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The Best Hikes in Bear Wallow Wilderness

64 Triplog Reviews in the Bear Wallow Wilderness
Most recent of 12 deeper Triplog Reviews
7.53 mi • 2,088 ft aeg
I had not been to Bear Wallow in a long time and I was interested in seeing how the area was looking and its trails. We started early to beat the heat and chose the Reno Trail to reach Bear Wallow Creek.

Reno has a little deadfall, but is generally in great shape and probably one of the best trails for reaching Bear Wallow Creek right now. After reaching the intersection of Bear Wallow Trail, we continued to the confluence of the north and south fork of Bear Wallow Creek. Bear Wallow Trail needs some work and there is poison ivy everywhere, however, the area is still scenic and it seems to be recovering. After hiking back to the trailhead, we walked the road up to the Reno fire tower.
2 mi • 500 ft aeg
Based on Hike AZ's glowing Hiking Description of Bear Wallow #63 and my wife's fond memories of hiking it in her youth, we planned a two day backpacking trip in the on Bear Wallow Wilderness to celebrate our anniversary and enjoy the fall colors.

We aborted the trip after two hours. This is our story.

From the trailhead/parking lot, We went along an obvious path for about a mile before a GPS check showed us that we were going the wrong way on an old 4x4 road. Turning around, we overshot the trail *again* and had to bushwhack with the GPS in-hand to find it. The trail is almost completely overgrown and not marked or cairn'ed.

We descended through the canyon, constantly losing the trail as we debated aborting the trip. Though the forecast showed a 0% chance of precipitation, clouds loomed overhead. A combination of fire damage, overgrowth, a feeling of complete isolation, and a freshly gnawed on deer carcass straddling the creek (which was supposed to be our water source) finally convinced us to leave.

We ended up spending our anniversary repeating an old favorite: Mt. Baldy. We loved every minute of it.

The hike imparted an important lesson: check for recent trip logs in hike AZ. When we got back, I saw that the last log for this trail was 2014, and discussed the overgrown trail.

If any mods are reading this, I would ask that a note be made to the main Hiking Description for this trail.

Maybe some day a stewardship hike can be organized to clear the trail and make some cairns. I have been told it is a fantastic area and I would hate to see it lost and forgotten.
14 mi • 2,000 ft aeg
Holy butterflies! Despite the fire damage created by the 2011 fire the area surrounding Bear Wallow Creek remained mostly undamaged. The area near the trailhead had plenty of bare trees but as one made its way down the canyon the greener it was. There was plenty of new young Aspen tree growth as well as plenty of ferns and all kinds of wildflowers which housed thousands of several different types of butterflies. The heat and humidity was relentless throughout the weekend as were all these bugs that loved to surround ones face as we walked. Bear Wallow creek started out as a tiny stream but the lower down to the canyon it got it grew to a very descent flow with plenty of 2-3 foot deep pools of refreshing water to cool down. Being that the trail hasnt been maintained in quite a while, it did have some pretty good vegetation growth but it was still easy to follow for most. Downed trees were not as big of a problem as we had anticipated but there were quite a few of them to negotiate with. Suitable campsites along the trail were few and far in between, we pitched our tents on one at around the 7 mile mark, since fire restrictions have been lifted we were able to have a bonfire for the night and firewood was plentyful all around. We had hoped to see some large wildlife but being that we were a large group (8) we did not see any animals nearby.
17.5 mi • 3,000 ft aeg
Very cool that the main canyon was spared the ravages of the Wallow Fire. Good flow in the creek below the springs, unfortunately there were several cows roaming the canyon, with lots of patties everywhere, so carry lots or carefully purify. Climbed out of the canyon north up Gobbler Point #59 (fairly easy to follow except the top half mile or so which is choked with downed trees), road walked back east a few miles and dropped back down into the canyon on Reno #62, then back up and out to the trailhead. Very nice canyon, except for the hordes of flies and gnats that hover right in front of your face, try to get in your eyes and get sucked into your throat.
16.51 mi • 3,711 ft aeg
Rose Schell Reno Bear Wallow
Lee offered to drive, and since you can get to Rocky Point, San Diego, LA, Durango, and a few other places in less time, that was a welcome offer.

Having never been to this part of the White Mountains, I was intrigued. Especially after the fire. Some of the ridgelines were moonscape, but a very surprising part of the fire area are untouched, or only affected a little bit. Borderline healthy. In the moonscape areas, the aspens are growing strong with thick stands now 5-10 feet tall. In not too many years, these areas will be fantastic!

After playing Elk Pinball on the Coronado Hwy at dusk, we arrived at the Rose Spring TH and crashed there for the night. In the morning we headed out on the Rose Spring trail and were a little frustrated by the unanticipated elevation gains. It hurt a little bit to get out to the Schell junction. Which btw, is impossible to find if you don't have a track. The upper drainage has no noticeable route, and the sign is mostly burned.

Once headed down Schell, the route becomes evident, and the canyon is a real pleasant hike. The slope is perfect, and the foliage makes for a shaded, scenic trip. There's a fantastic grassy camp spot at the junction with the South Fork Bear Wallow Creek, which is also where the first water appeared for us. Just over half a mile later we reached the confluence of the north and south forks where they create the main stem of Bear Wallow Creek.

We set up camp a few hundred yards downstream of the confluence. After a short break, we headed up the north fork one mile to the junction with the Reno Trail where we ascended 2 miles to the road. The Reno trail is a gem! A nice moderate grade is an easy hike from the road to Bear Wallow Creek the lower half of which is shaded in pines with running water in the creek, and the upper half which is in burn area with well-established new aspen.

At the road, we hiked the additional half mile to the lookout tower. The views were great, but a little stunning. Looking north, as far as you could see, the landscape was affected by the Wallow Fire in 2011. Only Baldy to the northwest was untouched. On the horizon, the hills around Greer and Escudilla were torched. The fire began within a couple miles of this tower, and these landmarks are 30 miles away. All torched. That's a lot of land!

Even though Lee wanted to hike an additional 9-10 miles (depending on how we cut the switchbacks in the road) to make a loop back to camp, I decided I'd rather get back before dark and enjoy the beer I had left in the creek. Had I not been there to wuss out, I'm sure he would have done the extra miles on his own. But I value some relaxation time when I'm backpacking, and getting to camp after dark isn't my first choice. Unless that's the original plan.

Back at camp, we cooked up dinner, spent some fun time under the party lights, and retired for the night.

Sunday we hiked out via the South Fork canyon. There was an occasional wildlife trail, but for the most part we hiked in the creek, which had water in it all the way to where we headed up a very steep ridge toward the trailhead.

If I were to do it again, I might skip the Rose Spring trail, and drop into the creek via our exit route. It is steep but short, and cuts a few miles off the hike. But you have to be prepared for a very steep, off-trail hillside until you get to the creek.

Nice weekend with good people. Never been this far south in the White Mtns. I will surely be back.

Note: Bear Wallow Creek is the king of Poison Ivy. I've never seen so much PI in Arizona anywhere. Including Vasey's Paradise! The lower stretches of Schell, South Fork, and Reno also have poison ivy growing wildly along the trail. As a crazy-allergic poison ivy person, I prepared ahead of time and hiked with "dirty" clothes. As soon as I got to camp, I changed clothes and kept all my gear clear. Sleeping bag, tent, backpack, etc. The "dirty" clothes went in a ziploc bag and straight in the washer at home. I also scrubbed with Technu and rinsed in the creek. It'll be another day before I know for sure, but I think I came out of it all clear. Knock on wood.
18.35 mi • 3,711 ft aeg
I returned to Bear Wallow Wilderness this weekend with two friends, Chumley and Kim. We left Tempe at about 2:30 and were arriving at Rose Spring TH right around eight. I know as Chumley pointed out around hour two or three into the drive that there are comparable areas closer to Phoenix. However, I fell in love with the area last year and had been dying to get back. The remoteness of the area, lack of people and its historical connections to Leopold and his old stomping grounds is just enough to keep me coming back to this area.

I really had no solid plan. I had nixed my original plan to visit Pacheta Falls via Gobbler Point and a long off trail route earlier in the week, so I was content with just a nice trip into the wilderness and a little exploring. Took in some nice view along the rim, before dropping down Schell Canyon Trail into the narrow wilderness area. Nobody was smoked, but I think the general consensus was the rolling grade of the first three miles or so of Rose Spring coupled with hovering around 9000 feet certainly got the heart going early in the morning. We ended up making camp off Bear Wallow Trail, from there we headed up Reno Trail to the fire tower.

The Reno Trail did not disappoint. We saw what most of us agreed were perhaps a few of the largest Pine we have seen in the state, along with a quaint little spring area, and a flowing side drainage that was surprisingly still pushing a lot of water to feed Bear Wallow Creek and ultimately the Black River. Signs of the fire were few in this area. The lookout tower offered some spectacular and sobering views of the surrounding countryside. Chumley hammed it up with the watch tower guy for a bit while I finished off my lunch and Kim enjoyed the views. We returned the same route we took to the tower.

The rest of the evening included scrubbing our bodies in an attempt to remove any lingering urisol oils courtesy of the relatively thick in spots dreaded poison ivy we encountered in several spots. We then just enjoyed a picturesque "backpacker magazine" spot along the creek, had some dinner, chatted a little and kind of half crashed around 7 or 8 for myself..

The next morning Kim and I explore further down the creek a little while Chumley packed up. We opted for an off trail route to reach the TH. Rather than Schell Canyon to Rose Spring, we opted for the route the crow flies. We headed up the South Fork of Bear Wallow Creek until reaching the most obvious X-fill route and then headed up a steep but manageable ridge line to the road leading to Rose Spring TH completing our loop. The South Fork decision proved to be a great one, as we came across a few picturesque area and the hiking proved to be pretty standard off-trail creek hiking.

Final Notes: Was happy to complete Reno Trail as it lead to a 100% completion percentage for myself in Bear Wallow Wilderness. I can now legitimately say I hiked (not linked ;) ) every mile of trail in Bear Wallow Wilderness, my first fully completed wilderness area.

Disclaimer I know the kind of guy Chumley is, he will almost certainly blame his poison ivy on my dogs, however, remember it was not the dog's decision to wear shorts on Saturday despite several warnings.
9.2 mi • 1,300 ft aeg
I lead a group of beginning and intermediate backpackers into the Bear Wallow wilderness for a one night backpacking trip. We camped before the hike at the gravel pit on FR 25 on the way out to the Reno Trailhead (where we left our shuttle vehicle). It wasn't an ideal spot for a hammocker, but it was great for tents. High and dry - and if you wanted a sky show, it'd be a great spot. Of course, it rained for us, so no show.

The hike was delightful. See photos for more detail, but to sum up, the area is not nearly as devastated as you might think given the severity of last year's Wallow Fire. Though we passed through many bad burn areas, there was lots of new growth, especially ferns, aspens and wildflowers. The Rose Spring and Schell Canyon trails had not been cleared since the burn, but there weren't many downed trees or badly washed out places. The group of beginners was able to keep to the trail and didn't once complain about obstacles (other than being a little sooted up).

There was a maintenance crew on the Bear Wallow trail, and they'd entered on the Reno Trail, so those two routes were in really good shape. The canyon bottom was beautiful, and though there were signs of the fire, overall it was a lush, green wildflower haven. I'd definitely go back in a heart-beat!

My crew was fantastic - they were good-natured, happy and fun. I'd only ever hiked with one of them before, so it could have been much worse! Only one of the group had any trouble at all, and his was more an issue of learning about lighter gear than anything else. I bet that giant sleeping bag has already been replaced!

I was staying with my mom at Hon Dah, so on the way home I took the Three Forks Road. Really nice drive - beautiful scenery and a smooth road. Next time I'll go that way rather than detouring all the way through Springerville!

It's great to be back on the trail!
16.5 mi • 2,547 ft aeg
Up in the Apache-Sitgreaves NF again working on my hikes. This time I set out to do Bear Wallow and was really unsure what to expect. It is the point of origin of the infamous Wallow Fire of 2011. I was actually pleasantly surprised. The burn affected only about a third of the area where hike takes place.

On the way down as you follow the stream the area is torched bad! Once at North Fork which is a mile and a half in you make a turn and head West. It is here that it was much less burned than I had expected. The water was flowing strong as the snow continues to melt. Black suit could be seen on the side of the creek but the water was mostly clear. As I progressed I came across 5 wild turkeys, a couple elk and a small group of cattle. No fish were spotted in the stream.

Continuing on I made several creek/river crossings and I gave up on trying to cross by boulder hopping. It was just too deep and it made more sense to wade across. The water wasn't really that cold which was also a surprise. Basically I hiked about 14 miles of the trip in wet shoes and socks. Normally this wouldn't be so great but I figured it was good training for the upcoming Paria River Canyon Hike.

The turn around point is at the Apache National Forest Boundary. Per the book there was supposed to be a fence at the line. I walked right on by and didn't see it. Once I looked at the GPS watch and realized I had gone a quarter mile into the Apache side I turned back. On my return I saw the posted sign and was able to find the fence. It is mostly gone or down due to fallen trees. If you should hike this one it is easy to miss the finish line. No worries because the trail quickly fades to nothing beyond the boundary.

Per the register I was the second person of 2012 to hike this one but I am sure I won't be the last. Really great hike if you enjoy hiking next to a stream and/or a river. Don't let the fire damage keep you away. There is still much beauty to behold and a great trail to enjoy!
16 mi • 2,000 ft aeg
An overnight backpacking trip with old friends and new. Even though monsoon has barely started, it is very green down in there. The nearby Paradise Fire, on the other side of 191, did not affect us at all--there was no smoke. There had been a big rainstorm on Friday. We saw a young bull elk with velvet antlers.

I think I need a new camera!
23 mi • 4,000 ft aeg
I did the entire Bear Wallow trail in 2 day hikes. Friday September 26, I hiked from the Bear Wallow trailhead for 5.3 miles and on Sunday September 28, I hiked the remaining 3 miles to the Forest Border with the San Carlos Indian Reservation but starting from the Gobbler Point trailhead.

It was my intention to day hike 16 miles roundtrip doing the Bear Wallow trail near Hannagan Meadow. I started early Friday morning from the Bear Wallow trailhead. After 0.9 miles of easy hiking, the deadfall started and never let up. It seems that every 100 or 200 feet of hiking brought another obstacle to get around. That combined with multiple creek crossings wore me out after a little more than 5 miles so I turned around and hiked back out about 3 miles short of my goal which was to hike to the border with the San Carlos Indian reservation.

On Sunday I went back for more. But this time I started from the Gobbler Point trailhead shown on the map shown on the last shot in the picture set.

I thought I might be in for some serious bouts with more deadfall but I was pleasantly surprised. The Gobbler Point trail is very good with great switchbacks to take you down to creek level. After a couple of miles there is some deadfall including a couple of large ones. But they are negotiable and there is far less deadfall than while hiking from the Bear Wallow trailhead. At the end of Gobbler point trail I turned right and hike 0.6 miles to about 0.1 miles onto reservation property. I was looking for a sign and didn't see one but my GPS had the property line on it so I knew I had gone too far. On the way back the Forest Boundary sign appeared nailed to a large pine tree on the side of the tree that you would not see going in unless you turned around. A strange place for it.

Hiking back I went 2.5 extra miles to the place I stopped on Friday so I did manage to hike the entire trail. The 3 miles I did on the Bear Wallow trail had much less deadfall (I would say 20 percent or at least if felt that way) than the 5 miles I did on Friday.

My bottom line is I do not recommend hiking from the Bear Wallow trailhead. I highly recommend hiking from the Gobbler Point trailhead. When you reach the end of the Gobbler Point trail (2.7 miles) you can turn right (to the reservation boundary) or left and hike as much as you want from there before turning around. This is a great hike and I may do it again in 3 weeks to see the fall color. It is mentioned as 1 of 15 fall color hikes in the October 2008 issue of Arizona Highways.
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