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The Best Hikes in Cedar Bench Wilderness

29 Triplog Reviews in the Cedar Bench Wilderness
Most recent of 15 deeper Triplog Reviews
0 mi • 0 ft aeg
Oxbow - Cold Springs - Tule Rim Loop
The_Eagle summary is closer to what I experienced then the topohiker summary...without the app, and even with it, many areas are extremely difficult to find/follow. I have map/compass but without the app I would have struggled to make it out without a couple more days of choosing bearings and trying to follow them with all the bushwacking necessary.

At one point I just went down to the creek bed and boulder hopped it since I could not find the trail paralleling it. At the point the trail crossed the creek bed the trail still was not visible!

There had been no recent trail maintenance.

This is not an easygoing, enjoyable, even moderate backpacking trip.  It is frustrating, challenging and difficult.  Valley views are great....saw no one in my 2nites/3days...makes sense since the_eagle post was 7 years ago.

Water was available in Horse Tank(and other tanks) at the SW Oxbow TH and pools in the creek bed.

A bear went by my campsite night 1.
Saw white tailed deer.
4.5 mi • 2,469 ft aeg
Wow. This was an old-fashioned butt kicker. After a short drop into the creek bed and a short trip upstream to the beginning of the narrows, the trail climbs STEEPLY up the left hand slope. The trail is loose, rocky and STEEP. It climbs to a couple different saddles each one seeming like you're getting somewhere, only to find yourself staring up at another range of hills. After crossing over into the Cedar Bench Wilderness the trail climbs along a large interior canyon. This is the easiest part of the trip. It too eventually climbs to a windy saddle where you will see yet another high mountain looming above you. Relax, this is the last one. From here the trail gets rather faint but, unlike, other trails in the area, I was able to stay on it without backtracking and scouting. Eventually it climbs to another saddle that is heavily grazed and the trail begins to slope down and you get a glimpse of the mountain ranges beyond. This was my turnaround point.

The trail is difficult and obviously seldom travelled. It reminded me of old Arizona hiking--steep, rough, lonesome and wild. Definitely worth the effort.
18.58 mi • 4,239 ft aeg
Squaw Peak Loop-with Goat Spring
Joe hikes Squaw Peak quite often.
So when it finally got cool enough for me to give it a try, I had a loop all drawn up.
Little did I know this wasn't the same Squaw Peak the Joey's been doing. ](*,) He said his is now called Piestewa Peak...

We parked just off of 574, not knowing what the road in would be like.
The road walk to the Goat Spring Trail was the warmest part of the day. Temps got close to 80 with none of the predicted wind or clouds. The rest of the day it was in the 70's, but very humid.

We got to the Goat Springs Trail #352 and started making our way up canyon. The trail was in decent shape with only mild overgrowth in places. Shorts all the way, with very few scratches on the day. The Goat Spring area, as well as a few others areas in the canyon, were thick and lush, but never a problem to get through. The canyon did narrow the closer we got to the top, but it was just some sweet mild bouldering, all the way to the top. We hit about 4 or so dry falls, the tallest about 30', that were fun climbs. I really enjoyed this canyon. An hour later these dry falls, were probably water falls.

Up top and out of the canyon, we got a reprieve from the climb. Instead we had 1-1/2 hours of a steady rain, turning our trail runners into trail weights.

The rain stopped just in time for us to find a cabin that I'd spotted on GE. It has sign of recent roof work, but the rest of it was kinda trashy.

We ate lunch with a view of our peak in sight. It ended up being an easier traverse across the mesa than I'd feared. Finally up top, there were great views to the North and East. We'd talked about climbing this one for three years and finally did. We rejoiced as a couple of ORV's drove up... Cheaters...

On the way down, Joe almost stepped on a 4' Gopher Snake that he never saw stretched across our path. This was the second snake on the day he almost stepped on and did not see. The first slithered right between his legs as he was walking.

Good to get this one done. but there is still unfinished business out there....

Video :next: https://youtube.com ... 6d9s
18.55 mi • 4,310 ft aeg
Goat Springs Trail - Squaw Peak 6525 Loop
Goat Springs Trail #542 exceeded my expectations. Do not get excited. It's just a hike into a forest that hasn't been wiped out by fire. A couple seeps are marked in my [ gps route ] . Forward ascending views are steep grades covered with junipers. Ending in a canopy of trees that included walnut and cottonwoods near Goat Camp Spring. Perhaps five years past maintenance yet very shorts friendly. No flowing water. The seeps only produced enough for some mean looking foxtails. A couple small pools off route you might be able to filter in a pinch.

Upper Goat Spring Canyon
Soon after #542, the trees parted for a scattered boulder hop. No catclaw. Live oak teased once or twice. Kept expecting the worse and it was a saint the entire way. The upper end has three dryfalls. Maybe two twenties and a ten. Just fun.

Mudland to Squaw Peak 6525
The fun was over. A medium downpour lingered through breezeless drab... cattle range. Each step gained a pound of unshakable clay like mud. Mini victories of mud separation never lasted more than two steps. A cabin on Arnold's Mesa helped bring sanity back into play. The rains let up and we heard a hunter exiting his post.

Squaw Peak looked intimidating in the distance. Halfway across the bench of the cedarless wilderness we lunched with chasm views. Travel eased and before we knew it we were on Squaw Peak in perfect weather.

Return
Road walk. Down a steep powerline grade. Road walk.

Carried 4 qts, consumed 3
5.4 mi • 2,513 ft aeg
Oregonian down in AZ to borrow some sun. Of course, with all the rain and snow I found every road closed or flooded or impassible by passenger car.
But! HAZ is an amazing resource. I got my poor little VW Jetta (2wd and low-clearance) all the way down to Brown's Spring /Gap Creek TH. Walked down to the Verde hoping to get to Towel Creek that way, but the river was huge. Went up to Cold Water Spring for a quick one night backpack.
The trail was in good shape, wide and easy to read. It gets a little cowed-out near the stock ponds- nothing that two mins of detective work won't solve. The beginning and end of the trail are very steep with softball-sized rocks underfoot, but the views of the Verde and Towel Peaks / Hackberry area are worth it. Beware the various gates- they want to hurt you. One has a hasp made of barbed wire and one is so taut you are liable to pull the fence down on yourself. Saw a mule deer, a few cows, and a big horned lizard. Fabulous area and no sign of anyone else hiking recently.

Wildflowers
Just emerging, but there will be some nice lupine carpets soon.
8 mi • 1,000 ft aeg
I became aware of this trail because my wife's father, a Camp Verde resident and an avid hiker had talked about this as being a nice little trail. It sounded as if it would be a trail that we all could do. Unfortunately, when we planned the trip we weren't very thoughtful. We chose to drive my low riding Camry. The Camry handled the first dirt road (574) fine, but as soon as we turned on 9602 I knew that there was no way my car could handle it. (Sigh). So we ended up pulling off to the side almost immediately, about .25 miles in, and walking to the TH from there. That is when I discovered te other piece of bad news....my Garmin was dead :( . So basically, all the info about this hike is approximation.

Walking the 9602 road to the TH wasn't too bad, but it was all up hill, which took a toll on my wife and her father. The road is very doable for any vehicle with high clearance. I would guess its about 1.75 - 2.0 miles to get to the TH from the start of 9602 road. The trail, when you get there, is very easy to see. It starts from the left side of the road and is signed. About a 100 yards from the sign, there is a sign in book. I counted about 15 signatures over the last year, so the trail does get a little bit of use. Two of the groups in the last month had been fairly large, a 13 and 14 member hiking party. About a .5 miles in my wife and Clif opted to stop and turn back. From there I picked up the pace and didn't spend too much time enjoying the scenery because I didn't want them to being waiting too long.

Initially, the trail is very easy to follow. Slightly overgrown in a couple of spots. Prior to reaching the junction of Hell's Hole and Goat Spring there are literally 3 seeps in the middle of the trail. Literally! Two feet above or below the trail there is no indication of moisture. But where the trail crossed there was a nice muddy mess. At 1 of the seeps the terrain was flat enough you could actually go around it, but the other 2 had a significant slope that made going around it challenging. I tried on one to go up and around on 1 of them and almost fell right into what I was trying to avoid :o . (On the way I grabbed some large stone to assist in crossing 1 of the seeps). After passing the trail junction, it is less than .2 miles to reach the first stream crossing. The crossing was rather disappointing. For about the last . 5 miles before the crossing I could hear the stream below me. I couldn't see it, but I could hear it and it sounded decent in size. My stream crossing was a 4 inch rivulet. The trail picked up right on the other side of the stream and I could immediately tell that the traffic dropped with that daunting crossing. Trail was still very easy to follow, though the overgrowth occurred a little more frequently. The trail entered what I would call a broad canyon but I got "squeezed" (more enclosed) the further I went. I quickly noticed that there was a new stream to my left. I'm sure this stream joined with the one I had just crossed, which would account for why it sounded like so much more. The trail crossed this new stream twice, going from one side of the bank to the other. And with each crossing the trail got a little more difficult to follow. By the time I did the second crossing I felt as if I was in the forest. The sky was obscured by the trees above and the trail by the fallen leaves below. The trail was more of an impression that anything else. I followed the trail to the stream bed for a 3rd time (just prior to this I passed 2 ribboned trees, so I felt pretty good about still being on the trail) and decided this was Goat Spings. I actually have no idea if this was or not. There was no sign saying "here be Goat Springs". But I felt fairly certain that I had hiked in 2 miles from the TH and there was no clear trail heading away from that crossing. I added a rock to a cairn which I took to me mean the end of the trail and turned around and headed out.
29.91 mi • 6,949 ft aeg
Oxbow / Cold Water Loop
This was my first time in the Pine / Cedar Bench wilderness(s). The drive in was pretty easy. Dugas road was recently graded. There was one interesting sign stating that it is illegal to drive on the road when it’s wet. That’s one way to keep the road in good condition

My original plan was to a big loop with the Verde Rim trail. When I got to the parking spot and got out, the wind was so fierce that it closed my jeep road for me. The wind was bitter cold. I didn't want to spend the day fighting the wind. I went to a plan B, hike down Pine mountain to the Verde River.

I parked 2 miles from the Oxtail TH. The road starts to get rocky after this point. The wind was brutal along Dugas road. I had to wear a wool hat and gloves under I dropped under 4,500 feet!

The Oxtail trail

The trail starts right off of Dugas road by a tank. You enter a gate and take a hard turn to the left. The trail drops fast down to drainage. I lost the trail for a couple of minutes in the drainage. The trail was well cairned and very easy to follow. There was a cairn almost every 15 feet. Sometimes there were to many cairns. This is a very old trail and there’s been recent trail maintenance done to it. The views on the trail very great. I saw snow on Humphreys. My only gripes is the amount of rocks and drops off. There are a lot of rocks on the trail, sometimes it’s almost like scree. There are sections with drops. Sometimes you would get both. Scree rocks with drop-offs! This made for a very slow moving hike. The trail ended at the Brown Spring TH. I took the Towel trail to the Verde. The Towel trail is an old road that follows and crisscrosses the Towel creek. The Towel trail crosses the Verde and continues to Fossil Creek RD. This was an great place to explore, but I had a big climb ahead of me so I didn’t stay long.


Cold Water trail

The Cold Water trail is an old jeep road that doesn’t believe in switch backs! The trail has some great views of the Verde valley. After the Cedar Bench the road turns into trail. The cold water trail is also very easy to follow. There’s been recent maintenance done to this trail as well. Shortly after the Tule Rim intersection, the Cold Water trail takes a sharp turn to the right and climbs up to Dugas road. This was the monster climb of the day. The trail gained 1,000 feet (5,200 to 6,200) in a little more than a half mile. I felt like I should have had a climbing rope! Half way up, the wind started to blow. The Cold water trail ends about a quarter mile from the Verde Rim trail. Once on top, the wind died down.



I went a little down the Verde Rim trail just to see what I pasted up for the day. Once I got on the trail section, I was not impressed. It started out right as a cairn hunting exercise. I liked the Cedar Bench trails better.
It was a fun hike. The Cedar Bench wilderness is a cool area. The trails are cleaned up and the views are great. The cold wind was a bit much. I’ll return on a warmer day.

This was my first hike with HAZ tracks. It was cool to get hiking stats as you hike. The only down side is that the HAZ lady reminds me how slow I am at climbing :(
4.87 mi • 1,085 ft aeg
Cedar Pine Wilderness
I got to hang out with the Beards and Chums all weekend! :DANCE: It was full of drama -- laughs, tears, blood, beers.. what could go wrong? We even managed to get a little hiking in, here and there. Sat on top of a small peak, watched the sun set, hiked a wash, saw some rosebushes, almost fell off the face of the earth via the world's second worst road ever. Definitely the makings of a good weekend. :D
4.87 mi • 1,085 ft aeg
Cedar Pine Wilderness
I love rain. And snow. But my plans for this weekend were to take me to the single worst place you would ever want to be if there is rain in the forecast. So on Thursday, it was time for a reset.
Camino Campana Trail
Camino Campana Trail

Luckily, the wilderness beards needed to get out and gather some ingredients for a future ale, and I wanted to take advantage of a rainy, cold, snowy, day in late April. The stars aligned, Liz wanted to come along, and we all set out for fun and adventure.

The wilderness beards now have a new truck that runs on homemade fuel from the duck fat they make their french fries in :y:

We headed for the Pine Mtn Wilderness, where the road had been graded in the last week. It's as nice as it could possibly be. The grader was still parked out there. The rain and snow made it a little muddy but not too bad. The issue out here is that the mud is like cement. It sticks to everything. I think chains would be useless since your tires just end up coated in 4-5" of mud, rendering traction useless. Oh well. We managed it ok after taking our sweet time.

After an afternoon stroll up Tank Canyon -- a beautiful slick-rock canyon with pools of water that would be stunning during spring or monsoon runoff -- we headed up the western hillside to capture the sunset. It's a surprisingly difficult climb, 700 feet above camp. The views were stunning. The snow-capped Bradshaws, dominated by Mingus, Union, and Towers, filled the horizon to the west. It was frigid and windy up top and we headed back down in the dark. Jon took a spill and hit his head. We had a bit of a scare since he was dizzy and disoriented, and bleeding pretty good. Head injuries are no joke, and I had the full first aid kit out back at camp. Once it was cleaned up and Jon remembered who he was and some other basic info, we relaxed a bit, and settled in by the fire.

In the morning, we hiked up toward Pine Mountain. Plenty of water in Sycamore Creek. We spotted a beautiful Golden Eagle that kept flying just a little bit farther than us. At one point I was trying to position myself for a photo, when it decided to drop a huge bomb in my direction before flying off. Luckily I avoided the incoming. Unfortunately, I didn't capture a photo.

Next we headed over to Pine's northerly neighbor--the red-headed step child of wilderness areas--Cedar Bench. I had set out to do a pic mimic of the most unique photo on the wilderness wall. It was the most entertaining part of the weekend for me, despite my total failure at capturing it even remotely close to the original. Oh well.

Liz was happy that we didn't continue driving the road that turned into a singletrack that even quads would have a tough time driving. Amazing it's so close to Camp Verde, and yet so rarely visited.

Overall a great weekend. Nice recovery from a plan that the weather washed away. Can't wait to see what I come up with next year!
2 mi • 200 ft aeg
Gap Creek to Verde River
Since I'm spending alot of time in Camp Verde these days, I've been exploring the area along the river. Today I took Salt Mine Road aka FR 574 to its end at what the forest service calls the Brown Springs Cabin. This is where Gap Creek crosses the road and where the Verde can be accessed. The trailheads for Oxbow Trail and Cold Water Trail #27 are here, too.

Water was running down Gap Creek, with more pouring out at the parking lot. I think this is Browns Cabin Spring. I went through a gate and followed the trail down the little canyon, crossing the rocky creekbed a couple times keeping with the trail. Three horses were in the little canyon, but they were tame (horse shoe prints) and the bay on the trail let me pet him as I went by.

I came upon another spring near the gate at the bottom of the canyon. Don't know the name of this one, but it was putting out alot of water. Then the canyon ended onto a floodplain and the Verde River.

I explored the area a bit, making note of where Jake had noted access to Towel Creek for a future hike. The river is very high right now and I wouldn't want to try to walk across. It seems unusually high and fast this winter.

After hiking upriver for a ways, looking at some rapids where the river is split around an "island", I made my way back. The horses were now in the corral by the cabin, but there were several other horses at the parking area.

The road out here is in really good shape, with a small dozer and a grader parked by the Chasm Creek trailhead. BTW, that area is closed til June 30 for eagle protection--I think it's called the Ladders. Sometimes F&G opens it earlier if the nesting is unsuccessful.
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