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Donahue Trail #27, AZ

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Guide 58 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson N
3.3 of 5 by 19
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 2.04 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,000 feet
Elevation Gain 1,139 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,139 feet
Avg Time One Way 1-1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.84
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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8  2019-06-08
Milk Ranch Point Loop
11  2019-06-08
Milk Ranch Point Loop
18  2019-04-10
Red Geronimo Milk
43  2018-08-30
Pine Canyon / Donahue loop
8  2018-08-19
14  2017-07-29
Pine Canyon / Donahue loop
4  2017-07-08
Milk Ranch Point Loop
14  2017-05-20
Highline - Rim View Fail - Webber - Donahue
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author AZHikr4444
author avatar Guides 7
Routes 0
Photos 632
Trips 83 map ( 529 miles )
Age 48 Male Gender
Location Cave Creek, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, Nov → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:13am - 6:24pm
Official Route
12 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Beautiful climb to the Rim
by AZHikr4444

Stats are for actual #27 one-way segment.

The Donahue Trail, #27 is a lesser traveled trail north from the Highline up to Milk Ranch Point. From the Pine TH look straight up past the corrals and the cabin to the outcrop of Milk Ranch Point, and sigh. This is your destination! The Donahue is accessed by following the Pine Canyon Trail #26 to the Pine View Trail. This is a beautiful 0.5 mile through the canyon, with a couple of fun creek crossings. If you have trouble rock hopping the creek at the trail, just scramble a bit up or down creek until you find a suitable crossing. Watch for loose rocks! Arriving early and in the freezing cold and rain, like Trishness and I did, may afford you the opportunity to spot elk on the hill sides along this section of the trail. You may hear their bugling urging you onward into the unknown. This leisurely stroll through the canyon does not clue you in on the workout that is in store ahead!

From the intersection of Pine Canyon and the Pine View Trail, turn right and continue on the Pine View Trail another mile until it intersections with the Highline. The trail gradually becomes more exposed, with the soft pine canopy turning to chaparral and manzanita. The trail is very well established at this point, steep and rocky with a steady incline- 800ft from the trailhead to the Highline. The views to the northeast and south become better and better, and when the wind begins kicking up and you realize you are being peppered with freezing pellets of rain, you remember suddenly that this is the Rim! Okay, so how could you ever forget with those views?

Press forward, oh Pathfinder, on the Highline as it continues snaking its way east. You will notice that the trail becomes less and less discernable, washed away in some sections, and marked with intermittent cairns. If you begin to have trouble finding the trail, just "follow the water" as it trickles down the trail, or better yet, follow the "fair-weather" turned "all-weather" hiker (that would be Trish), who has great route-finding ability. Sometimes it is hard to think clearly when toting 14 pounds of mud on your boots. Another 0.5 mile on the Highline brings you to a well marked signage indicating the Donahue Trail #27- straight north to Milk Ranch Point. The sign says "Milk Ranch Pt. - 1 mile". It is actually 1.25 miles. On this rainy day in late April, the trail looked very much like a creek.

Begin by following the cairns as the trail ascends. However, don't get to comfortable with those cairns, as they soon all but disappear, either dismantled by nature as the snow pack melts every year, or perhaps someone just made it halfway up and decided to quit while they were ahead. I think the trail may be more difficult to follow in drier weather, as the terrain is washed and grooved in many areas. The underbrush soon takes over, and the route becomes a virtual bushwhack. A series of switchbacks (we think around 8-10) keeps you on your toes and huffing and puffing. For inspiration, look out over the stunning views, the cloud cover and shadow sweeping across the mountains. The occasional winks of clear blue sky and the smile of the sun on your face will give you the added energy and motivation to trudge forward.

About 0.75 miles up, you will come to a small red rock chute. Scramble up, or if you feel more secure, take the small spur trail west for a short bypass. Continue on through the somewhat dense brush (the trail is ironically easier to follow here, as the vegetation has kept it from washing out), until you top out on the quiet ridge of Milk Ranch Point - elevation 7200ft. You have gained 1400 ft from the Highline/Donahue junction.

The views from the ridge are not as expansive as I hoped, the only drawback to this portion of the trail. The Donahue trail does continue along this ridge, eventually intersecting FS 218, and I believe if the trail moves closer to the Rim, the views may become more impressive. However, there is an extreme amount of down trees and underbrush here, and it is possible that further up the ridge the trail may disappear altogether. A future bushwhack adventure? I think so!

Return back down the way you came up, slipping and sliding to the Highline Junction. Take the Highline back to the Pine View Trail. After re-tracing your steps and re-crossing the creek a few times, you can continue on the Pine Canyon Trail back to the TH, or stay on the Highline (turn left at the sign that says "Pine Trailhead - 1 mile") for a short but sweet, and flat, loop back to the trailhead. This section of the trail follows the creek quite closely, through a boulder garden, and is nestled in area of towering old growth pine and new sprouts and seedlings. The soft bright green foliage of the new trees contrasts sharply with the black slash trunks of the grandfathers- a testament to the wonderful restorative power of nature.

I would consider this a moderate hike for the seasoned pilgrim, and a difficult one for the newcomer or those who are out of shape. Hiking on the Rim in alternative weather can be challenging and gives you a whole different perspective on this beautiful country. Stay away during lightning, though, and be sure to have a partner who loves the Rim so much, she doesn't mind taking pieces and parts of it home with her, mostly attached to her boots.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2005-04-26 AZHikr4444
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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 of 27 deeper Triplog Reviews
Donahue Trail #27
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I headed out this morning with 9L, a couple other friends, and a pack of dogs. The plan was for an easy late start dog day in East Webber Creek. It'd been a few years since I'd hike back there. I unfortunately got a flat about 1.5 miles in on the Control Road. The two inch gash at the base of the sidewall was an immediate indication that this tire was headed for the land fill. I'd been telling myself for a few months that I needed to replace my 15 year old spare and as I lowered the ancient half-inflated tire down from the undercarriage, I was really wishing I had done that. Luckily we weren't that far down the dirt and I knew there was a filling station right up the street so I'd be able to fully inflate the spare.

After dealing with all that, we decided that doing a hike from the Pine TH would be smarter in case my old spare didn't hold air. We had a pleasant day with the dogs and took the Donahue up Milk Ranch Point. We had a late lunch at THAT Brewery before we headed back. My shitty old tire seemed to be holding pressure but I stopped in Payson and bought a compressor for the long drive home just to be safe. It felt like a long day but it was still a nice one.

Went to my ghetto Pepboys this morning to replace my tire and the spare. I didn't have road hazard on my tires but they cut me a huge deal since I'd just bought that set in May. I walked out the door paying less than half what I expected to pay for the whole shebang. Those guys rule.
Donahue Trail #27
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Milk Ranch Point Loop
We started from Red Rock Springs TH and did this loop CCW, I have only done it the other way. Getting the Highline section done early was the aim. Humidity was certainly a factor during the earlier hours, though. Once we reached Geronimo the stream of trail runners would begin. We breaked along West Webber Creek, below Turkey Spring. Had a snack and replenished my water supply that dwindled surprisingly fast. The stroll through old Pine and Maples, dotted with raspberries along the creek, was it's usual delightful self. Before the climb up the rim, we stopped and chatted with some of the trail runners, and let them go ahead of us. The climb up on West Webber was enjoyable. Switch backs and shade was all we could ask for, and we would eventually catch the crew of runners and start down Donahue together after the brief road walk. Once on the lower, steeper reaches of Donahue and back on the Highline, it was getting warm. Thunder in the distance led to clouds overhead and a break from the sun. By the time we started back down on Red Rock Springs, the big drops started to fall and we would finish out in a downpour mixed with hail. Temps dropped about 20 degrees and we were soaked upon reaching the TH. The cool down was much appreciated. Had a great time in Rim Country today.
Donahue Trail #27
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Highline - Rim View Fail - Webber - Donahue
Me and my squad of one, launched from the Pine TH on a glorious Saturday morning.

This was my first time on this portion of the re-routed Highline #31, since starting the AZT in 2010. It was a clear and pleasant jaunt all the way to the Geronimo TH on this well manicured track. One AZ Black buzzworm woke us up about 5 miles in, sunning itself in the trail. We lounged in the shade by the babbling Webber Creek before continuing on the Highline.

The plan was to loop on the Rim View Trail - BSA, using a 4 year old @Grasshopper/ @Tough_boots track. It started out easy enough following the trail and metal poles. This was probably some scouts work for a merit badge. I don't think it's seen any love since it completion. 1 mile in, we lost the poles and any sign of a trail. We searched higher than the track and found one last pole. In shorts and wasting time with 3ish miles left into the unknown, we retreated.

The Highline back to Gerinimo #240 and the to the gem of the hike, East Webber #289. The forest is beautifully thick with maples. As an added treat, the creek was running up to and past where this trail meets up with the BSA Milk Ranch Trail. After this intersection, the trail gets...steep. We bagged the top a bit after 5pm.

First time on the Donahue #27. Clear and OK up top, gets a bit tight and rocky at the bottom. It was good to be back on the Highline superhighway to the TH.

Great weather in the Rim country made this a good one for me.
Donahue Trail #27
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Highline - Rim View Fail - Webber - Donahue
Bruce had a medium and large loop option. A hunter tricked us with a slew of coyote calls only 1.6 mi into the hike in the well groomed forest. The Highline/AZT rolled like a highway so I opted for the longer option with Rim View Trail.

Rim View Trail
Started off cool and looked promising. Tall stakes led the way. We went over a slick rock area. Then it got fuzzy in a ravine with lots of downfall. Around another bend and the stakes began to fade. Hanks route was getting into thicker stuff with small cairns. Backtracked a tad and searched out the stakes. They were taking us high up and nothing was looking promising. Bruce wanted to turn the ship around and my leg shouldn't be in this terrain yet so the decision to head back was easy.

West Webber Trail
Dreamy as always. Temps dropped into the low sixties and shade of the pines took over.

Only encountered 6 people. 1 hiker finishing as we started. 2 runners on #31. 2 camping near Geronimo. 1 camping at the Pine TH.

Mostly great temps, toasty midday. We'll get the Rim View Trail another day. Longer hike, not difficult.

Pacific Rose apples are bomb diggity! Had an October carmel apple feel, sans carmel... smooth, consistent flavored, pure joy, no regrets
Donahue Trail #27
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Milk Ranch Point Loop
Stepped out for one of my favorite Rim Country loops this a.m. Went clockwise, although I'd recommend CCW this time of year. Lots of rocky terrain today, aside from the recently cleared segment of Highline around the Donahue junction. #294 is like a mini Y-Bar. I'd forgotten how much I like Donahue. It offers a nice climb up the rim then flattens out through a pine forest before ending at MRP Rd. West Webber #228 is always the highlight of this loop. There's plenty of shade under those old growth Maple & Oak trees and a reliable water source in the creek. Raspberries are already gone, unfortunately. Spooked a large herd of elk on Geronimo and could later hear them calling to each other for several minutes, which was kind of cool. By the time I jumped on Highline, the 62 degrees I started in was now 90 degrees with nearly zero shade, as much of the Western Highline is. I ended up using a water bottle I picked up off the trail to collect water at Pine Spring to dump on my head. Finished up back at Red Rock Spring TH. Distance of this loop is slightly shorter now due to a Highline/Donahue re-route. Overall it's a great loop that allows you to sample a handful of trails while offering great views, diverse flora, abundant fauna & a lush shaded oasis along West Webber.
Donahue Trail #27
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The Highline ... something I've done many parts of but never done the whole thing, start to finish. Finally, it was the time to check it off the list. What's more, every time I have hiked the Highline, I have been rained or hailed on...this time was no exception. Took a friend with me who also wanted to do it.

Day 1: Pine TH to Bray Creek
Started out in the afternoon, leaving Pine TH about 2:15pm. Shortly after starting, we ran into Rob, the first of 2 AZT through-hikers encountered on this trip. Rob had started in Mexico on Mar. 4. Made our first and only wrong turn early on here, accidentally getting on the Donahue Trail that heads up to Milk Ranch Point. Didn't lose a lot of time, maybe a mile. Passed Geronimo TH at 6:15. Later in the afternoon, before dark, saw our first deer and elk. We wanted to camp at the East Verde by Washington Park TH, but our late start prevented us from getting there. Little slow going, my friend was nauseated, but we figured a good night's sleep would cure it. We finally made it to Bray Creek about 8:30pm with our headlamps and decided to settle for it. Bray was almost dry, just a few shallow puddles, but there were two black pipes running from up the creek, paralleling it, rushing all the water downhill for someone else. It's odd to be right next to water flowing so strong you can hear it flowing in your tent, but because it's in a black pipe you can't get a drop of it. Finished Day 1: 13.12 mi, 2820aeg, 6hr 15min, 1:09 break.

Day 2: Bray Creek to Hatchery TH
Started out from Bray Creek at 7am, made it to Washington Park TH by 10:10. Interesting, found a nice, new 6pt elk antler sitting on the trail. Between Dude and Bonita Creeks we ran into two surveyors with VOAZ (Volunteers of Outdoor Arizona). Really nice guys. They said they live in Scottsdale but drive up every week to do this surgery work, as they are looking for ways to improve the trail and its route. Apparently their organization has been doing this for a while now (you can read about it by going to and under "Get Involved" you'll find the "VOAz Highline Project"). There is even info there in case you want to help volunteer with part of the project. They have already pretty much finished work from Hatchery TH to 260 TH, and this day wanted to do work between Dude Creek and the 144 Control Road. It turned out to be a blessing that we ran into them, because we left them and by the time we made it to the Control Road, where their truck was parked, my friend was ready to bow out. He'd been feeling sick again most of the day, and decided to hang back and beg for a ride out. We made a contingency in that, if he couldn't get them to give him a ride out, that he would hang out at nearby Perley Creek until I finished the Highline and could come back for him the following day. Wasn't crazy about the idea, but there weren't any other decent options, we were kind of at the ½way point, his truck was at Pine TH and mine at 260 TH. With that, I decided to head on to Hatchery TH, our intended destination for the night. Speeding it up and without taking as many breaks, I made it to Hatchery just after dark at 7:20. Just before dark, I ran into another AZT thru-hiker, who had started in Mexico in February and had decided to detour from the AZT to do the entire Highline and was on his way back, nice guy. Ran into several more deer and elk and even an owl near dusk. Finished Day 2: 22.09 mi, 3805aeg, 12hr 22min, 2:40 break.

Once I arrived at Hatchery TH, I realized there weren't really any good options for pitching a tent, but I pitched the tent here anyway in some thick grass next to the parking lot anyway in case my friend actually did get a ride back to his vehicle and showed up. About 45 minutes after I had pitched my tent and was eating a dinner of Pringles and peanut butter (oops, he had the stove) ... he drove up. The volunteer surveyors did have compassion on him, plus he offered them $40 for the ride to treat them to a nice dinner before heading back to Scottsdale for the night. Now that he had a vehicle, and I had put 22+ miles in with a heavy backpack, I wanted more protein than my Mountain House had to offer, so he drove us into Payson for a late night Arby's run. Ahhh...chicken cordon bleu! Hearing that a storm was rolling in at midnight, I decided to ditch the tent and just slept in the truck.

Day 3: Hatchery TH to 260 TH
Woke up about 5:30am, tossed out the idea of having him join me for part of the conclusion of the hike (Hatchery to See Canyon, or See Canyon to 260), but he was done done. He was not wanting to push it again, plus he was concerned about the trail being muddy and the threat of the storm ramping back up for the day, mostly by 11am. With 17 miles to go, I decided if I just ditched my gear, I could run it and beat the storm. So he graciously brought my gear back to Tucson while I took a 1 liter Gatorade bottle with water, an umbrella, my GPS and my SPOT and took off, at 6am. The morning was fabulous. It was a little muddy but not bad. Hatchery to See is the best section of the trail, if you ask me; love this section. Made it to See Canyon TH by 9:10am, the only place I saw someone else today on the trail, a guy on a four wheeler at the trailhead. Once 10am hit, with 4 miles to go to the 260 TH, the rain started and quickly turned into hail. I thought to myself, how ironic. It was on this same segment of trail 8 years ago while doing the Mogollon Rim Vista Loop that I was in my most dangerous situation ever on a hike [ triplog ] , a monsoon hailstorm with lightning popping everywhere, and not having the gear to protect myself. After about 15 minutes, once I had had time to reminisce the last hailstorm, it let up, and I had clear skies the rest of the way to the end. Made it to the trailhead at 11:15am, with the storm kicking in 10 minutes later. Finished Day 3: 18.23 mi, 3110aeg, 5hr 14min, 0:08 break.

mostly from Hatchery TH to 260 TH.
Donahue Trail #27
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Milk Ranch Point Loop
Had to take advantage of great weather and hit one of my rim country favorites. It was a tad warmer than I anticipated but the clear, sunny skies made for great views. Every tank, spring and creek had more water present than my previous trip. Enjoyed a nutrition break along Webber Creek. It's still a little early for fall foliage down there and mostly green. Some of the younger Oaks and Maples next to the trail are starting to change. About 2 weeks from now the canyon will begin to light up with reds and yellows, I'll be sure to return then. I saw plenty of elk and even got close to a juvenile grazing near Geronimo. Other than the wildlife, I didn't see a soul on any of the trails all day.
Donahue Trail #27
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Milk Ranch Point Loop
Another late start, another warm hike. It was a sudden and unplanned trip so I went with a familiar loop. Although the extreme heat warning didn't extend to this region, it was by far my hottest rim country hike of the summer. Temps reached 95 degrees and there was no break from the sun. Heading up Donahue I questioned myself once or twice but knew that Webber Creek wasn't far and soon I'd be cooling off. I appreciated every morsel of shade. Once at the creek I found a nice little shaded pool and soaked in it while enjoying an extended nutrition/rehydration break. The creek was lined with coneflowers and columbines. I filtered 3 liters of water and drenched all of my clothes before leaving. I knew the very sun-exposed, mid-afternoon section of Highline I had awaiting me. By the time I reached Pine Spring, it looked like an oasis. Shade, tall green grass and although it's nothing more than a muddy seep covered in elk tracks, I was glad to have found water. Using an empty water bottle, I widened a small trench and funneled water into the bottle to pour over my head and soak my shemagh to keep wrapped around my head and neck. Certainly great views along this segment of Highline, but at the cost of being totally exposed to the sun. After Pine Spring I seemed to have found a 'second wind' and set a good pace I kept up with until I reached the Red Rock Spring TH finish. Overall it was an enjoyable hike. Physically my body responded to the stress of heat and sun better than I could've imagined (other than a few small sunburn spots). I drank 6 liters of water during the hike and was well hydrated before starting out, a decision that paid off well. Although I did hike on an empty stomach until reaching Webber Creek which was probably not a good idea. Didn't see much wildlife today, aside from a lone adolescent white tail. Encountered one other hiker about 1.5 miles in but that was it. Used Route Scout for the first time and all went well. I like that it keeps recording in background and the split stats for every mile. I used this feature as a reminder to slow down a little and not get overheated. I also liked that it notified me when my battery was getting low, cool feature. Hit THAT Brewery for a black bean burger and AZ Trail Ale immediately afterwards to replenish some much needed calories. Another good day in Rim country.
Donahue Trail #27
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Milk Ranch Point Loop
Took advantage of some awesome weather this A.M. and hit one of my favorite Rim Country loops. Started from Red Rock Springs TH (72 degrees) and went in a clockwise direction. Headed up Donahue and across Milk Ranch Rd. to West Webber and down to the creek. This is the most appealing section of this loop because of the lush green environment and the presence of water and wild berries. A group of 4 hikers passed me going the other way as I stopped to gather a handful of raspberries along the creek. I continued onto Turkey Spring before taking a side trail across the creek and meeting up with Geronimo. Next it was back onto Highline. Not my favorite section of this trail terrain wise but the views are great. There isn't much tree cover but the clouds had moved in by then and when coupled with the breeze made this segment of Highline rather enjoyable. Sometime before Pine Spring I spooked a rattler on the trail. Managed to snap a pic as it retreated under a rock. The rest of the hike was uneventful and the home stretch went by quickly. Beautiful day in Rim Country, great hike and all trails were clearly marked and in good shape except for the Red Rock Springs TH where both signs are currently missing.
Donahue Trail #27
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Decided to give this loop a try after seeing a couple recent triplogs for it. Spoke briefly with a local at Pine TH who mentioned plans to re-route Donahue to accommodate mountain bikers, but who knows? Once on the trail I immediately crossed paths with a couple deer less than a half mile in. I was looking forward to busting it up East Rim trail only to discover I was sharing the trail with a girls youth group over a hundred strong who where heading down from an out & back up East Rim. Needless to say, my pace was slowed to a crawl, at best, with frequent stops to let them pass. I can't complain though, they were a surprisingly quiet and well-behaved bunch (or just tired) and the adults were friendly and chatty. Overall, I found East Rim Trail enjoyable, especially near the top. Because of the delay, I opted out of a nutrition break and scarfed down a sandwich while walking along the FR before Milk Ranch Rd, where I spooked a group of 4 turkeys. Then it was on to Donahue Trail and it was my first time hiking down this section. Great hike all around. Lots of sunshine & 85 degrees when I arrived back at the TH a couple shades darker than when I left.

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Pine Trailhead
87 north to Payson. Continue through Payson on 87 @12 miles to Pine Trailhead. Trailhead sign will be on your right.

Pine Trailhead is a very well maintained trailhead, with vault toilets and neat horse corrals. A very short distance from the trailhead is a mountain cabin where some lucky person lives.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 102 mi - about 1 hour 55 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 200 mi - about 3 hours 15 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 98.9 mi - about 1 hour 44 mins
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