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Pine Mountain Verde Rim Loop, AZ

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Guide 70 Triplogs  5 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Camp Verde > Dugas
3.9 of 5 by 24
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 9.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,240 feet
Elevation Gain 1,650 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,875 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 19.18
Interest Seasonal Creek & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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9  2018-09-08
Nelson - Verde Rim - Salt Flat Loop
8  2018-09-08
Nelson - Verde Rim - Salt Flat Loop
6  2017-11-05 friendofThunderg
16  2017-11-04 Nightstalker
7  2017-11-04
Pine Mountain Wilderness
20  2017-11-04
Pine Mountain Plus
12  2017-05-20 ThirstyLizard
3  2017-05-12 CanyonWanderer
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,825
Trips 4,256 map ( 21,429 miles )
Age 49 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  6:12am - 6:31pm
Official Route
8 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
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Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Blazzin Beauty
by joebartels

From the Salt Flat Trailhead follow the Nelson Trail for 2.5 miles to the junction. Go left or basically straight on the Willow Spring Trail 1.5 miles to a junction. Go right on the Verde Rim Trail for 1 mile to a junction. Go right on the Pine Mountain Trail for 1.5 miles back down to the Willow Spring junction. Finally head back 2.5 miles to the trailhead on the previously traveled Nelson Trail.

Pine Mountain Wilderness is a sweet little area out in the middle of nowhere. Roughly 25 miles west of Payson and 40 miles east-southeast of Prescott. The wilderness itself is split by the Verde Rim approximately 40% in the Prescott NF and 60% in the Tonto NF. All the trails fall into the Prescott NF side. The Tonto side is primarily the steep drop of the Verde Rim making it inaccessible.

Access to the wilderness is long but not overly difficult. From Cortes Junction continue north on I-17 to the Dugas Exit. Salt Flat Trailhead is located 18.4 miles east on Dugas Rd / FR 68

I'll note at this time there are couple options for loop hikes in this wilderness. The route described here is optimum for a moderate day hike. More options are available for backpackers or extreme day hikes. Those options are known to include sections of bushwhacking. A decent map of the trails can be found in Scott S Warren's "Exploring Arizona's Wild Areas". Whereas Tom Dollar's "Arizona's Wilderness Areas" doesn't mention this wilderness or it's neighboring brother Cedar Bench Wilderness.

The trail starts from the Salt Flat campgrounds. A trail register is on the opposite side of the road from the trail. Head out on the Nelson Trail. I don't remember if it said "Nelson Trail" anywhere but there's only two options. The correct route here is straight ahead not a sharp right. Okay, immediately you'll pass through a fence. The trail starts out wide as I'm sure it used to be a road. The first couple miles follow Sycamore Creek. Among the trees are some huge sycamores. Go figure!

My first thoughts were "man this is incredible". After a twenty mile drive though barren desert the surroundings certainly are inviting! The creek follows on your right for a short distance before crossing once. Rocks are few and far between so choose your footing well as you cross. Sycamore Creek will be on your right from here on. Cattle graze the area so keep an eye out for steaming land mines. Several seeps cross the trail. No lack of water issues even during the drought conditions of April 2002. Continue on to the first major junction at 2.5 miles, Willow Springs.

Go left or basically straight ahead on Willow Springs Trail for 1.5 miles to the Verde Rim Trail. Along this section things quickly turn bleak and that's putting it lightly. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me as I heard distant coon hound yelps. Anyhow, I headed into this section having passed three springs and expecting to pass two more. It seemed bone dry. Then it became apparent the wilderness here suffered a fire. However, the very top of the pines were still green. So you have all the trees still standing and providing adequate shade. A couple horsemen passed and wouldn't ya know it! Approximately eight fine looking dogs followed. Guess I spooked one named Cheryl as she wasn't happy to see me. I took a WIDE route around ol' Cheryl! So I continue on trying to figure out where the red fern grows... okay bad joke. Then things turned worse. The fire must have been much hotter or moved slower in the next area as everything was dead. Only to continue on to a small section where everything was totally wiped out.

The trail becomes more of a challenge to follow as it's very faint. On this calm day I was basically following the faint swath through the pine needles. A cairn here and there. Then I looked up, turned around. If I wasn't of sound mind I probably would have been a little terrified. I'm thinking... "how did I get here" A half hour or hour ago I was following a clear running creek in cool shade. Now I'm standing out in the middle of some lunar planet!

A few glimpses of greenery where the fire must have changed directions puts a little spirit back in the sole. The trail now makes a serious haul up to the Verde Rim. You know killer views are coming so naturally the pace quickens. The trail doesn't quite go to the edge but a use-trail makes it's way out to the views. After you take in five minutes of views you start to think about getting back onto the trail. Only to turn to your right and happen to notice "oh, there's Pine Mountain". Hmmm, man that's steep. Oh well that doesn't concern me, the book says the trail doesn't come within a quarter mile of the peak.

Back on the trail as if you're approaching the junction again... take a right onto the Verde Rim Trail. You can't help but notice it says 1/2 mile to Pine Mountain. Sure enough, it is, one half mile, straight UP! Okay it's not that bad. There's plenty of switchbacks and it is short lived. Another plus is the forest here didn't fall victim to a forest fire. Work your way through the switchbacks. The book was right the trail comes just shy of the actual peak. If you really wish to bag the peak there is a signed junction to make things easier. I passed on the option.

Continuing on, you are traveling very close to the edge of the rim. It's kind of cool walking along knowing the earth drops out shortly to your left. Every now and then a view comes into play. However some of the better views are looking down across Pine Mountain Wilderness on your right. If you look behind every now and then you'll notice you are hiking at the same elevation as Pine Mountain. Technically four feet lower at best but darn near. With the next major junction also comes the best Verde Rim viewing opportunity. It looks like a hang glider launch but we all know that's a no no in a wilderness.

From the junction hang an obvious right which is DOWN to complete this lasso loop of a hike. It's pretty steep going down in sections. This is fire damaged wilderness again but the trail is obvious. Pass the Clover junction going straight/right on back to the Willow Spring junction. You know the way home from here.

Despite the fire damage I recommend this loop hike. There's enough variations to keep you interested. I believe the other trails offer decent backpacking options too.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2002-04-23 joebartels
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    100 Classic Hikes - 2007

Prescott FS Details
The views from this long trail are spectacular. Most impressive is the general view of the extremely rugged country below this rim to the Verde River. From here you can also see the Mazatzal Mountains to the east, Four Peaks to the south, and the Bradshaw Mountains to the west.

Maps, other resources: Prescott National Forest, east half; U.S.G.S. topographic 7.5' quad for Tule Mesa

Trail layout: This is a fairly level trail, traversing along the edge of the Verde Rim for much of its length. The climb to Pine Mountain, however, is difficult. The trail does not actually go to the top of the mountain, though it is only a short but steep hike from the trail to the top. At about mile 2.0, just as you start the climb to Pine Mountain, TR #12 intersects from the west. At mile 2.75 TR #14 also intersects from the west. At about mile 4.5 the trail heads west and then northwest into the Bishop Creek drainage and ends at its junction with TR #159.

Southwest of the intersection with TR #14, the fire that burned Pine Mountain in 1989 burned especially hot in this area.
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 of 20 deeper Triplog Reviews
Pine Mountain Verde Rim Loop
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Met up with Lee and the pups for a fun hike north of Phoenix. We met at the Happy Valley Park N Ride at 6am and made the drive up. We turned off at the Dugas / Orme exit and headed east. The long dirt road turned into a pain! Overall the road is in good condition but very long and tedious! We were driving in right after the sun peaked over the horizon and spent most of drive with a blinding sun directly in our eyes! We were both glad when we arrived at the TH around 8am. Speaking of that we pulled in and parked next to Chumley’s truck who was car camping. He was sleeping in the back of his truck and I’m glad he didn’t shoot us after waking him up!

We hung out with Chumley for about 20 minutes and then started our hike. The trail is in good condition as it makes a steady climb. The lower canyon had lots of water and some nice fall colors. We continued up and hit the start of our lasso and opted for a clockwise loop. We continued up and topped out on Pine Mountain. Once there we soaked in the views and ate a snack. From there we continued along the rim and eventually started our descent back to the TH. We cruised down and were back to the TH around 1pm. Chumley was long gone so we packed up and made the drive back to Phoenix.

This was a nice hike and I’m glad I can finally check it off the list. The road is a pain but the hike is worth doing at least once. Thanks to FOTG for driving!
Pine Mountain Verde Rim Loop
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I had been wanting to get back out to this area since my first hike in the area a couple years ago. The return trip was well worth it and the place still left a good impression on me, but the drive in sucks and I can't believe I had forgot that.

Luckily with the fall colors and the big views from the rim today, the long drive became an afterthought pretty quickly. This is a really nice area this time of year and a quaint, but worthy little wilderness area. We only saw one person all day (a hunter) and moved pretty quickly on the generally nice trail. The views from the rim were especially nice today due to some nice clouds. There were also some nice sections of fall colors along the way and just about perfect hiking temperatures.
Pine Mountain Verde Rim Loop
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Pine Mountain Plus
Spent the weekend at Salt Flat Campground. Saturday Matt and I hiked a north loop to Pine Mtn. The weather was perfect! The leaves were sporadic to start, and just a little bit blah/dull overall. Not quite the saturated color I would have hoped for.

There was a truck at the trailhead with a HAZ sticker, but we didn't manage to cross paths with @nightstalker. We did cross paths with @mr14ner, the 3rd time that's happened for me!

Sunday 9L and FOTG stopped by in the morning to visit before heading out on a loop of their own.

I made an effort to drive the road to the Rim, but gave up just past the Oxbow Trail since I had been bumping along for over an hour. I could have made it the rest of the way, but it was really slow going, and I just wasn't enjoying it and the end goal of hiking down to Cold Water Spring just wasn't worth the effort I was putting forth.

So I turned around and headed back down to where the road is nice again!
Pine Mountain Verde Rim Loop
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As promised, it was a long drive in. The road is really not in bad shape, but a high clearance is a must on account of a couple of sections. I was surprised to see the campsite at the trail head, and that immediately laid the groundwork for a return trip for some back country car camping. The day was overcast for most of the hike, so conditions were most pleasant. The trail was a bit overgrown in sections, but not to the point that I couldn't find the trail... just a little reminder that long pants would have been a better choice.
Pine Mountain Verde Rim Loop
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Just keeping the tradition alive today by completing another nice Veterans Day hike with Chumley. We picked up an extra this year, as Dave joined us. It was a late start because I am a mean coach and made my boys come in and practice on their morning off. Nevertheless, Chumley was able to plan a nearly perfect afternoon hike.

We completed the Pine Mountain-Verde Rim loop. The drive was not too bad, we appreciated what appeared to be a recently graded road. The temps were great and the trails were in excellent condition for the most part. The views from the rim and Pine Mountain were very nice and there was a considerable amount of water at the lower elevations. There were also several nice sections of Fall colors along the lasso-loop. The hike exceeded my expectations, a nice little area. Nothing in that area was really on my radar until today. Now the wheels in my head are turning, as I think of hikes that could incorporate Pine Mountain, Cedar Bench and the western Mazzys all in one shot.
Pine Mountain Verde Rim Loop
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Pine Mountain Verde Rim
With existing plans dictating a later start and an early finish I lobbied a bit for an actual "fall" hike despite the moderate drive.

Turns out it was a great day. The road was as nice as I've ever seen it. Only the last few miles were a little rough, and those will never change. The rest was nicely graded and smooth despite recent storms. Temps got to the 50s, but by the end of the day, I was happy to have a beanie and gloves, though probably only in the mid 40s it wasn't necessary, just more comfortable.

Only a couple of maples still had some color, but the sycamores flashed some gold, along with ample big green leaves already on the ground. The oaks up here were the ones showing rusty golds most of the day. Great views up top ... the SF Peaks had a very impressive snow pack for November, while the Mazzy ridgeline, 4 peaks and the Supes looked great. Horseshoe lake looks pretty full.

As the responsible party today I acknowledge leading the group astray for an extra 1.1 miles and 22 minutes. My bad!

There were a couple of patches of snow remaining in the most sheltered areas and places where some nasty thorns (perhaps wild rose bushes?) were growing in a few spots along the trail.

There are two apple trees near Nelson spring. I managed to harvest a single green-skinned apple that was tart but good. Earlier in the season this might be a good one!

Glad Dave was able to join us on this special holiday. Special thanks to Lee and the many other Hazzers who have made personal sacrifices to serve our country. :worthy:

A few late maples hanging on, but mostly done. Oaks are rusty gold and approaching peak. Sycamores still have some gold but many have fallen. Lots of green leaves of all varieties on the ground already. Big wind last weekend after the snow impacted everything. Cottonwoods in the canyons on the drive in are just getting going. Another week or two for them.
Pine Mountain Verde Rim Loop
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Great hike for a long weekend, the drive out is half the fun...we left Phoenix a bit after 6 to make the drive up. Dugas road is something, glad we were riding in Nick's truck with 4 wheel drive when necessary. There were only a few really rough spots, but definitely slow going. Pine Mountain Wilderness is gorgeous! Amazing how you can drive through miles and miles of scrub desert with One Seed Juniper as the largest plants on the horizon, and then you turn a corner and it is all pines and oaks. The hike is very pleasant (I don't think we ever cracked 70 while we were out), we did the CCW loop up to the peak. Nice break up top for lunch. Views east off the Verde Rim are fantastic, pictures do not do it justice. Made it back home about 3:30 to enjoy the rest of the weekend with the family. There are some nice longer loop options out here, we did see a few nice camp sites too. Great wildflower show!

Great wildflower color, many different kinds of flowers blooming. Nothing overwhelming, but lots of nice pockets.
Pine Mountain Verde Rim Loop
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The drive is long and fun. My two wheel drive truck made it because of clearance, if there was any rain or mud I would have been stuck...but let us concentrate on the positives. This was a pretty good hike and worth the drive for sure. I will be making at least one more trip out here to explore further. The views at the end were amazing. We missed the changing of the leaves but there was still some good color. The spring water looked so clear and tasty. Should have brought my filter I would have snagged some.

Up hill the whole 1st leg of the trip and a hell of a push at the end. The way in is beautiful.I am amazed every time I drive an hour into scrub brush desert to be delighted with an oasis of life that only a handful of people have cared to come see. We saw turkey, white tail and cows. My first turkey sighting in AZ and I wish the draw on my camera was a little faster. Would also have made some nice thanksgiving diner. If a cow can graze the grass can I graze a turkey or two?

I'm still sore today so it must have been good right?

The leaves have mostly fallen but there is still some good color
Pine Mountain Verde Rim Loop
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What a great loop this more or less is. The less is coming down the Pine Mountain Trail on the west side. In the fall, I would rather do it as an up and back. The trail coming down on the west side isn't much fun though it had its scenic moments.... just too few.

Karl and Kathy got us on the trail around 8:30 AM. It was a brisk but refreshing start. On the way to the TH, (and yes, the road is what it's cracked up to be) we could see strong evidence of fall colors in the canyons and drainages and creek so the excitement built as we got closer to our destination... but not before passing through a herd of deer that had split up (some on each side of the road). And remember Karl, they can't shoot Bambi :) .

The sycamores are HUGE and the leaves were big and turning. This hike starts off with a bang as far as the foilage and then the creek comes into play for quite awhile. I was very pleased as I started sinking into Tibbermode so quickly. The sumac were on fire and in many stages of fall color. The sunlight was hitting them just right and it was hard not to be in awe.

Walking up toward Nelson Spring was interesting. It was flowing substantially and we saw two downed trees that had sizeable leaves growing from their branches. We also noticed several rock walls in this area. And then the creek itself had quite a bit of water. This one area had a couple cool cascades that we had to get photos of and some reflections in the water too.

And then the coup de grace of the hike, though on the way back, the colors were even more intense.... the maples were out in full force :DANCE: and all degrees of color too. We had to get closer so we went off trail to check it out.

Once we hit the Willow Springs intersection, we veered left and soon the guys realized we somehow veered when we should have stayed straight (we all missed it) so we had to backtrack slightly. That's what can happen when you get to gawking. A little ways up this trail we came to some of the more burned section but it was filling in with massive amounts of little pines; in fact too many. It will certainly be a matter of survival of the fittest. Some other trees are also trying to squeeze in. But we all know how greedy pines are about water.

Not too far from the Spring area, we came into another colorful section of the trail with lots of maples in various stages. Here the leaves were much larger that had fallen on the ground so that was nice. We all had to take pictures of each other in this section. We had already done that back at the AZHighways tree.... and we would do it again on the way back cuz the lighting was pretty different.

We had been slowly gaining elevation and though my breathing always get heavier the moment we start any elevation, soon it would start a little more intensely until that last switchback push up to Pine Mtn. It was steep but manageable : rambo : though I stopped twice for about 30 seconds (altho once was to take pics of Humphreys etc). Everyone had hiked ahead of me stopping once to make sure I didn't miss a turn. There is one little false summit before you get to the turn up to Pine Mtn. That is a brief but straight up hike to the summit before you see a giant juniper with golden grass below it.

And as you walk closer to the edge; there it is. THE view :y: ! and more views and more views. Over to your right coming down a mountainside was a see of red too. I have to say those maples photographed much better than they looked. Here we had lunch for about 30 minutes. Kathy brot some great NY apples via their trip to Disneyworld and they were so DELISH! :)

Then it's along the ridge before you start the long haul down on not the best surface (though I originally typed "service" :oplz: ) as it was quite rocky. One of those trail textures that makes you appreciate those smooth city trails. The views are varied due to the burn but there was this one really nice section of junipers that Kathy and I stopped to admire and talk about the burn. You next reach a false bottom not realizing there is still more down. The trail seems to take you down pretty fast and switchbacks are limited.

Eventually (about 2 miles later) and gratefully you reach the Willow Springs intersection where surprisingly (I found this out after loading my route on to HAZ) you still have 700 feet more of down.... but it's over nearly 3 miles. Less than a mile from the intersection, we found ourselves admiring the colors of the trees across (south) Sycamore creek so we went for it. We got up close and personal with the many colored trees :y: and then found ourselves wowed even more as we looked down the bank so we continued and eventually ended up in the dry creek bed. It reminded me very much of Ash Creek Gailuro even though the trees were not as big and as massive. We had a great time making our way down and doing some boulder hopping.

Meanwhile the boys were ahead of us though we knew not where since we continued to admire our surroundings. We did get out of the creek when we found them toward the tail end of the color in the creek bed. Mike pointed out one particularly red maple so I grabbed a photo of that before we continued thinking I finally can come out :pray: of Tibbermode (ya, right!). Well that didn't happen as I could see reflections in the creek and the sun continued to highlight the color of the trees. Oh, we also saw an apple tree.

I noticed the rock walls more this time than I did on the way up. I think because I was taking video I missed the amount of rock walls. We did encounter a nice black angus bull and I jokingly said "well at least we don't have red on".... but both Karl and I had red scarfs. Anyway, there was lots of sumac between us and the bull so I was comfortable with that anyway. The boys pointed out the giant BS along the trail.

We proceeded on though I ended up down at the creek to try and catch some of the glowing reflections :D . It's a pretty steep bank coming out of there so I had to make a bit of a run to get out. Also on the way back we noticed the steep eroded bank that the trail goes on. It is eroding quite a bit so the trail may have to go higher and higher.

Well as you can see, I had another louzy day on the trail.... happens to me so often, ha! We had some beverages at the now pretty much vacant TH before Karl drove us out. It is incredibly scenic though rough ride especially at this time of day. We stopped to pick up a piece of pie (peach in my case) to go. I so enjoy hiking with Kathy (she laughs at all my jokes).

I shot 30 minutes of video but the first one's quality is not the best due to coming in and out of light causing flickering issues off and on. The other two are fine.

Video 1
Video 2
Video 3

Sumac OH MY!, maples, sycamore, oak
Pine Mountain Verde Rim Loop
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We got to the trailhead about 8:15am. The sun still hadn't reached the trailhead so it was quite chilly standing there while everyone got ready. There were several hunters(?) camped in the TH area. We appeared to be the only hikers. It ended up that we had the whole trail to ourselves.

I enjoyed the trail as it was veiled by the trees with just enough sun penetrating to keep the area from being dark. The trail was blanketed in most of the areas by a layer of leaves resulting in a satisfying crunching sound as we walked by. Which was then augmented by Angela crushing pinecones.:)

The maple and oak trees appeared to be about in the peak of their color. The reds of the maples just jumped out ahead beside the trail. For some reason every time we passes a maple tree Angela and Kathy seemed to disappear for awhile. I was surprised that the ground was covered in many areas with acorns, but only one squirrel was sighed. No signs of eaten acorns were noticed. What's up with that?

Did have one unfortunate event, while moving into position to take a picture with camera in one hand and sunglasses in the other my feet got tangled in the undergrowth. Luckily only my sunglasses and dignity were damaged.

There wasn't a lot of water in the creek. Most of what there was came from Nelson Place Spring, which was flowing very nicely.

Just as we had resigned ourselves to the complete lack of wildlife, on the way back behind a small stand of red sumac just off the trail was the biggest black bull I've seen. Angela informed us that he was an angus. My only comfort was that he thought he was hiding from us behind the sumac.

Many thanks to Karl for driving us to the TH including the "beautiful" Forest Road 68. The road had a lot to be improved, but the views were spectacular.

Permit $$

Prescott Forest
Prescott National Forest Pass

Only trailheads with six "amenities" have fees. Amenities are picnic tables, trash, toilet, parking, interpretive signing and security.

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To hike
Take I-17 North of Cortes Junction the the Dugas Exit 268. Go east on Dugas Rd for 18.4 miles to the trailhead. You'll pass through the big town of Dugas around 6-7 miles in. There's a creek to cross in town. Which was flowing surprisingly well for the dry conditions of April 2002. A car could make it to the trailhead under the best conditions. On the other hand... if it rained some of the smaller 4x4 vehicles would be challenged in the thick heavy mud.

2012-11-04 jmhuff writes: After turning off on the Dugas Exit go towards Dugas, not the Orme School Direction. At appx 11.2 miles you will turn right. The sign at that 11.2 miles will show Pine Mountain to the right. The sign is weathered and hard to read and you don't want to go straight as that gets very primitive quickly. After turning right at that 11.2 mile mark there will be a small sign with 68 on it. This road ends at the Salt Campground. Don't recommend anything but a high clearance and allow for as much as an hour from I-17 to campground. At campground look for sign with 159, that's your trail head up Sycamore Canyon.
1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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