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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Blue Jay Ridge Loop, AZ

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Guide 16 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Safford
4.3 of 5 by 7
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,600 feet
Elevation Gain 1,084 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,271 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18.96
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
13  2018-06-10 RedRoxx44
12  2018-05-26 chumley
10  2018-05-26 BiFrost
28  2017-08-27 SkyIslander18
14  2015-12-10
West Peak C-50 Crash Site
12  2015-12-10
West Peak C-50 Crash Site
23  2015-07-11 chumley
16  2015-07-11 sbkelley
Page 1,  2
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   Aug, Sep, Jul, Jun → 7 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:08am - 6:17pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Wildflower Island
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
The Blue Jay Ridge Loop encompasses the Blue Jay Ridge Trail #314, and part of forest road 286 on the north end of the Pinaleno Mountains. It begins at the end of a 24 mile dirt road drive from highway 70, that begins in a creosote bush filled desert, and ends on a mountainside covered in firs and aspens. Included here is a topo map showing the approximate route of the hike.

Beginning at the Turkey Spring trailhead on a switchback turn of forest road 286, the Blue Jay Ridge Trail leaves the road behind, and begins to climb uphill through the white firs and occasional aspens. The trail soon levels out, and roughly follows the 7600 foot contour for the next two miles, along a ridge of tan colored granite. For the first half mile, the trail remains in the cool shade of the fir forest. After that, where the trail encounters west facing slopes, the vegetation changes to white oaks and brush, and on the north facing slopes, there are fir and ponderosa forests. About 1.25 miles in, the trail crosses a forested bench on the side of the mountain, with several nice campsites. After leaving the bench, the trail contours along the steep brushy slopes of Blue Jay Ridge. There are some great views of the Santa Teresa Mountains, and the Aravaipa area along here.

At about the 2.4 mile point, the trail reaches a saddle on Blue Jay Ridge, and makes a 180 degree turn to begin the climb up the ridge. The trail up the ridge is not visible at first, but it follows the eastern side of the ridge, reappearing a few hundred feet past the saddle. There are some great views of the Gila River valley to the east, Mt. Graham and its telescope, as the trail ascends the ridge. Several nice campsites in ponderosa covered saddles are passed during the climb. As the trail begins the climb around the rocky cliff of the 8529' point, it becomes overgrown with gambel oak saplings.

Once on top of the 8529' hill, the trail levels off, passes a small aspen grove, and enters a park like area that wraps around the mountain top, formed by a wildfire in the early 1970's. The now easily found trail makes a short descent through an area of orange granite rocks and wildflowers, and soon becomes an old 4x4 road. Follow the old road (it is still trail #314) for the next two miles, as it contours along rolling hillsides of ferns and wildflowers, dotted with clumps of young ponderosa pines. The plentiful wildflowers and great views of the Mt. Graham area made this my favorite part of the hike. As the trail rounds 8800 foot Blue Jay Peak, it turns west and passes the junction with the Clark Peak Trail. There are some views of the Taylor Pass area and the distant Galiuro Mountains along here. The trail soon passes through another flat saddle as it nears 8684' West Peak.

The trail reaches its highest point as it passes through a road cut on the southwestern ridge of West Peak, and meets up with the short side road to the fire tower on the peak. This is where the Blue Jay Ridge Trail officially ends, and the route leaves the old burn area. If you turn right and pass the locked gate, a short five minute walk will bring you to the 45 foot tall West Peak fire tower, and 360 degree views. After enjoying the views atop West Peak, begin following forest road 286 as it makes a steep descent down the forested northern slope of the peak. After not seeing any other hikers or wildlife until this point, the excited chattering of a Mt. Graham red squirrel surprised me as I hiked down the steep rocky road. After about 1.6 miles and a 1000 foot drop from the top of West Peak through the fir forests, you will arrive back at the Turkey Spring trailhead, thus completing the loop hike.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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

2006-09-18 PrestonSands
    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
    Blue Jay Ridge Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    With reports of the entire state being closed being greatly exaggerated, we opted for a quick overnight in the mountains with some good hiking, no crowds, and no holiday traffic. This loop fit perfectly into those requirements.

    We arrived after noon and set up camp before beginning the hike, heading to Blue Jay first and then down the ridgeline in a ccw loop. The mile climb up the road wasn't as bad as I had told myself it would be, and the reward views from the West Peak lookout followed immediately by a cold beer back at camp made the road walk a distant memory.

    This place doesn't seem to get much hiking traffic, and I'm ok with that! The trail is in pretty good condition.

    It was surprisingly overcast and breezy with some occasional very strong gusts.
    Blue Jay Ridge Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    After talking about it for years, Chad and I finally made the long dirt road trek out to West Peak for the Blue Jay Ridge Loop, with some photo stops along the way. Tripp Canyon Road was in great condition across the flats and mesas, and has been improved going up to West Peak. We parked at Turkey Spring switchback, where the road turns steep, and started hiking up the road. The sun was hot and we were thrilled to have a strong breeze greet us as we made West Peak. Chad and I cooled off in the shade on top and then began our walk through the mountain top garden that is Blue Jay. Waist high ferns and a scattering of wildflowers covered the slopes in between stands of pines spared from wildfire decades ago. The main mass of the Pinalenos loomed large to the south, and we could plainly see some of the areas with crown fire damage. The Pinalenos are still beautiful though. I was reading the map wrong, and we blew well past the ideal turnoff for summitting Blue Jay Peak. There wasn't enough time to back track, so the summit would have to wait until next time. A big rock promontory on the east side of the ridge provided us an amazing view of the Pima-Safford area, and an angry thunderstorm parked across the valley. We passed a family of hikers once the road transitioned into trail, and began a long descent on Blue Jay's north ridge. The hairpin turn into Sawmill Canyon's bowl brought a return of the heat from lack of wind, and overgrowth of oak brush along the trail. The last couple of miles contouring across the steep, forested slopes was longer than I remembered, but just as beautiful and green. Deep green grass and clover covered the impossibility steep slopes on the last mile to Turkey Spring. Back at the trailhead, we took a much needed hydration break on the tailgate before voyaging back down the road. Storms and setting sun aligned perfectly on the drive across the mesas to give us some great photos over the badland canyons below. A great day of adventure, Mr. C!
    Blue Jay Ridge Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Definition: after a long time, typically involving difficulty or delay.

    After talking with Preston for years now about hiking Blue Jay, we finally got it done!
    Preston picked me up in Safford and together we took off up Tripp Canyon road to the Pinaleno's west side.
    With this mountain range being my backyard wonderland and love, I really don't know why I haven't been up this side in well over a decade. I was just blown away with the scenery on the drive up including Bear Springs Flat down low and the road's beauty going up high. There is so much along the way I never knew about.

    We arrived and parked at the Turkey Spring trailhead under the lush forest. We chose to do the loop counter clockwise which IMO is the way to do this one. Up the steep & rocky road we headed :next: side trip up to West Peak and the lookout tower at 8670 elev :next: back down and around the south side :next: then looped Blue Jay peak :next: back down to Turkey Spring on the north side.

    I loved every second & step of this hike!
    West Peak, the lookout tower, the views over to the east side range, Taylor Pass (next trip for sure), expansive views down to the north & east, Blue Jay Peak, the mossy green north side forest, ferns, ferns & ferns throughout, endless amounts of summer flowers & butterflies and a lot more that I would just end up rambling about.

    The drive back home down Tripp Canyon road was the cherry on top with an amazing sunset/storm scene back at Bear Springs that I won't soon forget.

    Blue Jay was well worth the wait, the long wait won't happen again. The eastern range will Always be my heart, but right now she needs time to recover ..... I shall return to West Peak and continue to explore all it has.

    I rarely use this word, but on this day with this good friend and on this trail ..... Epic!

    Moderate throughout - Substantial in places.
    Blue Jay Ridge Loop
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    This morning, we converged from two different counties and two different points on the compass to our rendezvous. From there, we began our long bumpy drive to our parking point below West Peak and were now all about the hike. Today’s hike would be a rather unique one to visit a decades old crash site of a tanker plane. The description tells its story, so I shan’t go into details about that.

    For lack of an actual, recorded track, Roy had come up with some sort of an extrapolation that landed us right where we wanted to be with minimal difficulty (Way to go Roy!!!).

    Once at the crash site, everyone seemed to be in their own world, connecting (or at least trying to) with each piece of debris which littered an enormous area. Everywhere you turned, there was more debris. Each time you turned, it was a new angle on what you’d already seen. The scene is very complex and will probably only make any sense to those lucky enough to revisit again and again.

    Before our return, we took lunch at the site, and whilst all participants were in one spot, Roy laid the history of this craft, and its final flight on us all. I can only speak for myself, but felt I had done an honor by sweating my way here to absorb the air where this father and son team gave their lives defying their greatest foe. In that sense, this is a monumental hike. Not a feather in the cap, not one off the list, not accepting the challenge. This is a visit to an actual monument to human spirit and is quite worth the long commute, rough road, sweat and blood-letting that is all part of this quest.
    Blue Jay Ridge Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Scott had this peak in his sights. I think it's pretty high up on Arizona's prominence list. I had been up on West Peak earlier this summer and was very interested in a return trip. Somehow we roped Bob in on it too. Instead of making it a long day trip, we decided to head out on Friday afternoon and spend a night camping ahead of the loop and peak.

    The weather was magical ... and at times, downright cold. Stuff I love in mid-July! :y:

    We spotted the biggest turkey I've ever seen, followed shortly thereafter by a very healthy black bear. Both nice sightings! Friday's sunset was spectacular, and we enjoyed the views from the West Peak Lookout tower. Saturday we hiked down the road to the 314 trail and followed it the 2 miles out to the end of the ridge. This part of the trail was very recently maintained and in pristine condition.

    From there, the trail climbs very steeply and relentlessly switchbacks through some overgrown oak, but the trail cut is easy to find and follow. The trail drops down to the end of the road, which circles the peak about 500 feet below the summit. You can follow the road back to your car, or if you want to bag the peak as we did, it's a steep off-trail scramble. Pick your route and claw your way to the summit.

    It took us several minutes to find the register, but it was well represented with many of the usual names. As we were enjoying a break on the peak, it became apparent that a storm was quickly developing and heading our way. We cut our break a few minutes short and huge drops of rain began to pelt us on our way back down to the road. The shower passed quickly and we were back at camp a few minutes later.

    This is a beautiful area to visit, and I'll be back for sure.
    Blue Jay Ridge Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    West Peak Romp
    i'm always on the lookout (pun intended) for lesser visited spots, especially for long weekends. since this was labor day weekend, i didn't want to get caught having to drive through phoenix on monday, so southern arizona is where it was at. and i knew just the place.

    we drove up on saturday stopping a couple of places for geocaches before heading up to the main event. southpawaz hadn't been to this tower, and i wanted to show him. omg. talk about wildflowers! preston called it "wildflower island" for good cause.

    we did the main hike on sunday - hiking directly from our campsite along the road. it seemed like this trail didn't get very much human traffic. it was quite overgrown in places, and with nary a footprint to be found, except along the road. i am glad that we did it from here - because i think the steepest parts of the hike were actually along the road. we don't think anyone came up the road on sunday at all - but we did see some hikers and some ATVers on monday when we were on our way out.

    we decided to go in through safford, and out through bonita, making everything about this trip a little loopy. there were several benchmarks on the way out - so we made some stops, even in the heat. what a fantastic way to spend a long weekend!
    Blue Jay Ridge Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Took a trip to Preston-Land for a late summer jaunt on the Blue Jay Ridge Loop. Preston promised the goods and man, oh man, did he ever deliver. This was the hike of the summer with stupendous views, ferns and flowers galore and great company. Every trip to the Pinalenos blows me away...perhaps none more than this.
    Blue Jay Ridge Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    An outstanding adventure with Nick, Jeff, and Allen. After a long and bumpy ride into great beautiful nowhere, we arrived at the Turkey Spring trailhead in crisp, late summer coolness. Then it was off into shady, north face forest. I was amazed at the little things I had forgotten or just hadn't noticed on my first hike. Like the bigtooth maple grove and how much this hike rocked! We had lunch on a rocky knoll above the saddle on Blue Jay Ridge, where Jeff was attacked by an angry catepillar, and I sat on a cactus. We ran into another group at this point :o which was a shock in such an isolated place. Later, we veered off trail a couple of times near the summit of point 8529', where we discovered jaw dropping views from rocky overlooks. On top of the mountain, we entered into a wonderland of deep ferns, open parks, and seemingly endless wildflowers. Benign cumulus clouds added interest to the sky, and a cool breeze blew as we walked through this slice of Heaven. All too soon the wildflower garden was passed, and we turned downhill into the tall firs to return to the truck on FR 286. The drive home was filled with a sense of satisfaction and the decision to return to this special place more often. :)

    FYI: the "Turkey Spring" sign at the trailhead is gone...
    Blue Jay Ridge Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    The drive up was half the adventure; I love a good mountain road. I think I have a new favorite area :) The mountain-top flower garden just seemed to go on forever, and the air up there was almost chilly. I couldn't put my camera away!

    Permit $$

    Coronado Forest
    MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
    Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    From the junction of highways 191 and 70 in Safford, AZ, follow highway 70 west approximately 9.6 miles, just past the town of Pima, AZ, and turn left (west) onto Tripp Canyon Road (there is a sign next to the highway, at milepost 329.8). Follow Tripp Canyon Road for 0.65 miles, then turn left on Patterson Mesa Road. Follow Patterson Mesa Road for 0.25 miles, then turn right (west) at Grand View Lane. After 0.3 miles on this unsigned road (this is forest road 286), you will come to a fork. Stay left, and continue another 23.5 miles on forest road 286. At the 23.5 mile mark (24.7 miles total from highway 70), the road makes a switchback to the right. At the point of this switchback is a small wooden trail sign indicating "Blue Jay Ridge Trail #314". This is the Turkey Spring Trailhead. There is room to park about 2 vehicles here. The faint Blue Jay Ridge Trail starts climbing the hill behind the trail sign.
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