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See's little brother
The signage has changed. Several have reported difficulty in finding the turnoff. This GPS Route should help. What is described as the "gate" below is long gone, here's the replacement. Look for the marker on this tree.
The Drew Trail is a short one-mile route from the Highline Trail to the Mogollon Rim's top. Trail data and the description here is from the See Canyon Trailhead. I believe you'll find this a good match for the See Canyon Trail. I'd take this one out of the two if I had to choose. From the trailhead to the rim, the distance is nearly identical. However, the Drew Trail here saves you a couple of hundred feet in elevation. Views looking out at the rim country are better too. Don't get me wrong, See Canyon is a great hike. Though, as the name says, all you "SEE" is the "CANYON" it takes up to the rim. If you want a couple of distant forest views, then give Drew a try.
From the See Canyon trailhead, cross Christopher Creek immediately. Pick up the trail on the other side and follow a short distance to the Highline junction. Take a right onto the Highline. This hike follows the Highline 2 miles to the Drew Trail. Then it's a mile on the Drew Trail up to the top of the rim.
The first two miles gently ascend 600 feet to the Drew junction. Plenty of beautiful sections line this leg of the trail. My only complaint would be the shade comes and goes. It's a constant on and off with the sunglasses. First, you pass some gnarly alligator junipers. A triple trunk juniper surely won't be passed without notice. Next, the trail goes past a boundary fence.
Further on, a very light running creek almost appeared to be pouring outright from the trail. This is an intermittent creek, so you may not see any running water. Then again, it may be running with more force right over the trail. Yellow Columbine wildflowers enjoy this creek. Colorado's state flower is typically the purple hue. If you look down the stream a bit, you'll see large patches. I think you'll agree this yellow variety is mighty spectacular too. With only maybe three-quarters of a mile into this trail, there's plenty more to see. The stretch on over to the Drew junction is simply a beautiful forest. The intersection is on a knoll where you can pick up some rare views of the rim. Indian Paintbrush wildflowers inhabit this area, sometimes in patches.
Take a moment to figure things out at the junction. There's a gate, and who knows where the signs will be on your trip. Here's the scoop if the signs are missing. Go through the gate and follow the trail going up to the left. There are four trails into this junction and possibly five. I didn't see the pack trail heading directly south, as seen on some topographical maps. The trail waste little time in pounding out 800 feet of elevation gain to the rim. The first half mile is the killer, then it eases up. I guess I forgot to mention this area is among the best mountain biking you'll find in Arizona. I gave up mountain biking for the most part in 1997. However, if you go, I highly recommend the roller coaster ride from See Canyon Trailhead to the Two-Sixty Trailhead. It's six miles of pure heaven that most skill levels can handle. I mention this because the Drew Trail is one leg of a popular loop in the area. Wouldn't you know it! Two guys came rolling down right as I was going up. I was very impressed as they controlled their speed and managed the trail effortlessly. I'm sure other hikers might not see it as I do. Oh well, to each his own. Just don't knock it until you've tried it. It's a gratifying sport. I mean, when was the last time you high-fived your buddy after a hike. (excluding Shasta, Whitney, etc... =) Well, come to think of it, you do feel pretty damn good after an excursion on the Flatiron.
You'll surely encounter some downed trees in the upper sections. I counted four on this trip. Beware the big black ants as they enjoy these log jams. One big lazy switchback takes you to the rim. This is my favorite section, without a doubt. Your heart isn't racing due to a steep incline, and the views are top-notch. On the rim you'll come into FR9350. You could opt to loop over and down the See Canyon Trail for a 9.5-mile trek. Not me man, coming down the Drew ranks high in my book. There are some views from the top of the trail. Nothing as nice as the Overlook Trail to the east, but way better than the top of See Canyon Trail to the west. The work is all behind you. Enjoy the stroll back down.
"Visitors Guide / Mogollon Rim," says an old "lag tree" still stands along the trail, which was used in the old days as a fire lookout. I searched the net and newsgroups for additional information without any luck. I'm guessing it's this (see photo) tree. It stands near the top of the trail on the upper switchback. It's huge, to say the least, with lots of branches "lagging" on. The book also declares the Drew family lived near Sharp Creek and built this trail in the early 1900s. Sharp Creek is not on this trail description. It's further east on the Highline or down a pack trail more directly (which I didn't see near the junction).
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.