GET Segment 11 overview
PLEASE NOTE: THIS SEGMENT'S CURRENT DESCRIPTION, TOTAL MILEAGE, AND GPS ROUTE REPRESENT A NEW LAYOUT FOR 2014.
Our route descends the eastern foothills of the Pinaleño Mountains to join the broad Gila Valley on the outskirts of Safford. Last encountered in Segment 3, the Gila River here is truly a ribbon of life in this otherwise arid valley of greasewood and mesquite. Aided by a mild, Sonoran-Chihuahuan desert climate, the Gila's reliable flow permits the growing of cotton, the staple commodity of Safford's agricultural economy. You'll pass acres of the fluffy white stuff toward the end of this segment as well as in Segment 12; much of it is grown well away from the river thanks to an elaborate network of aqueducts. (The main GET route doesn't actually cross the Gila until the next segment.)
Hikers begin alongside the riparian canyon of lower Ash Creek (via FR 307, the vehicle approach to the trailhead), then strike off on an adventurous cross-country shortcut toward Mud Springs Knoll, an intriguing landmark where the foothills of Mount Graham meet the open desert. Dry plains and low mesas, dotted with creosote bush and uninhabited, now serve us our companions for several miles of dirt road walking toward the rural outskirts of Thatcher and Safford, Joining 8th Street, our route then heads right on through the bustle of town, a natural stopover for hikers, with numerous services located nearby along US 70, about a quarter mile away. Don't be surprised if you're greeted with the occasional smile and wave from passing motorists; Safford's townfolk are accustomed to seeing self-propelled travelers about, thanks to the Southern Tier bicycle route that comes through town.
Water is available only near the start and end of this segment, at Ash Creek as well as (small, fragile) Mud Spring, and in Thatcher / Safford, respectively. Quiet camping opportunities present themselves here and there in the first half of this terrain, particularly around Mud Springs Knoll.
As a noteworthy aside, a bit north of the GET near the start of this segment lies Cluff Ranch wildlife area. Those approaching this segment by vehicle (as well as mountain bikers and equestrians disinterested in this segment's brief cross-country travel and game for improvising a longer way into Safford) pass by Cluff Ranch along Ash Creek Road, a couple of miles north of the GET route. Administered by the Arizona Department of Game & Fish, the wildlife area supports a variety of upland bird and small game species, as well as a healthy population of white-tailed deer. Scattered small ponds in the area, fed by Ash Creek, attract migratory waterfowl. Fishing is permitted here, as is seasonal hunting, while the surrounding groves of cottonwoods and willows are inviting to all. Developed water is available, as is a short network of trails that wind through the property.
A detailed, mile-by-mile description of this segment is available in the official GET guidebook. See www.GrandEnchantmentTrail.org
This segment of the GET forms part of a longer trip option between resupply locations, as described below:
GET Segments 6 - 11, Mammoth to Safford
East of AZ Hwy 77 the Grand Enchantment Trail heads into Sonoran desert foothills of the sky-island Galiuro Mountains, wherein lies the entrance to spectacular Aravaipa Canyon (BLM Wilderness). Sheer canyon walls rise a thousand feet above the lush, deciduous banks of perennial Aravaipa Creek, where we linger, wet feet and broad smiles, for some 12 unforgettable miles. Quiet dirt roads resume east of the canyon, leading within range of the remote outpost of Klondyke - another potential maildrop resupply location - before our route turns northeast to climb into the extreme rugged terrain of the Santa Teresa Wilderness (Coronado National Forest). Little-used trails provide supreme solitude as we navigate the adventurous granite-domed wonderland of Holdout Canyon, then over 7000-foot Cottonwood Mountain near well-named Pinnacle Ridge, and south to reach Klondyke Road. A fun yet challenging cross-country connection culminates at Tripp Canyon, where the GET soon rejoins foot trail to climb high into the forested Pinaleño Mountains (Coronado NF), passing serene Riggs Lake and the viewful fire tower atop 10,000-foot Webb Peak, where snow may linger well into spring. The desert heat seems as far away as the distant horizon atop this tallest of Arizona's Sky Island ranges, where broad panoramas reveal such distinguished neighbors as the Rincons, Huachucas, Chiricahuas, as well as the Mogollon Mountains in New Mexico farther along the GET. Leaving the high country by and by, we follow the magnificent craggy defile of forested Ash Creek Canyon on down toward the open desert nearly a vertical mile-and-a-half below, passing through an astonishing range of life zones in only a few miles of travel. Finally the route joins quiet greasewood-flanked dirt roads to reach the outskirts of bustling Safford, with most services available.
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.