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The Center Mountain Trail #142 is a lightly used trail that climbs up and over 7500 foot Center Mountain, along the sheer eastern edge of the Sierra Ancha Wilderness. Two trailheads access this trail: Reynolds Creek and Billy Lawrence. Supposedly, a 4x4 is required to reach the Billy Lawrence Trailhead, so this hike description will describe the hike from the 2wd, high-clearance accessible Reynolds Creek Trailhead (just read the description in reverse if starting from the Billy Lawrence Trailhead). The total round trip mileage given in this description includes the 2.5 round trip miles on the Reynolds Creek Trail to access the Center Mountain Trail. This hike has a lot of exposed areas: beware of lightning!
At the Reynolds Creek Trailhead, begin following the Reynolds Creek Trail #150, as it heads up Reynolds Creek. After a half-mile of steady climbing, the canyon narrows, and the trail crosses a cliff face by following a rocky ledge. Reynolds Creek Falls is somewhere below this cliff, obscured by tall firs and rocky depths. Above the falls, the trail switchbacks up a rocky slope, then descends to the floor of Reynolds Creek. At 1.25 miles, the Reynolds Creek Trail meets the Center Mountain Trail in the cool forests of the high Ancha country. Turn left onto the Center Mountain Trail, and follow it up a forested side drainage of Reynolds Creek. After a quarter-mile on the Center Mountain Trail, you will pass a short connector trail that links to the Reynolds Creek Trail. A few hundred feet beyond there, the trail meets up with an unmarked trail that goes uphill. The Center Mountain Trail bends left (north) at this intersection.
Now we find the trail leaving the fir forest and entering into a mix of alligator juniper, ponderosa pine, and douglas fir, as it climbs up a canyon of pale-colored quartzite rock. Near the top of the canyon, the trail becomes steeper, passes a couple of subalpine firs that seem out of place, and then arrives at a saddle overlooking Cherry Creek. There is a small wooden sign here indicating Center Mountain Trail. Climb the little hill behind the sign for some spectacular cliff-top views of the Cherry Creek area 4000 feet below, and the Apache Reservation in the distance. Leaving the saddle, the trail climbs a narrow ridge atop a 200-foot cliff of quartzite, offering more views to the east. Now on top of Center Mountain, the trail disappears for a short way, but cairns and blaze marks on the trees will keep you on track. The trail soon curves west and contours along the gentle southern slope of Center Mountain, passing through a half-mile stretch of scorched ponderosa pines from 2005's Knoll Fire. The Center Mountain Trail exits the Sierra Ancha Wilderness just before reaching its highest point in an open grassy area marked by a Center Mountain sign. The trail leaves the burned area as it crosses over to the north side of the mountain and begins a steady descent through ponderosas and Gambel Oaks.
At the 3.75 mile point, the trail begins the final descent of Center Mountain, via a series of rocky switchbacks. The views return here: Cherry Creek, McFadden Horse Mountain, and the Mogollon Rim. Passing the junction with the Lucky Strike Trail on the way down, the Center Mountain Trail comes to an end at forest road 235 (Billy Lawrence Trailhead), in a saddle overlooking the Cherry Creek area.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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.