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Eagletail Exploration, AZ
mini location map2020-12-27
28 by photographer avatarJohn10s
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Eagletail Exploration, AZ 
Eagletail Exploration, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 27 2020
Hiking12.74 Miles 1,681 AEG
Hiking12.74 Miles   7 Hrs   32 Mns   2.14 mph
1,681 ft AEG   1 Hour   34 Mns Break
1st trip
This was my first visit to the Eagletail Mountains, and it looked intriguing after doing some research on routes in the area and scanning through some of the trip logs. The geology looked interesting, crowds wouldn't be an issue out there, and something closer to Phoenix seemed like a good option with colder weather up north. We decided to start off of YE029 and mapped out a route of ~13 miles that would take us past Triple Eye, Triple Eye Catchment, some other natural arches, and, time permitting, up to Eagle 3186. The road conditions along YE029 were the wildcard--one of the official routes mentioned that portions of the road were washed out as of late October, so we figured we might have to tack on an extra three miles each way if the road wasn't passable.

YE029 isn't labeled on many maps and had no signage in person, but the first two miles were in pretty good shape before we hit a few washed out areas and decided to pull over and start hiking. That turned out to be a good thing, as we saw at least five natural arches within the first quarter mile hiking along the two-track. We reached the "end" of the road, which was little more than a wide open area and a few "Wilderness" signs blocking the two-track to motor vehicles, then continued following YE029.

Triple Eye soon came into view to the north, along with a few smaller arches along the ridgeline, and we considered climbing up for a closer look but decided to keep moving and give ourselves more time to explore. We checked out Triple Eye Catchment next--no water, but it was interesting to see all the structures and game cameras the BLM had put in place across multiple levels of the canyon. The two-track died out near the catchment, but we continued along the GPS route and stopped for lunch at a nice natural arch in some lighter-colored rocks, where the wind really picked up and blew through the window. [ youtube video ]

From there, we continued ascending toward 3186, and the views looking back to the northwest at the peaks along the horizon were fantastic. As we cleared another ridge on our way to 3186, yet another natural arch came into view near the summit, and we could see distant traffic on I-10 to the northeast. To reach 3186, we'd have to drop down into a canyon and climb back up the other side--it looked like it would be a fun scramble, but with the short winter days, we were quickly closing in on our turnaround time and needed to start back, which was disappointing. There was another arch and Dead Deer Tank that we'd hoped to check out, but that would have to wait for another day.

We decided to take a different route on the return and followed some drainages in the general direction we'd come from, and we saw some interesting rock formations in one canyon in particular. The route became too steep in narrow that spot, forcing us to backtrack briefly, but it looked like it would be a beautiful area with cascading waterfalls when it rains. We hiked down into another drainage and made our way back to YE029, where we stopped for a food break with Triple Eye in the background, then finished off the last ~3 miles back to our starting point, enjoying more views of various arches and caves along both sides of the road.

We finished with a little over 12.5 miles of hiking and saw 10+ natural arches over the course of the day--and no other people. We'd had interesting clouds most of the afternoon that turned into dark clouds by the time we finished, and we pulled off the natural gas access road on the way back to the interstate to get some pictures of the western peaks as the sun set through the clouds. We also checked out a sign that we'd noticed along the side of the road on the way in, and were glad we did--it had some good info about the geology and cultural heritage in the area. It was an odd place for a sign out in the middle of nowhere, not really located near any good parking areas to start a hike into the Eagletails. It's a very low-traffic area to begin with, and I'm guessing very few people ever bother stopping to read the sign.

We were both very pleased with the area, though we were a little disappointed that we didn't see more wildlife during the hike. Fortunately, on the drive back toward I-10 we saw two road runners and a coyote, so it wasn't a complete loss on the wildlife front :). I'm sure I've passed by the Eagletails many times en route to California over the years, but it wasn't until recently that I learned how much great stuff is hidden back in there. I definitely plan to return soon and climb up to 3186 and check out more of the routes in different parts of the range. It's always nice to find a new set of mountains to explore, and there's a lot to see here.
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