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Pine Creek Loop #280, AZ

no permit
512 91 1
Guide 91 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Mesa NE
2.5 of 5 by 19
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 2.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,258 feet
Elevation Gain 498 feet
Accumulated Gain 498 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1.5 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 4.99
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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10  2019-02-24
Ballantine to Boulder Flat
15  2019-02-20
Ballantine Cabin & Corral
6  2018-04-29
Ballantine to Boulder Flat
10  2018-04-13
Ballantine to Boulder Flat
12  2018-04-06
Pine Mountain via Ballantine
8  2017-12-21
Ballantine Cabin & Corral
28  2017-12-01
Ballantine Cabin & Corral
6  2017-11-11
Ballantine Cabin & Corral
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 7
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,825
Trips 4,259 map ( 21,438 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Mar, Oct, Nov → 9 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:24pm
Official Route
11 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
by joebartels

Here is a beautiful trail with a couple major drawbacks. This is a loop hike that can be hiked in either direction. I chose heading out on the South Loop which looking back would be my choice again.

From the start lush desert flora draws you into the hike. Heading south a little the trail hooks back west to ascend the hill/mountain. Highway 87 below has a roaring flow of traffic. It just seemed odd as you can hike in the middle of Phoenix with very little noise. Another drawback is the dense concentration of cattle. Evidence lies everywhere! Now that doesn't bother me, but the flies were unbelievable! I was thinking of turning around yet the trail was so lush I had to check this out. Near the end of the ascent the vegetation thins out some. Beautiful valleys open up. Saguaros pack the slopes. Standing here I wish there had been recent rainfall. The creeks below would be an awesome site during monsoon season! Although I would never recommend hiking out in the open during a thunderstorm we can always imagine. From here it is all down hill.

The trail descends to the junction with the Ballantine Trail and our return on Pine Creek North Loop. The sign as seen in the picture to the right reads: Ballantine Trail 283 - Boulder Flat 3 miles ahead, Boulder Tank 7 miles ahead and Cline Trailhead 11 miles to go. You could continue ahead passing 'The Boulders' and on up to Pine Mountain. That would be another 5 to 6 miles with an additional 3000 foot elevation gain! I chose to continue on the Pine Creek North Loop. This is a nice trail too. Personally I prefer the South Loop section. Overall I was impressed with the hike and definitely will return. Of course I'll bring a case of bug spray!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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1999-05-26 joebartels
    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 24 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Pine Creek Loop #280
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    Starting mid-afternoon on Sunday, I hiked the Pine Creek Loop CCW and continued on the Ballantine Trail somewhat beyond Boulder Flat. I finished the Pine Creek Loop on the way back.

    I had last hiked this trail in Sept 2017. At that time, some recent diversions had been constructed on the initial (CCW) part of the Pine Creek Loop, but some of these diversions were hard to make out and, at least one point, the new trail seemed to fade out after a while. I'm happy to say that this situation has been very much improved. I found that section to be much easier to follow than last year.

    The Ballantine Trail seemed to have been cleaned up too. It seemed not quite as rocky with less encroaching vegetation. I made better time on it than normal.

    I had the trail to myself during that afternoon.

    saguaro, buckhorn cholla, ocotillo
    Pine Creek Loop #280
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    This was our third trip to the cabin, once as an out an back from the Ballantine TH, once from the Pipeline Trail, and this somewhat of a loop hike. Started early so we enjoyed some cooler temps in the AM. The connector trail was a little faint at the start but once we located the tread it was fairly easy to follow, although somewhat overgrown but you will never hear me complain about that. Enjoyed lunch once we passed the corral and got back on the Ballantine Trail. Saw only a couple other hikers all morning. Great day!

    To all the HAZ Veterans out there, a huge Thank-you!!
    Pine Creek Loop #280
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    My wife joined me for an early morning hike of the Pine Creek Loop and part of the Ballantine Trail.

    We started off by going right (CCW) on the Pine Creek Loop. As mentioned in past triplogs, trail work had been done to create better paths around sections of trail with significant erosion. For the most part, these are good, but there's still one diversion which confuses me. The new section of trail peters out into desert. We backtracked and found what looked like a switchback which led back to the well worn trail. I'm guessing that others have found this confusing too and inadvertently created the trail which we followed that leads nowhere. (So... we contributed to the problem by following it.)

    We noticed, too, some significant erosion on the Pine Creek Loop just after the intersection with the Ballantine Trail. I don't recall if this is new or not, but I don't remember it being much of a problem on past hikes in this area.

    At perhaps 2.75 miles in (total), there's (still) a fallen saguaro across the Ballantine Trail. I passed it by stepping up onto a boulder on the south side of the trail and then stepping over the saguaro to another boulder on the other side of the fallen saguaro.

    I saw two rattlesnakes on the Ballantine Trail as I was hiking back. It's possible that they were also there on the way out, but that I just didn't notice them. The first one struck and aggressive posture and rattled at me. The second one didn't notice me at all - it remained curled up the entire time.

    The morning temperatures are becoming cooler. It was in the mid-seventies when we started at 6:20 and was in the high eighties when we got back.
    Pine Creek Loop #280
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    On Sunday morning, I hiked the Pine Creek Trail to the Ballantine and then did an out-and-back on part of the Ballantine before finishing the Pine Creek Loop.

    The trail is in good condition despite the recent monsoon rains. Some of the diversions to avoid the rutted trail on the south side of the Pine Creek Loop have vegetation growing in them now and a few of them were hard to follow - there was one point where I ended up bushwhacking a short ways to get back to the original, rutted trail because I got lost while following one of the diversions.

    The Ballantine Trail is also blocked in another spot by yet another fallen saguaro. I didn't go far enough to see if the other one that I noticed on my previous trip had been cleared or not. This new saguaro-fall seems to be recent; the trail was damp near the saguaro with seepage from its fall.

    I saw a Western Diamondback rattler on the way back. It was asleep in a rut in the trail. I spent a long while taking photos, chimping them, and then taking more when I noticed that I didn't really have a clear view of its head. I finally got one that was satisfied with, though when I got home, I saw that I missed the focus on the head. I guess I should have taken even more.

    I saw several agave blossoms; I've included a two shots of one of them in my photos.

    Actually - there were a lot more flowers than I expected to see.

    It was a good hike with plenty of solitude. Temperatures were not-too-warm when I started, though it was warm, bordering on hot when I finished. I drank all of one 3L reservoir and had started the second just as I was finishing up.
    Pine Creek Loop #280
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Since the days are getting warmer, I thought it might be a good idea to try to acclimate myself again to 90+ degree heat. So... going out at mid-afternoon, I hiked the Pine Creek Loop and then out a little over two miles on the Ballantine, turning back probably within a quarter mile of Boulder Flat as I was worried about running out of daylight for the hike back.

    I do this hike several times each year. It has good views. I like the terrain and it has enough elevation gain to give me a good workout.

    Trail conditions have mostly improved since I last hiked it in Fall of 2016. The southern (steep) section of the Pine Creek Loop had become very rutted. Recent trail maintenance has partially filled in some of these ruts (with large rocks) and routed new sections of trail around these ruts.

    I was happy to NOT find any evidence of recent motorcycle use on the Ballantine Trail. I saw tracks several times when I hiked the trail in 2015 and 2016. However, one of my favorite sections did seem to be more broken up than normal which may have been the result of motorcycle use in the past.

    There used to be a large saguaro with a droopy arm that crossed the Ballantine Trail. This saguaro has now fallen, requiring that you climb over it. I posted a photo of it.

    Both Pine Creek and Camp Creek had flowing water.
    Pine Creek Loop #280
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    An acquaintance who lives at my townhouse complex called me this early afternoon to inquire where the Spring'17 Wildflowers were located. She is not a hiker and just wanted to drive around to see some blooms. I immediately went to our HAZ Wildflowers Map- :next: ... .php and soon realized that just to send her driving up some local road which I did not know if there would actually be any flower displays might be a mistake :? A short hike seemed to be in-order but I knew better than to send a non-hiker out in the wilderness for the first time too..

    I hardly ever anymore do impromptu hikes without a prior week minimum of pre-planning but today I was in the mood for some fresh air with a simple hike plus the idea of viewing some spring wildflowers within a close proximity drive seemed like a good idea.. and it was!

    Our Highway 87 Ballantine TH was a good choice and on the drive to even the shoulders of the highway are really beginning to bust open with various varieties of wildflowers. It was a bright, sunny, high 80's day so we only did a short out and back section (first hiking south) on this 2.5 mile loop, but still a fun, enjoyable, and rewarding afternoon OUTSIDE! :)
    Pine Creek Loop #280
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    It was a rare event.. Me on a trail. I should probably try it more often. I really enjoyed this trail. I had it all to myself. I came here to see the seasonal flow on Pine Creek. The upper valley is so special. The sea of saguaros was like nothing I've ever witnessed. They’re clearly happy hear. Just add water. Very nice. Now we just need some flowers!

    Pine Creek Loop #280
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    Joe through out a couple this week to choose from. The first had us in potential snow and much colder temps. I would never have been able to put up with the whining on that one.

    The Plan A that got the nod, received 1.2 inches of rain yesterday. What normally runs at 1.5 CFM, was running at 20 CFM yesterday afternoon, and flashed at 7,000 CFM at midnight at 10' in height. When we pulled in, you could hear the roar of Sycamore Creek.

    This was a plan B.
    I'd never hiked out of the Ballantine TH, so with the help of a freshly downloaded route into Route Scout, we were off.

    Pine Creek was roaring, as were all the other normally dry named and non-named washes. We started in a light rain in the comfortable 40's. We were in the clouds at about 4000' and it got noticeably colder. We hit a low of 36.9, with a cooling breeze.

    We look a break at the cabin for a bit so Joe could change socks before heading back.

    Almost back to the Truck we ran into Chums, just starting his hike.

    This one was better than I expected.
    Felt strange to be home so early on a Saturday, so I took a nap.
    Pine Creek Loop #280
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    Rain Saturday number 4 out of the last 5 :pout:

    Snow in many areas and cold temps in others hampered options. I put together a loop West of the Beeline around Sycamore/Mesquite based on a couple Ken hikes. We arrived before sunrise and could hear the roar of the creek. Bruce refused to give up and checked it out in several areas. Luckily he came to his senses. With a hint of internet I pulled up Ballantine as plan b.

    18 years ago I hiked this in gnat season. The memory was still fresh that I wanted to see the Saguaro lined Pine Creek flowing. We got it in full glory, it was roaring!

    Yesterday I picked up a zippo catalytic hand warmer. A few school friends back in Oklahoma carried a larger version when we walked off campus for lunch. Imagine none of that is permitted these days. At any rate after a home test I was oddly excited to put it to use hiking in the cold.

    The little furnace worked like a dream for 6-7 miles until I slipped on a rock in one of several creek crossings. Our 47 degree start was now into the 30's and it was game over for the happy attitude.

    After miles of torture the final mile or two was warming up. We crossed paths with 3 or 4 little groups. Then ran into CHUMS starting the same hike. My photos aren't worth subjecting to the public. I imagine someone that got twice the sleep, ate breakfast, lunch and hiked with less stinky company got better light.

    We saw lots of creeks flowing and in retrospect I enjoyed it overall.

    Very isolated yellows. Bushes and such most wouldn't notice.
    Pine Creek Loop #280
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    Leave it to Rick to figure something out :scared: When he suggested Ballantine Trail, I thought maybe a loop over to the Cabin and return, but oh no !!! He wanted a key exchange somewhere in the middle of the Trail :o .... Here's a guy that doesn't want any bushwhacking---off trail hikes or anything that does not resemble a beaten path or needs route finding skills. :scared: I asked him did you read the trip logs ?? Yes but, there is a trail ?? Rick loves elevation so ok, you can start at Ballantine TH and I'll start at the Cline TH. :D Thanks to Sun_Hiker for the route and Grass Hopper for his trip log from 2007, printed it out and wanted to compare then and what's it's like now. So 9 years later --- couldn't find the Ballantine sign, there is a small cairn buried under the tall grass SE of the parking area, directly in front of the cairn is a large dead tree stump that someone cut down years ago in the grass, the trail runs along the left side of the stump and heads up to the old Cline cabin area. Turn thru the old gate opening and tread lightly due to all the rocks buried under the tall grass. The route is pretty straight forward up to about the 1st mile and 3/4 then due to erosion and over growth of shrubs it gets a little tricky then it opens up for the next mile until you get to the saddle at 2.75 miles and 5818 elevation. Going down from the saddle you will encounter very easy walking, ( nice fire rings setup, plenty of dead wood to keep warm :zzz: ) and then, due to all the under growth and fallen trees, you have to navigate around or over and under them, but nothing real serious. Other then 9 years of nature taking it's course Grasshopper was dead on and Sun_Hikers route was also dead on except for all fallen trees across the route. But there were a lot of cairns, and I repaired and added some along the way. Met Rick at about the 4 1/2 mile mark, and exchanged info, had about 1/2 mile or so of heavy Mazzies and after that, it opened up to a great hike down to the trail head. We stopped at my place for a beer and discussed what a great hike this could be if we got a group together and cleared us a more enjoyable path and not fight thru the way it presently is. Going from Cline would be my choice every time :D :M2C:

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Ballantine Trailhead
    From Scottsdale follow Shea Blvd East to its terminus at SR87. Turn Left (North) onto SR87. Follow SR87(this is the Beeline) about 9.5 miles past the Four Peaks turnoff. The Ballantine turnoff is easy to find just past Mile Post 210. The trailhead is easy to spot from the parking loop.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 48.1 mi - about 55 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 146 mi - about 2 hours 15 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 153 mi - about 2 hours 46 mins
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