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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Black River - Mainstem, AZ

no permit
340 24 2
Guide 24 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine SW
4 of 5 by 8
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Distance One Way 19 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,244 feet
Elevation Gain -900 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 20.5
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Possible & Connecting
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
13  2019-08-30 lanewinblade
2  2017-09-02 MountainMatt
18  2017-08-19 brademan76
53  2015-07-21 ALMAL
18  2014-07-04 chicarex
21  2013-07-12 azbackpackr
15  2013-07-07 azbackpackr
30  2013-05-24 azbackpackr
Page 1,  2,  3
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
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Preferred   Apr, May, Sep, Oct
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:05am - 6:16pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
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Meteorology Nearby
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by HAZ_Hikebot

Likely In-Season!
Below Buffalo Crossing the Black River and the road part company as the stream begins to drop more steeply toward its confluence with the White River deep within the Fort Apache and San Carlos Apache Indian Reservations. The river enters a large canyon here, and the streambed becomes more rocky with fewer pools and longer riffles. Forested slopes close in to narrow the streamside riparian zone and access becomes more limited.

This area is popular with trout anglers trying to find better fishing along more remote stretches of the stream, but it also attracts other forest recreationists as well. The scenery is great and there's a good chance you'll see some interesting wildlife, including black bear which are relatively plentiful here.

This section encompasses the East Fork below Buffalo Crossing and the mainstem of the river from the confluence of the east and west forks to the reservation boundary.

Trail Log
0.0 Buffalo Crossing, trail heads downstream
5.0 Bear Creek confluence
11.0 Centerfire Creek confluence
11.4 Jct with Fish Creek & Fish Creek Trail
12.9 Wildcat Bridge
15.0 Junction with McKibbons Pond route
19.0 San Carlos Apache Indian Res Boundary

Buffalo Crossing, Hannagan, Hoodoo

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2018-07-14 HAZ_Hikebot

    One-Way Notice
    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.

    Most recent of 11 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Black River - Mainstem
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    4th of July hike and maybe a little fly fishing is what we hoped for on this overnight trip. What we found was a lot of traffic just trying to get away and the beginning of the monsoon's. The dogs, wife & I had breakfast at basecamp (my toy hauler parked east of Heber)then headed east towards Big Lake to do the Thompson trail hike that midday before our final destination of West Fork Black river. The parade was just letting out in Show Low and ended taking about an hour and a half to get thru town. Getting to the Thompson trailhead, we were just in time for the afternoon showers, so after waiting to see if the weather would pass we decided just to head over to the Black River. The rain was just as bad there, so we set up our camp at the trailhead parking lot and waited it out.

    It rained all night, but finally stopped in the morning. So we geared up and were preparing to hike all day. We were not sure to start heading east or west, everything was so brushy and "thick". There was a fairly new looking trail sign that was pointing us east, so that is the way we went. The river seamed to be flowing well, but along the bank and the trail everything was so thick. Tried the fly rod a few places where I could get in between the brush, but no luck. The trail seemed to end about a mile in, died into a big canyon wall. We back tracked to see if the trail crossed the river at some point but did not find anything. We were bummed it only went in that far, but decided to go back and try the west route. The west route was worse than the way we had just come from. After passing under the bridge there was no sign of a trail. It was just to thick, especially for the dogs. So we decided to load up and head back and do that Thompson trail hike, the sun was out and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.

    Pulled up to the trailhead and there had to be 15 to 20 cars parked there. Oh why cant I get away from the crowds UGH! Oh well, let's do this. Turned out to be a very nice "picturesque" hike. Reminded me of the Mount Baldy hike. Went in a few miles, very well established trail and an old jeep trail up top above the river, 2 choices both very easy. Thru the fly rod in a few times and stopped to have lunch by the river and just enjoyed the time with the family. There was a monsoon cloud forming above us so we decided to head back after lunch, instead of doing the whole way. I think I convinced the wife to do her 1st backpacking trip with me after doing this one. Maybe Mt. Baldy!
    Black River - Mainstem
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Starting at Wildcat Crossing bridge, (FR 25) we hiked downstream, setting up a base camp for two nights. This was a fantastic trip, and it's going to take me a while to post up everything. We swam, explored and laughed ourselves silly. There were five of us women on the trip. On the second day we hiked downstream but didn't quite reach the reservation boundary. We lucked out that it didn't rain. It spit on us for a few minutes, but the rain stayed upstream, causing the river to rise a little bit overnight. However, the crossings were rarely more than knee deep. I lost count of crossings. We probably crossed more than 20 to 25 times during the course of the weekend, which is why I always call my trips to this place "The Black River Wade."

    I'll be back again to explore more sections, since this is just about my favorite place in Arizona other than Grand Canyon.

    Note: My camera battery died. Some of the photos are mine, others are Deb's, Laurel's and Patty's.

    Lots of monsoon flowers coming out now!
    Black River - Mainstem
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Scouting out the area downstream of Wildcat Crossing Bridge (FR 25) since I am leading a backpacking trip there next weekend. It sure is a super area! Looked for campsites and swimming holes, and found both. The river was mud-colored due to runoff from the Wallow Fire areas. Not much is burned down in this stretch--it's mostly all upstream.
    Black River - Mainstem
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    Wildcat Crossing Bridge (FR 25) upstream almost to Bear Creek.
    Once again, the Black River delivers: beauty, solitude and isolation, wildlife, flowers, etc.
    We spent only one night (having planned on two) due to a minor ailment (mine) and freezing temperatures at night (see ice on boots photo!! :o )

    My friend, Petra from Yuma, and I drove to Wildcat Crossing Bridge and hiked up several miles and set up camp on one of the Black River's fine park-like flats. No campfires are allowed at this time, and we spent a rather chilly evening and cold night. The hiking (and wading!) itself was great, with new awe and wonder around every bend. At one point Petra spotted a large herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, about 18 of them! It appeared that they were waiting for us to get the heck out of there, (darned paparazzi), so they could approach the river for a drink of water.

    On the second day we arose, finding ice on my boots. I was kind of sick (no I was NOT hung over, didn't even drink--maybe that's the problem!) But I recovered by about 10 a.m. and was able to have my breakfast. We decided to leave our backpacking gear and just day hike upstream a few more miles.

    Our destination was Bear Creek, but once we had gotten fairly close to it we reached an area that had been rearranged by the Wallow Fire (on the south side of the river only) and I was a bit confused about where we were. Anyway, we were tired and ready to get back, so we turned around, hiked back to our big packs and headed for the car. All in all, a great overnight backpack, but could easily be done by a strong hiker in a day. We saw a total of 5 people, all of them fly fishermen standing thigh-deep in the river.

    This area gets so little traffic that in the midsection there is almost no trail, and you have to watch for the big cairns to find the best places to cross the river. You have to cross the river many times, which is why I call it "The Black River Wade."
    Black River - Mainstem
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I hiked down the creek that runs off Becker Tanks, between Bear Creek and Beaver Creek. I parked right there at the T intersection where FR 26 hits FR 24.

    FR 24 toward Bear Creek is gated off right now. I heard it's closed because they can't keep the landslides from happening, due to Wallow Fire erosion. I suppose you can walk into the area, but I saw enough recently fallen trees where I was hiking to make me pretty nervous about hiking in fire areas.

    I had planned on hiking along the river, and brought my sandals for crossing it, but the water was running fairly fast and high, so that crossing it did not look like a safe proposition.

    We'd had high winds for several days, and I noticed many live trees down, especially on the flats across the river. So, not just the trees from the fire are falling.

    In the area where I hiked the fire damage is spotty but you can sure see where there was a lot of flooding after the fire.

    A reminder, the Wallow Fire started Memorial Day weekend 2011, burned over 500,000 acres, and wasn't out until July.
    Black River - Mainstem
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Went on a short overnight backpacking trip with people from White Mountain Conservation League, USFWS Mexican Wolf Recovery Project, TRACKS hiking club, and Defenders of Wildlife. We accessed the Black River via the Bear Creek Trail. The hike leader was Don Hoffman, who BUILT the Bear Creek Trail.

    The purpose of the hike was to visit the site where Aldo Leopold killed a she-wolf in 1909 and wrote about it over 30 years later in A Sand County Almanac. He wrote that he "saw the dying green fire in her eyes" and as a result of his experience he began to change his perspective on predator control as a land management tool. Leopold is truly the father of modern conservation practices, having written textbooks on the topic. He is also revered as one of the most inspiring environmentalists of the past 100 years.

    Because of recently found letters to his mother, pretty much the exact location where he shot the wolf has been found, over near the Caldwell Cabin. We hiked up-river, crossing many times, and then climbed the bluff (before reaching Beaver Creek) to the north side of the river. We then gathered at the bluff and took turns reading the essay "Thinking Like a Mountain" from the book. 10 backpackers attended, and 11 more day hikers arrived on Sunday for this very special event.

    It was an interesting weekend, and a lot of fun, too.
    Black River - Mainstem
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I call this one "The Black River Wade." Had fun with a small group on an easy backpacking trip. We camped two nights by the river, having accessed via Bear Creek Trail #66. We hiked upstream. After six or seven crossings we found the swimming hole I'd heard about, plus a rope bridge desperately in need of repair. Water was pretty cold. How come I'm the only one who ever swims these days?
    Black River - Mainstem
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    We accessed the river via the Bear Creek Trail #66, a short access route. Hiked downriver to first crossing, very leisurely pace, stopping a lot to take in the scenery. Very nice day, a few sprinkles, nice and warm and balmy. Ran into some backpackers and their unruly dogs on their way out, then we had to put out the fire in their messy camp when we got to it. Whatever happened to the ethical standard known as "Leave No Trace"? Or "Take only pictures, leave only footprints"? They said they were from Phoenix, four young people. Just in case they see this. Read a book on backpacking next time before you go.

    The late-summer wildflowers are coming out. We saw quite a few yellow columbines.
    Black River - Mainstem
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    Went from Wildcat crossing following the river to a very cool swimming hole with multiple river crossings along the way (I think there were 6 or 7) There was plenty of poison ivy on this trail so watch out for that. Trail was very flat and easy to find along this segment. Water was very refreshing as the temps crept into the low 90's by noon. After the swimming hole, backtracked and hiked a ways up Fish Creek Trail which was sometimes shaded, sometimes open field.

    It was just great to be out of the intense valley heat.

    Black River - Mainstem
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    The Black River is up due to snow melt right now, so making the crossings on foot would be very cold and unpleasant. We hiked only a short distance upstream from Wildcat Crossing. We were reconnoitering for a future hike we are leading for a group. I have backpacked from Bear Creek to Fish Creek, and from Fish Creek to the Black River and upstream from there, in July a couple of years ago. The area is worth many return visits.

    Permit $$
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    Map Drive

    To hike
    Drive south from Alpine 14.5 miles on US 191 to Forest Road 26 about 9.5 miles to Forest Road 24. From this point you can turn left (southwest) about 1.5 miles to Bear Creek for that access route, or turn right (northwest) 3 miles to Forest Road 25 where you'll turn left 1.5 miles to Buffalo Crossing and access to the un-maintained trail that follows the river downstream. Forest Road 25 continues west 12.8 miles to Wildcat Bridge.

    The only road that leads directly to the river in this out-of-the-way area is Forest Road 25, which crosses the mainstem of the Black at Wildcat Bridge. Fish Creek Access Trail serves as the sole developed and maintained trail into the area, but there are a number of unmarked and un-maintained paths used regularly by trout anglers and other riverside recreationists that provide additional access.

    Streamside paths extend down river from Buffalo Crossing and both up and downstream from Wildcat Bridge. These trails are more regularly used and easier to find near their departure points. Farther from those points, the canyon floor defines the route. Shorter access to areas deep within the canyon is provided by paths leading from points where forest roads come reasonably close to the canyon's inner reaches. One such path follows Bear Creek from Forest Road 24 about a mile to a point on the Black about 5 miles downstream from Buffalo Crossing. Additional access from the south is provided by the Fish Creek Access Trail #320, from the end of Forest Road 25B (see the Fish Creek access page for more detailed information) and the McKibbons Trail off the McKibbons Pond Road off Forest Road 25.

    From the north side of the river, access is available via a trail from the end of Forest Road 25G, the road to the Kettle Holes area. This mile-long route follows the Centerfire Creek drainage to the river. All except Fish Creek and Fish Creek Access trails are better described as routes rather than established trails.
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