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Mazatzal Divide trail #23 to AZT junction, AZ
mini location map2020-11-12
29 by photographer avatarguyinthewoods
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Mazatzal Divide trail #23 to AZT junction, AZ 
Mazatzal Divide trail #23 to AZT junction, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 12 2020
Hiking12.02 Miles 2,665 AEG
Hiking12.02 Miles   4 Hrs   55 Mns   2.62 mph
2,665 ft AEG      20 Mns Break15 LBS Pack
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Route Scout GPS Route Recorded on Route Scout View
After a short drive from town, i parked at the spacious City creek TH and set off at a semi aggressive pace. In my 30 years of living and hiking in the payson area I'd only been on this trail one other time as a kid, so i figured it was worth another visit. As i made my way further from the parking lot i noticed that the trail was pretty rocky as one can expect around here, but it wasn't too bad. The knee height catclaw continuously snagged on my pants for the first couple miles, so I'd advise others to avoid wearing shorts on this one if possible. Thankfully a little after the 2.5 mile mark the rocky trail transitions to a pleasantly smooth dirt path, and it stays that way for the majority of the climb. There are a few chunky sections but overall this trail is easier to walk than just about any other I've been on in the eastern slope of the Mazatzals. From around mile 3 upward you're walking through the burn zone of the 2004 willow fire, so vegetation is scrubby and dense which doesn't provide many shady spots to stop and catch your breath. On a positive note, the short brush enables dramatic open views of North peak and beyond. Even the view downhill into city creek is worth admiring for sure. I continued upward (this trail has practically zero grade reversals until near "the park"), pausing for a quick break at the dry spring that the trail skirts around near 5300' elevation. It's marked merely as "Spr" on the USFS topo maps. There was a small smooth & flat spot right off the trail here, that seemed like it would be probably the only nice place to pitch a tent in between City creek trailhead and the park. This section of trail leading up to the AZT junction covers a lot of vertical, but it's easy to get up due to the easy grade and smart routing. When I got to the AZT junction, there were a couple inches of snow on the ground among a nice grove of ponderosas that are some of the few that escaped getting roasted in 2004. Feeling satisfied with my progress, I stopped for a snack, got a few photos, and headed back. This was my longest hike and most elevation gain in quite a while, but I know I could cover more miles if i hiked a greater portion of the day. My goal is to eventually be in condition for hiking 20 miles in one day in the same terrain.

- If you're trying to get to the park, North peak trail is a lot shorter of a hike but steeper
- Wildlife spotted = Fast roadrunner, soaring hawk, talkative raven
- Route Scout does not disappoint!!
- The Junction with AZT #24 Red Hills trail is in a different spot than it appears on the map (trail was rerouted)
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Isolated
Nice colorful trees in some of the ravines
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