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Frye Canyon Trail #36, AZ

29 6 1
Guide 6 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Safford
3.8 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 3.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,966 feet
Elevation Gain 2,105 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,127 feet
Avg Time One Way 2+ hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.49
Interest Historic, Seasonal Waterfall, Perennial Waterfall & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
44  2015-09-15
Frye Creek Canyon - S'mores
6  2011-02-13 PrestonSands
23  2007-03-05 PrestonSands
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   Oct, Apr, May, Sep → 8 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:03am - 6:26pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Mt. Graham waterfall alley
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
In the late 1870's Albert Frye constructed a crude sawmill in the upper reaches of what came to be known as Frye Canyon. Powered by two mules harnessed to a sweep pole, the Frye Sawmill provided lumber to the citizens of the Gila Valley below. Frye managed to construct a wagon road to his sawmill in this rugged country, before eventually selling his sawmill to Hans Chlarson. The Chlarson family updated the sawmill to steam power, and lived in the canyon during the summers. In time they improved the rough wagon road, and operated a boarding house in Frye Canyon for summer visitors. The forest service also made use of Frye Canyon, and established an early ranger station known as "Inception" near the junction of the Frye Canyon and Round The Mountain Trails. In the early twentieth century, the forest service also used Frye Canyon as a tree nursery for replanting previously logged areas in the Pinaleno Mountains.

The Frye Canyon Trail follows the historic sawmill road past waterfalls and lofty peaks, on the north side of Mt. Graham itself. The 2004 Nuttall Fire scorched a large part of this canyon, leaving blackened poles and fallen trees where once a beautiful pine-fir forest had existed. Today, all is quiet in the canyon except for the constant roar of the waterfalls and the birds that make this canyon their home.

Frye Mesa Reservoir makes a fine place to begin the hike, as the last half mile of road up to the official trailhead is an incredibly rough 4x4 journey.

Beginning at the Frye Mesa Reservoir parking area, follow the increasingly rough road up the mountainside. After 0.67 miles you will arrive at a metal gate that marks the end of the road. Off to your left, Frye Creek forms a cascading waterfall as it erupts from the massive cliffs of pale metamorphic rock above. Another (possibly seasonal) waterfall is off to your right. As you follow the unsigned trail beyond the gate, you will cross over a couple washed out creek crossings before climbing up and around a brushy hill overlooking the Gila Valley in the distance. At the top of this hill the oaks and junipers give way to a pine-fir forest as the trail drops down to the bottom, and then crosses Frye Creek. Now on the east side of Frye Creek, the trail continues to follow the old wagon road, and soon enters the Nuttall burn. The remains of a rock wall are passed in this area, as well as what appears to be the remnants of an old gaging station. Much of the trail from here on up has been obliterated due to the after effects of the Nuttall Fire. Fallen trees, matts of dead weeds and erosion from Frye Creek make this stretch of the Frye Canyon Trail an adventure in route finding. Someone's occasional red marker tape simplifies this job somewhat; trust the route shown on the 7.5 minute Mt. Graham topo map. At around 1.7 miles the trail crosses to the west side of the creek and climbs the slope a little to bypass some sheer canyon walls below. The cliffs of 8100 foot Trap Peak loom high above you as the trail rounds a corner. The trail soon redeposits you back into the creek bottom, where it remains for most of the next mile. Above you to the south is the 10,720 foot peak of Mt. Graham itself. To its right lie the incredibly rugged cliffs of upper Frye Canyon. Only occasional patches of forest survived the Nuttall Fire in this area; one can only imagine how beautiful this hidden valley must have once been. The Frye Canyon Trail begins a short climb up the east wall of the canyon before coming to an end at the Round The Mountain Trail. Somewhere in this area is the site of the long abandoned forest service ranger station known as Inception. Check out the Round The Mountain Trail, or return the way you came.

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.

2007-03-07 PrestonSands

    One-Way Notice
    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.
    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
    Frye Canyon Trail #36
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Started the morning with a drive down to the reservoir and hike to the backside waterfall that feeds the lake.
    Then drove back up and on to the Frye Canyon TH.

    This was my 2nd hike up Frye Canyon this year.
    1st trip was last January with the trail covered in snow, it was tough!
    This trip the trail was snow free and I think just as tough!
    The upper peaks were covered with snow and the creek was flowing good from the melt.
    All three of us (and my partner's dog) ended up in the creek at least once from the challenging above average creek flow crossings.
    Autumn is just about done up this canyon, but there were still some good colors to see here & there.
    1st half of the trail was in really good shape and looked to have been FS worked this year.
    2nd half needs some work, but still decent to follow.
    All in all a beautiful canyon hike up to the Inception/Round the Mountain T.
    Mountain was overcast most of the day and it rained on us a bit up high.
    Nice canyon, good friends & a fun time on the north side!
    Frye Canyon Trail #36
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This Canyon has been on the List for awhile now...Once I really got my Feet Wet in Ouray, I knew I could do this Canyon so when a FB Friend threw out an Invite, I was in.... :y:

    We did it as a Day Trip and took 2 Vehicles for a Shuttle. I thought that might have been Excessive, but by the Time we got back to the Vehicles, I was glad he did it that way... :sweat:

    Early Start, got down there, got the Vehicles in place and started Hiking...I had a few Nerves on this Trip. I knew the Slickrock in this Canyon was a big Issue as far as Traction goes, I was going with 4 Guys that I had just met and I only knew the Experience of 1 of them. And we were all doing this Canyon for the 1st Time. :sweat: It turned out Fine with 1 small Exception...Oops... :o

    We dropped in and followed the Creek down...No Slipping involved for most of us, but the Rappelling and the Sliding was sure a Blast...What an Awesome Canyon this was. Exceeded my Expectations and more...So Glad I got to do this one... :y:

    Over 3/4 of the Way Down and I came to what looked like a Good Slide. One of the Guys had gone down before me, so when I asked about the Slide being Ok, he stated that it was...He must have somehow avoided what I hit. At the Bottom of the Slide, on the Slide itself, there must have some kind of Rock Outcropping under the Water and I hit it with my Left Heel with my Knee locked. I went from 20 MPH to a Dead Stop instantly and the Concussion and Compression traveled all the way up my Left Side almost to my Neck. Apparently one of my Ribs decided that the Buck should stop there and I felt something go... :( Was pretty sure something broke, but I didn't get it Confirmed until 2 Weeks later...(Today) I was Lucky and hadn't Punctured a Lung though, so that was Good. It hurt like Hell to Breathe, but at least I could Breathe. After the Initial Shock and Pain went away and everyone else had Downclimbed the Slide, we continued on, with me being a lot more Uncomfortable, but still under my Own Power. I was now quite a bit Slower as well. Rappelling wasn't too bad, but everything else was troublesome and I got Winded really easily due to Breathing much Shallower. ;) But...we made it down with just that 1 Incident and I was still Walking and Talking...And apparently Swimming. The Guys decided to try to Downclimb to the Dam and walk over on the Dam to the Vehicle. I looked at how Narrow the Top of the Dam was and said No Thanks and swam the Reservoir back to the Car. I ended up beating them all back there... :lol: After we Retrieved the other Vehicle, we hit the Road for Phoenix, tired but glad we saw and did such a Sweet Canyon...By the Time I got back to my Vehicle in Mesa, I had to basically fall out of Philip's SUV, I had gotten so stiff and sore. The Rib was getting seriously Painful and it was hard to Move at all. I didn't have Time for an Injury though, I was leaving for Zion the next Day... :sweat: (Details in Future Triplogs)

    Great Canyon with Good People...Met some New Friends and had a Blast, even with the "Hiccup"....This Canyon will be an Annual One for me, it's that Good. Hope to do it just a Tad better the next Time around though... :sweat: I am now on "Light Duty" for at least another 8 Weeks...No Canyons, No Backpacking and probably nothing more than very Light Hikes where I don't have to carry much of a Pack...Time for some "Strictly Photography" Trips I guess... :) I feel extremely Lucky to have Escaped that little Incident with just 1 Rib...I should have Broken my Leg...Better to be out for Time, than for Surgery with Pins and Plates, and then Time.... :o

    Photos...Quite a Few this Time. These Class C Canyons really make for some very Photogenic Rappelling Scenes and it's one of the Few Times I actually enjoy Photographing People... :D

    Videos...There are 3...The First 2 are a slightly Sketchy Slide that we did. You hit your Tailbone a bit, but you're going so Fast that it's a glancing Blow... :lol: The 3rd is my Failure to Videotape myself doing a Slide that involved Potholes with Hydraulics...I've Fallen in a Hole and I can't get out.... :lol: ... 0uFA ... PYxk ... HKUs
    Frye Canyon Trail #36
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Mine & Addie's regular Tuesday hike.
    First time for the both of us on this trail.
    I figured we would hit snow up high, but we hit it right from the start so I'm calling this our first snow hike of the year!
    Challenging, time consuming & exhausting trail to follow covered in snow, but after taking our time we managed to complete the entire route up to Inception/Round the Mountain T ..... Hell Ya!!!
    Found the old sawmill site (I believe) and spent some time poking around the old artifacts before heading back down in a race to beat sunset.
    No wildlife spotted today, but tons of snow prints including bobcat, coatimundi, deer & bear.
    Highlight for me was a couple of big frozen waterfalls across the canyon and the good flow of Frye Creek that we followed for most of the hike.
    Thanks Miss Addie for pushing me on this one, another good time on ole Graham !!!
    Frye Canyon Trail #36
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    With nothing better to do, I figured I should waste my afternoon in good old Frye Canyon. Up Frye Mesa I went, punishing my truck with God-awful rocks and washboards galore. Speeding like a madman helped slightly with the bumps. I parked near the lake and continued on foot. Along the way, I met another hiker :o in Spring Canyon, who inquired about the trail.

    Once in the bottom of Frye Canyon itself, I was pleasantly surprised to see...trail maintenance!!! :y: Someone had cut many of the logs that had fallen across the trail after the Gibson Fire. Inspired, I began marking and cairning, and slowly worked my way up Frye Creek. The sounds of rushing water filled the canyon and the air was chilly. Interesting sights along the way included a frozen waterfall with numerous icicles hanging down, tracks of some large human-like creature made larger by the melting of the snow, old rock walls, and, of course, the rugged snow covered cliffs of Trap Peak high above.

    With the hour growing late, I ended my casual hike just over a half mile below the Round The Mountain Trail junction, and focused on getting an accurate gps track of the trail to that point. Dusk faded into moonlight on the way down, and distant city lights appeared. After a fun adventure, I began the drive down. Even in first gear, the road was hell. I came to the conclusion that my front shocks had blown out at some point on the drive. ](*,) 'Twas a fun day in a beautiful canyon. ... WSX2AZ_DYc
    Frye Canyon Trail #36
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This was a convince-the-boss-into-getting-off-early hike. Even so, I got a late start, and ended up turning around near the end when it got too dark to see anymore. It was a long hike back with lots of stumbling in the dark. Apparently this trail does not see much use (or maintenence :wink: ). Even with the wildfire damage, this is still a cool area to explore. I loved the waterfalls-that was an unexpected treat! This trail would probably be one of the quicker ways to access the top of the Pinalenos from the deserts below. Good times! :D

    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 highway 70/highway 191 junction in Safford, head west on highway 70 for 3.75 miles to Reay Lane in Thatcher, AZ. Turn south onto Reay Lane (milepost 335.65) and follow it for 1.2 miles. At the 1.2 mile point, there will be an unmarked dirt road to the right (west) just before the auto wrecking yard. Turn right (west) onto this dirt road, it is forest road 103. Follow forest road 103 for about 7.9 miles to a parking area just above Frye Mesa Reservoir (you will see a Coronado National Forest sign at 7.6 miles). Start hiking up forest road 103 at this point, or drive another 0.67 miles up the now nasty 4x4 road to the "official" trailhead.
    $17 3L Hydration Bladder
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