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West Divide Loop - Galiuro Mountains, AZ

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Guide 2 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Safford
5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 25 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,760 feet
Accumulated Gain 6,000 feet
Avg Time One Way 17 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 45
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
8  2013-11-06
Powers Garden Trail #96
51  2012-03-24 RedRoxx44
Author RedRoxx44
author avatar Guides 5
Routes 0
Photos 19,201
Trips 524 map ( 3,347 miles )
Age Female Gender
Location outside, anywhere
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Sep, Oct, Aug → Early
Seasons   Late Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:10am - 6:17pm
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Challenging loop in a remote area
by RedRoxx44

Likely In-Season!
Check access for AZ Game and Fish Unit 32. Currently it is listed as no public access.

The loop has been well cairned. The difficult part of the West Divide has received trail maintenance. It has been cairned and brush removed. Some of the terrain makes the trail still difficult to see. Follow the cairns and there should be no issues.

Overview: This loop in the Galiuros is comprised of Powers Hill trailhead- Rattlesnake Canyon- Pipestem Canyon- West Divide Trail- Rhodes Peak- Grassy Ridge trail (portion of West Divide)- Powers Garden trail- with a digression to Power Cabin and Mine- and out Rattlesnake to Powers Hill to close the loop.

Caution: The Galiuros are isolated and receive little visitation throughout the year. Almost all trailheads require at least 2wd HC vehicle and are dirt. There is no public access; you must cross private inholdings to reach the trailheads. If you get into trouble in here you are on your own. Help will be slow and a long time coming, even if you have a cell or satellite phone. I recommend TOPO and GPS here especially if your first time visiting.

Day1 - An early start after a night in Willcox--closer for those out of Tucson. From Phoenix its easier to stage out of Safford. The road to Rattlesnake Mesa was in good shape; I signed in for the free ranch pass to cross the private land. You display a tag at all times on your vehicle. To drive to Powers Hill you need a good 4wd vehicle. The Mesa top is ok for 2wd HC. I loaded up and started down the old wagon road built by the Powers'--very steep and no doubt they had to lock the wagon wheels going down this thing. Its short and you head up heavily wooded Rattlesnake canyon on a good use trail kept clear by horse packers. The canyons here have large ponderosa pine, oak, pinyon juniper, pockets of maple, and large sycamores. In a mile Rattlesnake turns south in a thick willow choked area--look for the sign announcing Pipestem canyon. I followed this long beautiful canyon to its' head - about 4.5 miles, the trail fading in and out, passing some beautiful green pools in pink slick rock bowls. At the top its confusing with cairns and use trails; after looking at my map, I chose one that climbed and bent slightly back the way I had come but got me on top of the ridgeline, to pick up the West Divide trail. At the saddle there are great views out on the San Pedro River Valley. No sign here, an old one down with some faint illegible writing. Casting about revealed a faint trail running south out of the saddle. It becomes better defined and climbs steadily. At times very well behaved, at times downed vegetation etal leads to some bushwacking. The trail comes out to view points along the way that are spectacular, then you have to locate the trail again. Not the fastet hiking in here. There is no water along the ridgeline, Pipestem and Rattlesnake had some running water, usually these canyons are dry. There are a couple of dams along Pipestem that might hold water for a while, and a signed spring in a sidecanyon about midway.

Past 7000+ Rhodes peak, the West Divide trail disappears. There are some rock cairns, then the terrain makes the trail finding almost impossible. I bushwacked over a couple of 6000+ peaks as indicated where the trail would be on the map; some advice here-- stay high, even though the topo indicates the trail is on a sidehill to the peaks. The slopes are very steep and brushy. At a saddle I made camp, the weather coming in and I had a bit of a water problem. I had great views but no idea if I was on or near the trail. I estimate 9-10 miles this day, and some slow routefinding and challenging bushwacking. Good Aspects-- varying terrain, wonderful views. Bad Aspects- poor trail condition, unless in a rainy season, lack of water.

Day 2 - I locate a trail off the saddle--by just observation and luck. Follow it a short distance to a spur trail I believe was the south fork of Field Canyon, and down that to filter some water. Back up on the brushy, at times a deer path, trail eventually to a sign indicating the West Divide, distance to Grassy Ridge, Powers Garden. Lots of ups and downs on the trail cutting along sidehills, crossing heavily wooded drainages. Along one ridgeline as you approach Grassy Peak it narrows down to 20 feet or so and the views into the Galiuro interior and San Pedro River Valley are amazing. Descending Grassy Ridge was nice for me as I knew most of the landmarks in front of me-- Kielberg canyon, the red cliffs near mine and cabin, the talus slope near Long Tom Mine, the divide. The trail alternates between a fair footpath and the line of least resistance through brush-- no trail maintenance in here-- then deposits you on the Powers Garden trail, signed, the Garden a little less than 5 miles away and the Power mine and cabin .4 miles down the hill filled with catclaw trailside. The cabin is the site of the 1918 shootout that left 4 men dead, spawned the largest manhunt in Arizona history. It was also the first time aircraft was used to assist in fugitive locating, and the Powers' brothers when convicted of murder served the longest sentences in Arizona corrections to this day. Several guide books erroneously note the Garden was the site of the shootout. The Powers' did homestead there, but left that area to run their mine. Hiking back to the Garden along Rattlesnake Canyon bottom is the easiest of the trip, the path well beat out, crossing the stream bed a lot which was running in places, easy to keep feet dry with a little rock hopping. Some flood evidence indicates it can really rampage in here. This canyon has huge pines and sycamores. At Powers Garden located in a beautiful meadow, campspots abound. Normally the creek bed is dry here, if so the spring is located a short walk on an obvious use path up canyon past the corrals, and is reliable. Three cabins are here, the one is available to stay in if you don't mind the usual critters at night, mice, rats and a ringtail or two. Be sure and tree your food in these mountains as black bears are active, you will usually see their scat along the trails.

Day 3 - Short 4 miles out to Powers Hill and the vehicle. From Powers Garden you also pick up the Tortilla trail out to the Deer Creek trailhead about 8.7 miles away. A nice hike also. Plan your drive out from Powers Hill, its long and slow so add that time in. By TOPO a little over 25 miles and about 6000 feet gain and 6000 loss on elevation. Total backpack review--Awesome, saw no one the entire trip, great scenery, history, outdoor mining museum, huge old trees, running water, challenging hiking, an excellent trip with an adrenaline edge to it. For experienced backpackers only.

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2005-03-27 RedRoxx44

    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 Review
    West Divide Loop - Galiuro Mountains
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Perfection---- sometimes it happens without much planning. Such as it was as I drove toward the Power Hill TH in the Galiuros, no real destination in mind. It was twilight as I cruised up the ridgeline road on my way to Rattlesnake Mesa and a car camp to start my hike the next morning. Just as I decided to switch on headlights, a cow was in the road. Not unusual here. She turned around and I saw two legs sticking out. This part of the road is a narrow ridgeline with not too many flat spots. So I parked the car. She turned around twice, laid down and had her calf. It was about an hour for the cleaning, nursing, getting the baby to take a few steps. At one point the calf came up to me and the vehicle, obviously puzzled. The cow made a low sound but she didn't come close. The calf was unsteady and leaned up against me. So cute. I guided it back to mom. The cow then got them both off the road, as if realizing I would move on.

    Full on dark when I got to the Mesa top, from here it is a narrow and at times difficult 4wd modified vehicle road. Some one had put a sign up "ATV only past here" --- a lifted and locked Sammy or Jeep would do fine. I could have taken the Toyota down but didn't bother. I placed my foam mattress on the tarp and slept under the stars. Very little light pollution. The velvet black punctuated by thousands of dots of light. I dozed, waking to check the star rotation, and to pick out new formations.

    I started my hike by headlamp, and dispensed with the mile or so of road quickly. Descending the hill heard the welcome sound of running water. Not a lot, but a pleasure for here. The pools a deep icy blue from the snowmelt. At the junction of Rattlesnake and Pipestem I paused then went up Pipestem. I felt good, taking some pictures, pack light and balanced on my back. The cairn committee has been at it in here. I don't like the over the top cairns but it makes walking the trail easy. Near the head of the canyon is a large pool that will hold water for a while. I picked up some water here, and mounted the West Divide trail. I stopped off to enjoy the huge views out, looking over San Manuel and Mammoth, the towns looking tiny in this gigantic landscape, study the east side of the Catalinas, look at Mica mountain with snow and the rise of Rincon peak, and the washes like squiggling snakes in the landscape below.

    The West Divide has had trail maintenance and is a pleasure to walk. There was some snow yet on the shadow side and I ate a few snow cones. Approaching Rhodes Peak the trail passes through a Japanese Bonzai garden of manzanita, yucca and scrub oak punctuated by some well placed rock. The trail here is wide, and gives a hint as to it's possible history as an old road.
    The trail passes Rhodes near the broad top, suddenly changing in character and you clamber over a short rock wall.
    I thought what a wonderful camp site this would be when I passed by here in 2005, and I decided to camp although the sun was still high. What views you have from here. The open huge valley of the San Pedro river bed, looking south down the west front of the Galiuro escarpment, looking east to see the dark rise of Kennedy Peak and the ridgeline of the East Divide, the major canyon of Rattlesnake hinted at but hidden from view, looking past to see the Pinalenos.
    The terrain is rocky and brushy, and has quite a few dead trees starkly decorating the landscape. The rock here is yellow, bands of it, and as you look at Rhodes peak from below on Hwy 77 it stands out with the yellow banding.
    I found the perfect campsite in a flat area tucked under a very slight overhang and protected on one side by a clump of manzanita. I had a hearth for a campfire if I so desired, which I didn't, and I found old burned pieces here.

    Needless to say I had a great time wandering around. Late light was wonderful. I didn't bring a tent or a bivy and enjoyed my slice of sky. Sunrise filled the sky with warm pink light, and I hated taking time to pack up. I was worried I didn't have enough water for my dry camp as it was warm and I was drinking more than usual. I found a rock pocket with a clean gallon in it, and took part of that.

    Starting out my stomach was uneasy. In 2005 I was low on water, had no trail and it was late with a storm coming in. I wandered about in the landscape, pushing through brush, looking at and cursing my map repeatedly. Running out animal trails to nowhere. When I camped I was stressed and tired. The storm came in and pounded me. The next morning I happened to walk out and there was the trail, just like that. Then I got some water. Life was good again.
    Now the trail is well cairned and brush trimmed. What a simple joy to walk. You contour around little rock prominences; take notice of the rock here, lots of crystal pockets and differing textures. I located a rock chipping area with lots of worked rock.
    The trail is still difficult in spots due to the type of terrain but it is well cairned.
    I didn't have the time I wanted to do the whole loop so went down the unsigned Field canyon. If you continue on the West Divide you will come to a signed Field Canyon trail which will take you to the Garden. This will also but makes a loop joining the other trail about a half mile before you get to Powers' Garden. The canyon is very pretty with big boulders, steep runoff chutes, tall pines, an old dam and a developed spring which was running down the hill this trip.
    The cabins were quiet with no one about and in good shape. It was the first time I had been here with the addition removed from the main cabin, and the fire pit moved to between the two cabins, a better location I think. I couldn't get the water spigot to work either. I signed in and moved on, not bothering with the spring.
    It was warm and nice, and soon some surface water down Rattlesnake. A few of my favorite pools were full. Had to rock hop to keep feet dry in a couple of spots.
    Grunt up the hill and out. I stopped in at Burger King in Willcox; normally I don't do fast food but allow myself after a good hike. I was in a good mood, and as I got my food the guy at the window said--"keep smiling". I turn onto I-10 and Coldplay comes on with "Paradise" I crank it up and keep on smiling. And I'm still smiling today, with an excellent Galiuros trip under my belt.

    FYI:counted 54 piles of bear poop, mostly old, and countless probably coyote poo, full of what looked like rabbit fur, enough to knit a sweater or two. :)

    Permit $$
    Information is listed below

    Coronado Forest
    MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
    Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

    Map Drive
    Strictly 4x4

    To hike
    From Safford drive back toward Globe and take the Klondyke road until it intersects with the Aravaipa road, turn right and go toward Klondyke. Approx 3-4 miles on your left you will see a cattle guard with a small sign noting access to Sportsmen by Arizona Game and Fish. A ranch house is directly across the road; this turn off is on your left. A cattle guard will also be in front of you announcing go slow because of cattle on the road, you will turn left right before crossing this. You will soon cross the usually dry Aravaipa Creek bed. In less than a quarter mile you will see a Kiosk asking you to sign in. A ranch house is nearby, you will drive right behind it. It is not clear if you must have the Permit to cross state trust land, or a hunting permit. Sign in, get a tag and hang it from your rearview mirror at all times. The road to Rattlesnake Mesa is a rough dirt and rock ranch road good for HC 2wd and runs about 8-9 miles to the car park. A good 4X4 is needed to descend the mesa to the Powers Hill car park marked by a BLM kiosk at approx mile 10.5. If this road is wet 4wd should be mandatory. This road is not signed or marked for its entire length.
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