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The Best Hikes in Blue Range Primitive Area Wilderness

434 Triplog Reviews in the Blue Range Primitive Area Wilderness
Most recent of 109 deeper Triplog Reviews
45 mi • 0 ft aeg
Blue Range SE Loop
 Made the long drive to Horse Canyon TH on Thursday arriving around 9pm. The last 3-4 miles of the road are rough. I would recommend high clearance 4wd or at least AT tires on 2wd high clearance. XXX ranch is super cool. You can stay in it you want but we opted for tents.

Day 1:
Went up the Blue River for 10.6 miles. Pretty incredible hike with tons of birds some narrows and a very intact ranch in the middle of nowhere. There is a trail up to Little Dutch Blue (which leads to Hannah hot springs) after that it deteriorates. It's pretty easy going regardless, no serious bushwhacking. Started the ascent up Cow Flat trail. The first mile or so up Ladrone Canyon is a really pretty riparian area with flowing water and wild flowers everywhere. After that it is completely exposed until Bear Valley. Very hot and tough climb to do in the late afternoon. Good views though. It is clear that a lot of people camp at Bear Valley. It is very pretty but the amount of trash around was a little off putting.

Day 2:
Head down Little Blue in the morning. The first 3 miles are in the canyon with flowing water and good shade. This area reminds me a lot of Gila. You climb out of the canyon to get onto Alma mesa which has incredible views of the Blues. Would be very hot up here midday. Met up with Alma TH then took off up Winter trail. I could find zero information on this trail so we were definitely hoping for the best. It was actually very well maintained in most parts. Only lost it once or twice. This is very exposed as well. Another hot day climbing in and out of very interesting sandstone drainages. BEWARE - when you get to Winter Cabin Spring DO NOT take the trail up out of Auguer Creek (as indicated on the map) to Little Dutch Blue Trail. It is not there anymore. We spent 2 hours bushwhacking up that mountain just to go down the other side. Stay in Auger creek and you will meet up with the Little Dutch Blue Trail at Auguer Creek Spring. After that ordeal, we headed into the Dutch Canyon Narrows which were the highlight of the trip for me. Rolled into camp around 6pm at the confluence of Little Dutch Blue and Hannah Creek. Set up shop and went up to Hannah Hot Springs for a well needed night time soak. Its so hot! You really need to jump in and out of the creek to be able to handle it for long.

Day 3:
Headed down Little Dutch Blue to the Blue River then back to the vehicle.
8.12 mi • 970 ft aeg
 Well, I don't think they really want people doing this hike lol. I had just finished Escudilla in the morning and thought that Blue (at reported 3 miles rt) would be doable in the afternoon. I am on my quest for the 20 highest peaks in AZ. It was about an hour drive to the forest road (I think it was 184). I have a high clearance vehicle, but this road was not well maintained. I drove about 1.5 miles in and decided to pull off and park. So, then I hike the 2.5 miles to the trailhead. This part was pretty easy (and prob faster than me driving haha). The trailhead was well marked at the end of the road along with a register. The trail itself is 1.5 miles each way, gradual climbing to the summit. I did not have any problem with ever losing the trail even though it is not maintained (at all). Lots of fallen trees to climb over, around and under. The problem is the trail is very narrow, so not a lot of options. The trail also has very overgrown rasberry bushes, which, unfortunately, were not in season during my trip. I read the other reviews, so I was prepared and had long pants (because these things have thorns), which was very helpful. I would guess that at least 50% of the trail was covered in the bushes. At the top, the abandoned tower is there and the bottom section of stair planks have been removed, but it is still climbable :) . Beautiful views from the top and crisp, clean air. Probably a one and done hike for me though.
7.33 mi • 1,647 ft aeg
 This is one of those hikes I first saw on HAZ many many years ago and always wanted to check it out but its far distance always put it too far out of reach.
Well no more excuses and after a weekend of shenanigans in the White Mountains and helping the Wilderness Boys with their annual spruce tip picking I set out solo further east to "The Blue".

No more hikers on the trail when I started around 3pm but the trail was still filled with traffic (deadfall).
The upper portion of the trail seemed to have the most downed trees and it became much easier on the feet as I made my way down.

Took a break at the confluence to bust out the new Manfrotto tripod which weighs as much as 10 bricks and doesn't even fit in my 55 liter pack but boy is it sturdy and immediately made a huge difference in my photos.
Although the quality of imagery on HAZ is not up to par and I've tinkered with the image resizing and dimensions many times but cant seem to get it right so if you want to see what my photos should look like please check out my website as it means a lot to me since I can see them full clarity and want the HAZ world to also. :)

Saw about two dozen or more Mule deer on the way out it was ridiculous and along with the howling coyote I got to watch in the morning behind a pair of binos it all made for a great wildlife experience.
25 mi • 500 ft aeg
Hannah Hot Springs and More
 We camped the night before our backpack at the XXX Ranch. As we drove in we thought we saw three bears down by the River. Hard to be certain but they were dark colored and there were three of them.

In the morning after delaying our escape from the tents until it warmed some (it was around 25 degrees that night) we set off along the Blue River. We made quick work of the hike and soon we were at the Little Blue.

I had forgotten how beautiful the Little Blue Creek is! Especially went we got to the Box. We hiked thru the box with knee to thigh high water. I wasn’t too worried about the cold since we were going to the hot springs before bed!

We established our camp at the hot springs. Pete and I took the upper spot and J&C took the lower. Josh made a plug for the tub and soon it was full again! Nothing like a hot springs on a cold winters day!

We had a nice fire to keep us warm during dinner and for some time afterwards.

With the cold weather we decided we’d not plan a specific departure and just go once we were ready. That turned out to be a good decision because it was cold and in all we ended up spending about 12 hrs in the tent. Then we went on an outing. There is a trail marked on the map that goes from the junction of the Little Blue and Dutch Blue up and over the ridge to the Blue. We tried to find evidence of the old trail but I couldn’t see a thing, which seems strange as there were lots of rocks and if someone was using it as a trail at one point you’d think some of the rocks would have been cleared. Anyway we gave up and went to check out the cabin and a section of Dutch Blue. That night we enjoyed the hot springs again.

On the way out in the morning we decided to check out the chest deep pool that I had forged on my last christmas trip to Hannah. We were not keen on hiking in wet clothes so we stripped down and waxed through. It was cold but not too bad. From there we hiked back to the truck so that we could find some Chinese for our Christmas dinner!

Great trip - even with the cold!
10 mi • 1,200 ft aeg
 KP Rim trail, to its "intersection" with 73 has many downed trees but is generally passable. Unfortunately the turn off for 73 to the north is not marked, and I spent 90 minutes thrashing through locust bush and fallen trees piled 10 feet high looking for it at its place on the map. Checking now that I get back, FOTG posted a route show the intersection in a different place. The trail, even where it may be, must be very faint. I didn't find anything resembling a trail 73, nor Long Cienega 305 trail in the area, but I did find the rest of the Steeple Trail back to Hannagan Campground from the trail 305 area, and upon reaching the highway, I took Ackre Lake trail back to my starting point.

Steeple 73 is nice from its TH near Hannagan Meadow to Grant Creek Trail and probably will earn you credit with your girlfriend, since it is a hike through mostly surviving forest, alongside ferns and flowers. Steeple 73 is primitive between Grant Creek and Cienega 305 "Trail" where it goes through a largely moonscaped area full of locust bush and a few grassy meadows. Steeple trail is godawful from 305 to trail 315, the area being a mess of downed trees and locust bush with no trail apparent. The Forest Service appears to have ignored everything south of Grant Creek Trail, possibly because they cannot find the trail.
12 mi • 1,200 ft aeg
 KP South Fork, KP North Fork, Ackre Lake, then trying to loop out.

KP South and North Fork are clear of downed trees and the forest service continues to work on erosion control on these trails. In general these seemed to be in fairly good shape and I saw a trail crew when hiking, so the FS is continuing to try to improve the conditions.

Water in both forks and flowing nicely near the confluence. It dries up quickly moving up North Fork.

Ackre Lake is a lovely little pond, probably my favorite find of the trip. Trying to make a recommended loop out of Ackre lake proved a horrible decision, but I did make it back to the highway.
4.75 mi • 843 ft aeg
 We did two smaller hikes a day in the Blue Range to preserve the pups in the unseasonably warm temperatures. This was the evening hike we did on day two. The goal was to visit Willow Spring and maybe locate the Long Cienega Trail.

I had remembered Willow Spring being a relatively pleasant area in an otherwise very fire damaged area when I had backpacked through there a few years ago and was interested in seeing the area again. The trail had its fair share of deadfall, but it was not horrible. Willow Spring is still a nice little area, but it was dry. In fact, it was very dry out there in general, with no real standing water to be found, not even at the Upper Grant Creek crossing/intersection. I had hoped to look around a little for traces of the Long Cienega Trail, but with no water out there and a still warm sun, we decided to head back. This area really needs some water and a little trail TLC.
33.25 mi • 5,028 ft aeg
 I made my first appearance of the year in the Primitive Blue Range with Jackie and the pups this past weekend. We completed a 33 mile backpack utilizing the Blue River Trail, Cow Flat Trail, the Little Blue, Largo and Lamphier Trails. Originally, I had planned for a more mild out and back to Ladron Spring on Cow Flats Trail, with a day of exploring, but high and fast moving water on the Blue had us planning an impromptu backpacking loop, with a long connecting road walk.

We camped at the Blue Crossing Campground Friday night, but still started our hike pretty late in the morning. The road crossings were fine heading to the trailhead, however, it was immediately noticeable that the Blue was flowing strong, as we embarked. The crossings were a little fierce, but we managed through them just fine to start. As with the other end of the Blue River Trail, its really more of just a route, with some occasional nice sections of trail along the bench and several crossings. Most crossings went pretty well, however, the Blue narrows a few times during the route and this created some sections of narrow, deep, fast moving water that were pretty tough to get across. Our luck with the crossings ran out about four miles in when Jackie lost her footing in some deep stuff that I was trying to help her get across. She only went about 15 feet down stream before standing up very shocked and a little wet. Unfortunately, her boots and hiking poles were about 100 feet down stream of us and moving fast. I jumped to the shore, ditched my gear and ran after the boots along the bank and in the water, after a couple of chest deep floaters, some fast water, a little rapids and a few broken toes, I caught the shoes and one hiking pole. Despite being wet and a little humbled, we decided to push on and just be more careful. By luck Jackie spotted her corked hiking pole handle floating up down stream and we were able to reunite the pair of lost poles, with the soaked boots. A real disaster nearly struck shortly after. During a pretty routine crossing, we lost track of Cup briefly. In our horror, when we spotted her, she was down stream completely submerged and trapped under a large log that was sticking out into the water, I sprinted to her and popped her out, but it was brief as she went right back into the tangled branches, below the log. I then pulled her out and up for good. Suprisingly, she swam right to the shore despite's spending a solid 15-20 seconds completely under water. I can't remember the last time I was that scared and amped up and Jackie said it was about the worse thing she ever had to watch, but Cup came away with only a few sneezes and was ready to go after a brief look over.

I had had enough at that point and said we would just push to Cow Flat Trail and skip returning via the Blue. My final crossings involved me going to one side with gear, then dropping gear, coming back to grab Jackie and then walking back over to carry Cup. It was slow going, but safe and surprisingly by the third carry Cup was back to swimming them on her own. All the turmoil of the day seemed to pass pretty quickly when we hit Cow Flat Trail. First we enjoyed the falls created by the robust Ladron spring and then marveled at the .6 miles of perennial cascades and general paradise created by the spring. We enjoyed an amazing spot above the source of the spring, enjoyed a great campfire and perfect overnight temperatures.

Day two was a bit of a grind, but we loved the little cross range trek from the lowest elevations of the Blue Range to just below Bear Mountain. Cow Flat Trail was rugged, warm and dry. We liked the scenery and appreciated its ruggedness, however, we both agree it was terrain only a mother could love. Bear Valley was nice and we spent an extended amount of time there at a nice set of cascades along the Little Blue River Trail. The climb out of Bear Valley was tough and a little warm near the top, but we all hung tough. From there, we coasted down the Little Blue and Largo Trails to Dutch Oven Spring where we camped. That section of trail from the Little Blue down Largo is really nice, especially, with flowing water and we ranked it as some of the best trail we traveled all weekend.

We had a very short hike out Monday morning and then began a very long road walk of about 8.5 miles. One really never wants to have to complete an eight mile plus road walk to finish a hike, but we both agreed that it was a better alternative than trudging back up the Blue River from Cow Flat Trail after our luck on that river the day before. The backpack ended up being superb anyways and we enjoyed it enough to justify the road walk, besides we made it really easy by leaving our heavy packs at the finishing trailhead, before starting off for the Xterra.
9.15 mi • 3,565 ft aeg
 My friend Tom and I really like the Blue Range Primitive Area. It has spectacular scenery and a remoteness you don’t often find. I’ve been to the Blues 3 times for a total of 7 days and have never seen another person. The peace and solitude is expansive. I have however heard a pack of Mexican Grey Wolves yapping and howling at 5:30 in the morning, apparently enjoying a fresh kill. I’ve heard the sound of elk bugling and watched as a good sized herd trotted off through the meadow leaving a large bull elk stand on a hill looking directly at us. He released a loud bugle, shook his horns, and slowly trotted off, obviously afraid we were after what was rightfully his. No, Mr. Elk, those little ladies are all yours! On this last trip we saw a bear some distance away which quickly disappeared into the brush. Hmmm. The Blue Range is truly a special place.

There are a couple of different way to get to get to Grant Creek #75 but we decided to start out at the #326 trailhead. This TH is on Hwy 191 and is about 3 miles before you get to Hannigan’s Meadow on the left side of the road. After a short hike, #326 intersects with Foote Creek Trail #76. Turn left on Foote Creek and go past P Bar Lake. P Bar Lake really isn’t a lake. It’s a large mud hole. I wouldn’t want to have to get water out of it. Anyway, just past P Bar is Grant Creek Trail #75. Merge to the right and you’re on track. From here on out it’s downhill. Literally. If you decide to go all the way down to the Blue River, which is about 5450’, you’re looking at an elevation difference of 3500-4000’. Not bad if you’re going down, but a bit of a go coming back up.

We stayed at White Oak Spring, which is about 4 miles in. We got there just a little after dark on a Friday and set up camp. It was a pleasantly cool night. The crickets were chirping and the air was still. We ate a well-deserved meal and just after we finished, it started raining. That seems to be our luck as of late. At least it waited until we finished eating. The next morning, we went to get water, which was only a couple of hundred yards away. The first thing I noticed were several piles of bear scat on the trail to the spring. About six of them to be exact. That caused us both to take notice. More on that later. Anyway, White Oak Spring is a good source of fresh water. After filling up, we decided to leave our camp where it was, hike down to Grant Creek proper, explore some of the side canyons, and hike back up to our camp. That way we wouldn’t have such a long uphill march from Grant Creek with full packs when we left the next day. We could leave from White Oak Spring. I’m glad we did it this way.

Grant Creek is a very nice little creek. I wish we had time to follow it all the way down to the Blue River, but time was not on our side. There are trout in this stream, which is nice. While exploring one of the side canyons we came upon the track of what appeared to be a bobcat, or similar feline. Nice find. After a day of exploring, we went back up to camp and relaxed the rest of the day. After dinner, a miracle happened: it didn’t rain. Woohoo!

We had a great night with temps down to about 40 degrees. The night stars were in full array and the impossibly bright Orion constellation loomed over us like a heavenly guardian. I slept well.
The next day woke warm and bright. After breakfast, I went out to look for a convenient tree to finish things up, and that’s when I saw it, about 100’ from our site: bear scat, which looked exceptionally fresh to my eyes. I’m not talking a couple of piles either. Within a diameter of about 30’ I counted 20 piles of bear scat. And I didn’t even look that well. I swear that some piles were so large they wouldn’t fit in a gallon jug. I quit looking after 20 because the more I looked, the more I found. It was like a bear poop graveyard. That made me kind of nervous. The only thing that gave me any consolation was the fact that every single pile was composed of berries. Berries, berries, berries. All piles were the same, some were just larger than others. I don’t know what kind of berries they were (juniper??), but at least I didn’t see any bones, fur, or bells. That’s a good thing, I think… That little find motivated me to move a little quicker (pun intended), so with a newfound spring in my step I hurried on back to camp to finish getting packed up. As we left through the barbed wire gate we noticed a big tuft of hair on it. I’ll give one guess as to what it was…

Anyway, the Blues are special, but there are a few things you should be aware of. The trails are not highly populated, which leaves them vulnerable to nature and makes them somewhat difficult to follow at times. There are a lot of dead and downed trees which can complicate matters. There appears to be very little (read: zero) trail maintenance done. On our way going down, we got off track several times, and if it weren’t for my GPS app (BC Navigator), we would probably still be there. To be fair however, we did follow the marked trail back up from Grant Creek to the trailhead and didn’t stray once. I haven’t figured that one out yet. To be safe, I would suggest taking your GPS if you have one. I would also prepare myself mentally for bears. If you’re lucky, you might not see one. If you’re lucky, you just might see one. Go figure!

Foliage
Leaves are beginning to turn. Both the oaks and poplars were turning yellow, making for a nice contrast to the pines.
8.55 mi • 500 ft aeg
 Day trip up the Coronado Trail to Hannagan Meadow.
Hiked the Aker Lake Trail starting from Hannagan Campground.
First half of the trail has been recently worked and was in good shape.
Second half to the lake needs work and we had some challenges following the blue diamond markers & flags.
Rested at the small lake for a bit before heading back using one of the dirt roads to form a lasso loop.
Perfect 9000 ft temps, good scenery with a hint of autumn to come.
Had a nice lunch at the Hannagan Meadow Lodge before heading back down home.
Lots of deer sightings on the drive up/down and 2 Rocky Mountain Bighorns feeding on grass at the visitors center in Clifton.
:D
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