsing animals.
Excerpts from "Guns and Gold: History of the Galiuro Wilderness" by John P. Wilson, September 1977, ASIN B0006P0F68.

More History
Fort Grant resulted from the relocation of Old Camp Grant in the aftermath of the 1871 "Camp Grant Massacre". The fort was strategically placed at the southern slopes of Mount Graham so as to protect local settlers and played a prominent role in the 1880s Apache Wars.

William Bonney reportedly settled in the vicinity of Ft. Grant in 1876 working as a ranch-hand and tending sheep nearby. In nearby Bonita, Bonney killed the local blacksmith and was taken into custody at the Ft. Grant stockade. He escaped back to New Mexico before he could be tried for the first killing committed by the boy who would become known as "Billy the Kid".

In 1905 the Army abandoned the fort and transferred all troops to Fort Huachuca. Today the Fort Grant site is occupied by a State Prison.

Bonus History
Sunset is a ghost town near the South Oak Creek road crossing. Sunset owed its existence to the mines on Sunset Peak just west of the town site. It had a post office from 1917 to 1932. After his imprisonment for the 1918 shootings and draft evasion, John Powers passed away at his residence in Sunset AZ in 1970.

This is not a true hike, but a 4x4 (or high clearance) excursion along a Backcountry Byway - the Sunset Loop - with plenty of stops for hiking, photo opportunities and soaking in a little AZ history. Hiking is primarily limited to the Galiuro Wilderness with the majority of the Sunset Loop traversing private ranch lands. Please respect notices on private lands.

Mile 0.0
4-way stop at junction of Ash Creek Road and Fort Grant Road - where the pavement ends marks the beginning of our current day Sunset Loop route. The 4-way stop marked the western terminus of the Eurofresh Farms greenhouses - 3 miles of greenhouse tomatoes. Nearby Crop Circle Winery seems to pay homage to the monster irrigation rigs.

Mile 3.0
Hi-tech agriculture soon gives way to the cattle grazing grasslands of Sulfur Springs Valley. The valley plain is dotted with Soaptree Yuccas. The Winchester Mountains dominate the view to the immediate south.

Mile 5.8
Ash Creek Road bends due west and this is cow country. There's a surprising number of abandoned farms and Mount Graham looms to the north.

Mile 10.4
As Ash Creek Road blends into Sunset Loop Road, you enter into the Ash Creek Black Hills. Bassett Peak and other topographical prominence of the eastern Galiuro Mountains come into view. Derelict machinery dots both sides of the road.

Mile 14.3
Sunset Loop Road bends north near the junction with FR660. FR660 takes you to the Basset Peak/Ash Creek Canyon trail head (about 2 1/2 miles from Sunset Loop Road). There are plenty of campsites along FR660. See Bassett Peak for more information.

Mile 15.6
As Sunset Loop Road gradually dips into the Oak Creek drainage, note the abandoned buildings and foundation remnants. This is all that remains of the ghost town of Sunset.

Mile 17.8
You arrive at the junction of Sunset Loop Road and High Creek Road. Head west on High Creek Road/FR159 about 4 miles to reach the Sunset Peak/High Creek trail head. This TH provides spur trail access to the East Divide Trail, Rattlesnake Canyon, Kennedy Peak, and so much more. Powers Cabin, Mine, and Garden are also accessible from this TH. See Powers Garden for more information.

Mile 23.8
Continuing east along High Creek Road, you'll arrive at the junction of Wells Ranch Road. There are views of the Pinaleno Mountains to the north, the Winchester Mountains and Ash Creek Black Hills to the south, and the Galiuro Mountains to the west.

Mile 31.4
The return to paved road and stop sign at Fort Grant Road indicates that you are in Bonita. The collection of abandoned buildings could cause one to wonder if Bonita should be reclassified as a ghost town. The nearby state prison marks the grounds of historic Fort Grant.

Mile 39.7
Continue south on Fort Grant Road until you reach the 4-way stop sign to complete the Sunset Loop.

The "Sunset Loop" provides a unique opportunity to investigate remnants of some obscure Arizona history. With access to FR660 and the Bassett Peak TH and FR159 and the Sunset Peak TH, there is a primo shuttle hike/backpacking opportunity along the Eastern Divide of the Galiuro Mountains with access to Powers Cabin! Enjoy! .

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2009-11-15 Randal_Schulhauser
    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
    Sunset Loop Drive to Galiuro Wilderness
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    Bassett Peak and B24 Wreck via Ash Creek
    We changed the hike up to get to a place a little cooler with color.

    First time in this area for me and it's some pretty country. A Pistachio grove, fields of Bright Red Chili Peppers, Tomatoes, Apples, Pears, Peaches and cotton were all passed on the drive in. On the turn off from the Sunset Loop to Ash Creek Rd, there were Campers / RV's all set up for deer hunting. We saw 3 hung up on the way in and at least six on the way out. We heard no shots all day.

    JJ made the most of the available road getting to the TH. We only stopped once to move a boulder out of the way, with JJ trying to put his Cherokee through a slot the same width of the rock opening.

    The hike is enjoyable through Ash Creek to Upper Ash Spring. There was plenty of color, but also plenty green. A week or 2 should make this perfect.

    Making the climb out of the creek, the views started opening up. The Mt Graham area looms large behind a vast grassy area running to the base of it. It's a steady climb to the top, with just a few loose spots. The turn off The East Divide trail to get to the top is a bit thin, but it's been recently flagged it to top.

    We headed down to to checkout B24 crash site from 1943. 12 tragically lost their lives here. It is steep and loose getting down to this site. There is quite a bit of debris scattered about.

    After climbing back up to the trail, it was all downhill to the Trailhead.

    I'm glad I was able to finally make it out to this one. It's been on the radar for quite awhile.

    Thanks JJ for all the driving...

    Great hiking with you and the Turtle again. Two Thumbs? up!
    Sunset Loop Drive to Galiuro Wilderness
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    Completed the entire loop on our drive in/out to hike Bassett Peak/Ash Creek.
    My first time looping the area and I really enjoyed the grassland scenery.
    On the morning drive in, we spotted 12 pronghorn antelope just off the road.
    Wow ..... the Sulphur Springs Valley now has pronghorns!!!
    :o 8)
    Sunset Loop Drive to Galiuro Wilderness
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    Bassett Peak Tales 2012

    3 days
    607 miles
    33 gallons of gasoline
    266 digital images
    Fall colours
    "Robber" stellar jays
    Clean, crisp mountain air (with just a hint of snow)
    Unexpected solitude
    No work distractions

    The Plan => Friday 11/9 rendezvous at Einstein's Bagels in Ahwatukee AZ, truck pool, and hit the road to the Bassett Peak trail head at the end of FR660/Ash Creek Road to set up camp in the Galiuro Mountains to enjoy what many consider the best fall colours in Arizona.

    I've been able to keep my 2012 quarterly wilderness adventures pretty much as planned; "Anza Borrego California Tales 2012" (check out => ), "Oregon Tales 2012" (check out => ), and Colorado Fall Colours 2012" (check out => Those 3 days crossed out on the November calendar to take in the Bassett Peak fall colours at Ash Spring were about to be tested...

    Thursday started out with 6 adventurers ready and raring to go, by sundown there was only 1. Weather forecasts and other calamities took their toll. With Friday already booked off, I decided to roll the dice and use the Willcox Holiday Inn Express as basecamp with some adjusted plans;

    A. Ahwatukee AZ - ground zero, home
    B. Willcox AZ - basecamp at the Holiday Inn Express (check out =>
    C. Fort Bowie National Historic Site - stop at the old fort (check out => and
    D. San Simon AZ - S. Noland Rd. turn-off to head south to Portal AZ and the South Fork of Cave Creek TH in Chiricahua National Monument
    E. South Noland Road - note; signage is not "San Simon Road" as noted in HAZ write-ups
    F. Foothills Road - turn-off to SE towards Portal AZ
    G. Portal AZ - SE access to Chiricahua National Monument (check out => and
    H. South Fork of Cave Creek TH - access at the South Fork picnic area (check out =>
    I. Forest Road 42 - up and over the Chiricahua Mountains (check out => ... &actid=105)
    J. Dos Cabezas AZ - a drive back to Willcox via SR186
    K. Willcox AZ - basecamp at the local Holiday Inn Express (check out =>
    L. Bassett Peak TH - end of the road for FR660/Ash Creek Road in the Galiuro Mountains (check out =>
    M. Tucson AZ - Sunday dinner with my youngest daughter, Tobyn
    N. Ahwatukee AZ - home again...

    DAY 1 - Friday 11/9
    Ahwatukee AZ to Willcox AZ
    185 miles
    3 hrs 1 min 1-way per Google Maps

    Hit the road for the Willcox AZ basecamp.

    DAY 2 - Saturday 11/10
    Willcox AZ to South Fork of Cave Creek Trail #243 via FOBO and FR42 to SR186
    96 miles
    3 hrs 34 min per Google Maps

    I have never been to the Chiricahua Mountains before and thought I could take advantage of being in the vicinity. My home library contains the book "Cochise - the Life and Times of the Great Apache Chief" by ASU professor Peter Aleshire (check out => ... 0471383635 ). Despite the literary criticism, I've always been intrigued by this book and the subject (an easier read about Cochise was authored by Dave Roberts). It's arguable that the existence of Fort Bowie can be attributed to Chief Cochise, so it was fitting to make the side trek. Upon entry to the site, I discover the cool nickname for Fort Bowie - FOBO, uttered by one of the staff (FOBO is now forever burned into my brain). A quick tour of FOBO Loop followed by a pondering about the location of the tent Cochise cut open to make his escape in 1861 (check out => ... elix-3.pdf ) during the "Bascom Affair". The low hanging clouds created a fittingly eerie FOBO atmosphere...

    The main objective of the day was exploring South Fork of Cave Creek Trail #243 and the fall colours I've heard raves about from some HAZ trekkers and others (check out => and ). Maple Camp would be the primary objective given some of the photos I've seen. I arrived at the picnic area at the end of South Fork Road noon-ish. A group of 3 hunters decked out in full camouflage were exiting the trail as I began my trek. They said they managed to get a single shot off during their morning hunt - I indicated I hoped to get considerably more (digital) shots off that afternoon... I arrived at the Maple Camp area wondering what all the fuss is about. Undeterred, I trekked another 2 miles or so upstream from the Burro Trail junction seeking fall colours. I have to agree with Letty's recent assessment (check out => ) and look forward to area recovery to its former blazing colours. I returned to the TH with just enough remaining daylight to spark-up the BBQ and grill a couple of burgs. To my complete surprise, I discovered a robbery in process - Stellar Jays landing on my picnic table and helping themselves to my Doritos - with me only an arm's length away!

    I returned to my Willcox basecamp via Forest Road 42 up and over the Chiricahua Mountains to join up with SR186 near Dos Cabezas. When I packed up and left the South Fork picnic area my truck thermometer indicated it was 48degF. As I peaked-out along the Chiricahua ridgeline, my truck thermometer indicated it was a chilly 34degF!

    DAY 3 - Sunday 11/10
    Willcox AZ to Bassett Peak TH (Ash Creek Rd/FR660)
    36 miles
    1 hr 37 min per Google Maps

    Sunday sunrise revealed a brilliant blue cloudless sky with snow visible on the highest mountain peaks. I slowly made my way to the trail head stopping many times to observe the various eye-candy (I still regret passing up the pumpkin field and failing to re-create the image captured by Derek von Briesen => ) including snow on Mount Graham. As I turned onto FR660 near the intersection of Ash Creek Road and Sunset Loop, I was surprised to see nobody at the usually busy "hunter's meadow". Saw one group of campers at the large site as you exit the wash and another group at the almost-TH. I parked my truck here and discovered the campers were mostly from Mesa AZ. They indicated it had snowed overnight accompanied by some strong winds. Once on the trail, I was treated to a riot of colour (albeit a week past their prime). At Ash Spring, the aspen still had about half their leaves. Another one of the old growth aspen fell victim to the weekend winds - every time I've visited there's another old growth casualty. Without any new growth aspen, I wonder how many more years we'll have to enjoy this spectacular scene??? After capture my fill of fall colours, I packed up my gear with a dinner stop in Tucson visiting my daughter Tobyn.

    And that's my Bassett Peak Tale 2012! Photos to follow...
    Sunset Loop Drive to Galiuro Wilderness
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    Bassett Peak 2010

    Had this weekend circled on the calendar for a couple of months to get my fall colours "fix". Using last year's trek for timing guidance (check out => and ), I booked off Monday 11/8 to compensate for 4 consecutive weekends with work intrusions (Future City Competition, Chest 2010, Heart Failure Society). Saturday booked for tailgating at the Coyotes-Penguins game (check out => ), and Sunday morning had Lynn committed to teaching Sunday School, so our earliest getaway was noon-ish on Sunday 11/7.

    Packed up the F-150 with Lynn, Skippy, and Chryssie and made a stop at U of A with some Pei Wei takeaway visiting Tobyn at her condo. On the road to Willcox and checked into the local Holiday Inn Express and went on a reconnaissance mission of Willcox Playa (check out => ... laya.shtml ). We will have to make a "serious" attempt to make it out to "Wings over Willcox" (check out => ) January 12-16, 2011 this year...

    Monday morning we were up at dawn's first light with the dogs demanding their breakfast and morning constitutional. We made it to the trail head about 8:30am without a person or vehicle in sight. Colours were substantial in the lower drainage, but nowhere near last year's showcase. Definitely a "wow-factor" once we made it to Ash Creek Spring where the aspen were at their peak!

    First time "overnighting" with both dogs. Shih Tzu on the trail was interesting, Springer Spaniel had a blast (of course). 92 images on the 7D, 91 images on the Rebel XT - it's going to take a few days before I can review any of the photos... :D
    Sunset Loop Drive to Galiuro Wilderness
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    Galiuro's Revisited

    Escape route on Sunday from the the Ash Creek Canyon/Bassett Peak photo orgy. Goofin' around with different HDR workflows leveraging CS3, QTPFSGUI, and EASYHDR. ... 0b1#102784 :sweat:

    viewtopic.php?f=24&t=3221&p=27848&hilit=hdr+photography#p27848 :sweat:

    Fall colours at Ash Creek, Oak Creek, High Creek, and along the washes near Bonita...
    Sunset Loop Drive to Galiuro Wilderness
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    A 3 day photo orgy soaking in the fall colours of Bassett Peak/Ash Creek Canyon. A detailed write-up will follow when I get the chance...

    First trip to the Galiuro Wilderness. Also check out Sunset Loop photos posted under new Hike Description :)
    Sunset Loop Drive to Galiuro Wilderness
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    Part of a 3-day weekend enjoying the fall colours in Ash Creek Canyon and Bassett Peak (check out ). First time visitor to the Galiuros. Fascinating bit of history around these parts... :)

    Found a "gem" for historical reference :) :) Also check out and step through the pages for more information. :) :) :)

    Also made a stop at the nearby "Crop Circle Winery" but it was closed. :( Anybody know the story there? Victim of the economy??

    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 scenic drive
    From Phoenix (or Tucson)
    1. Take I-10 east about 190 miles until you reach Wilcox AZ.
    2. Take exit 340 for Fort Grant Road.
    3. Travel about 18 miles north on Fort Grant Road.
    4. At the stop sign, turn left onto Ash Creek Road.
    5. Travel about 3 miles west until you reach the 4-way stop at the intersection of Ash Creek Road and Fort Grant Road.
    6. Continue west leaving the pavement onto the graded dirt road. This is the start of the Sunset Loop.
    page created by Randal_Schulhauser on Nov 15 2009 12:13 am
    3 pack - loud whistle
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