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Steeple Trail #73 - Blue Range, AZ

no permit
131 15 1
Guide 15 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine S
3 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 5 of 5
Distance One Way 12.68 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,200 feet
Elevation Gain -3,970 feet
Accumulated Gain 700 feet
Avg Time One Way 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.01
Backpack Possible & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
5  2017-07-02
KP Rim Loop
5  2017-06-16 friendofThunderg
11  2016-06-18
Upper Grant Creek Trail #65 - Blue Range
23  2015-05-23
Upper Grant Creek Trail #65 - Blue Range
71  2014-06-21
Blue Range Primitive Area
12  2009-10-03 Xiled1
9  2005-08-20 Crocodile Ryan
Author Crocodile Ryan
author avatar Guides 1
Routes 0
Photos 58
Trips 27 map ( 234 miles )
Age 36 Male Gender
Location Tempe, Az
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Sep, Aug, Jun, May → 7 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:05am - 6:16pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Man vs Mountain
by Crocodile Ryan

Likely In-Season!
This trail was an unplanned detour after a torrential downpour, and about 2hours of constant bushwhacking and searching for our trail. We had planned on completing a loop of the KP rim following along the trail mentioned in KP Rim Loop, which I would say is a bit longer than is marked on that page. The trail started off very well and we had a decent map of the area from the forest service, I would recommend picking up a copy. DO NOT USE National Geographic Topos of the area, they inaccurately show the trails, we had one of these as well and the trails were always in the wrong spot on the map.

We hiked this trail from it's junction with Grant Creek, to the trailhead near its junction with 315. So we hiked it in reverse, I don't think I would do in and out on this trail, too steep and too much bushwhacking, and there are too many other beautiful trails to use in the Blue Range that can be used as part of a loop.

To start off the trail is fairly easy to follow, along steeple creek, this was the easiest part of the trail to follow. After about a mile or so it becomes increasingly difficult to follow, however it is hard to get lost as you follow the creek up to its head waters. The trail climbs relentlessly and mercilessly as it ascends approximately 3400ft in about 6miles, not to mention that the end of the trail is at nearly 9200ft in elevation! These conditions can make for a strenuous hike without a backpack, and on well defined trail let alone one where you are continuously creating your own path through knee high fern, poison oak and other prickly bushes and bushes. But the hike was extraordinary, with great views near the top, and mushrooms and other fungus growing everywhere. All on the hike we saw numerous birds and many signs of wildlife. Make sure you are a bit noisy when hiking in the area, as I have never seen so many bear tracks in my life. It had recently rained, very heavily actually, and we could see the remnants of dens that had caved in from the rains. There were also a few tracks that we believed to be wolf tracks as they were too large for a coyote. Near the top it becomes pointless to look for a trail, as the ferns are about shoulder level and it becomes much less rocky.

All in all the hike was very taxing but was a welcome shortcut during a rough trip, and was a chance to hike along a seldom used trail in a lightly used area. And I would recommend trying the hike at least once if you enjoy the area. I would definitely recommend bringing a pair of tevas, and rain gear if going.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a more difficult hike. It would be unwise to attempt this without prior experience hiking.

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

2006-05-08 Crocodile Ryan

    Apache - Sitgreaves FS Details
    Once you complete the full 13 miles of this trail you'll have an excellent idea of just how broad a diversity of habitats there are to be found on the Alpine Ranger District and the Blue Primitive Area. For the first couple of miles this trail stays in the high country, winding its way through stands of mixed conifers and aspens. These thick stands of old growth open regularly into beautiful, boggy little meadows called cienegas, which are invariably aglow with wildflowers and frequently boast a small stream. Such quiet hideaways are great places to surprise a herd of grazing elk or browsing mule deer as you emerge from the quiet shadows of the trees. If you're lucky, you may even surprise one of the forest's most reclusive inhabitants, a black bear. There are few better places on the Alpine District for a close encounter of this kind.

    After crossing the upper reaches of the Grant Creek drainage and passing junctions with the Upper Grant Creek and Long Cienega Trails, the trail drops into Steeple Creek where the habitat changes from aspen/conifer to a riparian community of ponderosa pine, canyon hardwoods and scattered junipers. At Mud Springs, the trial climbs out of the drainage to the south to a junction with the KP Trail. Conditions become progressively drier and warmer as the trail continues on across Steeple and KP mesas and loses elevation on its descent into the Blue. Clumps of cactus here, scattered under a pinyon and juniper overstory, make the point that you have entered a desert woodland. The trail continues on to the shady cottonwoods and picturesque rock formations of the Blue River Canyon and ends at the Blue River Road.

    No mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) permitted in Primitive Area. Water is usually available at Willow Springs, Mud Springs and intermittent pools along Steeple Creek.

    Trail Log:
    0.0 Steeple/Foote Creek Trailhead parking area, near Hannagan Administrative site Trail crosses through wood rail fence and turns to the right
    1.3 Junction with Upper Grant Trail #65 in the first of four cienegas
    2.8 Junction with the Long Cienega Trail #305
    3.3 Junction with KP Rim Trail #315
    6.4 Junction with Paradise Trial #74

    USGS Maps: Hannagan Meadow, Strayhorse, Bear Mountain

    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
    Steeple Trail #73 - Blue Range
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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.
    Steeple Trail #73 - Blue Range
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    We did two smaller hikes a day in the Blue Range to preserve the pups in the unseasonably warm temperatures. This was the evening hike we did on day two. The goal was to visit Willow Spring and maybe locate the Long Cienega Trail.

    I had remembered Willow Spring being a relatively pleasant area in an otherwise very fire damaged area when I had backpacked through there a few years ago and was interested in seeing the area again. The trail had its fair share of deadfall, but it was not horrible. Willow Spring is still a nice little area, but it was dry. In fact, it was very dry out there in general, with no real standing water to be found, not even at the Upper Grant Creek crossing/intersection. I had hoped to look around a little for traces of the Long Cienega Trail, but with no water out there and a still warm sun, we decided to head back. This area really needs some water and a little trail TLC.
    Steeple Trail #73 - Blue Range
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    I made my favorite five hour drive this weekend. The destination was none other than my beloved Primitive Blue Range. I planned a weekend of exploring new trails, a little fishing and gathering some much needed data on the area to share on HAZ and use for own personal planning. There is simply not a lot of beta floating around for the P.B.R and the several trails systems in the area.

    The first day was designed to be a light creek fishing day with the incorporation of two new trails for me: Upper Grant Creek Trail #74 and Long Cienega Trail #305. Both the Upper Grant Trail and Long Cienega fall under the forest service's primitive trail designation. The Upper Grant Trail was actually a very pleasant little trail, with signs of trail maintenance and a nice setting among the upper stretches of the perennial Grant Creek. I saw my first Apache Trout in a small pool at 7,700 feet from there on one can witness several shy trout darting in and out from the danger of the well lit water to the safety of the shadows and depths of their pools. The trout are actually ubiquitous to some small sections of the stream here, however, the nice trout are much further down stream and require a considerable amount of effort to reach.

    On our way down stream while trying my luck in a new hole and with Cup by my side attentively watching Blanco stirred up a bear that was probably not 20 yards from us. I think until Blanco stirred him up, the bear's strategy was probably to just wait us out. Blanco gave the bear a strong initial effort, however, nothing beats a bear scurrying up the side of a bank in heavy brush, could not even get a picture, but a real treat none the less and my first bear sighting in the B.R. Meanwhile, the fishing proved to be great once again.

    We ended up going off trail down stream much further than I had anticipated, imagine that I low-balled the miles total, that never happens to me. Anyways, making our way down and up stream off trail was some pretty nasty terrain for Cup, so I decided to forgo Long Cienega. I had finally looked at the trail closely on a map and I noticed its terminus was in a real nasty burned out area I had hie through the year before. The aforementioned coupled with the fact that the beginning of the trail did not look all that enticing, led me to opt for the known trails out and a much nicer exit for the dogs.

    Less than a 3000 foot climb out, but a tad strenuous in spots. The climb out was pretty uneventful, however, the trails were generally pleasant.
    Steeple Trail #73 - Blue Range
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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!
    Steeple Trail #73 - Blue Range
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    During my 10 day camping/hiking trip to the Hannagan Meadow area, this LOOP HIKE, starting out on the Steeple Trail#73 turned-out to be the one I most enjoyed of the five day hikes I was able to complete during my stay(5/30-6/8/07) at the Hannagan Campground.

    Hiking Route: From the Steeple Tr#73 / Foote Creek Tr#76 Trailhead(off Hwy#191 near MM231.5), begin on Steeple Tr#73 for 1.3mls down to intersection with Upper Grant Creek Tr#65; hike #65 down 4mls to intersection with Paradise Tr#74; hike #74 up 1.9mls to intersection with Grant Creek Tr#75; hike #75 up 2.6mls to intersection with Foote Creek Tr#76; hike #76 for 3.6mls ~level terrain back to the beginning TH and parking area; This wonderful and manageable 13.4ml LOOP HIKE has a total accumulated elevation of: 3838ft;

    Prior to doing this hike, I spent almost half a day on 6/5 having fun looking at maps and planning this above LOOP HIKE. Prior to leaving home for the trip, I discovered this "inner trail" called the Paradise Trail#74, so I already knew that one hiking day that I HAD TO MAKE IT TO THIS TRAIL..regardless!...I figured that any trail named PARADISE had to be worth whatever effort it took to get there :) ! It turned-out that I was correct...the scenic views and old forest growth on this trail section were great! This Paradise Tr is 4.2mls long, but on this planned loop, I was only able to include the upper 1.9mls of it for this trip, but I will be back one day to do the 2.3ml balance of the South/SW trail portion. Also, this loop included a most pleasant surprise with my inclusion of the 4 mile Upper Grant Creek Tr#65 which is "not" passable during the rainy seasons(usually not a problem in June). This trail desends a beautiful steep & deep, narrow canyon with huge old growth forest, beautiful & unusual dense (almost "rain forest like"..) vegetation along a very active, running creek. This primitive trail is somewhat difficult to follow at times, crossing over the creek numerous time, and would be almost impossible to follow when the creek water is HIGH. A lucky seven of us encounted much Bear scat and Elk signs while hiking this beautiful 4 mile trail to its end at the Paradise Trail#74 intersection.

    Also, this loop hike was the same day that 81MPH WINDS were clocked on the top of the Forest Service FIRE TOWER on ESCUDILLA PEAK! (see my Escudilla Tr trip log..dtd-6/7/07). For our afternoon 3.6ml hike on the Foote Creek Tr#76 back to the TH, we were actually having to "dodge and run over/under" falling trees due to these major high winds in the forest was actually pretty scary at times, but we did all get back safely.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    Drive 23 miles south on US 191 to the south end of Hannagan Meadow and turn left (east) on Forest Road 29A to the Steeple/Foote Creek trailhead and parking lot. Or, drive 3 miles east of Alpine on US 180 to Forest Road 281 (Blue River Road). Turn south and follow this scenic back road 30.0 miles to the Blue River Road access to Steeple Trail.

    Steeple Trail is also accessible via the Upper Grant Creek Trail #65, Long Cienega Trail #305, KP Rim Trail #70, and Paradise Trail #74.

    Author writes: From Show Low, take 260 east to Springerville. Take 180 from Springerville south to Alpine, and 191 south from there. Hannagan Meadow trailhead is on the right side of the highway, shortly after you pass the Hannagan Meadow store. The trailhead is easily reached by passenger car.
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