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Solitude and Variety
Nestled halfway between the popular Santa Catalina and the towering Pinaleno Mts lie a seldom-visited gem - the Galiuro Mountains. Even though it's only around 100 air miles from Phoenix, it takes approximately 5 1/2 hours to get there from Phoenix due to its remote location. But it's worth the effort to get there. It has such variety of scenery such as oak, pines, cactus, aspen and more. This time of year is an especially good time to go not only because of the weather but the changing Fall colors are outstanding. In fact, Arizona Highways has an article in the November 2003 issue on the Galiuros and the changing colors. Anyway, on to the trail.
The trail starts at the end of FR 660 and heads up the North Fork of Ash Creek. A sign marks the beginning of the trail. This part of the trail is heavily wooded and stays on fairly level ground for the first 2.5 miles or so. This is also where all the brilliant displays of Fall colors manifest themselves. Be sure to enjoy it. At the midway point of this hike, you will come to an isolated but beautiful stand of about 30 or so aspen fed in part due to Upper Ash Springs. This would be a good turnaround point for those who don't want to go all the way to the top. But for those who want to keep going, the trail takes a dramatic turn. At this point, you will bear right across the Ash Creek and follow the trail up the north side of the canyon out of the riparian area and into the high desert, leaving the Aspen behind you. Here the trail gets steeper, but it's not too bad. Along the way you will see interesting rock formations and volcanic formations. You will also have a great view of 7650' Bassett Peak. In a relatively short time, you will have gained a considerable amount of elevation, which can be evidenced by looking back and referencing the aspen grove far below.
After about 4 miles, you will come to the ridgeline of the Galiuros. At the ridge you will come across another trail sign. From here, take a left and start heading south along the ridgeline on the East Divide Trail #287. To your left will be outstanding views of the Santa Catalina/Rincon Mts to your right. On certain parts of the ridgeline, there will be great views of the switchbacks you just did and more views of the lone aspen grove below. After about 1 mile on the ridgeline, the trail will start to switchback on the north face of Bassett Peak. As you approach these switchbacks, you will notice to your right something shining a few hundred feet away - this is the remains of a B-24 bomber that crashed into the side of this cliff during a WWII training run in 1943 killing all 11 men on board. Apparently, there is a plaque on one of the wings commemorating the unfortunate accident. It would be a very steep downhill climb to get to the wreckage from the trail, but I suppose you could do it. Soon the trail will climb out of the switchbacks and head along the west face of Bassett Peak. No trail goes directly to the top, but from the trail, you are only 150 feet or so from the top, which makes an easy bushwhack. At the top you have magnificent views. You can see as far west to Baboquivari Peak and east into the mountains of New Mexico. But your more immediate views are that of the Pinalenos to the east and Catalinas to the west. There is also a nice view to the south of the ridgeline of the Galiuros and to the southeast to the foothills of the Galiuros.
Return the same way you came to get back to your car. By the time you get back, it will undoubtedly be when the sun is setting, and you will have great shots of the Galiuros and the Pinalenos/Mt. Graham.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This is a moderately difficult hike.