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KP Rim Loop, AZ

no permit
143 11 1
Guide 11 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine S
3.5 of 5 by 10
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Loop 17.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,075 feet
Elevation Gain 3,800 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 13 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 36.5
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
5  2017-07-02 nonot
71  2014-06-21
Blue Range Primitive Area
19  2010-05-31 te_wa
19  2010-05-29 Sarae
13  2007-08-18 BelladonnaTook
16  2005-07-27 Boondoggle
Author Boondoggle
author avatar Guides 1
Routes 0
Photos 33
Trips 6 map ( 50 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Jun, Aug, Sep
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:05am - 6:14pm
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Scenic, Medium Difficulty Hike
by Boondoggle

Likely In-Season!
This is a scenic trip through some of the high country in the Blue Range Primitive Area. After spending some time searching for a good loop hike that started from one of the trailheads along highway 191, we chose to do this trip as a three-day, two-night backpack. The trip begins and ends at the KP Rim Trailhead, as shown on the Forest Service map of the Blue Range. The trailhead is about 23 miles south of Alpine, and roughly 2 miles south of Hannigan Meadow.

Start out by making a left immediately as you leave the trailhead, staying on trail 315. The first two miles is a relatively easy stroll along the top of the ridge overlooking the KP Creek drainage. The trail is sometimes faint and can be difficult to follow in this section, but with a map or GPS it is relatively easy to stay on course. The trail passes through a semi-burned-out forest and at certain points there are excellent views of Blue peak. If you try hard enough you should be able to spot the lookout tower on top of Blue Peak. At the two mile point, make a left on trail 73 heading toward Willow Spring. At this point the trail is very faint, and finding the intersection of trails 315 and 73 is not easy. We would have certainly hiked right by it, had the GPS not indicated that it was time to make a left turn. After leaving trail 315, the overgrown trail heads downhill towards a small but pretty clearing that marks the beginning of the unnamed creek that is just north of Steeple Creek. The Forest Service map shows a primitive trail (#305) that follows this creek east to its intersection with Grant Creek. "Primitive" is an accurate description for this piece of trail. For about 3.5 miles the faint trail follows the small creek as it makes its way downhill, heading for Grant Creek. There isn't much of trail to speak of, but if you follow the creek downhill it's difficult to get lost.

At the intersection with Grant Creek, make a right and follow trail 74 as it slowly leaves the creek bed and climbs up to the first campsite, Moonshine Park. Moonshine Park is a small clearing located at about 7,200 feet. Water is available 5-10 minutes away in Grant Creek. You should expect your progress to be relatively slow on the first day, due to the route finding, creek hopping, and stopping to enjoy the scenery and take breaks. Day two starts out on another faint trail (#74) heading southeast from Moonshine Park. Be sure to use your map or GPS to stay on course through this section. Follow trail 74 as it makes its way to the intersection with Steeple Creek. At this intersection make a left, heading southeast toward Mud Spring. After less than a mile on this trail you will make a right on trail 70 and begin the gradual decent into KP Creek. Along this trail that slowly winds its way down to the creek bed, there are some nice views to the east.

When you reach the intersection with KP Creek, the trail crosses the creek and then begins to climb away from the creek bed. Stay on the trail as it seems to leave the creek. About a quarter mile up the trail from this point, the trail rejoins the creek bed, and there is a beautiful campsite located on a grassy knoll right next to KP Creek. This was the second campsite. This site had obviously been used before, as evidenced by the number of fire rings and trash left behind. It is a very nice campsite nonetheless. Nearby in KP Creek, there are small pools that are perfect for soaking one's head or feet. Also, if you look carefully, you will see some small trout darting around in these pools.

SIDE NOTE: For the really hardcore hikers, there is an optional day hike up to Blue Peak Lookout from the second campsite. The hike to the peak can be done as a loop, or as an up and down on the same trail. It would be about an 8 or 9 mile trip to the peak and back, and probably not an easy climb. We opted to relax by KP Creek for the remainder of the afternoon instead.

Day three is a slow grind up the hill from KP Creek at about 6,700 feet, to the KP Rim trailhead at about 9,075. Although the trail is uphill almost all the way, it never really gets terribly steep. Leave camp heading west as the trail climbs slightly out of the creek bed. In less than a mile you will pass the signed intersection with trail 71 that goes up to Blue Peak Lookout. Stay to the right and keep following KP creek as the trail meanders through the lush, alpine terrain. There are several creek crossings and views of small, clear pools inhabited by trout.

About two miles later you will reach the signed intersection with the KP Cienega Trail, letting you know that you have 2 miles to go to reach Highway "666". Again stay to the right and follow the trail uphill towards the origin of KP Creek. The last two miles are uphill, through a forest inhabited by all kinds of wildlife. Keep your eyes on the terrain and you might spot some large horned toads, snakes, deer, squirrels, rabbits, and some interesting birds as well. And of course there are large, colorful butterflies everywhere. The last half mile has sections that appear to be on an old 4WD road, a welcome sight for sore feet. Stay on the trail as it branches off from the old road, and you will soon see the trailhead parking lot (a welcome sight after a 2,300 foot climb).

Overall, this is a somewhat challenging, very rewarding trip through some beautiful, remote country. Although the trails can be difficult to follow at times, it is difficult to get really lost if you have some topo-reading skills, or a GPS. Study the route before you leave, and take a good map, and you shouldn't have a problem.

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2005-07-30 Boondoggle
  • Map by Belladonna Took
    guide related

Apache - Sitgreaves FS Details
KP Rim Trail: Scenic overlooks into KP Canyon and a day hike that can be stretched into a loop of moderate length are two of the prime features offered by KP Rim Trail. This relatively short trail follows a fenceline along a more or less flat ridge top that separates KP and Grant Creek drainages. For its entire length, the KP Rim Trail stays within a high country ecosystem where Douglas Fir, white fir and ponderosa pine are the dominant tree species. The area through which this trail and connecting Steeple Creek Trail pass is a good place to see elk and mule deer, especially if you travel quietly and keep a sharp eye on open areas ahead. This trail is also a good place to see some of the bird species that inhabit the highlands of the Alpine District, including the Stellers jay that is blue colored but not a blue jay. Watch the trees for these deep indigo-hued birds with their jaunty black topnots. They're cousins of, but not identical to, the eastern blue jay. Like most jays, Stellers jays have a unique character all their own. Some of them even assert their individuality by wearing a tasteful white eye stripe.

About a mile from the trailhead, openings in the tree canopy offer views of KP Canyon and its southern slopes. If you cross the fence and walk a few yards out to the rim the views get even better. A set of sharp eyes or a pair of binoculars will help you to see the lookout tower at the summit of Blue Peak across the canyon, and while you're looking keep an eye out for bighorn sheep. They're occasionally spotted on the steep slopes below.

A little over two miles from its starting point, the KP Rim Trail ends at its junction with the Steeple Creek Trail. If you'd rather cover new ground than retrace your steps, you can turn north along the connecting trail and hike it 3.3 miles to Hannagan Meadow. This trail traverses more alpine habitat known for its plentiful wildlife.

On an environmental note, if you're up on your tree species you'll notice the absence of Engelmann Spruce in this area. This is due to an infestation of mistletoe which has virtually eliminated this valuable tree species from a place where it was once plentiful.

No mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) permitted in Primitive Area. Willow Spring and surface runoff provide water suitable for stock animals only.

Trail Log:
0.0 Trailhead parking just off Highway 191. Trail crosses fence. KP Rim Trail branches to the left (east) and North Fork KP trail goes to the right (southwest).
0.6 Trail crosses through gate in fence.
1.3 First good views of KP Canyon to the south.
1.7 Rocky point with excellent views of KP Canyon.
2.2 Junction with Steeple Trail #73

USGS Maps:Strayhorse
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
KP Rim Loop
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KP Rim trail, to its "intersection" with 73 has many downed trees but is generally passable. Unfortunately the turn off for 73 to the north is not marked, and I spent 90 minutes thrashing through locust bush and fallen trees piled 10 feet high looking for it at its place on the map. Checking now that I get back, FOTG posted a route show the intersection in a different place. The trail, even where it may be, must be very faint. I didn't find anything resembling a trail 73, nor Long Cienega 305 trail in the area, but I did find the rest of the Steeple Trail back to Hannagan Campground from the trail 305 area, and upon reaching the highway, I took Ackre Lake trail back to my starting point.

Steeple 73 is nice from its TH near Hannagan Meadow to Grant Creek Trail and probably will earn you credit with your girlfriend, since it is a hike through mostly surviving forest, alongside ferns and flowers. Steeple 73 is primitive between Grant Creek and Cienega 305 "Trail" where it goes through a largely moonscaped area full of locust bush and a few grassy meadows. Steeple trail is godawful from 305 to trail 315, the area being a mess of downed trees and locust bush with no trail apparent. The Forest Service appears to have ignored everything south of Grant Creek Trail, possibly because they cannot find the trail.
KP Rim Loop
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Blue Range Primitive Area
Made another pilgrimage east to the Apache-Sitgreaves, more specifically the Primitive Blue Range area, or as my map says the Blue Range Wilderness and Primitive Area. However, even the latter is a bit of a misnomer, as currently the Blue Range has not achieved wilderness status in the eyes of Congress and to this day remains the last "primitive" designated area in the United States. Not sure what any of that means, however, anyone who knows me, knows that I would have a natural attraction to any area with the word primitive in its title. Similarly, since my first visit about a year ago, this area has really intrigued me. It was in this are that Aldo Leopold (arguably the founding father in American conservationism and ecology) obtained his first position working under the federal forest service. Leopold saw much in his day, he spoke fondly of the "mountain" in fact, one of his most famous written works, "Thinking Like a Mountain" is based off of his expediences in and around Escudilla and the Escudilla Wilderness area. So the question for me: could I find what gravitated Leopold to this area and transformed him into perhaps America's first conservationists, but 100 years later and after the greatest forest fire the Southwest has seen in contemporary times? Spoiler alert the answer is a resounding yes!

A chance encounter with a game warden around 10:00 p.m. on Friday changed my plans slightly for the three days. He had personally just conducted a "shocking" and fish count of Grant Creek and gave me some pointers on where all the trout were congregated. However, if I were to hit these areas, I would have to modify my original route of Grant Creek Trail which stays high above the creek until crossing around the lower elevations where the Game Warden officer told me all the fish had been killed or can no longer exist due to warmer water temps caused by the destroying of their natural shade and the naturally warmer water at lower elevations. So from the intersection of trails #76 Foot Creek and #75 Grant Creek I took trail #306 down to Grant Creek and decided I would just fish and hike the whole stream length off-trail to its southern intersection with trail #75. If the fishing and beauty of Grant Creek were not as great as they were, this might have turned out to be a negative experience. Movement down stream was very slow at times, however, as I stated earlier the fishing was amazing and the creek beautiful so it negated the slow moving pace of boulder hoping, and down climbing water falls complete with three day pack and pole in hand, oh and along with keeping Blanco floating and upright through some of the deeper pools and obstacles. From there I made good time to the Blue River, passed through a little bit of civilization as I walked the forest road that connected my ambitious loop. I took the first opportunity to camp at a place marked the "box" on my map. This was one of first areas where there were not a dozen no trespassing signs or signs proclaiming the owner's willingness to shoot me if I stepped foot on their property. Day one turned out to be a little over 17 miles, camping was nice, but not spectacular, ate well, slept well.

I thought day 2 would be a much easier day, however, that did not turn out to be necessarily true, thanks in part to some of my decision making. I hate to give a negative trail description, because with trails everyone has their own opinions, and I would not want to steer someone away from an area. However, Steeple Trail #73 is probably a trail one could leave off their to do list for the time being. The upper sections of the trail have really been damage by fire and the trip across KP Mesa is enough to make one yearn for a very quick change of scenery. However, that is simply not the case as you seem to hike forever to simply cross KP Mesa's fire damaged landscape where one can easily see areas that suffered 100 percent devastation from fire. From Steeple Trail #73 I took trail #70 into the KP Creek area. However, this trail got no better! In fact, I will give a fair warning, if you do not have a G.P.S route for this trail or sound topo reading skills, I would avoid this section of trail all together. One can safely say to some degree that this trail ceases to exist in several spots, littered with dead fall, washed out and very faint in the good spots. Nevertheless, we were doing just fine, traversing the several drainages leading to K.P. when I had the great decision to cut a mile or so off route and explore some off-trail sections of K.P. Creek. The whole situation reminded me of something my friend Jim always says when I am pondering short-cuts and more direct off trail routes. He always says, "if that way is shorter or easier, that would be the way." Well in this case that held to be 100% true. I could tell from cliffs along opposite side of creek that there was potential for not being able to cut down to creek and man did that hold true, cliffed out once, then took a side drainage only to come to an impassible pour-over so intimidating that I did not even snap a photo, Blanco and I finally broke through down about a 4-5 foot wide scree shoot, hit the creek where Blanco drank profusely and I silently chastised myself. One would think at this stage in the game I was done making those kind of mistakes, but something tells me that won't be the last time. We slowly made our way up the lower section of K.P Creek where the trail is a little tough to follow and made camp at a superb location.

The final day was just an easy hike up K.P. Creek to K.P. Rim Trail, back to the upper section of Steeple Trail and back to the TH. Everything on this hike went well except finding my short connector trail to complete my K.P. Rim loop. Similar to the hike description, the turn-off for the trail is very hard to find and the forest fire certainly did not make it any easier. In fact, the author wrote had we not had the route downloaded we would have never found the turn-off. Unfortunately, the author failed to post "said" route to description, I guess his way of adding a little excitement for the next guy, we found it but you are on your own I guess. After accepting defeat I was reserved to back-track and make the less than 2 mile trek down 191 to my TH. However, this whole thought was leaving a bitter taste in my mouth, almost like a surrender, or a walk of shame in my mind. First a small voice contemplated just going off-trail the whole way until I found something to walk on. However, this voice was quickly drowned out by about 1000 sane other voices in my head who still had yesterday's folly fresh in their minds and they quickly and probably for the better got that thought out of my head. I then looked down and could clearly see the meadow I needed to get to, but no trail to get there. I said to myself I will go exactly .25 miles to meadow look for Steeple Trail #73, if I don't find, I turn right around. As luck would have it, after about 100 feet off trail I ran into my long lost connector trail.

The trail now ran in a complete opposite direction of the trail featured on my G.P.S! Oh well no time to curse and dwell, I was happy to be on trails and heading back to car, went through some pretty bad burnt out sections, but oddly enough found some beauty in them. Whether it was the stubborn trees that refused to burn or the half million or so 5 to 15 feet tall Aspen blowing fiercely in the wind and the numerous reinvigorated meadows and cienegas, I found beauty in it all.

Even with the adventure in finding my connector trail, Blanco and I still hit TH by 11:30 in morning.

Final Notes:

HAZ Appreciation I used a hike description from Arizonaed written in 2004 and it turned out to be pretty much spot on. Which is something to say, as he obviously wrote pre-Bear Wallow Fire. Route might need some small adjustments, but overall great hike description!
KP Rim Loop
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very hot out there!
i will give my best observations:

1)the steeple creek trail from the t/h all the way down to Mud Spring is in horrible condition. im talking log hurdling every 100 feet, and exposure to unusually hot temps (87 in the shade, what little there was) made for a slow, cursing, banged up first day.
I rate this trail 1 star.

2)the KP and KP north fork trails are nice. small trout in the creek, i caught 2 rainbows and 5 browns in the little time i fished. the issue is, the trout are very small with my largest being 5" long, and the area is nothing nice to the fly fisherman. simply too many treefalls and snags. i think this trail under most conditions is a stong 3.5, maybe a 4.

3)overall the trip was ok, nothing spectacular in the way of great views or special scenery, and i think there are many areas of interest that offer pine and spruce forests that offer more interesting scenery much closer to the valley. the steeple creek trail is in worse shape than many parts of the mazatzals, and it reminded me of the Y-bar trail's evil twin.
KP Rim Loop
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This was my first hike in the Blue Range. Fantastic isolation. We only saw other people at the end of our three day trip.

Started out on trail 315. Very slow going. Downed trees every few yards. Hot, hot sun. Pretty miserable. The wind sounded extremely eerie as it whipped through the tops of the burned out trees. We stayed to the right to merge onto trail 73. Very similar condition. There was water in Steeple Creek as we continued downhill. The next trail junction was with 74. We took it up to Moonshine Park for our first night's camp. There is water in Grant Creek which is a quick 20 minute round trip(for te-wa). This is definitely a wildlife hot-spot. Elk and deer showed up to chomp on the delicious meadow plant-life.

The next morning, we backtracked to the junction with 73 and continued on to an easy to miss creek crossing (look for the large dead alligator juniper). 73 climbs gradually up to the junction with 70, which gains and loses elevation as it crosses several drainages before dropping down to KP Creek. Just before getting to the creek there are nice views down into the canyon. 70 crosses KP Creek several times. Most crossings have ways to get across without getting your feet wet. We chose to camp in a spot off the trail after a few crossings. The closer you get to the North Fork trail, the more established the campsites become. The creek was flowing nicely and there were lots of very small trout. On the way out I got to practice log creek crossings. :scared: Naw, it wasn't that bad.

The final leg of the loop was on trail 93 which gradually, and then not so gradually, brought us back out of the canyon. So much for cool temperatures at high elevations. I think that the KP Creek segment was almost worth the whole bruise-filled trip. Next time, I might just take the North Fork trail down to the creek and explore the tempting side canyons from there.
KP Rim Loop
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I did a little bit different variation loop hike than posted. I went from the KP Rim TH thru the semi-burned ridge, but continued straight on the Steeple trail down the creek and then swung right around the rim into KP creek above a possible 'narrows' section and continued up the North KP trail back to my vehicle. The burnt ridge was a tad disheartening and difficult to navigate but i kept pushing and enjoyed the great views across the canyon. Steeple creek was rather pleasant but the real treat was hiking along KP creek with all its many mini-falls, berries, flowers, mushrooms, and massive trees. This place is definitely worth another visit just for this creek section. :bigth:

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
Leave Alpine heading south on highway 191. After passing Hannigan Meadow, look for the trailhead on the left about two miles later.
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