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Black Mesa - Cave Creek, AZ

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Guide 35 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
3.8 of 5 by 13
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 11.68 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,325 feet
Elevation Gain 3,100 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 27.18
Interest Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
5  2019-01-26 caragruey
14  2018-03-16 KBKB
16  2017-12-09 hikerdw
14  2016-05-07 Ace4
15  2016-03-09
Black Mesa - Cave Creek Explore
7  2015-11-11 JuanJaimeiii
3  2015-02-22
Spur Cross to Rondo Spring
11  2014-12-13 The_Dude
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author TerrySwicegood
author avatar Guides 5
Routes 0
Photos 52
Trips 4 map ( 35 miles )
Age 74 Male Gender
Location Litchfield Park, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Mar → 7 AM
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:15am - 6:26pm
4 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Strenuous Yet Rewarding
by TerrySwicegood

Black Mesa rises 4479 feet north and west of Cave Creek, Arizona. A good trail leads from the Spur Cross Conservation area for 5.84 miles until you reach the summit. Dave Erickson, the North Dakota animal, Bob Bell, the would-be Chicago animal, and I, the Arizona super-animal hiked this trail on February 3, 2006.

Leaving the porta-potties and the Spur Cross Conservation area at the trail-head, the Tortuga trail follows a good road west-ward for 1.55 miles. Here there is a sign that reads Elephant Mountain/Tortuga Trail. Follow the Elephant Mountain Trail for another 0.17 of a mile and take a left. The Elephant Mountain trail drops very steeply into a wash. Make a note here because you will dread climbing out of this wash coming back! The trail follows the wash in a westerly direction, eventually climbing gradually upward with the Hohakam Indian Fortress to your left (southwestly) and Elephant Mountain a little higher to your left. Out in the distance you can see Black Mesa. It looks a long way away, and believe me, it is!

At 2.49 miles you come to a junction with a trail sign with arrows pointing straight and right. You want to go right toward Black Mesa. Left will take you to the saddle between the Indian Fortress and Elephant Mountain, a worthy destination if you are short on time.

Leaving this trail junction you drop quickly into yet another wash, and then you climb back out. In 0.25 of a mile you come to another junction. I have missed this junction twice, so I'm 0 for 2. We placed cairns here, and there is a wonderful rock here with directions on it placed in the ground by local horseman, Terry Smith. At this junction take a LEFT. If you go straight you will head toward Sugar Loaf Mountain on a circuitous trail which takes you back to the Tortuga trail. (This would be another good loop for a short day.)

Taking a left here you countour along a ridge with Elephant Mountain to your left and Black Mesa to your right. It still looks a long way ahead, and it is!

At 3.4 miles you walk under a fence with Black Mesa straight in front of you. Terry Smith has placed another directional rock in the ground here.

From here the trail heads directly toward Black Mesa, climbing pleasantly all the way. The downside of the climb are the ubiqutous rocks, which will leave your feet sore at the end of the day.

As you near Black Mesa, you think you are almost there, but maddingly, the trail makers take you all along the western edge of the Mesa, until you come to the far (northern end). At this point the trail begins its final ascent to the summit, a very steep and sometimes loose climb. Hiking poles help. Reaching the summit, you have to backtrack in a southerly direction across the flat grasslands of the summit floor until you reach the true summit. The summit has been scarred by the Cave Creek Complex fire of 2005.

(Last year when I did this hike, I determined it would be much faster and much easier to go "cross-country", to leave the trail and head directly for the summit. Animal Bob Bell and I liked this idea, while our buddy, the more-prudent Dave Erickson stayed on the trail. Let me make a painful story short: stay on the trail. The cross country is a steep beast of loose rocks, cholla, and prickly pear cactus, and what you save in time, you lose in heart muscle!!)

As always from the summits of this area, the views are magnificent, although the Valley of the Sun on this day could have well be called the Valley of the Skuz.

My GPS read 5.84 miles to the true summit and registered 4479'. The actual reading for the summit from USGS maps is 4698'.

Check out the Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2006-02-10 TerrySwicegood
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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 12 deeper Triplog Reviews
Black Mesa - Cave Creek
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Heather, Ben, and I hiked from the Spur Cross Trailhead to Black Mesa on Friday. From there we hiked over to New River Mesa and then returned the way we came.

I had last done this hike in December of 2014. On that day, we encountered waist-high grass which prevented us from seeing the cairns. We probably would not have figured it out without the aid of a GPS track. On Friday's hike, the grass which was a problem back in 2014 was quite a lot shorter. We could see the cairns and we didn't have to goosestep in order to push the grass down.

All in all, the hike was a lot more straightforward this time and we made good time getting to the top of Black Mesa. There was usually a path to follow and cairns when there weren't. Even so, having the GPS track made things easier, especially for figuring out where to start for the final ascent to the top of Black Mesa.

Speaking of which, I used JuanJaimeiii's route because it also went over to New River Mesa. I had not been to New River Mesa before. Once you're on top of Black Mesa, New River Mesa is only a short ways away, plus if you're gonna hike about 12 miles, you might as well go for 13. I hiked a short ways ENE from the southern tip of the mesa, took a few pictures, and then rejoined my hiking companions who had stopped to eat lunch.

On our way back we saw a momma mule deer with her young one. I got a photo of the young deer.
Black Mesa - Cave Creek
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Hiked out to see the plane wreckage that Oregon_Hiker reported on in 2012. Most of the parts we found were in the ravine, only found 2 pieces on the ridge. From the site we headed east and connected with trail 48. Along the way we found a stack of stones although it looked to be built more recently, and we also made a visual on the Cement Spring trough. Enjoyed the hike, weather was great, and got to check out some interesting areas.
Black Mesa - Cave Creek
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I had some rare weekend time for a hike, so despite the weather I opted for a good one. Started off from the Spur Cross TH at 7:30 after the rain had finished, but with fog all around. The trail was muddy but not too bad, travel went pretty well until I reached the Tonto Forest boundary. From here, the trail became much more faint to non-existent in some parts. All of the fall rain we got back in September led to a huge flush from the annual weeds. Many stretches of the hike were off trail, or might as well have been. Needless to say, my boots were completely soaked about an hour into this hike, not from rain, but all the moisture that came off the plants I was bushwhacking through. Thankfully most of the brush was thorn free, although I did have to keep on the lookout for cholla. With fog looming all morning, views were limited, but that can lead to some enjoyment in itself. Things really got hazy as I started up the switchbacks to the mesa, I could not actually see Black Mesa until I was on it. Views from the top were pretty limited, so I just explored around a short bit and headed back. The clouds opened up a bit on the way back so I could get a few views of the city. This was a really fun hike, definitely slower than my usual pace but considering the brush and conditions, not too bad. Well worth doing again!
Black Mesa - Cave Creek
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Some friends had been suggesting we try Black Mesa. The planets aligned and today was the day.

To put a little different twist on things and to make some of the logistics easier, we came in from the West via the little used Rondo Springs Trail (HAZ description to be added soon). Our Jeep and their Razor took us on some rocky roads on State Trust Land to our jumping off point. In the cool morning Black Mesa loomed ahead seemingly far away and very very high. We set off in good spirits with a nice pace. The Rondo Springs Trail varies from sandy washes to loose rocky footing. But we quickly made it Rondo Springs and enjoyed the long used desert oasis.

Then began the long climb. From the Springs we headed left (north) up to visit the Turtle who points the way to many places, Black Mesa among them. The trail up to BM is little used and can be difficult to follow. Some cairns along the way help, but luckily I had the trail copied onto my GPS' maps. Plus I like to think I can track a field mouse across bare slick rock. We did have to find our way back onto the trail a few times. But we never got lost. Even saw a very nice deer bounding away from us ever so gracefully.

We cut off some of the published routing when the trail became indistinguishable from the surrounding rocky cactus laden ground and just pointed ourselves uphill. Everyone was quite winded by the time we made the summit. But the views were worth the effort. Could even see the Mogollon Rim very clearly to the north.

Lunched at the top, took the obligatory photos, located both a geocache and USGS benchmark before working our way back down.

The return was uneventful except for a spill that resulted in a minor wrist sprain. Another good day above ground!
Black Mesa - Cave Creek
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My first hike to Black Mesa. Probably not the best May hike. The heat wasn't unbearable, but the gnats and foxtail were. Not sure I've ever been in worse gnats. The trail is very rocky the last two miles in to the mesa. Other than that it is a nice hike. Nice views. Saw a White Tailed deer and a Gila Monster. I was hoping to see some snakes, but no luck. Took a wrong turn at one of the splits - can't follow my own directions. Other right. No sign of anyone going up on the mesa recently. Parts of the upper trail are hard to follow. Hard to see through the grass and rocks. Overall the trail is well cairned and you can find your way with a little looking around for the next cairn.
Black Mesa - Cave Creek
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Beautiful country! We lost the trail in an arroyo on the way up, scrambled around for a bit and had to turn back. We got a late start so we did not want to push it too far. We made it about a half mile past the directional rock, but we were without our gps and did not want to just bushwhack the rest fo the way there. I am going to have to try this one again a bit more prepared! Great slice of the Sonoran Desert, saw some early Penstemons blooming, Indian Paintbrush, even a few really big Rhus ovata (Sugarbush) that had recovered nicely from the CCC fires.
Black Mesa - Cave Creek
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I was happy to learn about this trail from a recent triplog post. I had almost run out of trails to try in the nice Spur Cross / Seven Springs area.

The trail starts getting fainter when it branches from the Elephant Mtn. Trail and is quite faint in the upper part - I'm glad I brought GPSJoe's GPS track. For me the highlight is getting on the ridge tops and having great views all around.

Once I got a half mile away from the Spur Cross parking lot I didn't see anyone else all day - amazing to have such a nice area to yourself!
Black Mesa - Cave Creek
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I've always wanted to do this one. Triplogs talking of of loose, fist sized rocks, (Ankle busters), mud, hard to find track.... had this pushed to the back burner. Wanted to go to the Supes, but with Flatiron closed, I'm sure the rest of the Supes had their own "Black Friday" thing going on.

I needed some miles and fresh air, as I have not been able to hike much the last 3 weeks or so.

So up to Cave Creek for a 7am start on this one with my buddy the tortoise. It is rocky and loose in many places... but not too bad. We were both surprised that we had not seen any Javelina or deer. The country back there is perfect for them. Then the eagle eyed turtle spotted 7 or so White Tails on the west side of the Mesa on our way up.

We took a loop at the top of the Mesa to check things out. Stopped at the obligatory peak marker. I was curious if it'd be possible to get on New River Mesa from the top. It appears it could be done with little trouble.

On the way back, we decided to throw in a loop using TR252 (Limestone) and taking that to the Cave Creek.

Beautiful weather out there today!
Black Mesa - Cave Creek
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This is the second time I hiked to the Mesa. Especially the last 1 1/2 mile up the mesa is pretty tough. The trail mainly consists of grapefruit size boulders and my ankles didn't like it. The reward is phenomenal however, I even got some zzz's during my lunch break on top of the mesa.
Black Mesa - Cave Creek
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Bob (rljamy) suggested this hike on HAZ. It's a hike I had wanted to do, but not by myself. Eric (Morel) joined us.

This was a great hike today. We made it even more greater and turned it into an adventure. This trail is not used a lot and route finding can be a challenge. It probably doesn't help that we each seem very comfortable off-trail. "trail? we don't need no stinkin' trail !!!!!"

Everything started out fine. We got out to the fence and started following it north. I think we followed it too far. We knew where we thought we should end up, so we worked our way to it. At times we would see a cairn or two and follow a trail, then we would lose it again and go back to bushwhacking.

We got to the juniper tree at what we thought was the southwest corner of below Black Mesa. I think this is actually the western edge, it's not really a western edge as much as a western corner. We thought we needed to work our way north along this end of the mesa so we did. We found some game trails and continued on. About 1/2 way along this end, Rob decided to check out higher so he headed up. Eric & I continued north(actually northeast) until about the 3/4 mark, then we clambered up some rocks to the top of the mesa. We regrouped and hiked across to the southeast end of the mesa. We found the geodetic markers and enjoyed the clear skies and view.

We headed back northwest across the mesa. We found some cairns and followed them to the west corner of the mesa. There is actually a real trail constructed at the west corner. We headed down the trail but toward the bottom as we approached the juniper tree, the trail became hard to follow.

We headed east from the juniper tree toward a saddle. Not quite the same way we had come. Found some cairns and followed the trail. Lost the trail and bushwhacked. Realized we weren't where we expected to be. Clambered down some rocks. Eric dislodged one and woke up a hibernating snake. That was a thrill. This one wasn't a buzzworm. Clambered up some rocks. Found the trail.

So now we are on a well-marked trail back to the Trailhead. Hiking on a trail was so foreign to me at this point that I sprained my ankle. This brought the hike back to a suitable level of adventure for me.

About 100yds south of the Elephant Mountain Trail junction with the Tortuga Trail, we were greeted by a buzzworm that had recently awakened from hibernation. It was still a little lethargic from hibernation but awake enough to let us know that it did not want to be bothered.

Beautiful day. A little windy. Rain was threatened but held off. 11.9 miles today. 3,143 AEG. Plenty of water at "the pump".

Woarnoart's GPS route looks good. Except instead of heading due east across the mesa, the high point and the geodetic markers are to the southeast. When I look at my GPS route, I'll post the lat-long here.

Permit $$
Spur Cross Conservation Area $3 per person

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To Spur Cross Trailhead
I-17 North & Exit 233, which is SR-74 the Carefree Highway. Head east on Carefree Highway 9.9 miles to Cave Creek Road. Head North on Cave Creek Road 2.6 miles to Spur Cross Ranch Road. The road jogs a bit here but you go 4.0 miles to the parking lot.

It is a well-graded dirt road. As it nears the parking area, the road leads past a large green house, through a tall gatepost and past a corral. There is a large signed parking area. Along the road about 75 yards northeast of the parking area, there is a self-pay station and a small informational kiosk with rudimentary maps. Pay the fee and carry the stub with you.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 35.8 mi - about 57 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 144 mi - about 2 hours 26 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 133 mi - about 2 hours 10 mins
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