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Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals, AZ

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Guide 66 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson W
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance One Way 4.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,800 feet
Elevation Gain 3,107 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,150 feet
Avg Time One Way 3-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15
Backpack Possible & Connecting
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48  2019-03-09
Mazzy Overnight
chumley
40  2019-03-09
Mazzy Overnight
BiFrost
12  2019-01-19
Rock-Divide-Barnhardt Horseshoe
MountainMatt
8  2019-01-11 MountainMatt
35  2017-04-30 KBKB
22  2017-04-23
Half Moon Trail #288
KBKB
21  2017-04-04
Rock Creek Trail Mazatzal Divide North
markthurman53
11  2017-02-26
HM-RC-MD-Barnhardt Loop
extremehikerbabe
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 7
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → Early
Sun  6:10am - 6:30pm
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11 Alternative
 
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Seldom used old trail
by PrestonSands

This is an old trail that dates from at least the 1930's, that climbs the nearly vertical eastern face of the Mazatzal Mountains, between Barnhardt Trail and North Peak. It is shown on the Tonto National Forest map, but not on the current topo maps. The road to the original trailhead was completely washed away due to erosion following the 2004 Willow Fire, which severely burned most of the Mazatzal Wilderness. While much of the trail passes through the burned area, which is slowly recovering, there are some nice patches of unburned forest towards the top of the trail. Forest Road #442 , which takes you to what I would call the new trailhead, has been nicely rebuilt recently. Please see my topo map.


Upon turning onto the 442 road, drive approximately 3 miles to a small parking area on the right side of the road, which is about one tenth of a mile past the third creek crossing (this is Center Creek). On the left side of the road at the parking spot, you will see an old road going uphill. This is the beginning of the trail.

I began hiking up the old road along Center Creek. After one fifth mile, the road disappeared into the creek bed. I followed the creek upstream for another fifth mile, to where the road reappeared again on the south bank of the creek, and soon reached the original trailhead, which is marked by a wooden trailhead sign. The sign indicates the junction of the Half Moon Trail, and the Rock Creek Trail. Turn right (north) and continue a couple hundred feet to the junction of two creek beds. Take the right fork upstream (this is Center Creek again). I saw a large pile of ancient cans, which was probably mining camp trash. If you stay on the right side of the creek, you should encounter the trail and rock cairns within a quarter mile or so. It was at this point I began to wish I had worn long pants because of the catclaw bushes. Follow the trail past the Mazatzal Wilderness boundary, until it disappears into the creek bed directly south of the 4645 foot hill. The trail will reappear, climbing the low hillside on the south side of the creek. (Look for what appears to be a small rock wall on the slope, this is the point of a switchback.) From this point on, the trail, although very faint in places, never completely vanishes.

The trail now begins switchbacking up brushy hillsides towards the towering cliffs above. Post-fire erosion and regrowth of oak brush on this stretch make for a rather faint trail. Look for rock cairns. The short rock walls at the points of many of the switchbacks also make good trail markers. The trail makes a steady, never really steep ascent through this mile long segment. Here and there along the trail, I saw "blaze marks" cut into the blackened trees. This was an old method for marking trails which consisted of a long vertical notch, topped by a short vertical notch. At the base of the first cliff, I came across the first ponderosa pines (still living). I was now crossing into the Mazatzal Quartzite, a red to purplish rock formation so hard that it tends to form cliffs. The tops of Four Peaks, and the northern half of the Mazatzals are made of this rock. Once you reach the top of this little cliff, you will be on a shelf like area on the mountainside. I took a break here, studying the impressive cliffs around me. Now begins a 600 foot climb to the first summit (6200 feet), over a trail that in some spots is held in place on the cliff by rock walls. This was my favorite part of the trail, as it reminded me of the upper stretches of the Grandview Trail in the Grand Canyon. Upon reaching the first summit, I rounded a corner, and was in the upper reaches of Rock Creek canyon, with patches of unburned ponderosa and douglas fir forest spread out before me. The trail then crosses a narrow rock ledge, and passes over the top of a seasonal waterfall. Just above the waterfall I saw a pool of water in a depression in the rock, about 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep. It might have water in it year-round, but it would certainly need to be purified. The trail crosses the creek a second time a little ways later, and climbs up a ridge to a great overlook of the Payson area and the Sierra Anchas. The trail than steadily climbs as it heads up canyon and reenters the burned area, on the way to the 7077 foot pass. Once across the pass, the trail drops about 500 feet in a half mile, where it meets up with the Mazatzal Divide Trail #23 (part of The Arizona Trail). This is the end of the Rock Creek Trail.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Note
This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2006-02-11 PrestonSands
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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 32 deeper Triplog Reviews
Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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I explored more of the Rock Creek Trail on Sunday. I followed the trail to its highest point, but turned back shortly after beginning the descent to the Mazatzal Divide Trail. The way got even rockier at this point, plus I needed to turn around at around that time anyway in order to make it back by dark.

The offical GPS track for this hike starts from the new trailhead, though the initial part of it follows forest road 442, turning left onto a doubletrack which is part of the old FR 442. It then joins the actual trail. There is a signed trail w/ cairns that starts from nearby the parking area. Simply go south out of the parking lot and then west along the road/driveway until you encounter a sign indicating the start of the trail. This trail continues west where it first crosses Center Creek and then connects with the doubletrack that used to be part of FR442.

If you attempt to drive to the (new) Rock Creek Trailhead using the coordinates (via Google or one of the other links) provided in the driving directions, these will (attempt to) lead you to the old Rock Creek Trailhead. I used my Android phone to help me drive there and ended up driving quite a ways past the new trailhead. The turnoff is 0.05 miles before the Center Creek crossing. If you've driven across Center Creek, you've gone too far.

As I mentioned at the start, I only went a short ways past the ridge which is the high point of this trail. Up until that point (beyond which I have no recent experience to relate) the trail is remarkably clear and is fairly easy to follow. It is steep in sections and goes pretty much uphill for much of the way. There are short sections where leafy brush overhangs the trail. I pushed my way through this stuff, and was thankful that I had worn long pants and a long sleeved shirt. I didn't encounter much of this type of bushwhacking though - I estimate that it was no more than a tenth of a mile total.

On my way up, there was a point where I went off trail to take some photos. On my return to what I thought was the trail, I somehow missed the path and ended up bushwhacking through manzanita. My GPS path showed that I was on the track, but it was miserable going. According to the track, I was in the midst of doing a short leg of a switchback. Since I was bushwhacking at that point, I decided to change course to a path that was pretty much orthogonal to the parallel legs of the switchbacks. That turned out to be a good move because I quickly reconnected with the trail and was happy again. On my way back down, I found the trail to be easy to follow and was mystified as to how I could have made such a mistake on my way up. One thing I've noticed on other hikes is that it's possible to hike the GPS track with the actual trail being only mere feet away and, due to vegetation, be unaware of the fact that there's a much easier path nearby. Perhaps that's what happened to me when I attempted to rejoin the trail after my pause for photography.

I had hiked the Rock Creek Trail back in 2002 as part of a loop which also included the Half Moon, Mazatzal Divide, Sandy Saddle, and Barnhardt Trails. I had a lot of fun on the Rock Creek Trail back then. My recollection of it is from back then is that it had a bit more scrambling, taking somewhat more direct paths than does the current version of this trail. I think the current incarnation of the trail is somewhat easier. That said, the current version isn't especially easy due to it being uphill for most of the way to the top.
Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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I did an out-and-back hike of the Half Moon Trail and part of the Rock Creek Trail by myself on Sunday.

I had hiked these trails several times in the past. Back in either 2001 or 2002, after scouting these trails individually, I put them together as part of a loop consisting of the Half Moon, Rock Creek, Mazatzal Divide, Sandy Saddle, and Barnhardt trails. I had a lot of fun on that hike. While I do recall there being some catclaw, I don't recall it being much of a problem. Also, back in those days, there was a really nice trailhead with parking and decent signage near the junction of the Rock Creek Trail and the Half Moon Trail. This was the Rock Creek Trailhead.

Later on, several years after the Willow Fire in 2004, I hiked it again with my wife and a friend accompanying me. It had totally changed. What was once an enjoyable trail had become a nightmare of catclaw and other thorny bushes. We made it most or maybe even all of the way to where the Rock Creek Trailhead used to be, but we could not see it. I think it had been washed away. I ended up discarding the socks that I had used on that hike, so damaged from catclaw were they.

After reading some of the recent triplogs, it seems that the trail is largely clear of catclaw, so I decided to go see for myself. I also wanted to assess the condition of the initial part of the Rock Creek Trail as well as take a look at the new Rock Creek Trailhead.

I am happy to report that the Half Moon Trail is largely clear of catclaw and other thorny brush. An 8-10 foot lane has been cut through the stuff.

Route finding is pretty easy too. There is a well trodden path in most places and large cairns along the way. The only spot that got confusing for me on the way out was in a section of pasture where I saw cows. The cows had made there own paths in this area, which necessitated looking for cairns.

The official GPS track is fairly accurate with regard to the actual track. The only deviations that I noticed were at spots where there was significant deadfall. At the first such point that I encountered, there was a well worn path around the deadfall. At the second, which I think was just after the Rock Creek crossing, a fallen tree crosses the trail. It's not convenient to go either over or under the tree, but there is an obvious path around it.

On the way back, I passed by the descent leading back down to Rock Creek. There's a large campfire circle just beyond the turnoff. If you walk past it, you've gone too far. (The GPS track got me back to where I needed to be.)

The last half mile or so of the Half Moon trail is more difficult navigate than the trail up to that point. It narrows considerably, there is actual brush to contend with and there are a number of other paths which might draw you away from the actual route. The GPS track is very useful here.

When, according to the GPS, I reached the end of the Half Moon Trail, there really wasn't much there to indicate that I was at the end. I was either in or near a wash / creek and there was still trail ahead of me. This is the Rock Creek Trail.

When I switched my GPS watch, a Suunto Ambit 3, to use the official track for the Rock Creek Trail, the first thing I noticed was that I was already a fair ways into the track. As near as I can tell from studying the tracks and the maps is that the Rock Creek Trailhead is about 3/4 mile away from where it used to be, which was pretty much at the intersection of these two trails.

I only hiked about 1.5 miles along the Rock Creek Trail from the end of the Half Moon Trail. Route finding wasn't too hard - I don't think I would have needed the GPS track to figure it out. While there was water in the creek, it wasn't enough to make the crossings difficult. There were two areas of deadfall that had to be negotiated. The first was a fallen tree which I managed to get over by straddling the log all the while wishing that I was more flexible. The log is just high enough off the ground to make it difficult to go over, but is not high enough to make it easy to go under. The second deadfall across the trail is the upper limbs of a tree. You can't go through it. But there is a trail around it which leads over the trunk of the very same fallen tree. You do have to go uphill on loose terrain - I grabbed onto one of the tree limbs to help get up to where I could cross the trunk.

After that, as far as I went anyway, it's smooth sailing. Okay, so it's pretty steep here. There were some sections where it felt like I was gaining a foot of elevation for every step I took. But, aside from the steepness, it's easy hiking. Once again, an eight foot wide (or so) lane has been cut through the brush. When I got home and looked at a satellite map, I noticed that this lane apparently continues much of the way up.

On my way back, I chose to follow the GPS track for the Rock Creek Trail back to the actual trailhead to see what it looked like. I think it's larger than the old trailhead (from before the Willow Fire) used to be. I found a path which leads back to the doubletrack that I had just hiked back on to get to FS 442 (off of which the Rock Creek Trailhead is now located). Anyway, as noted earlier, the trailhead is about 3/4 of a mile away from where the Half Moon Trail joins up with the Rock Creek Trail. The official GPS track for the Rock Creek Trail goes northwest on FS442. At about 1/10 mile up the road, there's an old and unmaintained doubletrack leading to the south and then west. The maps that I've looked at indicate that this is still FS442, but I'm guessing that the current 442 now continues on a fairly straight line to the northwest. If you wish to avoid the road, there is now a trail leading from the parking lot to that doubletrack (old FS442).

I looked around, but did not see an obvious short cut from the Rock Creek Trailhead to the Half Moon Trail. I explored several likely looking paths from the trailhead, but none of these panned out. In each case, I was stopped by a wall of impenetrable brush. I ended up hiking back up Rock Creek Trail until I saw what looked like an old path leading upwards. I followed it and came across an actual path, perhaps a portion of the pre-fire Half Moon Trail. The section that I was on paralleled the current Half Moon Trail, so I continued upward until I got to it. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably just go back to the current intersection of the Half Moon and Rock Creek trails. (Well, actually, if I had to do it over again, I'd skip going to the Rock Creek Trailhead.)

The return trip was largely uneventful. I saw many cows along the way, including at least one bull. He scurried off though and did not bother me.

I did encounter two other hikers (or perhaps hunters?) who told me they were out looking for bear. They were carrying spotting scopes; I'm not sure if they had firearms or not. They weren't really dressed the way that hunters normally dress.

Anyway, I had a good day hiking. Now that I know the condition of these trails, I may attempt doing a loop again sometime in the future.
Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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Y Bar - Deadman - Rock Creek
Mazzie Waterfall Tour 2017. Slept at the TH Friday night and before the hike even started I spotted a Teva, a Tortoise & an Eagle on Saturday a.m. Nice to meet you fellas. Myself, Dallin & Bradley set off up Y Bar first. Looks like some work was done on Y Bar. Still rocky as ever, but some of the old deadfall was removed and replaced by new deadfall. No navigational issues here. Water flowing from every drainage. We hit the Divide and set out for Bear Spring and a lunch break. Essentially, all we did was add 2 hours of snow plowing by adding this trip. Good times, though. There was plenty of new deadfall along this stretch that we have previously cleared. Bear Spring was not the oasis it usually is during warmer months. It's currently still snowed in. There were a couple of 'unnamed' falls along the Divide between Y Bar and Bear Spring. The Divide Trail was a real treat this weekend. Patches of snow and plenty of water. We didn't even carry any water. Get thirsty, drink from the next drainage. We arrived at Horse Camp with wet feet, set up, and me and Dallin took off for Deadman Falls by following the creek there. Truly, a spectacular sight. Cacti and pines below a huge waterfall and neat geology. We ran into a group of backpackers I had chatted with at the TH. They were camping right at the edge of Sandy Saddle Falls. Back at camp, we enjoyed a very comfortable night, huge fire & an early a.m. sprinkle or two. Sunday a.m. we were off and headed up Rock Creek Trail. Not much of a trail to begin with. We followed the path of least resistance until finding cairns and the actual 'trail' which still requires pushing through manzanita. The other side of Rock Creek Trail is pure beauty. Perhaps one of my favorites. A snowy, pine covered hillside to the North meets a rocky, cacti & manzanita covered hillside with a raging creek in between. The views of the Mazzies, Tonto Basin and beyond are amazing, as well. After some steep downhill, we were cruising and missed the Half Moon junction. A quick uphill bushwack straightened us out. Half Moon Trail was the biggest unknown for me on this trip. Turned out the be in much better shape and more scenic than I imagined. Where the trail disperses, cairns are there to guide you. The 2 big seas of catclaw are impressive. We finished back at the Barnhardt TH just as storms moved in. Ended a great trip with the first thunder/lightning show of the year.

Wildflowers
Saw a few small species of blooms. The show is just getting started.
Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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Y-Bar - Deadman - Rock Creek
Me and Bradley met up with Nick (@The_N) around 7:45 AM Saturday morning to chase some water falls in the Mazzies. The trailhead was getting busy so we quickly gathered our things and headed up Y Bar. It wasn't long before excitement started to build about the falls as we crossed drainage after drainage with substantial flow.

We hit our first little patches of snow on Y Bar in the stand of pine trees just before the first saddle. The closer we got to the divide the wetter it got. Once we hit the divide, we all chuckled at the thought of carrying water. We would just drink from the nearest drainage for the rest of the trip. :D Water was seeping out of every pour of the mountains along the divide!

We did a side trip over to the Bear Spring area for some lunch. There are a lot of new downed trees along the divide. The dead/burned trees are just too easy for mother nature to push over. One spot in particular was a little tricky to maneuver around.

From Bear Spring, we headed back along the Divide to Horse Camp Seep, where we camped for the night. After we set up camp, me and Nick followed North Fork Deadman Creek from Horse Camp down to the falls. This was my first time seeing the falls and Deadman Canyon. What an incredible view! I got a little woozy standing close to the ledges to try and get some good shots! On the way back to camp we followed Sandy Saddle Creek back to the AZT, then the AZT back to camp.

I was extremely skeptical about a "comfortable" trip in the Mazzies in February, but I was so wrong. Mostly sunny, warm but with a consistent light breeze, wispy clouds dancing with Mazatzal Peak. Yup, this was as good as it gets.

The next morning was a slow start. It wasn't cold, but it was just way too comfortable laying around in camp listening the creek flow and an occasional sprinkling of rain on the tarp.

Rock Creek was a fun navigational challenge from the Mazatzal Divide Trail up to the saddle. It's pretty much a bushwhack at this point, but if you are familiar with the area you shouldn't be worried about getting lost. The trail gets very interesting and much easier to navigate on the other side as you descend down a finger off the mountain with big views of Tonto Basin and the rugged canyons which come off the eastern faces of the range. We spent plenty of time exploring the falls and just enjoying another nice spring-esque day.

We got off on the wrong foot with Half Moon from the start when we passed the junction and started heading down the road. We decided to cut up the hill instead of going back. We would be suckered a few more times. A notable one was about a mile after the Rock Creek TH were the trail suddenly drops off a ridge into the drainage but what looks like a well trodden trails keeps following the ridge for a while longer before dropping back down to the road that goes to rock creek.
Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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Visiting the Twins - Sandy and Deadman
Deadman Falls makes Bruce's eyes light up like a seven year old on Christmas. My memories had it as a power wow destination, just not in my top twenty favorites. Which is featured on profile pages as the heart icon. Bruce upped the ante with a loop-option and said Denny was interested in joining. Temps you dream about all summer sealed the deal, oh boy!

Barnhardt Trail #43
@The_N greeted us at the trailhead awaiting his backpacking party. The seep then Hawaiian Mist rolled off quick with Big Kahuna screaming hello soon after. The lackluster origin of those names is under the @Mr_Squishy, water is everywhere.

Per typical scenario the split second I blurt out an obscenity we stumbled upon human life in the middle of nowhere. We chatted with the cowboy camper ten feet from the trail then moved along. Continuing on we quarreled who was the most obscene. As much as I hate to bow to defeat it's impossible to top Bruce. There is undoubtedly a stone faced young lady near Long Canyon still clenching her husband's hand in terror from the words spewed from said froth of scum.

North Fork Falls of Deadman Canyon
Bruce is proud of his houdini route to the bottom of Deadman Creek to get under the falls. The approach was slow due to water flowing at a higher rate than usual. The payoff is a monster waterfall. Which in reality is a fraction of the main attraction. The journey is worthy to any explorer. Magic shows just weren't made for reruns.

Back up top Sandy Falls we met a nice group arriving to set up camp. Midway into Bruce's story about his childhood I threw out the silencer bomb "it's 1:30pm and we're only halfway". Perhaps a little overkill like pouring muriatic acid on a 7-Up stain. Yet he shut up mid sentence how he was the first child to wear Huggies and the world owes it to his pumpkin for the invention of the safety pin.

Rock Creek Trail #42
The westernmost half mile of Rock Creek Trail #42 is harsh. With gps and cairns under the manzanita it took 45 minutes to wade a half mile up to the ridge border for Yavapai and Gila counties. I stomped dozens and uprooted two for a good workout. A tree rooter is desperately needed. Six years ago @DarthStiller wrote
"The downhill portion to the MDT is overgrown with Manzanita, but it's still navigable. I kind of felt that the rockiness of the trail was more a hindrance to me than the overgrowth."
The rocks have been stabilized by a swath of 3-4 foot manzanita.

Rock Creek from the ridge down was fantastic. The creek and falls were roaring. We got to the bottom just before sundown.

Half Moon Trail #288 - Under a Full Moon!
I failed to put us on Half Moon twice so we gps'd a short distance until ribbons and cairns got our attention. With cairns, gps and pants we made it through fine. Blood likely makes an appearance if you take away any of those three. The easiest way to get this trail cleared is to dye Rock Creek blue and promote the heck out of it.

Great to feel tired again, thx guys!

Wildflowers
hints here and there
Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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Visiting the Twins - Sandy and Deadman
This destination is in my top 5 in the state.
Every year I try to plan something around the snow melt in the Mazatzals to take advantage of the geology.

We twisted it up a bit this year and turned it into loop since @chumley did battle with the Catclaw on the Half Moon Trail.

A 7am start at the Barndart Trailhead and we met @The_N, Nick awakening and waiting for @DallinW and the rest of the gang to arrive for their Backpack.

The Barnhardt Trail is a beauty. It's always a great one in first light. With the snow melt going on right now in the Mazatzals, everything is running. Hawaiian Mist and the Big Kahuna were flowing as strong as I've ever seen them flow.

A huge thanks to whatever army cleared the trail above Big Kahuna falls. It's a superhighway now. :y:

The Mazatzals Divide has seen some love, but there is a few areas where you have to skirt around fallen trees.

The drop into the unnamed canyon to get to North Fork of Deadmans, took longer than in past years. This wasdue to much higher water flow than previous years. Where we'd been able to walk in the bottom of the canyon in past years, we had to skirt around this time.

Even in Deadmans, though travel was easier that the unnamed canyon, it was still slower than in the past.

We checked out the Lower Deadman Falls, then made our escape to the top.

Shortly after we arrived at the top, we met two couples, backpacking and spending the night there.

Both Deadman Falls and Sandy Saddle Falls were flowing as good as I've ever seen. We had some lunch at the top of Deadman Falls and then started over to Rock Creek Trail.

Some Falls :next: [ youtube video ] .

From the Mazatzal Divide trail, it's 0.60 mile and 600' up to the high point of the hike, at better than 7,000'. There are Cairns that mark the "Area" this trail is supposed to start at the Mazatzal Divide trail, but no real sign of a trail. We tried following the GPS track, but the lower 1/3rd is almost impossible. The manzanita just beat the crap out of your shins all the way up. Part way up you start see the tread of the old trail, but it's still a slog through the brush.

From the top to Rock Creek Falls, it's about 1.5 miles while loosing 900' in elevation. Rock Creek falls are impressive, but dwarfed by what we just came from.

We had a bit of trouble finding the start of the Half Moon Trail. After a few false starts we were off like a heard of Turtles. This trail was easy to follow for the most part, thanks to senior @Chumley and a chain saw. We lost our sunlight while crossing Rock Creek, having to wade through this one as well as Barnhart Creek on the exit. There was no keeping dry on those two.

A long, hard beautiful day in the Mazatzals with Brush Commander Bartels and the Turtle Express!
Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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The rain and low level clouds lured me into this hike today. Not sure how much rain fell overnight so I didn't know what to expect of the roads or how much the falls would be flowing, but certainly wanted to take advantage of the cool weather. It was raining in Payson but I saw an opening in the clouds above the Mazzies so I skipped breakfast in order to make use of my window. The tops of the mountains were all still hidden by clouds as I started my trek. This is an absolutely beautiful trail. Great views all around, thick vegetation including everything from cacti to pines and tons of wildflowers/flowering shrubs. The smell of rain and flowers filled the air. There were only 2 overgrown spots but not scratchy stuff. However, the wet vegetation along with humidity had me soaked from head to toe by the time I reached the falls area. It was mostly cloudy on the hike up with a few spots of sunshine. I could see my breath up there and felt like I was breathing straight from a humidifier. Found a sunny little ledge and replenished some calories. Falls were merely a trickle. I briefly explored the creek up top before headed back down. Shortly after starting down I got rained on for about 5mins and just like that it was sunny and warm again, which was nice and allowed me to dry off. Spooked a massive whitetail buck just off the trail and tried to sneak up for a photo, unsuccessful. He didn't get that big by being stupid. About a quarter mile from the vehicle the thunder started rumbling and skies opened up in right about the same area I was previously occupying. Overall a great little hike.
Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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Barnhardt / Rock Creek Loop
I had some PTO to burn & Kyle was interested in spending an overnighter at Horse Camp Seep in the Mazatzal Wilderness. Everything came together quickly & we headed out Friday morning.

We arrived at the Barnhardt TH around 9am to an empty parking lot. We geared up & headed out. We cruised up the trail & took a short break at Big Kahuna. From there we made steady progress & continued north on the Divide Trail to Chilson Camp where we took our lunch. The camp has a water cache of at least ten gallons without a note or a date. After lunch we hiked the last few miles to Horse Camp Seep & settled in for the afternoon. We set up camp & then gathered additional firewood & then hiked over to the two waterfalls over Deadman Canyon. The falls were still flowing but were much lighter compared to last month when another HAZ group visited. We spent some time exploring the area & returned to camp for sunset. I brought a foil dinner loaded with steak, onions & potatoes. It was delicious cooked over the fire coals.

We woke on day two & took our time as we ate, filtered water & tore camp down. We started hiking around 9:30am & headed north on the Divide Trail & connected onto the Rock Creek Trail. We were prepared for heavy Manzanita & ongoing route finding issues. I constantly checked route scout for the preloaded route & this kept us pointed in the right direction. We eventually topped out & started our descent on the east side. The route is more discernible as we headed down. A few minutes later we saw a person hiking up. It turned out to be Haz member Mr14ner. It was good meeting you!

We continued down & had a few more sections with route finding issues but no significant issues. We eventually dropped into the drainage and admired the waterfalls that had a good flow coming over them. The rest of the descent flew by as there are obvious signs of trail clearing completed in the past year or so. We hit the Half Moon trail and continued on taking a few breaks to rest and giving time to Lily to drink water from the creek. We were back to the Barnhardt Trailhead around mid-afternoon.

This was a tough and rewarding hike! The Horse Camp Seep area is fantastic and I’m glad we stayed there for the night. The Rock Creek Trail has some tough sections but is fantastic overall! Thanks Kyle for organizing this one. The Mazzies never disappoint!
Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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Barnhardt / Rock Creek Loop
I've done this loop a few times but never as a backpack so me, 9L, and Lily decided to go for it while the water and waterfalls are plentiful out there. This is definitely one of my favorite loops. We started up Barnhardt and quickly made it to Chilson Camp for lunch. Then we headed to Horse Camp Seep to set up camp. After a short rest, we backtracked to the north fork of deadman canyon falls. I headed back the same way with Lily and 9L decided to take Deadman Creek back to camp though he eventually got forced out and bushwacked along the west side.

We had a nice fire-- wood is plentiful. What we assumed was probably a maintenance crew left quite a few nice big logs cut there. 9L is a nice guy so we only burned one and left the rest for future campers.

We didn't really rush around the next morning and probably finally started hiking around 9:30ish. We forced our way up Rock Creek. There's very little sign of the trail on that side. We'd pick it up every now and then but mostly we just pushed through manzanita. I didn't make Lily wear her pack for this trip because I figured that would make this stretch near impossible for her. Closer to the saddle, the trail does become more obvious and then its pretty clear the whole rest of the hike. Whoever has been doing maintenance out there the last couple years is a god. We also ran into our only fellow hiker on Rock Creek who recognized Lily from HAZ-- nice to meet you, Roger.

We finally hit Half Moon which at this point was a bit more challenging than I remembered (even with Chumley's makeover)-- possibly because it was getting a little toasty and I was ready to be done. I was also breaking in a new pack which is much bigger than my normal one. Half Moon is actually pretty annoying-- up and down, in and out of drainages the entire way, successfully and unsuccessfully dodging cow pies. Lily was obviously getting tired and hot too but luckily water was flowing in a couple places the last mile or so and that really got her going.

Still lovin' those mazzies!
Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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Rock Creek / Barnhardt Loop
First of all-- Chumley, you did an amazing job fixing the Half Moon. I don't have a single scratch from that trail. You made a miracle happen :app:

Here we go... first thing to know-- if Lee comes up with "Plan B", first make sure he understands what a "Plan B" is or you end up doing what you were trying to avoid :lol: I should just blame myself-- I knew what I was getting into. I just love that loop.

It rained and hailed all day. Not just most of the day-- all day. And it was cold-- oh man, it was cold. The Half Moon was nice and Rock Creek is just as steep as I remembered. Its a beautiful "trail" so usually worth it. At the falls, we scoffed at Lee's idea of turning around. We made it up to the ridgeline and made our way down to the AZT. We followed trail as best we could but ended up bushwacking a good bit down to the trail. I realized at some point that I had lost my pack cover and had no clue where. I'm not gonna pretend I looked very hard-- that baby is gone. Finders keepers-- I think I have a couple extra :D

Karl and Lee went ahead of me as I stopped to see if maybe I could fit my rain jacket over my backpack-- no go. Very quickly I realized that I had pretty much just ruined my life. Without my jacket on, my sweat soaked shirt underneath quickly sucked every ounce of heat from my body. I put the jacket back on and started walking to get my temp back up. I was actually cold enough to worry a bit that I might have a serious problem especially since we had over 10 more miles to go. I felt myself slowly regain some warmth but was still really really cold. I caught up with Karl and Lee near Horse Camp Seep where we had talked about stopping for lunch. I was already prepared to tell them that I couldn't stop and needed to keep moving when I realized they had the same idea.

We booked it the rest of the way. I only stopped quickly a couple times to pull a small snack out to eat on the run. The rest of the hike actually went by pretty quick for me. I warmed up enough to not want to die and once we dropped into Barnhardt canyon, I felt better and better. We saw one group of hikers all day-- a group of college age girls having a nice little hike up to the falls.

I got home to a nice hot shower. It almost immediately hit me how tired and hungry I was.

Permit $$
None


Directions
Map Drive
or
Road
High Clearance possible when dry

To hike
From Phoenix, take AZ Highway 87 north to Rye (10 miles south of Payson, where 87 becomes a divided highway). Turn left (west) onto Forest Road 414 (Cypress Thicket Road). 414 immediately turns right (north) and paralells the highway. There should be a road marker in the first mile. Follow 414 about 4.75 miles until you reach Forest Road 442. 442 takes off to the left (south) between 2 crossings of Rye Creek. Take road 442 about 3 miles to an intersection with with a faint old road on your left (this is one tenth mile past the 3rd creek crossing on road 442). This is the new trailhead. There is a parking spot here, could hold 2 vehicles. There is more parking at the third creek crossing.
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