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Intro to Arizona Backpacking / Options

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chumley
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Intro to Arizona Backpacking / Options

Postby chumley » Nov 06 2016 3:27 pm

** Note ** In order to keep this topic as organized as possible, if you have an update, addition, correction, etc. please send me a private message so that I can update this post. If it turns into a discussion thread with dozens of pages of comments and replies, it loses its effectiveness in helping new users.

If you have questions or comments regarding a specific backpacking destination, please consider starting a new forum thread specific to that location.
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I've decided to compile a list that answers some of the most common questions about backpacking in Arizona. This is by no means an exhaustive list and is not intended to be. But it helps introduce new backpackers to some of the more popular spots.

Click the hike name to view the full description for the indicated hike including photographs, trip reports, GPS routes, etc.

Easy Backpacking for Beginners or Kids

Horton Creek
Distance: Out-n-back hike up to 3.5 miles each way
Gain: Up to 1100 feet
Trail: Easy
Popularity: Highest
Season: Best in spring and fall. Possible in winter, but cold. Ok in summer, but can be a little warm. Elevation 5,500-6,500 feet.
Notes: Creekside hike with continual flowing water. Best campsites are across the creek from the trail. Virtually any distance is possible from 1 to 3.5 miles each way. Longer options possible if you loop with the Derrick Trail, but only Horton has water.

Houston Brothers to Aspen Spring
Distance: Out-n-back hike 3.5 miles each way
Gain: 300 feet
Trail: Easy
Popularity: High
Season: Late spring to early autumn. Elevation 7,000 feet.
Notes: Shaded pine forest hike with little elevation gain. Occasional trickle in the draw, with three reliable springs with good camping at Pinchot Spring, Aspen Spring, McFarland Spring, and open meadows between them. (Part of the Cabin Loop described below).

Hackberry Springs
Distance: Out-n-back hike 2 miles each way or 5+ mile loop
Gain: 200 feet
Trail: Unofficial/unmaintained route. Easy to follow.
Popularity: Moderate
Season: Autumn, Winter (possibly cold at night), and Spring. Elevation 2,000 feet.
Notes: Intro to the Superstition Wilderness. Desert environment and a scenic rocky narrows. Reliable spring with camping above a desert wash. Longer loop can be made with First Water trail through Garden Valley.

Telephone Ridge to Chevelon Canyon
Distance: Out-n-back hike 1.25 miles each way
Gain: 700 foot drop into canyon
Trail: Easy to follow, but short and steep.
Popularity: Moderate
Season: Spring to Fall. Possibly warm during hottest summer days. Elevation 6,500 feet.
Notes: Road access can be challenging. High clearance required, 4wd possible when wet. Additional mileage may be added by hiking upstream with several additional camping options over the next 2 miles. Perennial stream with fishing opportunities.

Rock Crossing #18B to Blue Ridge Reservoir
Distance: Out-n-back hike 1.25 miles each way
Gain: 400 foot drop to lake
Trail: Easy to follow, but short and steep.
Popularity: Trail use is light. Campsite is popular due to boat/lake access.
Season: Spring to Fall. Elevation 6,500 feet.
Notes: Excellent lakeside campsite option with swimming and fishing possible. Water level drops continuously through summer so spring is the best time to go. Shoreline camp site may be taken by boaters.

Kinder Crossing
Distance: Out-n-back hike 2 miles each way
Gain: 600 foot drop into canyon
Trail: Moderately rocky trail, short and steep.
Popularity: Highest
Season: Spring to Fall. Elevation 6,500 feet.
Notes: Excellent creekside campsite in grassy meadow. Shallow swimming possible, small cascade between two pools. Tons of crawdads. If you like to catch and cook you won't need to bring food! Optional creekside stroll 3 miles downstream (not an official trail) to Horse Crossing (see next option). Kinder-Horse Loop is under 8 miles.

Horse Crossing
Distance: Out-n-back hike 1.5 miles each way
Gain: 500 foot drop into canyon
Trail: Moderately rocky trail, short and steep.
Popularity: Low
Season: Spring to Fall. Elevation 6,500 feet.
Notes: Forested creekside campsite. Possible to connect with Kinder Crossing (above) for a longer loop.

Point Trail to West Clear Creek
Distance: Out-n-back hike .75 miles each way
Gain: 600 foot drop into canyon
Trail: Short and extremely steep
Popularity: High
Season: Spring to Fall. Elevation 6,500 feet.
Notes: Hike down may require use of hands. Once in the canyon, there is no trail, but frequent use by fishermen and hikers provides a path to follow. A few campsite options exist along the way. You'll likely need to get your feet wet to proceed any distance along the creek.

Thompson Trail #629
Distance: Out-n-back hike 2.5 miles each way
Gain: 300 feet downstream
Trail: Mostly flat and easy to follow
Popularity: Moderate
Season: Early summer to fall. Elevation 8,500 feet.
Notes: Grassy meadow along the picturesque West Fork of the Black River in the White Mountains. Best camping at Deadman Crossing. Longer hike and loop options via the West Fork Trail. Much of this area was burned in the Bear Wallow Fire. The creekside meadows are still pristine, but the forested areas above are burned.

Haigler Creek via Fisherman's Point
Distance: Out-n-back hike 0.5 miles each way
Gain: 350 feet down to creek
Trail: Easy to follow
Popularity: Moderate
Season: Spring to fall. May be warm in summer. Elevation 5,800 feet.
Notes: Very short trail down to the creek. A couple of campsites available. Fishing and a deeper swimmable pool.

Moderate Backpacking

Bluff Springs Loop
Distance: 11 mile loop
Gain: 1200 feet
Trail: Good desert trail. Some sections may be overgrown.
Popularity: Moderate
Season: Fall to Spring. Cold nights in winter.
Notes: Good desert hike. Camping and water options at Charlebois and La Barge Springs.

Hutch's Pool
Distance: 4 miles each way
Gain: 1800 feet
Trail: Good trail. Easy to follow.
Popularity: High
Season: Spring and Fall. Elevation 4,000 feet.
Notes: Water and camping available at Hutch's pool. Swimming is cold in spring! Hike statistics assume taking the Sabino Canyon tram to the trailhead.

Haunted Canyon
Distance: 6 miles each way
Gain: 1300 feet
Trail: Good trail. Easy to follow.
Popularity: Medium
Season: Spring and Fall. Elevation 4,000 feet.
Notes: Old cabin at Tony's Ranch. Camping available nearby and reliable water at Tony's Ranch spring. Other trails provide options for further hiking.

Parsons Trail
Distance: 4 miles each way
Gain: 200 feet down into canyon / 600 feet up going upstream
Trail: Good trail.
Popularity: Medium
Season: Spring and Fall. Elevation 4,000 feet.
Notes: Beautiful creekside hike into Sycamore Canyon. Two nice swimming holes along the way. Camping is not permitted until 4 miles in, just about where the creek dries up. Two or three legal sites are creekside. Camping before the permitted sign will result in a citation by patrolling rangers.

Lemmon WOR Loop
Distance: 9 mile loop
Gain: 2100 feet
Trail: Easy to follow. Steep, rocky ascent and descent.
Popularity: Medium
Season: Early summer to Fall. Elevation 7,000-9,000 feet.
Notes: Great Mt. Lemmon Loop with camp in the picturesque boulders of the Wilderness of Rocks area. Water in WOR is pretty reliable but could be absent during early summer dry spells. Short mileage for an overnight, but big elevation gains on day two.

Reavis Ranch via 109 North
Distance: 9 miles each way
Gain: 2100 feet
Trail: Old road-bed with moderate grade.
Popularity: Medium
Season: Spring and Fall. Elevation 4,000 feet.
Notes: Premier Superstition Wilderness overnight destination. Grassy meadow valley is former site of a ranch. Apple trees produce a late-summer crop. Perennial creek makes a great spot to camp. North is much easier to access the trailhead and there are no big hill climbs.

Reavis Ranch via 109 South
Distance: 7 miles each way
Gain: 2400 feet
Trail: Good trail with a steep climb.
Popularity: Medium
Season: Spring and Fall. Elevation 4,000 feet.
Notes: Premier Superstition Wilderness overnight destination. Grassy meadow valley is former site of a ranch. Apple trees produce a late-summer crop. Perennial creek makes a great spot to camp. South is more difficult trailhead to reach and hike involves steep climb on the way to the ranch and two moderate climbs on the way back!

Cabin Loop
Distance: 18.5 mile loop (west) / 18 mile loop (east) / 26 mile loop (outer)
Gain: 2500 feet (west) / 3000 feet (east) / 3500 feet (outer)
Trail: Excellent trail. East side has more elevation gain.
Popularity: High
Season: Late Spring through Fall. Elevation 7,500 feet.
Notes: One of the most popular trips in the state. The west loop has less elevation gain, but connecting the southern end on the General Crook Trail is really just walking on FR 300 as the trail is sporadic. The East loop features more elevation gain as it dips into and out of more canyons. The Houston Brothers Trail is a beautiful grassy meadow ideal for camping. There are several perennial springs and canyons that almost always have water.

Hells Hole Trail
Distance: 5.5 miles each way
Gain: 900 feet up before 800 feet down into canyon
Trail: Steep descent to creek.
Popularity: Low
Season: Spring and Fall. Elevation 5,500 feet.
Notes: Lightly visited area with creekside camping options and a waterfall. Steep trail

WCC Maxwell Tramway Loop
Distance: 6 mile loop
Gain: 900 feet down to creek
Trail: Forest roads and steep trails down to and up from creek.
Popularity: Medium
Season: Spring through Fall. Elevation 6,000 feet.
Notes: Steep trails into perennial West Clear Creek connected by forest roads up top. Creekside camping, fishing. Wading is generally mandatory. Some deeper pools make swimming occasionally possible.

Aravaipa Canyon
Distance: up to 11 miles each way
Gain: 200 feet
Trail: Some creekside use trails, mostly creek hiking in foot-deep water.
Popularity: High (Permits required)
Season: Spring and Fall. Elevation 3,000 feet.
Notes: Can be accessed from west or east side. Permits sell out during popular seasons. Group size limits and stay limits.

West Fork of Oak Creek
Distance: up to 14 miles each way
Gain: up to 1500 feet
Trail: Good creekside trail to start. Creekside route and water walking farther up canyon.
Popularity: Moderate (high in fall) ... much less after 3-4 miles.
Season: Spring though Fall. Elevation 5,500 feet.
Notes: Wet feet and some swimming will get you deep into this paradise. Camping is only allowed after 6 miles in the canyon. The trail technically ends after 3 miles. The canyon is 14 miles long.

Barnhardt to Horse Camp Seep
Distance: 10 miles each way
Gain: 2000 feet
Trail: Good trail, solid climb.
Popularity: Low
Season: Spring though Fall. Elevation 6,000 feet.
Notes: Steep climb up the Barnhart Trail to the Mazatzal Divide Trail. Camp in a grove of ponderosa with reliable water. Few other good options nearby if site is occupied. Barnhardt Trail Description.

Grand Canyon Backpacking
South Kaibab / Bright Angel Corridor Loop
Distance: 20 mile loop
Gain: 7,000 feet
Trail: Excellent trail
Popularity: Extreme
Season: All year. Spring and Fall most popular. Elevation 2,500 to 7,000
Notes: Permits required. Most popular route is South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch for night 1, up to Indian Garden for night 2, and exiting Bright Angel on day 3. Additional time can be spent going up North Kaibab to Cottonwood Camp and back to Phantom Ranch.

Hermit Camp
Distance: 7 miles each way
Gain: 3,500 feet down
Trail: Great trail
Popularity: Extreme
Season: All year. Spring and Fall most popular. Elevation 3,000 at camp; 6,500 at rim
Notes: Permits required. Highly recommended for non-corridor trip. Longer multi-day loops can be made with Boucher Trail or Bright Angel using Tonto Trail to connect.

Horseshoe Mesa
Distance: 3 miles each way
Gain: 2,500 feet down
Trail: Great trail
Popularity: Moderate
Season: Spring and Fall. Elevation 5,000 at camp; 7,500 at rim
Notes: Permits required. Dry camp; No water on Horseshoe Mesa. Drop 1,000 feet on either side of mesa to creek or spring water. Longer trips can be made to Hance Creek or Cottonwood Creek.

* There are countless other backpacking options in Grand Canyon. The three above are simply an introduction to some of the most popular and common options for first time canyon backpackers.

Backpacking in Arizona Reminders
• Water is a rare resource in the desert. Always camp at least 100 feet from creeks or lakes.
• Bury human waste at least 6 inches deep and more than 100 feet from a lake or stream.
• Arizona State Law prohibits camping within 1/4 mile of a wildlife water source.
• Please be aware of current fire restrictions. If fires are permitted, make sure no fire is left unattended and make sure it is drowned in water and "out cold" before you go to bed or leave.
• Group size limits apply to Wilderness Areas such as the Superstition Wilderness.

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