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Skull Mesa and Chalk Canyon, AZ
mini location map2018-12-05
24 by photographer avatarDixieFlyer
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Skull Mesa and Chalk Canyon, AZ 
Skull Mesa and Chalk Canyon, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 05 2018
Hiking18.10 Miles 3,500 AEG
Hiking18.10 Miles   10 Hrs   15 Mns   2.41 mph
3,500 ft AEG   2 Hrs   44 Mns Break
I had been to Skull Mesa and Chalk Canyon 3 times each but I had never done both on the same hike. So I talked Tracie into going on this hike with me in order to rectify that situation.

We started at the Spur Cross TH, and took the Spur Cross Trail into the Tonto National Forest. Once there, we went off trail for a bit to get on a use trail that connects with Cottonwood Trail #247 about a mile west from where the Cottonwood Trail meets Skull Mesa Trail #248. I had noticed that lindaagm came back this way from Skull Mesa, and I used her route to get over to this trail. I like this way much better than continuing on the Spur Cross Trail until it hits Cave Creek Trail #4, and from there taking the Cottonwood Trail all the way over to Skull Mesa Trail #248. The use trail was easy to follow, and I thought that it was a better trail than Cave Creek Trail #4, which I took on the way back.

Once we got to Skull Mesa Tail #248 we took it up to the mesa. It was a bit steep, but there are lots of switchbacks on the steeper sections, so the ascent wasn't bad at all. Once we got to the overlook, I looked to the east and could see some places that were obviously at a higher elevation than where we were at the overlook on the SW side of the mesa. My GPS measured the overlook at 4,260'. So we went about 1.25 miles to what I think is the high point of the mesa on the SE side of the mesa. My GPS measured 4,570', whereas the high point is supposed to be 4,595'. The altimeter in my GPS isn't 100% precise, and since I did not see any other points higher than where we were, I am going to declare victory on being at the high point of Skull Mesa.

We then went from the SE part of the mesa over to the NW corner of the mesa to the Indian Ruins. The traverse wasn't bad, although I did manage to get some prickly pear spines in the side of my shoes a couple of times. Along the way we came across some metates on the mesa (N33.93712° W111.92183°).

The fort ruins are impressive imho and are well worth the trip to see them.

On the way back, rather than going all the way back across the mesa, we dropped down to the east of the fort ruins. The slope there looked forgiving, and it turned out do be decent descent. We angled down first to the north and then to the west -- we hit Cave Creek Trail #4 in about 0.6 miles. The only problem is that after angling down the hill, my left leg is now shorter than my right one!

We took Cave Creek Trail #4 until we turned off to go the rim of Chalk Canyon and check out the petroglyphs and pueblo ruins there. Then we descended down into Chalk Canyon and saw a few more petroglyphs and metates. Then we continued south on the trail that took us to the Skull Mesa TH, and then went back to the Spur Cross TH. Once we got back into the Spur Cross Preserve, we took the Metate Trail back to the TH -- I much prefer the Metate Trail to the Spur Cross Trail.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
There were a few wildflowers blooming: brittle bush; turpentine bush; and globemallow, among others
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Edward Abbey
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