The Best Hikes in Mazatzal Wilderness

2,999 Triplog Reviews in the Mazatzal Wilderness
Most recent of 1,005 deeper Triplog Reviews
24.58 mi • 6,188 ft aeg
From Mormon Grove trailhead hiked to McFarland area initially with goal of doing a recon of Sheep Creek Trail from that junction of AZT. The recon is to submit for trail maintenance grant but we needed some documentation of trail conditions.

Off and hiking by about 730 Monday morning and made it to McFarland junction pretty quick. From there the fun begins with trail conditions deteriorating quickly. The area has suffered major fire damage so lots of downed trees, various debris, overgrown brush and trail wash outs. The poor trail conditions continue all the way to Squaw Flat which is particularly roughed up. Found the spring box at Squaw Flat spring but no water to speak of.

Continuing past Squaw Flat it climbs a hill about 300 feet gain and this part the trail is easier to follow with minor brush and washouts but followable. Took a break near the top where the fire appeared to stop and some Arizona Cypress trees provided some welcome shade. After the break it was time to drop down into the feeder drainage for Sheep Creek and is also the divide which put us on the west side of the Mazatzal. This downhill section was the best part of intact trail tread that we found during the recon. Brushy in spots but for the most part from the top of divide down to the drainage it's easy trail to follow.

Once in the drainage the goal was to find water. We didn't have to go very far before finding some small pools and lots of poison ivy. We also found a nice camp spot so decided to make camp and plan for the day hike recon for the next day. Good night in camp except for a midnight thunderstorm that dumped for about 3 hours.

Next morning things were a little wet but we continued down Sheep Creek Trail assessing the trail conditions. Trail is followable in spots but has lots of brush to include poison ivy, catclaw, and various oak scrub blocking where the trail used to be in many spots. Checked out Sheep Creek Seep and found no water and another spring marked on the topo that also had no water. After the dry springs the canyon opens up with less trees and more grassland that had some cairns assisting finding the trail.

About 3/4 mile down from there we made it to Round Spring area. The spring was dry but the drainage had plenty of water with light flow and the best water and pools of the hike. It seems like this area has water most of the year. We took a break at the pools and welcome shade as it was getting hot with the elevation here at 3800.

After the break we had a 250 foot climb up over a saddle and also passed the Sears Trail junction. Mostly grassland so it turned into a cairn hunt with remnants of old trail and a decent looking corral near the saddle. Once over the saddle we found some old trail tread that drops into the next drainage about 1000 foot descent. We were able to follow remnants of old trail in the grassland but it's faint at best. Knowing where the track is supposed to be was a big help and seemed pretty accurate most of the time.

Reaching the drainage it was getting hot and decided that there was not enough time to reach the end of Sheep Creek Trail so decided that 6.5 of the 8.5 miles of trail would have to do. Hiked back to camp the same way which took about 4 hours. Another night in the same camp which was relaxing this time no thunderstorms to deal with.

Next morning we hiked out back to Mormon Grove trailhead with the recon mostly complete. Good to see the area and know how much work is needed for the maintenance. Fingers crossed on the grant!!
5.9 mi • 2,055 ft aeg
I decided 2 of the 3 biggest obstacles to summer hikes in Mazatzal Country could be avoided with proper planning so I decided to begin the hike late in the day to avoid problem #1 sun exposer and after a decent rainy season so far #2 obstacle averted. Hiking the canyon in the evening was great in shade most of the time. Of course that leaves you up the trail in the dark but the meteor shower is happening and there were several huge falling stars. Late evening was great with hardly a cloud in the sky. That would eventually change. Sleeping in my 1 person tent and with arm sticking out open door I thought I felt a rain drop around 3:00 AM but I thought, no go back to sleep but then I felt a few more and decided well thats probably about it. I was wrong. Within a few minutes I was scrambling around camp securing stuff that shouldn't get wet and jumping back in my water-resistant tent, weather report seemed to suggest no rain. Within no time the rain was pouring down with 30 to 40 MPH wind gusts. I broke out my umbrella and sat next to the door with one arm out trying to block the worst of it. Dog forced his way in the small tent with me. One arm holding an umbrella and the other arm holding up the tent for about an hour and a half while the seemingly hurricane force wind and rain pummeled my meager shelter. My left arm and left leg getting soaked I contemplated walking out at about 3:45 AM but no. It was too far and there are bears.. and lions waiting for sad wet hikers to stumble by. I decided to sit and wait knowing summer storms don't last more than 30 mins or so. This one lasted almost 2 hours but we survived. Once the rain and wind stopped about 5:00 AM we got up ate breakfast and continued on. Somehow I was able to keep my feet dry which is a miracle. It would be a miserable hike with soaking wet boots and socks. We continued up towards Mazatzal Peak. I would like to find a nice campsite like those that existed, pre 2004 fire, up a little from the trail. After ending uphill at about 6400 ft we turned around to head back. I would like to have visited Castersen Seep/Spring as I'm sure its running strong but the turn off is no longer signed or marked and I had no map and running low on time we headed back. Stopped again at the falls to refill our water. Met another HAZ member while there. Positive meeting for sure. Overall a great overnight in the Maztazals. No lion screams this time.
26 mi • 6,000 ft aeg
Cornucopia TH -AZ Trail - Barnhardt TH
Having just purchased some new backpacking toys, it was time to head out on my annual spring backpacking trip. Finishing the Mazatzal Divide Trail/AZ Trail has been on my list for the past year. Mark graciously agreed to hike with me up Cornucopia Trail to Thicket Spring to access the AZ Trail AND to carry 2 L water for me as there was no update on the Thicket Spring flow. Water was running all along Cornucopia Trail, and once we arrived at Thicket Spring, we found it was also flowing, and had numerous pools. The app is now updated. We had a quick lunch, Mark took one last picture of me just in case he never saw me again, and I was on my way.

My goal was to make it to "saddle and campsite" at mile marker 398.2 for my first night. The climb to the wilderness sign felt relatively easy, and once past the sign, I was in the cool pines. The trail leveled out, was as smooth as a baby's behind and I was able to make some good time. By the time I arrived at my campsite, it was only 2:00 and Bear Spring became my next goal, only about 5 miles ahead. I finally had some cell service on a ridge and let Mark know where I was going to be and I'd be done a day earlier than originally planned. The trail on the west side of the Mazatzal's followed along the ridge, there were some scary drop offs, so I had to pay attention to my footing and keep my head out of the clouds. I was just having so much fun, and the views were breathtaking. The weather was cool, the climb was invigorating, my heart rate was climbing as well to about 180 bpm according to my Garmin watch. I could feel it beating fast, so I took a break to catch my breath, have a snack and some water. Finally arrived at Bear Spring at 4:45 pm, set up camp, used my new spoon to eat dinner out of a bag, there was one thru hiker there and he was not pleased with the milky water at Bear Spring. I guess being from AZ, I was just happy we had water to filter. It filtered fine, smelled a little like sulfur, but why the heck am I purposely smelling my water? I don't do that at home! I added some electrolytes to it, and it was fine.
Best scenic hikes in glacier nation...
Best scenic hikes in glacier national park

About 6:00 another thru hiker rolled into camp. She set up camp and I never heard a peep out of either one of them. It was 59 degrees when I went to bed, temp never went below 51 degrees (used new thermometer). The stars were amazing when I peeked my head out of my tent at 2:00. The new Klymit pillow was noisy, but comfortable and my head didn't roll off of it.

I felt like a slacker getting out of my tent at 6:00 and everyone else had already hit the trail. So I relaxed alone, I mean, it was my day off from work, had 2 cups of coffee and 2 Nature Bakery fig bars (something new), then hit the trail. It was an easy hike from there, past the Y Bar Intersection, over a few nasty washouts that were marked with flags. I think I could see Chilson Camp in the distance from the trail as I neared Barnhardt. Took one final rest with my feet up at the campsite under the large juniper tree north of Barnhardt Junction, then headed out rocky Barnhardt trail.

Ran into a group of ladies that had hiked just beyond the falls, wondering it there was another falls after it. Nope, that's it. Made it out to the TH at 1:30 and Mark was patiently waiting for me, reading in the car after a day of hiking at the lower elevation. I'm going to lose 2 toenails, but getting out in the wilderness is always worth it.
15 mi • 3,200 ft aeg
Overall impression is that this loop trail is only for the young. Am 75 and long-time hiking partner was 77. As we reached the AZ trail junction from Barnhardt Trail we made the decision to complete the loop non-stop, which is what we usually do. I mean, why enjoy it and camp overnight! This past weekend was relatively cool and nighttime could reach 30 degrees so we pushed on. For taking on a trail at our ages it was more than difficult. I don't care how in shape you are, and we are in pretty good shape for our age, it kicked my ass. I suspect that the trail, with all of the bowling-ball size rocks, especially going down the Y-Bar are there to deter erosion, they are a sprained ankle waiting to happen. Fortunately, we were lucky to avoid this. To deter erosion or not, there needs to be a single track for "seniors." Bottom line, this trail is more then difficult if you try to complete the loop in one day. Took nine grueling hours.
6 mi • 1,000 ft aeg
Backpacked from the top down to Gowan Camp and camped for the night. I was surprised there was so much water with the dry year it has been. The stream must be spring fed from somewhere as there just doesn't seem like there is enough natural moisture up there to keep the creek flowing like it was. Maple draw had flow as did a few other unnamed drainages during our day hike. Hiking past Gowan camp the trail gets pretty over grown with a few spots where you need to pay attention to your footing with some drop offs that will get the heart racing for a moment or two. Found a nice pool with a rock overhang that would be good place for a soak in the stream a mile or so down the trail from the wilderness sign. We hiked maybe 2 miles past Gowan camp and didn't see any good places to camp. It seems like Gowan camp is the best place to camp until you drop much lower into the drainage towards the gravesite. Gowan camp is a nice wide area with a lot of space. A lot of the sites are kind of sloped, but it's doable. We found a decent spot next to the creek that was fairly flat. It was a cold night. Upper 30's for a few hours before the sun came up. I tried making it in my hammock, but with no insulation moved to the ground with my sleeping pad, ground cover and bivy and I was warm again. Came back with some bug bites from something, but hey that's the price of hanging out in the woods.

Found the unmarked start of the Davey Gowan trail just before Gowan Camp. There isn't much of a trail for the first couple 100 yards or so. You're just walking along the side of a hill, but there are pink ribbons to help keep you on the path. We didn't hike much of it so maybe it gets more discernable as you keep hiking.

The road to the TH was in good shape and any car with some decent ground clearance can get there no problem. Love this area. It's a little longer drive then Mount Ord, but you get to the pines so quick. It would make a nice place to camp even in the summer. And not a lot of people come up to this area. Another stellar trip!
5.3 mi • 1,126 ft aeg
City Creek TH Payson
Unlike my West Clear Creek hike last week that was disappointing, I was pleasantly surprised how nice a short evening hike was from the City Creek TH near the old Doll Baby Ranch outside of Payson. This hike exceeded my expectations: very scenic, great views from the ridge, a lot of wild flowers (I have never seen so many Sego Lily's anywhere in my years of treking around the west!), much greener than I expected, and the nice steady modest uphill grade made for a good even pace.

Wildflowers
Sego Lily's, Fairy Duster, etc etc etc
16.7 mi • 5,499 ft aeg
Bad news for Mazatzal die-hards. Upper Davenport is not passable between S. Deadman and Red Rock Spring. Left one truck at Peeley and started our hike at Barnhart. The plan was to connect Barnhart to Davenport to Sheep Creek to Peeley. Like many other attempts in the inner Mazatzals, it didn't work out as planned. Headed down from Chilson. There were plenty of cairns and the trail was reasonably easy to follow without GPS. We did lose the trail a little at the bottom of S. Deadman but had no trouble getting down and finding the trail back up. We climbed the other side and continued up to the next set of ridges. Surprisingly, the trail was still easy to follow. We were looking forward to topping the ridge so we could start down to Club, and then we hit a massive wall of brush. It was weird because the trail was really nice in that section and then, boom, dead end. We were already exhausted so we found the nearest spot flat enough to throw down sleeping bags right there at the end of the trail. Next morning we tried to bust through but the brush was like a maze and we were disoriented. It looks like the brush continued on for another 1/4 mile before topping out so we had to bail. I would say this section of trail is dead unless somebody brings a lot of tools and manpower. It's a real shame though because we were really enjoying the rest of the trail, difficult as it was. We back-tracked to the Divide trail and hiked to Peeley the civilized way.
5.9 mi • 2,055 ft aeg
Another of our annual attempts to catch Big Kahuna doing something loud, and today was pretty much what we were hoping for. Hiked with Phil, Virginia and Jimmy and am using Phil's pictures since he's a real photographer with a real camera. 41 degrees to start at 7:45 and 73 at the finish. The only problem was maybe 500 feet of snow and ice pack on the trail around the 4900 elevation mark so we spend some time banging on the ice with our trekking poles to not much avail but it amused us to think we were making progress. A trickle at the Mist and decent flow at Big Kahuna, not world class but decent. (see photos) We did see a wily coyote on the way in trying to deke us out by bobbing and weaving back and forth across the road and then on the way out there was a jack rabbit which I swear seemed to be flying over the juniper. There were a couple of poppies blooming in the sun. Spectacular day all the way around. If they don’t get more snow, there won’t be many better days this season for Big Kahuna so I’d recommend trying it soon. There was one other hiker in shorts and sneaks headed up hill during our lunch break just uphill from Kahuna. He had been told there were nice pools and vistas at the six–mile mark which I suppose is somewhere around the Barnhardt East Trail and Sandy Saddle. The regular trail is getting close to being overgrown.

Wildflowers
One small outbreak of poppies
5.5 mi • 1,500 ft aeg
Hiked this loop "trail" again to see the condition. It has only gotten worse. We started at the top and worked counter clockwise around the loop, going down the switchbacks to deer creek, up to the Mt. Peeley trailhead, and then took the road from there back to the Davey Gowan trailhead. The section down the switchbacks is completely overgrown and we had to "swim" through a half mile of bushes. The 120ft GPS route did keep us on "trial" but most all the flags folks have put up have disintegrated over the last few years. I love this area but I cannot recommend this "trail".
11.75 mi • 4,400 ft aeg
I treated this trip as an alpine overnight, parking and heading out a little after noon. Hardly anyone out on Barnhardt Trail on this Friday. The scramble through manzanita was stressful but doable! Peak and views were gorgeous. The southern descent was challenging in a different way- make sure to find the best option around cliffs and rocky outcroppings, oh and plenty more manzanita jungle. One down climb helped shortcut the journey. Made a pleasant camp on the saddle at dusk. Beautiful morning hiking out. First time up this peak and it did not disappoint! Will have to try Suicide Ridge next time.
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