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Cornucopia via E. Fork Sycamore Creek, AZ

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Guide 16 Triplogs  1 Topic
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,970 feet
Elevation Gain 925 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,300 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 19.5
Interest Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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20  2016-03-13
25A-Thicket Spring loop
20  2015-04-12
Saddle - Thicket - West Fork - Cornucopia
9  2014-04-23 Sredfield
2  2013-11-02
Gold Ridge Trail #47
24  2012-12-21
Peak 6310
45  2012-03-24
Saddle Mountain Mine Tour
26  2011-11-08 AZLumberjack
19  2011-11-08 Grasshopper
Page 1,  2
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
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Preferred   Oct, Apr, May, Mar → Early
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
5 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
mercury madness revisited
by PrestonSands

Overview: This hike uses early 20th century mine roads to take one from the East Fork of Sycamore Creek to the West Fork, in Arizona's Mazatzal Mountains. Why hike this jeep trail? Because if you don't have a high clearance, four wheel drive jeep, you won't otherwise get to see this beautiful stretch of Mazatzal country, with its green hills, narrow canyons, and one hundred year old mercury mines. This hike also creates an optional starting point for the Cornucopia-Thicket Spring Loop and Saddle Mountain Mine Tour hikes.

History: Mercury ore, in the form of cinnabar, was discovered on the West Fork of Sycamore Creek in 1911 by E.H. Bowman. A flurry of prospecting activity followed, resulting in the location of ten other groups of claims in the Sycamore and Slate Creek areas by 1926. Mercury mining continued sporadically in the area until about the 1960's. This hike passes by the Oneida Mine on the L&N claim group, and the Cornucopia Mine on the Robbins claim group.

The Oneida Mine was discovered and developed by Chris Martin. Martin constructed a log cabin and a crude retort (mercury processing furnace), where he processed some cinnabar. Martin and his dog were reportedly poisoned while operating the retort, and later sold the mine to the Arizona Quicksilver Corporation, who tunneled extensively into the hillside.

The Cornucopia Mine was active from around 1921 to 1925. A camp existed near the mine at that time, consisting of a blacksmith shop and a compressor building, along with dining and bunkhouse tents for the miners. Little remains to be seen at the Cornucopia Mine, but the extensive tunnels at the Oneida Mine are intact and might make for an interesting exploration. Be careful, and should you see any droplets of silvery liquid in the mine, I suggest that you do not touch them. Martin's cabin, which stood intact until at least the early 1980's, is gone, but the foundation remains.

Hike: From the road junction (33.96775 N, 111.45003 W) on Forest Road 201, Forest Road 201A (this hike) drops off the ridge top into a short side canyon of East Fork Sycamore Creek, among Arizona cypress trees and thick chaparral. It soon becomes apparent why hiking this road rather than driving it is the best choice, as the road negotiates massive wash outs and boulder filled creek beds.

Emerging from the side canyon at 0.7 miles, our road arrives at the East Fork of Sycamore Creek. A spur road to the left leads a short distance to an abandoned mercury retort and what may have been the foundation of a mercury mill. Our road turns upstream (right) and passes over the cement pad of Chris Martin's old cabin, before crossing the creek and reaching the abandoned tunnels of the historic Oneida Mine.

Leaving the mine site, our road turns south to ascend a steep little side canyon. There are some great views of Pine Mountain and the East Fork as the road gains elevation. The route makes a circuitous climb out of the cypress filled side canyon, and finds itself on a ridge, which it follows up to the divide between the East Fork and West Fork of Sycamore Creek. The ridge offers an exceptional view of the southern Mazatzals and the distant Sierra Ancha.

Arriving at the Sycamore Creek divide, Forest Road 201A reaches a four way intersection and the hike's high point at 2.2 miles (33.96808 N, 111.47106 W). Continue straight on Forest Road 3722, which descends the west side of the divide. This steep and rocky stretch features views of Mazatzal Peak and Mount Peeley, with Saddle Mountain to the west.

Once it drops to a saddle at 5200 feet, our road turns south to descend a side canyon of the West Fork of Sycamore Creek, among cypress, crumbly purple slate, and the upper workings of the Cornucopia Mine. A steep descent on the loose rock of Forest Road 3722 soon deposits you at the bottom of the West Fork at 3 miles (33.9657 N, 111.4813 W).

A left turn to follow Forest Road 25A (along the route of the Saddle Mountain Mine Tour hike) will take you to the Sunflower Mine site in just over a mile. A right turn follows the Cornucopia Trail #86 up the West Fork, taking you to the site of the historic Cornucopia Mine in 0.15 miles. Continue past the Cornucopia Mine for a half mile to tie into the route of the Cornucopia-Thicket Spring Loop hike.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2010-02-14 PrestonSands
    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
    Cornucopia via E. Fork Sycamore Creek
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    It was a day of climbing!

    I started at the Deer Creek TH and took the Gold Ridge trail up to FR201.
    A lot of the dead fall has been cleared near the upper trailhead!

    I went down to East Fork Sycamore Creek and looped back to FR201 via FR201a. Then I went to the Peely TH and up the Mazatzal divide trail. I noticed that there were neon green paint on some of the rocks along the Mazatzal trail.
    The upper Deer Creek trail has been cleaned up. There's a carbonate post an official forest service trail sign. At least the first 100 feet of the trail has been cleaned of dead fall. I briefly considered taking the Deer Creek trail back, but the memories of Grasshopper and me searching for trail changed my mind. I returned via the Gold Ridge trail.

    The lower elevations were warm and the uppers were cold when the wind was blowing. Once the sun dropped and I went below 5,000 feet, the temps were perfect.

    Even though there was 2 vehicles at the TH, I didn't see any other hikers and only 2 Jeeps.
    Cornucopia via E. Fork Sycamore Creek
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I set out to see the damage of the Sunflower fire. I parked at the intersection of FR210 & FR25. There was a troop of Boy Scouts getting ready for a backpack. A couple of adults came over to ask if I've been to the mine at the end of FR201a. I told them that I've never been to that one. They mentioned that they got the idea from HikeAZ and that one of the scout leaders was Preston the Yenti's dad.

    I headed down FR25. About 1.30 miles in, I got sidetracked. I came to a decommissioned road behind a locked gate. I've always wondered what was behind here. My GPS showed that the road was about half mile long. I went down and saw the remains of some structures and the road went into the East Fork of the Sycamore creek. The creek was wide and mostly sandy. After a bit it turned into a box canyon with ample shade. I set my turn around point to whenever there was any rock hoping or climbing. To my surprise I didn't find any. There was maybe two spots with some rocks. Then a there was some water flowing down the creek. At one point, I saw the boy scouts up on FR201. I also found a busty water gauge in the creek. I hit a T section that was burned out. The creek flowed from the left, so I followed it. My GPS showed that the creek crossed a FR. So that was my new interim goal, to find the road and see where it takes me.

    Right by the road was a mine and a furnace. This is the mine that the boy scouts were going to! I hiked up FR201a and saw the troop. We talked a bit and I headed back down FR201a. I found a semi-fresh graded road right off of 201a. It lead to a pretty flat area and continued on for about 1/4 mile. I wonder if this was used as a staging area for the Sunflower fire. I returned to FR201a and took it to a 4 - way intersection. To the south was FR4721 (that leads to FR25a), to the west was FR201a(that leads to the Davey Gowan TH) and to the east was an unnumbered road (that one leads back to the locked gate).

    I took the FR4721 to FR25a. FR4721 had some pretty bad washouts on it. At FR25A,I turned to the East and headed towards FR25. Right before the bridge was a major washout, that would stop all vehicles from passing. The bridge was covered in sand. About a 1/4 mile from FR25, there was a new locked gate. Then past that, FR25a had a major 10 foot wide washout. It was too steep to climb down, so I bushwhacked around it.

    Now I finally was going up to the Mormon Groove TH. The fire did a number on FR25. I took me a bit to figure out where the road was or is. This area needs some serious work to allow vehicle to get through. Once I started climbing up FR25, the road was pretty good. There was a couple of rough spots and one rock slide.

    At the Mormon Groove TH, there's a new ~10foot radio tower. I'm guessing this was a radio repeater for the fire fighters.

    I went down the Little Saddle trail for a couple of miles. There are some burnt sections. The silver lining to the fire is that now you have some better views of the area. I could see some roads that I couldn't before.

    I returned down FR25 to the Jeep. I was in the dark for the last hour.
    Cornucopia via E. Fork Sycamore Creek
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    After our drive to Mount Peeley trail head to check on GPS Joe information and put up a couple posters, we wanted to do some sort of memorial hike on the anniversary of Joe's disappearance. We initially wanted to hike Mount Peeley but there was just too much snow for us.

    We stopped just before our trailhead because that's where Hank stopped [-( . I'm glad we did as we got to be right in the middle of the clouds coming up and out of the valley and over the road we were standing on. We then drove to the real trailhead, geared up (Gibbs has got nothin on us :lol: ) and headed on down the slightly snow-covered hill. It was a bit cold going down, with patches of icy snow until we got to the creek at the bottom. I must say, it seemed a long way down and I was mindful that we would have to come back this same long "UP" hill way :sweat: :lol: .
    Once we were at the creek and were treated to some autumn-leaved sycamores :FG: , Hank took us over to the Dodge truck (I recognized it as an old Dodge as those pick-ups looked quite a bit alike for a long time; we had chased horses in the pasture in one of those relics back in the day). Unfortunately, the shiny chromed label had been attacked with more bullet holes; such a shame. We checked out the adit which was not too far away and then Hank took us over to the retort.

    The what? the retort. Oh that. Anyway, it was a pretty cool mining equipment thing. I think Hank got a really good picture of it I wonder :-k if someone should trim the tree in front of it so that it doesn't totally disappear. Next it was up the hill... oh and ANOTHER hill. You know one of those where you think it's gonna flatten out around the corner. :lol: At least it's a pretty decent trail especially as you get near the top.

    We did get to go thru a snowy section. We stopped in an area where Jack decided to build a little snowman. Hank and I were his assistants. That was a much better idea than throwing snow balls! :DANCE: We rounded the corner and the snow covered trail was no longer snow covered. In just a little while we would arrive toward the top and the views would open up; mostly of Ord. Toward the top we encountered some more snow and some mud.

    We reached the trails confluence where the views were :y: . We looked longingly toward Sheep Mountain and all wondered, "Where are you Joe? :lone: " We enjoyed a short lunch before heading back down the mountain. It was a beautifully crisp day and the views going down were pretty great too. We took a detour on what looked like a good path but it led to nowhere. We hiked past our still-standing snowman and waved good bye.

    At the bottom, Hank realized he had forgotten to show us another adit so we went over and checked it out before starting the long trek up the hill to the TH. As we got about 1/2 way up, Hank was out of sight as he went around one of the corners. These boys were on a mission and I did my best to keep up. I went UP :sweat: that hill in almost one long swoop stopping once for 2 minutes to catch my breath. It took us about 20 minutes to get down I think and about 1/2 hour to get up it, give or take. We all stopped to pick up trash from the creek bottom up to the top

    This was a lovely day for a hike and though we thot it might be a little nippy, for the most part it was just right :D . Hank got a chance to reminisce and share his hiking experience with GPSJoe in this area and other trips (especially the one where they actually turned around). It was a very nice memorial hike. I look forward to hopefully doing some more hiking here :).

    In case you missed it: Video from our drive and at Mount Peeley Trailhead - (if you like snowy roads and countryside, you'll enjoy this)
    Video of our cloud bank stop and the first part of our hike as we get near the top -
    Video of our last little bit getting to the top and of our hike back to the trailhead -
    Cornucopia via E. Fork Sycamore Creek
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Angela, Jack, and I made an early morning 4x4 drive up FR201 to the Mount Peeley TH for an anniversary, memorial visit to pay our respects to GPSjoe-Joe Domin, missing one year from this day. On the Mount Peeley TH information board, we replaced our "GPSjoe Missing Person Poster" along with posting an anniversary remembrance note from our HAZ and AZH community.

    With a later morning (11am) start on this above hike description's historic route in the same general area, we three enjoyed a 2.4 mile hike in on this routes old mercury mining-Jeep road sections to end with a nice lunch break and respectful reflections at this hikes highpoint at 5413ft with a good view to one of GPSjoe's favorite Mazatzal Wilderness mountains- Sheep Mountain Peak 6996ft.

    It was an especially peaceful day with nice temps, afternoon blue skies, long distance views, good company, some lingering snow to enjoy, and good memories for me of a present and past visit.
    Cornucopia via E. Fork Sycamore Creek
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This was a roller coaster of a hike with slightly warmer temps than I would have preferred, but still a great hike. We also added in the Cornucopia-Thicket Spring loop.

    We saw a White-tail deer at the start of the Cornucopia trail. He was no more than 20' from us when we both surprised each other. We broke for lunch at Thicket Spring and while checking out the spring I ran across a Arizona Black Rattlesnake enjoying a nice cool drink.

    Great views along the way at the high points. Cornucopia at the beginning was a little over grown; the West Fork trail #260 was really overgrown. At one point my right forearm from the elbow down was covered in blood.
    Cornucopia via E. Fork Sycamore Creek
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    In February of this year Preston detailed this great new Mazatzal Wilderness access area in this new HAZ hike description write-up. I've always enjoyed hiking the many Mazatzal trail options north of the Mormon Grove TH and SW of the Mount Peeley TH. I have become very tired of needing to hike in every time from these two THs to access the numerous inner Mazzie trail options and the old historic mercury mine tour hikes that now reside on HAZ.

    This hike description provides a new TH access point into this section of the Mazatzal's hiking in from the Mount Peeley Road- FR201 at it's intersection with FR201A (see hike description driving directions and my posted GPS Driving Route to the TH-Parking from Hwy 87).

    On this hike in with time allowed at the historic Oneida Mercury Mine Complex at the East Fork of Sycamore Creek, it is a great exercise and fairly strenuous hike of ~6 miles R/T with 2300 ft AEG from the TH Start to the West Fork of Sycamore Creek (at upper FR25A) and back. Upon reaching the West Fork of Sycamore Creek, your additional "Mazatzal Wilderness" hike options begin:
    ..Option #1..turn left for ~1+ mile on the West Fork of Sycamore Creek (FR25A) to access the "Saddle Mountain Mine Tour"--> ;
    ..Option #2..turn right for ~.15 mile to access (off FR25A) the site of the old Cornucopia Mercury Mine adit (now collapsed), then continue up FR25A for an additional ~.25ml to its signed end at the old Blue Ford Van, then continue for an additional ~.25ml to intersect the loop hike option for the "Cornucopia-Thicket Spring Loop"--> ;

    Today, gpsjoe and I really enjoyed doing this hike description which included Option #2 above. This was a really pleasant and great exercise hike (11.5mls R/T with 3849AEG). We have both posted our GPS Routes for this option#2 in and out lolly-pop loop hike along with our pic sets to aid and confirm. It was another amAZing day in our never disappointing Mazatzal Wilderness! :D
    Cornucopia via E. Fork Sycamore Creek
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After a late night concert in Flagstaff, I awoke in Gilbert with Mazatzal fever. I drove up Forest Road 201 with plans of hiking the Cornucopia-Thicket Spring Loop. I changed plans however, and decided to try something different. This was that something. The Reno Pass topo and Google satellite showed this route as actually existing, and I was curious.

    Hiking down to the Oneida Mine, I wondered how my mom and step dad had managed to get their Ford Bronco 2 down this God-awful road back in 1983. This was my first visit to the Oneida Mine since our camping trip there, and I was excited to see if my childhood memories were correct. The mine area looked like what I remembered, but the old log cabin with its metal spring bed and junk was long gone. The cabin foundation and the remnant of a single log was there, though. After poking around, I continued west into new territory for me. The Mazatzals hold a very special place in my heart, and I was in Heaven. :GB:

    Reaching the divide, I was surprised to find that the "pack trail" on the topo map was actually a forest road (if you can call it that!). The hike down FR 3722 was filled with outstanding views of rugged Mazatzal country.

    Down at the West Fork of Sycamore Creek, I turned north onto the Cornucopia Trail, following it up to the Cornucopia Mine and on to the infamous blue truck, where I turned around. On the hike back, I was treated to a lingering sunset over the Sierra Ancha and the rest of the Mazatzal range.

    I stopped at the Oneida Mine one last time to inspect the retort and try to figure out exactly where we had camped three decades ago. Success! We had camped near the retort. I'm not sure if that was a good thing or not ;) . I reached my truck at dark, and enjoyed a night time drive through my favorite country. Today, all was right with the world. Nothing else mattered. :D :D :D

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    Take state highway 87 east to signed turnoff for Sycamore Creek about 0.5 miles north of mile post 222 (near Maricopa/Gila County line). Turn left across divided highway and follow paved road to dirt road on right at 1.2 miles. Cross the cattle guard and go 1.2 miles to the fork of Forest Road 25 and Forest Road 201. Veer right and follow Forest Road 201 for 2.4 miles to the junction with Forest Road 201A on the left. The junction may not be signed, but it is at gps coordinates 33.96775 N, 111.45003 W. There is room to park several vehicles at the junction.
    page created by PrestonSands on Feb 14 2010 3:59 pm
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