Aztec Peak via Abbey's Way 151 Loop, AZ | HikeArizona
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Aztec Peak via Abbey's Way 151 Loop, AZ

Guide 90 Triplogs  9 Topics
  3.8 of 5 
no permit
1.2k 90 9
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7.14 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,200 feet
Elevation Gain 1,540 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,540 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 14.84
 Interest Peak
 Backpack Yes & Connecting
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22  2022-09-17
Parker Abby Lasso loop
11  2022-08-20
Abbey's Way Trail #151
14  2021-04-24
Horsing Around in the Sierra Ancha
26  2020-10-20
10  2020-09-20 adv_trev
15  2020-06-27
19  2020-04-06
Horsing Around in the Sierra Ancha
36  2020-04-04
Parker - Moody - Coon Loop
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 9
author avatar Guides 71
Routes 98
Photos 9,967
Trips 1,009 map ( 9,248 miles )
Age 63 Male Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Associated Areas
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Preferred Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep → 7 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:51am - 6:21pm
Official Route
16 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 2016 Juniper Fire30.6k
🔥 2000 Coon Creek Fire9.6k
🔥 2000 Coon Creek29.6 mi*
🔥 View (All) - over Official Route 🔥
*perimeter length in miles

Edward Abbey pilgrimage
by Randal_Schulhauser

I am a frequent visitor to the Sierra Anchan Range located east of Lake Roosevelt. The numerous archeological sites have been a primary attraction for me, but I haven't ascended a single peak in this range for some reason. Located within the Tonto National Forest, Aztec Peak at 7,748 feet elevation (or 7,694 feet by some sources) ranks as the 41st highest prominence in Arizona.

Although I haven't located any direct evidence of prehistoric occupation near Aztec Peak, the eastern drainage into Cherry Creek and the southern drainage into Coon Creek is dotted with multiple archeological sites, some noted within HAZ hike descriptions. The western drainage near Gisela also has numerous sites. Given the proximity of Aztec Peak to these known sites only suggests they haven't been discovered (or disclosed).

The Apache War years from 1866 to 1886 marked some patrols around Aztec Peak. Members of the US 14TH U.S. Infantry based out of Fort Reno on the western slope of the Tonto Basin were involved in these patrols, as noted by Lt. George W. Chilson reports dated 1867 to 1870. General Nelson A. Miles established a heliograph communication network by 1886 that utilized Aztek Peak. Typically the US Army heliograph had two mirrors mounted on a tripod with a shutter for interrupting the flashes.

The Pleasant Valley War, primarily centered near and north of Young, also spilled over into the region. Made famous by Zane Grey's western novel "To The Last Man", one of the combatants was shot in 1887 near a high waterfall assumed to be Workman Creek Falls. Nearby McFadden Horse Trail is also linked to this frontier feud.

Another attraction along the way is Workman Creek Waterfalls. At 180 feet, these falls offer spectacular views and a unique challenge to rock climbers. Named for one of the area's late 1880's pioneers, Harry Wertman, the spelling has evolved just as it sounds.

Remnants from other early pioneers can be found at the Peterson Ranch and the Carr Ranch. Check out the apple orchard on the Peterson Meadow. This is remarkably similar to Reavis Ranch orchard in the Superstitions. I was surprised to find out that the Carr Ranch also served as a summertime resort during the 1920s.

The lookout tower located at the Aztec Peak summit has gained some notoriety due to its famous inhabitant during the summers of 1977, 1978, and 1979. Edward Abbey worked as a Forest Service Fire Spotter stationed at the Aztec Peak Lookout Tower. This work experience becomes a source of multiple references within "Confessions of a Barbarian". This lookout tower was constructed in 1956 and listed on the National Historic Lookout Register at US#192 and AZ#02.

The April 2000 Coon Creek Fire has left its scars throughout much of the Sierra Ancha Wilderness area. Interesting that Preston Sand's hike description for Parker Creek Trail 160 originates from a pre-fire backpack. I'm happy to report that restoration and regeneration are progressing, although I'm sure it will never be the same!

Start your hike from the road closure barrier at FR487 near the Falls camp ground. A steady ascent of 405 feet for 0.65 miles along the closed Forest Road and you will arrive at the precipice for Workman Creek Waterfall. Gaze back to the northwest to view a pine covered Workman Creek Canyon.

FR487 will track along the headwaters of Workman Creek. This riparian area attracts a variety of wildlife. We saw many species of birds, particularly hummingbirds. A lone deer bounded across the road, and some trees had scratching evident of bear activity.

At mile 1.2 and 760 feet above the road closure barrier, we came to the Abbey's Way 151 west trailhead. A passing Forest Service vehicle stopped, and we were informed that although the trail is passable, it has not been maintained this year, and route finding may be a challenge. We were told to expect many wind fallen trees and areas of extreme overgrowth. We were also cautioned about hazards from fire-killed trees should we encounter wind or rain. Showing our trusty GPS and a copy of the online Forest Service map, the Rangers felt confident that we'd be able to tackle the challenge.

Through some initial dense fern growth, we were able to locate a series of cairns marking the Abbey's Way 151 trail. The trail soon passed through a burned area. Route finding isn't difficult in this area as the trail seems to have been cleared.

At mile 1.4 a lush open meadow appears. This demarks the old Peterson Ranch as well as the source of the Workman Creek. The trail hugs the northern perimeter of the meadow. Our first glimpse of the Aztec Peak Lookout Tower can be seen from this vantage.

At mile 1.7 the trail begins a steady ascent up Aztec Peak. Route finding can be tricky at this point. On two occasions, the trail appeared to vanish with multiple wind fallen trees blocking any apparent route. Scan the area looking for chain saw cuts or rock cairns to pick up the trail again. If completely "stumped", spot the Lookout Tower and climb up. Through a series of switchbacks, you are soon rewarded with some spectacular views as you near the summit.
At mile 2.9 we are at the base of the Aztec Peak Lookout Tower. It's time for a break and a chance to talk with Ranger Red who is the Lookout Tower Fire Spotter for the 2006 season. Red is spending the day cutting and clearing some new campsites near the top of Aztec Peak and extends an open invitation to future campers. I may take him up on that offer, maybe as a combined mountain bike and camp adventure. My GPS indicates coordinates 33o 24.959'N, 110o 49.741'W, and an elevation of 7,740 feet leading me to believe the 7,748 claims to be valid. We continue to linger soaking in the sights. The 360 degree view from the summit is nothing less than fantastic and you certainly get a bird's eye outlook...

The return loop follows FR487 down Aztec Peak. At mile 3.6, the road joins the Murphy Ranch cut-off near the Moody Point Trail 140. Near mile 5.4, you pass the Carr Trail Head marking a jumping-off point for Parker Creek Trail 160 and Rim Trail 139. At mile 5.8, you pass the Abbey's Way 151 trailhead. Retrace your steps back down FR487 from earlier in the day. At mile 7.1, you should find your vehicle close to the road closure barriers.

FR487 Gate
Typically closed December 1th thru April 1st. Check with Tonto FS if you are looking to skip the 1.3 miles of 487 each way.

I'm often asked my opinion on Edward Abbey. His mystique is comparable to Twain or Thoreau, or Whitman. Many HAZ members have come to revere this desert anarchist... witness the many Abbey tagline quotes of wisdom closing a post. Enough said, but if you are curious to find out more about Edward Abbey, check out one of his books. We know he spent three summers atop Aztec Peak, and they had a profound effect. Having spent a summer's day atop Aztec Peak, I now have the profound urge to read Desert Solitaire... Enjoy!

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.

2006-08-09 Randal_Schulhauser
    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.

     Permit $$

    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix
    Take Hwy 60 (Superstition Freeway) east 75 miles to Globe/Miami. Turn left (northwest) onto Hwy 188 (GPS coordinates 33o 24.959'N, 110o 49.741'W) and drive 14 1/2 miles to the intersection with Hwy 288 (GPS coordinates 33o 33.920'N, 110o 57.210'W). Take Hwy 288 towards Young. In about 4 1/2 miles you will cross the Salt River Bridge (GPS coordinates 33o 37.155'N, 110o 55.310'W). Pass by FR203, also known as Cherry Creek Road (GPS coordinates 33o 38.582'N, 110o 57.104'W) another 2 1/2 miles further up the road. Follow Hwy 288 past the Parker Creek Trail #160 southern trailhead (GPS coordinates 33o 47.795'N, 110o 58.154'W) near the paved/gravel road transition. Hwy 288 will soon gain considerable elevation through a series of switchbacks. Continue a total of 25 1/4 miles on Hwy 288 from the Hwy 188 intersection until you reach FR487 at GPS coordinates 33o 50.794'N, 110o 58.121'W near mile marker 284. Travel east on FR487 roughly parallel to Workman Creek passing the designated campgrounds "Creek Side", "Cascade", and "Falls" in sequence. At the time of this writing, FR487 is blocked near the Falls campground, about 2 1/2 miles from Hwy 288. There is parking for several vehicles along FR487 near this temporary trailhead.

    My GPS noted 125 miles traveled from my home in Ahwatukee to the FR487 trailhead parking. Travel time was just over 3 hours including a couple of short stops for photos. GPS coordinates for the trailhead are 33o 49.439'N, 110o 56.308'W

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