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Cherry Creek East Side Ranching Trail, AZ
mini location map2016-04-06
22 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Cherry Creek East Side Ranching Trail, AZ 
Cherry Creek East Side Ranching Trail, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 06 2016
Hiking5.90 Miles 1,426 AEG
Hiking5.90 Miles   7 Hrs   36 Mns   0.78 mph
1,426 ft AEG15 LBS Pack
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This was another exploration of an old road/ranching trail in the Sierra Ancha to see if it was a viable hiking trail. This trail starts at an old ranching corral on the side of FR203 about 0.4 miles south of the mouth of Horse Camp Creek, drops down into Cherry Creek Canyon on a ranching trail and follows what appears to be an old roadbed which goes down canyon for about 0.3 miles and then switchbacks up to the top of a high bench on the east side of Cherry Creek Canyon. It then follows the bench south for about 0.8 miles which brings you within 0.2 miles of the Laughing Rock and Coopers Fork Ruins. (all distnaces are straight line) This route could be used as a back door approach to the Coopers Fork. However there is about a 100 yds of dense bushwhacking to reach the top of the ridge which looks down on the Coopers Fork Trail.

I found the trail to be in fairly good shape with evidence of brush and tree cutting/clearing in several places. The cow traffic helps to keep the trail open through the brush thickets. I suspect the road was not originally intended for vehicle traffic and may have just been cut by a bulldozer going up to the bench to make the dams for a couple of tanks which I encountered along the trail and to improve ranching access. I say this because the switchbacks where the road went up a steep hillside had very sharp corners and didn't appear to have enough room for a wheeled vehicle to turn. It could have also been bulldozed as part of a prospecting exploration. There were some nice views along the trail as it climbed up to the bench. However once on the bench top it passed through a forest of of Oak, juniper and a few conifers with a dense undergrowth of manzanita, scrub oak, some cats claw and various other unidentified brush varieties which made off trail exploration difficult. I had wanted to explore much of this area for Indian ruins but only made one off trail excursion to check out some rock piles I had seen on Google Earth. I found an abundance of flat rocks that would have made excellent walls but I found no definite signs of ancient habitations at this location.

Further south along the trail it started a traverse across a fairly open grass covered gently sloping hill. The views opened up and the opportunities for off trail exploration vastly improved. I took one short detour to the edge of the cliff above Cherry Creek where I finally found what appeared to be the remains of a 1-2 room pueblo style habitation, perhaps a field house. It was near the cliff edge and across the canyon within sight of a pueblo style ruin Hank and I found back in March. Continuing further south the trail led to a grassy bowl nestled between two hillsides with a large mesquite tree orchard. A second tank was located near the center of this bowl and it appeared to be the end of the road/trail. This tank was also dry and appears to seldom if ever collect more than a few inches of water. In this grassy bowl I also found the remains of a very tall (7 ft) fence. Most of the barbed wire had been removed but an L-shaped row of posts remain with the longest leg of the L being about 110 ft long. This may have been a corral but I found no sign of other posts that would have made this a rectangular shaped corral. See the captions of my fence photos for more speculation on the origin of these posts.

From this grassy bowl I continued south to reach the top of a ridge overlooking the trail to the Coopers Fork ruins. This trail would made a good "back door" approach to the ruins but the last 100 yds to the top of the ridge was covered with a dense covering of brush. Reaching the top of the ridge I found a cairn at its western end highpoint but no peak register or mining claims. It was getting quite warm so I found some shade under a Juniper tree and sat down for lunch. While having lunch on this ridgetop I started scanning likely places for Indian ruins with my super zoom camera. This search revealed some tall ruin walls on top of a peak about 0.2 miles away. A quick check of my gps ruin map confirmed that this was the site of the Laughing Rock Pueblo ruin, V:1:143, which other HAZers have been to on their way to the Coopers Fork ruins. It was getting close to my turn around time so I decided not to go for a closer look at these ruins and started the return trek.

This was an interesting hike with some nice views and a possible bonus at the end if you wanted to continue on to the Laughing Rock and Coopers Fork ruins. The trail was in fairly good shape and well maintained by the cattle traffic most of the way. I wouldn't put this hike on a must do list of places to go in the Sierra Ancha but it is certainly a good option if you're starting to run out of new places to go in the SA.
Named place
Named place
McFadden Horse Mountain
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