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South Fork - Gold Ridge Loop
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mini location map2018-02-22
8 by photographer avatarDixieFlyer
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South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 22 2018
DixieFlyer
Hiking14.30 Miles 3,550 AEG
Hiking14.30 Miles   8 Hrs   6 Mns   2.26 mph
3,550 ft AEG   1 Hour   46 Mns Break
 
Partners none no partners
I have driven past the Deer Creek TH a number of times and had always wondered what the trails there were like, so Tracie, my intrepid hiking partner, and I decided to find out for ourselves. We did this loop clockwise, i.e., we went out on the Gold Ridge Trail and came back on the South Fork Trail. After doing the hike, I would recommend doing it this way.

The Gold Ridge Trail was well maintained and easy to follow. It was somewhat steep -- we climbed around 2,000 feet in the first 3 miles and around 1,000 feet in the next 3 miles. The trail was mostly dirt and the footing was pretty good. You could see a lot of dead, burned pine trees that were still standing from the Willow fire of 2004. There was a lot of vegetation -- mostly manzanita and holly bushes -- that had grown back since the fire. There was almost total sun exposure, and I would not want to do this hike in hot weather. The views were OK on this hike -- in places you could see Roosevelt Lake, and the Mogollon Rim could be seen off in the distance; however, as for scenery, I much prefer the Barnhardt Trail which isn't too far away.

The South Fork Trail was totally different that the Gold Ridge Trail. In places it was difficult to follow the trail, so I was glad that I had a GPS track. There were a lot cairns and some pink ribbons tied to tree branches, which helped to follow the trail. However, to me this was much more like a social trail than an "official" trail. There were lots of fallen trees over the trail that you either had to climb over or navigate around. We had to make numerous creek crossings, and in some places we had to climb up above the creek and then get back down into the creek to avoid overgrowth in the creek. The creek was mostly dry, but there were several springs that were running with water. There were lots of dead, burned trees still standing from the 2004 fire.

I think that this hike would have been a nice one back before the fire in 2004. Unless you really enjoy some scrambling in a creek bed, and aren't all that focused on scenic views, then I would recommend hiking on the Barnhardt Trail instead.

My Garmin GPS recorded the hike as being 14.3 miles with close to a 3,600 foot AEG. When we were on FR 201 we walked right past the trail marker to the South Fork Trail and had to backtrack a bit; so the actual distance was probably a tad less than 14 miles.
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DixieFlyer's
202 Photosets

  2018-04-26
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