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Derrick - Horton Loop, AZ

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Guide 135 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson N
4 of 5 by 33
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 9.25 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,422 feet
Elevation Gain 1,450 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,950 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4-5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 19
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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7  2019-08-04 trekkin_gecko
5  2019-08-04 johnlp
9  2019-07-25 JuanJaimeiii
9  2019-05-26 BiFrost
3  2018-08-19 JuanJaimeiii
5  2018-08-07 Tortoise_Hiker
8  2018-05-19
Horton-Derrick Loop
9  2018-03-22 DixieFlyer
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Author AZHikr4444
author avatar Guides 7
Routes 0
Photos 632
Trips 83 map ( 529 miles )
Age 48 Male Gender
Location Cave Creek, AZ
Co-Author joebartels
co-author avatarGuides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,261 map (21,471 Miles)
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Sep, Oct → 8 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:12am - 6:23pm
Official Route
12 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Nice Horton Alternative
by AZHikr4444 & joebartels

Likely In-Season!
While the Derrick Trail itself is probably not worthy of it's own write-up, it does offer some outstanding views of Promontory Butte and the Rim, a good workout and access to a nice section of the Highline Trail. Most importantly, it is a pleasant change of pace from the usual out and back hike to Horton Spring, and should help avoid some of the crowds, especially during the peak summer season.

It's an easy 0.25mi walk between Horton and Derrick Trails along the road. Knock it out first or save it for the end. It is typically easier to find parking at Derrick and it's a kind gesture to leave a space the more popular Horton Trailhead.

From the Derrick Trailhead, the Derrick Trail heads east/northeast. The ascent is steady, make sure to stop occasionally and soak in the wonderful views of the Rim. As the trail climbs toward Promontory Butte, it becomes lined with Manzanita mixed in with the ever present Ponderosa and Junipers. At 2.5 mi, Derrick intersects the Highline. The right branch continues down the hill and southeast to Christopher Creek. Take the left branch which contours Promontory Butte as it threads it's way to Horton Spring.

Take your time, because this is a very pleasant section of the Highline. As a matter of fact, if it wasn't for the beauty of the waterfalls and cascades in Horton Creek itself, this would be the highlight of the loop. The trail gently rises and falls, sometimes a bit steeply, but nothing too taxing. The Ponderosa Pines close around you and the area retains that euphoric scent of pine pitch in the light high country air. This is Rim hiking at it's finest . There also appears to be many young maples and oaks on this section, so this may end up being a fine autumn color hike. Roughly 0.7 mi the Highline junction, Promontory Trail #268 takes off sharply up the side of the Butte on the right.

After 2.4 miles the trail crosses the dry headwaters of Horton Creek. A half mile walk down the creek bed will take you to the Horton Creek Trail, coming in from the right. The Official Route for this guide continues on the Highline up the steep hill until you reach Horton Spring. Follow Horton Creek Trail #285 for your return down Horton Creek.

The loop is not much more difficult than the more common Horton Creek out and back, a bit steep and more feisty, but it is very pleasant and it does offer some solitude before reaching the very popular Horton Spring. Make the Spring and the beauty of Horton Creek your reward, and this trail in will be worth it!

Original guide 2006 by Mike. 2018 revised and updated by Joe.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2006-05-08 AZHikr4444 & joebartels
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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 42 deeper Triplog Reviews
Derrick - Horton Loop
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This hike began and ended at the Horton Creek TH. We did the Horton Creek Loop Counterclockwise by taking the Derrick Trail to the Highline Trail on to Horton Spring. At the Spring, we came back to the TH on the Horton Creek Trail. Along the way, we took a side trip up to Promontory Butte by going up and back down on the Promontory Trail. The Derrick, Highline, and Horton Creek Trails were all in good shape and were easy to follow. The Promontory Trail was a different story -- you won't see too many named trails worse than this one. Going up was much worse than going down, mainly because it was very difficult to follow the trail. I had to refer to my GPS numerous times to make sure that I was still on the trail. Even though the trail was steep, on the way down you could see in advance where the trail was, so you knew where you were going. It was nice once on top of the Rim. We went over to the survey marker and signed the log book, which was place there by Joe Bartels back in 2003. Next time I might just do the Horton Super Loop Plus instead of this hike, and do it clockwise to avoid having to go up the Promontory Trail. Of course, then you'd have to go up the Horton Creek Trail which isn't a piece of cake either.
Derrick - Horton Loop
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Good little Rim Country leg stretcher. I figured hitting Promontory would increase my chances of seeing snow. Started up Derrick and onto Promontory. The climb up was over quicky. The trail is in great shape and easier than ever to follow. Thin layers of snow clung to the shade. There was some snow on top of the butte, not nearly as much as there should be. A mere inches of crunchy snow blanketed the forest floor. It was a desolate road walk across the butte. My 'winter wonderland' for the day. Tread was snow, ice and frozen earth. Avoid the ice and you're fine. The short walk on Rim Rd was the same. The upper reaches of See Cyn was a little winter-like. That ended quickly. Trail was dry, no mud. Midway down it turns to a fall scene. Passed a couple of dog walkers as I cruised on down to the TH to jump on Highline. Ate my lunch as I made my way over to Horton. It was sunny and warm now. The 30 degree starting temp turned to 60. Stopped at the spring to grab a little water before making my dash back to the TH. Passed a couple families out for a stroll. Fantastic weather for an outing in Rim Country. Saw a dozen elk and a few deer.
Derrick - Horton Loop
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Glad I did the loop rather than just going to the spring and back. Derrick trail section of the hike had quite different scenery than then the first part to the hike. A few REALLY large Manzanita plants :o . One must have been 15-20 foot. Usually these are only about 1.5 - 5 foot.
Derrick - Horton Loop
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Derrick-Horton and a little High
Look out, Moe, Larry and Curly are on the trail again.

Get out of the desert, add a trail in the trees, add some miles, add some elevation were the next step.
Keep the sweat to a minimum and the rain off the recovery devices were secondary goals.

This was a pretty good choice. The trails were in good shape for the most part, with just a couple of slippery down sections on the Highline.

All in all, it worked out. Joe did great and Denny behaved. He was actually a good sport. Joe still needs help with some aspects of his hiking equipment. Denny was more of a trouper than I could be. Mexican food and all. :o :lol:

Let the hiking begin..
Derrick - Horton Loop
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Derrick - Highline to 6450 Saddle - Horton
Itching to get out on longer hikes after easing back into hiking. Wanted a good trail with pine shade. [ Derrick Trail - Horton Loop ] almost fit the bill but I wanted over 10 and under 14 miles. Added 1.7 miles west on the [ Highline Trail #31 ] to a saddle that looked like a good turn around point.

@The_Eagle says we've hiked Derrick a couple times. Possibly, I just have one 2012 triplog and this route felt cleaner but maybe I missed a triplog cause he's rarely incorrect, to the point I bang my head at times while he
Derrick is a steady climb to #31.

Denny said there were two healthy ascents over to Horton, believe he nailed it. A rare sight at the Springs, very few people.

We continued over on #31 to my planned turnaround at a saddle near 6,450 ft. This turned out to be more of a winner than just upping the distance as planned. Which netted a dense pine forest feel along with a few nice distant views. When I'm confident in more aeg I'd opt for ascending the rim in a heartbeat This worked well for getting back into the groove.

The hike was a tad tiring, overall just the right progression. Forecast was 50% chance of rain and we got sun on the majority of the ascent. While it was toastier than anticipated I'll take heat over the deluge we experienced driving home. The guys were great as usual allowing me to take a record amount of breaks.

We hiked the entire 800+ mi AZT a few years ago. They had this running joke that every gate we encountered Bruce would open and I would run through leaving Denny to close. Total nonsense and they kept it rolling today saying don't worry we got the gates today... we didn't encounter any closed gates... ha!

Huge thx guys, this hike was perfect with just enough challenge to keep stepping it back up to old times!

Richard's Geranium, Brown Eyed Susan's & Mushroom Galore!
Derrick - Horton Loop
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Did the popular loop with the side trip to Promontory Butte, except I went up Horton and down Derrick. Pretty nice out. Lots of birds, and the air was chilly. Nice to be on the Rim. Good views of the Arizona Highlands.

Promontory seems to be a trail in name only, and should either be decommissioned or rebuilt. Lost it in a tangle of dead and down, game trails and rough spots on the way down and I ended up doing an off trail hike down slope. That wasn't fun at all. Due to this I came down on the Highline east of Derrick and went a bit further out to the east before I realized I was too far below Promontory Point. Turned back and I easily found Derrick Trail. For some reason people don't want this high point from below.

Adjusted the AEG and miles to reflect what are the more accurate GPS routes for this.
Derrick - Horton Loop
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My friend Sheryl wanted to go do a hike so I took her to do the Horton Derrick Loop. Parking lot was full and there were tons of people out enjoying the trails and the perfect weather. We made our way to the spring and then started up the Derrick. The initial chug slowed her down a bit but she hung in there like a trooper.

Next thing you know we were at the junction with the Promontory Trail. I stopped and told her about how steep it was and much to my surprise she asked it I wanted to do it? I said sure and she said she could see in my eye that I wanted to. Anyway up we went. The trail is wiped out in several places from erosion but we managed to make it to the top without issue. Well almost without issue. At one point she looked at me and said I think I want to kill you right about now. :o :lol: Luckily she was kidding.

The rest of the trip was a breeze.
Derrick - Horton Loop
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I had not been to Mogollon Rim country in maybe 20 years, so a big Thank You to the person who made note of the fact that there's now a special Trailhead (with parking and a toilet) for the Derrick Trail. This trailhead is on the left as you drive N on FR289, before you get to the bridge across Tonto Creek or the Upper Tonto campground. You can't see the Horton Creek Trailhead from this parking lot, because there's a bit of a rise in the road, but it only took me about 5 minutes to walk back to the Derrick TH along FR289, at the end of my hike. I did this loop in the counter-clockwise direction, with Derrick Trail first.

The official Forest Service trail signs are in good condition along this loop, and they give somewhat longer distances than those in the main HAZ description, even if you leave off the detour up to Horton Spring. (Maybe the FS likes to round mileages up, thinking to help people avoid biting off more than they can chew?) According to the FS signs, it's 3 miles from Derrick TH to jcn with the Highline Trail, 2.5 miles along Highline to jcn with Horton Creek Trail, and 4 miles from jcn of Highline & Horton Creek Trails to the Horton Creek Trailhead and FR 289, for a 9.5-mile total. (Plus another 1/10 mile along the paved road, to get back to Derrick TH.)

The Derrick seemed less road-like now, than it was 20 or so years ago. I could be mis-remembering it, but I think some re-routing has occurred. It's still easy to follow, though. There are a few areas of the trail covered with pine needles, but there are some (imo, unnecessary) cairns along the way to help you out, and the trail pretty much stays on top of a ridge heading up to the Highline. You can also watch for some signs of human trail-maintenance activity -- i.e., trees that have had branches that were growing across the trail cut off, a few inches out from the trunks of the trees.

This section of the Highline is also easy to follow. It's blazed infrequently, with stiff plastic markers nailed to tree trunks (usually of dead trees). The markers are white and either diamond-shaped or a modified square with a diamond image on it. But the trail would be easy enough to follow without the blazes, imo. There were quite a few elk tracks on the Highline when I was there -- it had rained 2 days before so there was plenty of mud for them to stroll through, though it had dried by the time I was there.

At the junction of the Highline and Horton Creek Trails there is a bridge to help you cross Horton Creek. (The map shows a crossing of an "East Fork of Horton Creek" before this, but I never saw that, so it must have been dry. The map I'm referring to is Trails Illustrated #852 copyright 2016.) The bridge across Horton Creek is a tree trunk, sawed in half and then laid open like a book, to give you a nice flat surface, easy to walk on. There is a good campsite along the Highline Trail, just before this junction, and it took me about 6 minutes to walk down to the bridge from there. It's not out of sight from the trail, but still I'd use it rather than camp near the trail junction, because the area around the junction had so many flies it was unpleasant to stop there for lunch! And a definite odor of horse dung, which may partly explain the flies.

From the end of the bridge you make a left turn to head back toward the road on Horton Creek Trail. After a very short, level walk there's a fork with a small trail on the left that stays right next to the creek, and a more obvious trail to its right. I took the left one, thinking that was the Horton Creek Trail and the other was the Highline continuing on. That was not right - the smaller trail is just a use trail that leads you downhill to several campsites that are downstream a little way from the bridge. I had to backtrack to pick up the right fork trail, which is actually the Horton Creek and Highline Trails running along together for a little way, until a second fork where there's a trail sign. Horton Creek Trail is easy to follow from there, and downhill almost the whole way back to the road. There are several use trails leading from the Horton Creek Trail to the creek, itself, either to play spots or campsites along the way.

I only saw one other person on the Highline section I hiked, and no one on the Derrick Trail. There were several other hikers on the Horton Creek Trail, which is very popular, so I didn't expect solitude, even on a weekday in May. The Ponderosa Pines smelled heavenly, and this is a very nice loop hike.

Lots of blue flowers that look like lupines, though growing in semi-shaded conditions. Also little golden yellow daisy-shaped blooms, and others that are white petals with golden centers. After the first 2 miles on Derrick #33 there were many big manzanitas with their pink, bell-shaped blooms, on both sides of trail. On Derrick, within a mile of the jcn with Horton Creek Trail, there were also wild strawberries in bloom -- too bad it's too early for berries! Around the jcn of Derrick and Horton Creek Trails there were some under-story trees with white blooms that remind me of dogwoods, except that they have 5 petals (whereas dogwoods have only 4).
Derrick - Horton Loop
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Took a couple friends visiting from Florida out for a hike in Rim Country. They were in awe on the drive up from Phoenix alone. We went up Horton first and stopped at the spring for their first ever drink of wild water. East on Highline from there. Almost all the leaves are on the ground now, making trail conditions perfect. Wasn't planning on hitting Promontory but when I pointed it out they said 'why not?' so up we went. Fallen leaves and pine needles add to the loose rock, soil and general steepness but still fun. We definitely took a nice break up top and enjoyed the views. The sun was setting quickly. Hiked under the sunset once back on Highline. It got dark on us before we reached the Derrick TH and temps were in the high 30's upon reaching the vehicle. Saw no other hikers all day. Great day in Rim Country.
Derrick - Horton Loop
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Wanted to get out to Horton Creek for sometime now, reviewed HAZ'ers routes and wanted something other then just a up and back route. So settled on Lindaagm's Birthday hike route :scared: knew it would be spot on and it was, thanks Linda. This route really has something for everyone, the Highline portion was very scenic :D lot of switchbacks. Most of the fall coolers were seen on Highline, maybe a few days late, but nevertheless was very nice :) The Horton Springs area is all it has been billed as, very nice, had the Loop to our selves until we headed down Horton and started meeting hikers heading up.

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Horton Trailhead

From Payson take 260 East for 16 miles to FR289 which is Tonto Creek Road. Turn left on to FR289 and follow a mile to the Upper Tonto Creek campgrounds. Hiker parking is before the campgrounds (left) across a bridge in a small lot. A composite toilet is available.

Horton Creek Trailhead cross back over the bridge and follow the dirt road up towards the campgrounds for about 150 feet. The trailhead should now be apparent on the left.

Derrick Trailhead 2015 Update! New trailhead for the Derrick trail about 200 yards before the Horton Spring Trailhead/Parking. There is a large parking lot and new Outhouse opposite the Trailhead.

Note: If the trailhead parking lot is full the campground host may or may not allow you to park for a fee in the campground. It varies year to year so it's good to ask first.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) - 105 mi, 2 hours 2 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) - 203 mi, 3 hours 32 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) - 130 mi, 2 hours 32 mins
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