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

Bonanza Bill Trail #23, AZ

no permit
46 7 0
Guide 7 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine S
2.7 of 5 by 3
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Distance One Way 12.45 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,587 feet
Elevation Gain 1,253 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,699 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 21.44
Backpack Possible & Connecting
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
28  2016-05-27
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
51  2016-05-27
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
27  2016-05-27
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
15  2016-05-27
Bear Mtn Loop - Blue Range
19  2015-07-18 friendofThunderg
18  2013-05-26
Tige Rim Bonanza Bill Loop
9  2013-05-26
Tige Rim Bonanza Bill Loop AZ
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
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Sep, Aug, Jun, Jul
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:03am - 6:15pm
Official Route
4 Alternative

Likely In-Season!
Bonanza Bill Trail is one of the main trails offering access to the remote eastern reaches of the Blue Primitive Area. In addition to traversing a good portion of this country on its own, Bonanza Bill serves as a connector between several other trails leading into this beautiful, wild country. The trail is named for Bonanza Bill Point, which stands out as one of the more prominent features along the route. This easy to follow pathway snakes along a divide that separates the canyons of the Blue and San Francisco Rivers. It sets a course through ponderosa pine stands so open and clear of undergrowth that in places someone from the brushy forests of the east might swear it is maintained by crews of meticulous gardeners. Of course, that's not true, openness is a natural characteristic of a ponderosa pine forest, especially one that is as dry as this. That openness also makes the surrounding scenery easier to see from the trail. Views include overlooks of Steeple and Tige canyons as well as the larger canyons of the Blue and San Francisco rivers.

This trail also roughly follows the boundary between Arizona and New Mexico, and in one place crosses that line for a two and a half mile visit to Arizona's eastern neighbor. In this vicinity you'll get some good views of Devil's Monument, a prominent landform in New Mexico. Another interesting area along the trail called Hell's Hole is quite a bit closer to the trailhead. Here dwarfed and deformed ponderosas hold to a precarious existence among exposed layers of white rock.

Watch for evidence of black bears in this remote area. As a matter of fact, the sign marking the trailhead usually has teeth and claw marks put there by resident bruins. No one knows for sure why these shy brutes chew on signs, but the conventional wisdom is that their unnatural shape makes them stand out from their natural surroundings enough to serve as excellent bulletin boards for bears to mark their territorial boundaries. Trail side signs that have been splintered or even ripped apart certainly make the point that bears live in the area and you should take special care with food and garbage.

Steeple Canyon has pools of water except during the dry seasons of the year.
Hinkle Springs, located one quarter mile down the adjoining Hinkle Trail is a dependable spring.
WS Lake provides water for stock except during the dry season.
Keep a clean camp so as not to create problem bears (or trash the area).
No mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) permitted within the Primitive Area.

Trail Log:
0.0 Trailhead on Pueblo Park Road.
0.9 Junction with Tige Rim Trail #90. Bonanza Bill takes a sharp right at this point.
3.7 Junction with Hinkle Spring Trail, Hell's Hole.
5.9 Junction with Cow Flat Trail, #55.
6.2 Bonanza Bill Point on right.
8.3 View of Devils Monument to east.
8.5 Trail goes through gate in New Mexico State Line fence.
11.1 Trail crosses back into Arizona.
12.1 Junction with Franz Spring Trail.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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

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 Triplog Reviews
    Bonanza Bill Trail #23
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    FOTG has spoken glowingly about the Primitive Blue Range and pics of the area looked intriguing. I jumped at the chance to go when he mentioned it a couple weeks ago and said he would drive. Chumley & Karl joined us and we made a loose hiking itinerary and headed out.

    Our group of four, plus Blanco, left Phoenix on Thursday after work and made the long drive to the Primitive Blue Range. We car camped off Red Hill Rd at roughly 8,000ft elevation. I had a hard time sleeping that night. We woke early on Friday and drove to our trailhead and started the hike in. I wasn’t feeling too well from the lack of sleep and was partially dehydrated. Plus I was carrying a heavy pack so that didn’t make things easy.

    We started off with the Largo Canyon trail and hiked in several miles and took a break by Dutch Oven Spring. From there we connected onto the Telephone Ridge Trail and headed for Bear Mountain at 8,550 elevation. The climb to the summit took its toll on me and I was glad to finally reach it. We took a break there and then headed southeast for Bear Valley where we set up camp. The others then went for a short hike while I stayed in camp to filter water, prep the fire ring & relax. I was finally feeling better when the others returned and we settled in for dinner and a nice campfire.

    We woke on day two and packed up camp and headed northeast for Franz Spring & the cabin. We wanted to get there early hoping to beat other groups to the prime camping spot next to the cabin. We made good time as we climbed the trail to Campbell Flat and then continued on to Franz Spring where we arrived to a vacant camp around 9:30am. We spent the next hour setting up camp and filtering water and then headed northeast for the Tige Rim for a hardy day hike.

    The lasso loop around Tige Rim was long, dry & relatively slow going. Most of this section was okay and there were some nice views on a ridge around the halfway point. The heat took its toll on us and Blanco seemed to be having a hard time as he rested in shade every chance he got. Chumley, Karl & I shared our water with him while FOTG looked on with indifference saying he’s been through worse. We continued our lass loop and finally topped out on the high point and it was relatively easy going back to camp as we headed downhill.

    We arrived back to Franz Spring to find a large meetup group camped close by. They had a fire going and were very noisy and generally crappy neighbors. One of them walked through our campsite several times to use the outhouse rather than going in the woods. It was annoying but didn’t ruin the weekend for us.

    All of us were up early on our third day and packed up camp and hit the trail. We headed down Lanphier Canyon and passed several groups making their way in. The Blue was busy this weekend! We arrived back to the trailhead late morning and packed up our gear. Our backpacking portion of the trip was over and we had plans to day hike & car camp that night.

    The Bear Mountain loop is fantastic with great views and the trails are in good condition. I expected more solitude but wasn’t totally surprised considering it was a holiday weekend. I would definitely like to explore more of this area another time.
    Bonanza Bill Trail #23
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Lee took the lead on planning this one and it turned out to be a great introduction to the PBR. I was a little surprised to find that this area is much more like the rim country near Payson than the White Mountains as I was expecting. The Blue River valley is only 5500 feet, and while our route took us up to higher elevations, the landscape overall reminded me of the same Mogollon Rim 120 miles farther west.

    The upper portion of Sawmill along Telephone Ridge was the highlight of day 1, with big views and a pleasant climb after the steep connector that climbs up from Largo. Bear Mountain is obscured by trees, and the old lookout tower isn't tall enough to see over them. Maybe that's why it's been decommissioned!

    Bear Valley is a great spot. I could set up a base camp here and explore. The trip down Little Blue was a great suprise with running water and amazing geology. Huge spires loom above the canyon. I climbed up the ridge adjacent to the canyon to get a better view, but the afternoon sun made it tough to capture any photos. I tried to find trail 341 on the way back to Bear Valley, but I couldn't find even the slightest sign of old tread amongst the fire deadfall and new growth.

    Saturday we made the quick trip over to Franz spring and set up camp near the old cabin before heading off to check out the Tige Rim. I had been excited to see this area, but found the reward not to be worth the rest of the hike. It's just a long, hot, dry slog to get to a couple of great view points. In retrospect, I'd skip the loop and just hike the south part of the loop to the views and head back from there.

    We returned to camp to find a huge group of people camped right next to us. I'm guessing it was a meetup kind of thing. Apparently they don't backpack into the wilderness looking for peaceful solitude because it didn't occur to them to find a spot to camp that might be just out of view or earshot of others. I've encountered this before, and it is something I will never understand. Might as well have headed for Woods Canyon Lake! :-({|=

    In the morning we headed down Lanphier back toward the trailhead. We passed numerous groups along the way. It was actually quite surprising even on a holiday weekend in the Blue. We figured that articles last year in Backpacker (Nov 15) and possibly AZH (July 15) contributed to the 21 cars :o in the parking lot. (We were the only car when we started).

    While Lanphier is a pleasant canyon with shade and a stream, I'm not sure I'd like to use it for the ascent. It is steep in places and I could see it really taking it's toll on somebody carrying a heavy pack.

    Thanks to Lee for the intro to the PBR. Sorry we didn't make it down to Ladrone. Next time!
    Bonanza Bill Trail #23
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I headed back to the Blue Range for Memorial Weekend and for the first time, I brought company. We had a loose plan to cover some pretty good ground with a relatively ambitious loop that involved some must-see side trips in my opinion. The plan was enough for myself and Karl, but Chumley and John were not at ease without having everything perfectly laid out. But I assured them it was a little flexible and we had a few plan Bs and Cs worked in there and they were pretty cool with the rough plan I laid out to them.

    We drove up Thursday night and despite being pulled over twice on the way (both warnings), we made great time. In fact, we were there in time to enjoy a fire and relax a little. We woke up to frozen water on the rim, but our day got noticeably warmer as we made the last part of the drive down Red Hills road to the trailhead.

    We made good time up Largo, but it was a tad dry and warm to appreciate. Telephone Ridge was a bit of a big boy climb with full packs, but we all had enough energy to drop our packs for a quick trip up Bear Mountain. After Bear Mountain, we decided Bear Valley was starting to look like an ideal first night's camp. This was further confirmed when we arrived at the quaint meadow, rich with prime campsites and a trickling creek. After setting up, myself, Karl, Chumley and Blanco hiked further down the Little Blue Trail. This turned out to be an excellent hike, as the trail was in great shape, there were stretches of flowing water and it took a path through some very cool narrows before opening up to a nice section dominated by giant rock spires and monuments. After seeing what seemed to be about the best 2.5 mile section of that trail, we headed back to camp.

    On day two we opted for a short trip with our big packs and then a rather large loop into New Mexico via the Tige Rim Trail. We chose Franz Spring and cabin area to camp. After setting up, we all took off for a 15 mile day hike. The Tige Rim loop was hot and dry. The views from the rim were nice and there were a few cool stretches, but the warmer temps and lack of water took away from some of the loop's normal appeal. We we got back to Franz, the worst possible scenario had played out. A group of no likely less than ten people had popped a squat next to us. I knew there was a chance we might bump into some backpackers, but I could have never imagined running into that many people out there. They ended up not being the worst neighbors and our dogs got along, but they were definitely louder than our small group and they insisted on using the outhouse for some reason. To each their own, but it was probably not designed for large backcountry groups with its three feet deep hole, no maintenance and no chemicals. Nevertheless, it was business as usual at camp and we still enjoyed the great spot and did get a chance to chat with a few from the large group. No sour grapes about sharing one of the nicer areas in the Blue Range, I was just not ready to share it with ten people and it ended up not being the nice serene spot I had described. So a small damper on the backpacking trip in my eyes.

    A lot of hikers on the trail on the way out, but a quick hike with pretty good trail and very scenic along the flowing sections of Lamphier. A small disappointment on day two, but I enjoyed my three days in the the Blue. I would have liked to cover some more new ground, but it was nice to revisit some spots that I had been intrigued by before and the section of Little Blue we covered on the first day will instantly go on my list of favorites for the area. But overall great times as usual with these guys and I hope the newbies to the area were happy with the change of scenery.

    Bonanza Bill Trail #23
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I really liked the setting of the Mark's Cabin/Franz Spring area that I had came across during my Bear Mountain loop the previous day. After hearing that its guest would be leaving, I decided to make it my backpack destination via the Bonanza Bill Trail #23. I moved my car camp destination from Sawmill Trail #39 to Bonanza Bill Trail #23. I stayed in the somewhat established camping area about 25 feet inside the New Mexico border.

    I planned to hike into Franz Spring relatively early and then complete an afternoon day hike after some rest and getting settled in. Although the cabin was locked, the porch would provide a nice covered area in the event some torrential rain rolled through. There was also a nice Army cot on the porch and I could have totally pictured myself just sleeping on that under the porch. However, when I got there Terry was still there. We chatted for a long time and he told me several cool things about the area including the locations of some Indian ruins on the other side of the Blue. He was planning on staying there one more night and I kind of had my heart set on my own site and some solitude, so I decided to just push on and make a loop utilizing WS Lake Trail #54 and the southern section of Bonanza Bill Trail that I had yet to cover.

    WS Lake Trail was in great shape, however, Bonanza Bill's southern half was downright miserable at times. There was: nearly no water, Devil's Monument was a bust and between erosion, dead fall and route finding the trail was never easy going. I kept thinking how sad it was that I added like 12 miles to my day and risked stormy weather all to avoid sharing a campsite. I did see another bear on the New Mexico side of Bonanza Bill and there were at times some breathtaking views, however, overall this was a somewhat unpleasant portion of my day and probably trip for that matter.

    I camped at Hinkle Spring and decided to hike Tige Rim Trail back the next day. I set up camp very fast trying to beat a storm that never came. There was a period of lightning and thunder, but I was already in my tent. I found counting the seconds between flashes and booms to be similar to counting sheep and somewhat therapeutic. I fell asleep probably not too long after it got dark. It rained pretty hard for about a half hour during the early morning, but had stopped by the time I got out of bed and was sunny for most of the hike out. Tige Rim offered perhaps some of the best views of the trip and was generally a nice trail one that continued to get nicer as you neared its intersection with Bonanza Bill.

    Permit $$
    no fees or permits reported

    if incorrect tell us about it

    Map Drive

    To hike
    Drive 3 miles east of Alpine on US 180 to Forest Road 281 (Blue River Road). Turn south and follow this scenic back road 20.7 miles to the Pueblo Park Road (Forest Road 232). The Bonanza Bill Trailhead is 4.7 miles east on this dirt road just before it crosses the New Mexico state line. A wood fenced corral serves as a landmark.
    help comment issue

    end of page marker