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Denton Trail #69, AZ

no permit
112 6 2
Guide 6 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson S
3.8 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 5.25 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,500 feet
Elevation Gain 2,957 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,123 feet
Avg Time One Way 3.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.66
Interest Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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30  2014-11-02 CannondaleKid
25  2012-04-30 CannondaleKid
20  2009-04-12 DarthStiller
18  2009-04-12 wallyfrack
5  2007-11-30 pickelltree
14  2004-12-15 aaronhales
Author aaronhales
author avatar Guides 6
Routes 0
Photos 273
Trips 7 map ( 47 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Chandler, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Apr, Oct → 7 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:10am - 6:29pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Reward is at the end
by aaronhales

The Denton Trail serves as an excellent example of a transition trail going from the saguaro-studded lower elevations to a mature, lush ponderosa pine forest in the upper elevations - all in about 5 miles. That being said, I would say this trail is more of a destination hike than a scenic-along-the-way hike (the destination being an area called "Big Pine Flat". More about that later.)

The trail officially starts out at the end of FR 421, however for myself I had to start out probably 2 miles before that due to most of FR 421 being a definite 4WD road. My Honda Accord has seen many places, but this was not going to be one of them! The beginning of the trail is marked and gives signage to destination points. For the most part, the trail has a steady climb with a couple steep parts, but nothing too terrible. You can tell it is a seldom-used trail, but for the most part is not too hard to follow.

Along the way you are afforded excellent views to the north of the Mogollon Rim and the town of Punkin Center in the foreground. To your south you will have expansive views of Roosevelt Lake and on a clear day one can easily see as far south as Mt. Turnbull. Not too shabby!

Eventually the trail tops out around 5700 feet and begins a short 1/4 mile 300-foot descent into Big Pine Flat - an impressive forest of some towering ponderosa pines and seasonal streams. This is also the southern terminus of the trail as it meets up with FR 422a. This vicinity is quite scenic. There are some large boulders and few campsites scattered about (looks like a great place to camp by the way.) While I was there, snow was on the ground and was melting, creating a torrent of water in a couple of these unnamed streams which leads me to the best part about this place. If you follow the stream for about 100 feet you will come across two successive and shall I say rather impressive waterfalls. The water was just gushing and shooting out from these falls. The first one was probably about 6 feet tall, but the second was probably close to 20 feet tall. Unfortunately my camera did not do justice in my opinion to these falls, but these are the best pics I could come up with. After spending about 45 minutes up in this area, I decided to turn around and huff it back to my car, about 14 miles round-trip. Normally, I would rate this trail about a 2 or 3, but due to such great destination I'll be rating this trail a 4.

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2004-12-15 aaronhales

    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
    Denton Trail #69
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After our hike yesterday seeking the non-existent Sycamore Trail it was time to hit a known trail, but first a short jaunt to the Circle M Spring. The concrete tank was dry and the spring nothing but a small algae-choked puddle so back to the Jeep for our drive to the end of FR 422A just past Big Pine Spring where we would pick up the Denton Trail.

    Some two-plus years ago we had driven out FR422 and rebuilt the cairn where the Arizona Trail #21 leaves FR422 for Bushnell Tanks. After the cairns were complete we checked out the Jolene Mine and El Oso mines area and had a little time to wander so we had hiked part of the Denton Trail.

    So for our last hike of the weekend we figured we'd take Denton Trail a bit farther than before. Not all the way down, just a bit since Tracey was having some heel issues. Just about time Tracey was ready to turn back she manages to call my attention to what appeared to be a ruin site some distance below and south of the trail. Zooming in on it that's exactly what it looked like... only it was down the steepest slope encountered thus far so I left it up to her whether she felt it was worth the extra effort.

    Thankfully it WAS worth the effort... it was an old ruin site after all. :y:
    At first we thought it may have been a temporary shelter built by cowboys in the late 1800's but once Tracey found some potsherds we knew it was more than a cowboy shelter and began looking closer. Tracey came up with a small arrowhead and what may have been a cutting tool. Or... I suppose it could be some wishful thinking. Whatever, it was a nice find.

    Time to head back uphill again, but we took our time, taking in the scenery and for the first time in two days we saw Four Peaks out from under the clouds that had been visiting all weekend. Even when there was plenty of blue skies earlier it was always in a shroud.

    Since Tracey had never been on FR 143 El Oso Road down to Tonto Basin and it had been almost 10 years since I had we initially thought of going back that way, but tacking on an extra 40-some miles meant another $10 in gas for the Cherokee... so since my budget likes saving as much as possible, we opted for a fast drive back down to AZ 87.

    Fast it was... Tracey, hang on! Just under 49 minutes to go from the FR143/FR422/FR648 junction back to the Beeline. It would have been less but for a number of ATV's and other vehicles we had to follow until they either tired of holding us up and pulled over to let us pass, or for one who had no clue we were behind him, a blast of the air-horn and we zipped by anyway. Speed up, stop or get-out-of-the-way!
    As fast as Tracey could handle it without barfing it still doesn't approach my best time back in 2004 when I had an old beater Toyota Tacoma 2WD pickup... 29 minutes. It helped there were no other vehicles but it still meant plenty of four-wheel drifts along with at least one head-bump on the roof. Ah, those were the days... I can't afford to break things now. (the vehicle or my bones)

    No video and another small photoset so they're all here..
    Denton Trail #69
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    El Oso Mine / AZT 21 / Denton loop
    This hike was an exploration of the El Oso mine road and the FR422. A certain hiking website admin told that the El Oso mine road had some great views and it. I parked at a camp site off of FR422 and headed to FR422A to the El Oso mine road. I headed down to the Big Pine Flat camp ground and headed down the Denton trail. I went along the Denton until it started to drop down and the overgrowth started to obscure the trail. The view from the Denton is awesome. You get views of Roosevelt Lake and the Tonto Basin area. Along the way I checked out the mines and offshoot roads. There wasn’t anything of interest at the mines.

    I then headed down FR422 and checked out the various offshoots along the way. The Circle M spring had a pool of green water. The loop at the end of FR422 was pretty neat, it climbed up high and provided a 360 degree view of the area. On the way back I saw a cairn and a red ribbon at N33 49.876 W111 22.541. It was north of the Park trail and south of where the Sycamore (68) should be. I followed the cairn and found 3 more 2-foot cairns. Then the cairns got smaller and harder to find. I then wandered looking for the next cairn before giving up. Edwards peak was close by and looked doable. So I’m guessing the ‘trail’ goes to Edwards peak.

    Then I found an un-marked (and not on any maps) a road that may be the start of the Sycamore (68) trail. The road dead ended where my GPS showed where the Sycamore crossed it. I saw no evidence of a trail past this point.

    It was a fun day exploring around the area.

    :SB: My only gripe is that 2 guys on ATV’s flagged me down to ask for directions. They didn’t have any idea where they were. They only had a book of ATV trails, which had a 4 x 8 map of the 4 peaks area. I told them where they were at and they asked how to get to the parking lot. I was like ‘which parking lot?” They replied the one off of the 4-peaks road. We just drove in and saw a parking lot. I told them how to get back to FR143 and hoped that they would remember which way to go. If you’re going out ATVing you should at least have a good map / GPS. :SB:
    Denton Trail #69
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After spending the morning driving out FR422 to where the AZT turns off to the west, rebuilding the cairn marking that turn as well as taking a short hike out on AZT#21 and taking in the views west, we decided on a hike in the other direction to compare them with the views over Tonto Basin and Roosevelt Lake.

    So after a drive of some distance south on FR422 we turned off on FR463 and followed it to FR422A which we followed to its terminus. From there we hiked just far enough out on the Denton Trail for the views over Roosevelt Lake.

    The clear skies and a nice breeze made for a pleasant hike. We encountered numerous reasonably fresh elk tracks almost wherever we wandered but none were to be seen. (I've seen them here in the past)

    While wandering onto the last overlook over the lake eagle-eye Tracey found a single potsherd. Alas, it was the only one.

    On the return trip we climbed up and scampered on a number of large boulders which presented some great views. Near the end of our hike we passed by a cluster of boulders that were ripe for the imagination... see the photoset.

    I posted 25 photos on HAZ, the full set of 36 are here:
    Denton Trail #69
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    As we got out of Wally's car at the TH, we immediately heard something that sounded like a dog howling/barking from up off the mountain. It had a very "Hound of the Baskervilles" sound to it. After hiking in a half mile, the howling stopped and we never heard it again or saw what it was. Other than that odd start to the day, everything else was normal and fine.

    The hike is very nice, great scenery, nice spot at the top where the trail ends in a patch of ponderosa pines and boulders by Big Pine Spring. The trail, however, is bad. Many washouts in places making for precarious footing, alot of the rail ties have been burnt, creating alot erosion and much of the trail a mini-valley of sorts. At the top of the first canyon, the trail cuts sideways into a steep hill, making it a little hairy as one side is a steep drop off.

    The views of Tonto Basin, Roosevelt Lake, and 4Peaks are incredible. The north side of 4Peaks seemed covered in snow, and for most of the time it was obscured by clouds. Once we got a view of it on the Beeline Hwy, it looked almost like no snow was on it from that angle.

    I think this trail is underrated, but considering the condition of parts of it and the long drive to get there, I can understand why it is as under used as it is.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Strictly 4x4

    To Denton Trailhead
    Take Hwy 87 North from Phoenix, turn south onto Hwy 188 and follow until 4.5 miles south of Punkin Center, then turn right onto FR 421 (gated). I only made it about a 1/4 mile in with my car before stopping. High-Clearance vehice could make it probably another mile. But to go all the way to the end would require 4WD.
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