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Barnhardt - Mazatzal Divide, AZ
mini location map2020-09-27
15 by photographer avatarJohn10s
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Barnhardt - Mazatzal Divide, AZ 
Barnhardt - Mazatzal Divide, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 27 2020
Hiking14.69 Miles 2,492 AEG
Hiking14.69 Miles   7 Hrs   54 Mns   2.49 mph
2,492 ft AEG   2 Hrs    Break
1st trip
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I considered hiking the Barnhardt/Sandy Saddle Loop or the Mazatzal Peak Loop today but ended up doing an out-and-back hike on Barnhardt and Mazatzal Divide trails. Given Barnhardt's popularity, I wasn't sure how crowded the the trail might be as the weather starts to cool off (a little), but the fact that the falls aren't flowing right now helps limit the crowds.

I last hiked Barnhardt in June 2017 in the heat of the summer, and though I'd forgotten a lot of the details of the trail, I remembered that the scenery was beautiful and that there was a lot of interesting geology, especially in the first few miles of the hike. This time I was hiking with a geologist, so I got the full run-down on everything I was looking at :).

We passed a lot of grazing cattle on the five-mile drive from the highway to the trailhead (I didn't realize they graze on prickly pear...ouch), and we were pleased to see no other cars in the parking lot. The first few miles hiking through the steeper parts of the canyon were beautiful, but, as I expected, all the seeps, waterfalls, springs, and things were dry. We stopped briefly to check out the falls area ~ three miles in, which is still a nice spot even without any water flowing.

The trail levels off soon after the falls, and that area has regrown a lot in the past three years--I remember a lot more signs of fire damage when I last visited. There are still plenty of charred tree stumps, but the lower shrubs and manzanita have given it a nice green cover. There were early hints of fall color in the leaves up on the mountainsides at higher elevation.

We passed by the very faint, unmarked turn-off to Sandy Saddle and continued on Barnhardt, connecting with Mazatzal Divide Trail #23. The landscape became rockier as we approached Chilson Spring, and we could see wildfire smoke off on the western horizon. We took the short, steep spur up to Chilson, and the metal tank was full of water and bees. From there, we continued just past the Brody Seep Trail intersection before turning around to start back.

We hadn't seen anyone on the trail all day, but we passed multiple groups as we hiked out. We made another brief stop at the dry falls area to enjoy the afternoon sun angle and finished the hike at a little under 15 total miles. I haven't hiked much in the Mazatzals, but I want to return when the water is flowing and try some of the other trails and longer loop options around Barnhardt--even without water, it's a great area.
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