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Sentinel Peak - Chiricahuas, AZ
mini location map2020-05-25
11 by photographer avatarDixieFlyer
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Sedona Loop Hike
Sedona Loop Hike
Sentinel Peak - Chiricahuas, AZ 
Sentinel Peak - Chiricahuas, AZ
Hiking18.20 Miles 4,157 AEG
Hiking18.20 Miles   10 Hrs   24 Mns   1.99 mph
4,157 ft AEG   1 Hour   15 Mns Break
1st trip
This was day #3 of 3 days of hiking in the Huachucas/Chiricahuas, and we saved the worst for last. Actually the destination was fine, but the journey there was a brutal one.

We started and ended the hike at the South Fork Trail #243 TH. Note that the trailhead location is now different from what the guide on this site has for the TH. The reason is that in September of 2014, there was a major flood event in the eastern Chiricahuas caused by the remnants of Hurricane Odile. Large portions of the South Fork Trail were washed out and/or covered in rock rubble. As a result, heavily damaged sections of the trail were rerouted above the canyon bottom, and the trailhead was moved back about 0.4 miles to its current location (31.87345, -109.18478).

The trail was nice and easy to follow for a while. There are quite a few creek crossings -- some are dry and some had some water, but it was easy to keep your feet dry. The trail is generally easy to follow for about 3.5 miles until you come to an apple tree on the left side of the trail (there are several apple trees in the area). Past that point, the trail is sketchy in places, and we wound up having to rock and boulder hop through a dry creekbed in many sections. After about 5 miles you come to Pinnacle Rock, and the trail is pretty much non-existent past that point. We mostly were in the creek bed for a while, and then we were basically bushwhacking.

I had hoped to be able to follow the South Fork Trail to the junction with Burnt Stump Trail #366, but the South Fork Trail had disappeared well before that point. It became obvious that we were not going to be able to follow the South Fork Trail up to the Crest Trail, so we bushwhacked over to the Burnt Stump Trail and took it up to the Horseshoe Ridge Trail. The Burnt Stump Trail was overgrown, but we were able to follow it for the most part. We lost it at one point, and wound up being on a steep, slippery hillside, but we managed to get back on the trail.

We continued on the Burnt Stump Trail until it ended with a junction with Horseshoe Ridge Trail #282. We took the Horseshoe Ridge Trail for about 0.6 miles to the Baker Canyon Saddle, where we took Baker Canyon Trail #225 for about 0.8 miles until it intersects with Crest Trail #270C a very short distance below Sentinel Peak. We then took Crest Trail #270C up to the Sentinel summit.

The sections of the Horseshoe Ridge Trail and the Baker Canyon Trail that we were on were actually fairly decent, at least compared on what we had been through to get to them.

There were more trees at the summit than I thought there would be, so there weren't any 360 degree views. We could see the foundation of what used to be a fire tower, and there was some old rusty stuff scattered around.

To retraced our steps to get back to the TH. On the way back, we were able to stay on the Burnt Stump Trail, although it was largely overgrown with ceonothus, locust, oak, sticker bushes, and other assorted pleasantries. We got to a point where we decided to leave the trail and bushwhack our way down to the creek below. We stayed in the creek bed for a good while until we finally got to where we could occasionally pick up a trail.

I hiked with Tom and Sean, who are a couple of young guys in the Air Force -- both are bad-a$$ hikers who are much stronger hikers than I am. On the way back, about 2.5 miles from the TH Tom was ahead of us and he looked up and saw a bear on the trail ahead of him, about 20 yards away. Tom and the bear stared at each other, and the bear ambled off the trail, crossed the creek, and started going uphill. When Sean and I got there, we could see the bear moving through the vegetation on the hillside. The bear was looking down at us as we were looking up at the bear. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a pic.

This was a tough hike -- I imagine that we were rock/boulder hopping through the creekbed for probably 4 miles of the hike. For me, that was tougher than bushwhacking that we did.

I originally thought this hike would be 14-15 miles, and I would not have hiked Sentinel from here had I known that the hike would be 18+ miles. Starting from Rustler Park would probably have been 19-20 miles, but it would have a much easier and enjoyable hike. I imagine that you could also start from the Mormon Canyon TH and hike an even shorter distance, and perhaps also from the Morse Canyon TH.

I WOULD NOT recommend that anyone do this hike just to bag Sentinel Peak -- there are better ways to get there. We were originally also going to bag Finnicum Peak, but we did not have enough time.

The South Fork Trail seems to be very popular with birders, and I imagine that is the reason that most people go here. There is also a nice swimming hole about a mile from the TH, which might be of interest to some people.

Over our 3 days of hiking in SE Arizona we wound up hiking 45.7 miles with 11,588 feet of elevation gain. This hike was easily the most difficult of the 3 hikes.
Geology [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Rhyolite
Named place
Named place [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Sentinel Peak
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation None
there were next to none as far as wildflowers go

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max South Fork Cave Creek Medium flow Medium flow
There was a good bit of water in the creek in a number of places.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Edward Abbey
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