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Del Shay Trail #41, AZ

no permit
71 10 1
Guide 10 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson S
3.2 of 5 by 6
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance One Way 6.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,800 feet
Elevation Gain 2,173 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,817 feet
Avg Time One Way 6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.79
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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11  2016-02-06
Del Shay - Gun Creek Loop
14  2016-02-06
Del Shay - Gun Creek Loop
41  2013-11-09
Del Shay Cabin via FR1938
30  2013-10-29
Forest Road 1938 - Sierra Ancha
29  2011-05-20 Grasshopper
7  2008-03-15 ssk44
5  2006-09-22 topdedcntr
30  2006-04-16 PrestonSands
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
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, Apr, May, Sep → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:22pm
Official Route
5 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Apache Stronghold
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
Named for the Tonto Apache chief Del Shay, who made this basin his home. In February 1870, after many battles with the cavalry, Del Shay accepted an invitation to Fort Reno in Tonto Basin to discuss peace. While there, he was shot and killed by a soldier. (2009-06-09 anonymous states Del Shay was killed by his nephew) Del Shay's band were the last Tonto Apaches to surrender to the U.S. cavalry.

The Del Shay Trail takes you to Del Shay Basin in the Sierra Ancha mountains. I recommend that anyone who decides to hike this trail have some experience in route finding, as most of the trail is overgrown and hard to follow. A topo map of the area is essential. The 7.5 minute topo maps show the trail's route quite accurately. Avoid this hike during summer, as there is little shade along the trail. This trail also crosses Tonto Creek, which is prone to flooding after heavy rains. Warnings aside, this is beautiful, rugged country.

The trail begins near the 76 Ranch on Tonto Creek, at the northwest end of the Sierra Anchas. After parking at the end of spur road 1446 at the lower end of Rye Creek, I began following the power lines towards Tonto Creek. (The Gisela topo map shows the trail beginning right on the 76 Ranch, which is private property.) I tried to stay a few hundred feet south of Rye Creek, while following it through mesquite brush down to Tonto Creek, to stay off the ranch property. Once I got to Tonto Creek, I crossed over to the east side and followed it downstream, until I saw what looked like an old road on the east bank of the creek. I had finally found the Del Shay Trail. (I should mention that there are two old roads heading east into the Sierra Anchas from here. The Coffeepot Road, which leads to Young, heads northeast from the 76 Ranch. It is more obvious than the Del Shay Trail, which heads east downstream of the Coffeepot Road, and is only visible on the east side of Tonto Creek.)

The trail soon begins climbing the mesquite covered foothills of the Sierra Anchas. At about the two mile point, the trail left Alkali Canyon, and began ascending a brushy ridge. Upon reaching the divide overlooking Gun Creek canyon, the trail has left the desert country behind, and enters a juniper grassland. There are some nice views of Sheep Basin Mountain here, a 6200' ridge of purple rock that towers above the trail. Now the trail works its way south, down a pretty side drainage of Gun Creek The last one hundred vertical feet dropping into Gun Creek canyon has been built on the side of the canyon wall. It was nice to see something here that resembled a real trail. The sound of running water greeted me as I neared the bottom. Here I saw a nice swimming hole, some willow and ash trees, and a metate (Indian grinding bowl) in a boulder. This would make a fine turn around point if you have had enough of bushwhacking in remote country.

The trail now leaves the pleasant confines of Gun Creek and begins a 1000 foot climb up a juniper, grass, and hedgehog cactus covered ridge. At the top you are greeted with a view of Del Shay Basin, with pine and oak covered mountainsides in the distance. Now the trail drops into a little side canyon of Del Shay Creek. Oak brush and catclaw make the trail difficult to find and to follow in here. Below a ridge of black rock, I came across an old mine, with a big pile of white quartz next to it. Nearby were the remains of an old building. Having reached my turn around time at this point, I decided to make a quick bushwhack up the 4648' hill, in search of the Indian ruin on top. (One of six ruins that the topo map shows in Del Shay Basin). I spooked a white tailed deer, and soon emerged on top in a flat, grassy meadow dotted with junipers. I looked for the ruin, but couldn't find it. I was only one mile from the end of the trail, but I had to turn around and head back The last mile of the trail follows Del Shay Creek (the topo map shows it as perennial) into forest country. I could see white oaks and what appeared to be arizona cypress along the creek in the distance. At the end of the trail, there is Del Shay Cabin on a little piece of private land (I wish I could live there), which is accessed by what appears to be an absolutely hideous four wheel drive road, coming down from the mountain above.

After a little over 9 hours of hot hiking, I finally got back to my truck at 8:00 that night. I was exhausted, but I had finally been to the stronghold of the Apache chief Del Shay.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2006-04-19 PrestonSands

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Del Shay Trail #41
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Del Shay - Gun Creek Loop
    Joe picked an area neither of us has been to before. Located East of Jakes Corner and South of Gisela, he put together a loop that let us explore Gun Creek.

    First, if you go to this area to do this or the Del Shay trail, either call to get permission access or just park off FR1446 and follow the powerline to Tonto Creek. We parked up by the gate for the PP and skirted south, then east to bypass the property. Not a pleasant route.

    The temps were in the high 20's on the way in. Not the ideal temps for a mandatory Tonto Creek crossing. Joe went first through the cold swift water, it was crotch deep for him. He made it with minor whining.

    How to cross Tonto Creek :next: ... ByeA

    I went next, and it was waist deep for me. I was 1 step away from making the shore, when I hit a hole an fell flat on my face in the water. Luckily the sun was out by now and after taking my long shirt off it wasn't too bad as long as we kept moving.

    We followed the Del Shay Trail for a bit before we went off trail and climbed to FR894 using trails created by our bovine friends. 6-1/2 miles in and we're finally to Gun Creek. It was flowing much stronger than we anticipated. This would mean instead of being able to just follow the 3.3 mile creek, we'd have numerous crossings and bypasses that would add more than a mile and take 4.5 hours to negotiate. What a pretty area though...

    Gun Creek Video :next: ... t=vd

    At one bypass we finally just decided to keep going up and out of the creek. We hopped on the Del Shay to make our way back to Tonto Creek for an uneventful crossing back to the truck.

    A long, tough, but enjoyable day...
    Del Shay Trail #41
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Del Shay - Gun Creek Loop
    Took a shot at Gun Creek. Boom, what a riot! The objective of the loop was a ~4 mile stretch of Gun Creek. Everything else was getting to and away from the show which included a near waist deep crossing of the Tonto. It'll be neck deep when I tell the story next year.

    The creek was flowing more than imagined. The terrain had more vertical backdrops and steep grades to conquer too. The area is labeled Sierra Ancha on topo. I had it in my mind as the faded foothills at best. Heck it's twice as close to Mazzie Peak vs Aztec Peak.

    We entered the show where FR 894 crosses Gun Creek. Within minutes we passed a five star campsite. Based on the primitive 4x4 road access it's probably used by ranchers, cowboys, hunters and explorers alike.

    Our stroll down Gun Creek was a continuous obstacle course. We tried the stay dry theory for a half mile. We tried intimidating our surroundings with ultra high pitch singing, that didn't work either. The ice cold crossings were knee deep at worst. You'd warm up in minutes, just in time for another shock treatment. The near and far scenery really got my attention. There was a fair amount of small operation mining activity around 1899 from my pre-research. Several times I kept thinking about others out here in boots. They'd probably shake their heads at us in trail runners. Likewise I think I'd die out here in clunky boots.

    Four miles on the obstacle course was plenty. Bruce volunteered to climb out of the situation. That spoke volumes as he rarely goes with that option late in a hike. It was steep but over quick and offered some nice views looking down.

    Merged and returned on the Del Shay 41. Bruce pointed out a couple cairns he declared Hank built. I didn't think much of it at first. The more we hiked it became apparent the trail really doesn't exist. One of multiple HAZ'rs may indeed have contributed, luckily BobP hasn't scrolled the landscape... lol

    Swimming Eagle Video ... ilxQ
    Del Shay Trail #41
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Full of colorful history, this obscure and less traveled ~6.75ml one way trail starting from across flowing Tonto Creek east of Hwy 188N on the private property 76 Ranch (at 2700ft) and ending in the remote Sierra Ancha Mtns at the "Del Shay Cabin" (at 4820ft) has been on my radar and in my HAZ wish list for a few years. I could never seem to find the right time to schedule it.

    Shawn and I had originally planned to hike the Bull Springs TR34 to try and locate the historic Bull Spring Cabin, but hiking in and back from the Baby Doll TH west of Payson to and from would have been a 20 mile hike from this Baby Doll TH locked gate. We had hoped to cut it down to a ~14ml R/T by obtaining gate access permission from the ranch property owners, but no way.

    Having such unseasonable pleasant hiking conditions this week we both knew we wanted to be hiking somewhere this day. For a backup plan we both reviewed our HAZ wish lists and for me this Del Shay TR41 was like a neon sign going off and on and with Shawn also interested, I again reviewed Preston's hike description, posted trip logs, discussed logistical details of this trail with some who had previously hiked it, and then used our HAZ TrailDEX Map-"Route Mgr" to draw and load a GPS track with key waypoints which were needed for later route finding. I knew that we had little chance of completing this entire ~13.5ml R/T hike this first trip, so we agreed that the perennial-riparian Gun Creek Canyon trail crossing area would be a perfect lunchtime ending destination and it certainly was!

    From the Phoenix area, if you desire to enter this hiking area via the more popular way through the private property 76 Ranch vs the present hike description driving directions and entry point, then the most difficult part of this hike is--> GETTING STARTED :? Hopefully with my now posted GPS Driving Track w/info notes, GPS Hiking Track w/info notes, and geocoded picset with info captions and tagged notes, your first time drive and hiking trip to this area will now be much less confusing starting off and on trail than it was for us.

    It is unfortunate that this historic, remote, and scenic trail does not see more hiking activity. Hopefully, now it will.

    Note: Driving across Tonto Creek during our seasonal spring snow melt/heavy runoff period is not recommended. Crossing Tonto Creek requires a high-clearance 4WD vehicle and after crossing parking is at a premium off unsigned 4WD FR894(1-2 vehicles only.. )
    Del Shay Trail #41
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I did this trail in March 2008. This was my first time on this trail. The way that I accessed this trail is a 4x4 road that goes through the Seventy Six Ranch. There is a good parking area on the hill above the ranch and a sign-in book before you enter the property. I really loved this hike. My favorite hikes are ones that are really remote and rugged. The Del Shay Trail is about as remote and rugged as they come. This is a very special area with a lot of history. The vertical feet is only 2,100 however the total in & out climbing feet is around 4,100 if you go all the way to the cabin at the top. TR41 is a brutal hike. I did this trail as a long day hike and took roughly 11 hours to complete due to slow route finding. I could probably cut one hour from that now that I have been there and know the way. This hike would make a great overnight backpack trip. There is a lot of water along this trail. Water can be found at Gun Creek and the upper basin below the cabin. The spring at the Del Shay cabin is very strong and runs above ground most of the way down the upper basin. If you like solitude and rugged terrain I would definitely recomend this trail.

    Eric (ssk44) :D

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    West From Phoenix, take Arizona highway 87 north to Gisela road turnoff (approximately 4 miles north of the junction with Arizona highway 188). Turn right onto Gisela road (paved), proceed about a tenth of a mile. Turn right onto forest road 184 (this is the only road in the area that goes right) Take road 184 about 4.9 miles. Take the first left past the steel Rye Creek Bridge (about one tenth of a mile past bridge). This will be forest road 1446. Road 1446 dead ends at a parking area and corral two tenths of a mile later. There is no visible trail here, just start following the power lines southeast towards Tonto Creek (see hike description.) Please note this is an extra 0.5mi just to reach the trail, yet likely more popular than the east trailhead.

    East Appears to be a 4WD maze from Young or SR288.
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