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The Best Hikes of Black Canyon Trail

378 Triplog Reviews in the Black Canyon Trail
Most recent of 104 deeper Triplog Reviews
50.85 mi • 3,807 ft aeg
 I planned to hike all of the BCT beginning of April but bailed after a long first day reaching the Gloriana trailhead just off I-17 and the Bumblebee exit (triplog). Earlier this week with the upcoming cooler temperatures, my wife offered to drop me off where I left off to finish the trail.

We left home about 4:00 and headed up to Black Canyon City for the Friday Fish Fry at Chileens. We stopped at the Emery Henderson trailhead on the way where I cached a gallon of water. Fish and chips and beer really hit the spot.

After saying goodbye to my bride, I was on the trail about 5:25, earlier than I expected. The temperature was about perfect for walking; it was great to be on trail. I saw not a rattlesnake early on. Arrastre Creek wasn't flowing, but there were still large pools of water. Originally, I was hoping to reach and camp at Black Canyon Creek. It was still light when I got there so decided to continue on. The creek had good flow, so I took my shoes off and waded across. It finally started getting dark as I neared Soap Creek, so I pulled my headlamp out. Once at Soap Creek, set up camp a short distance up from the trail on the creek bed. There was a large moon and sleeping in the canyon sheltered me from it most of the night.

I set my alarm for 4:30 but didn't hear it and woke up at 5:00. I was on the trail at 5:30. I reached the first Agua Fria crossing and didn't see a spot to rock hop across, so I took my shoes off and waded. The water was ankle deep, so quite a lot less than the last time I tried to cross here. I continued on to the second crossing. Again, I took my shoes off and waded across. The river channel moved from the far bank some after the high flow this year, so that was interesting to see. I filled up my water before continuing.

When I reached the Little Pan Loop, I took the west side as I like it better than the east side. Probably because there's no road walking on the west. Not too far in I crossed a wash with a Mesquite tree providing shade, so I stopped and had lunch which consisted of a Complete Cookie, a Snickers bar, and a bottle of Gatorade; a nice quick 750 calories or so.

I reached the third Agua Fria crossing where I again took my shoes off and waded across. I kept them off as I drank a liter of water and filled my water to capacity. There were a few bottles of water cached at the Table Mesa trailhead. I thought about grabbing some, but I wasn't very far from where I filled up. It was also early enough in the day that I knew I would make it to Emery Henderson where I had water.

As usual for a Saturday, there was a lot of shooting going on in the Table Mesa area. I was happy when the popping faded away as I left the area.

I made it to Emery Henderson plenty of time before dark. I grabbed my water and went to a Ramada where I called my wife and ate dinner. I was close enough to home and had gone far enough, that I decided to spend the night. I knew the moon would be bright and being under the Ramada would help with sleeping.

I took my watch off to be able to hear the alarm, so I woke up at 4:30. It took me a bit longer to get out of camp dealing with water, etc., so I wasn't on trail until 5:15. Interestingly enough, I had to wait for traffic to cross New River Rd. There's nothing spectacular about BCT south of Emery Henderson except for the sunrises and wild burros. I was blessed with both.

From the end of the BCT (Carefree Hwy), I continued south on 51st Ave until Dove Valley Rd. Where I was not allowed to continue through the Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Co chip plant construction. After talking to the guards, I headed east on Dove Valley to 43rd Ave where I turned south. I crossed under the 303 through the construction of new on/off ramps, where I reached a chain-link fence blocking access to the south. Climbing over seemed risky as I figured I'd slip and rip my leg open and bleed out. I continued west along the fence where two gates were open for the construction. With that, I was easily able to cross the barb-wire fence, then head cross country to 51st Ave, cross the CAP canal, go through Deem Hills and made it home 10 of 11:00.

I packed pretty light for this. I had a polycro groundsheet and no shelter. I had my Thermarest XLite and down quilt. I wore a pair of running shorts and a long-sleeved button up shirt. Besides that, I had an extra pair of socks, a wind jacket and a fleece hoody. No stove, I cold soaked Saturday's dinner. I'm guessing my pack weighed about 17 lbs. at the start with all my food and a gallon of water. It should have weighed 17.5, but I forgot my Fritos.

This was a pleasant surprise. There were still lots of flowers blooming, even some poppies and some Blue Richards (why can't we write their real name?). The Lupine were all dry but fun to see.
10.8 mi • 1,650 ft aeg
 This is the first time I've done this hike since I originally wrote the guide. This is one of my favorite sections of the BCT. Except for the area around the south end at Little Pan Loop, it is a great desert hike. On this day the river was high so I waded across barefoot at the first crossing. The water came up to my knees. For the second crossing near the end of the hike I walked across in my hiking boots. The cold water felt good on my tired feet. The AEG is higher than in my original guide because I parked at the top of the last hill down to the Little Pan TH. My SUV doesn't have the clearance for that part of the road. A late lunch at Rock Springs Cafe rounded out the day.
9.7 mi • 1,070 ft aeg
 This is an enjoyable lasso loop that a buddy and I did on a gorgeous Sunday morning.

The start and finish at the Table Mesa TH are the least pleasant part of the hike. Trash, RVs with barking dogs, and the sound of being on a target range are the main reminders of civilization on an otherwise beautiful loop.

We hiked the loop counter-clockwise. The fork only has the clockwise portion of the BCT marked but the counter-clockwise trail is obvious. The trail footing, cleared vegetation, and grade were very pleasant and the views were outstanding. We didn't see anyone else on the section of the trail until the first Agua Fria crossing. The first descent to the Agua Fria went through a nice shaded area for a break. It looks like others have used it as a camping spot in the past. There was both water flowing in the river and in pools along the rock wall.

Trail finding after the first CCW Agua Fria crossing was not particularly difficult but I can definitely see where those going CW on the loop would have trouble finding the trail on the other side of the river since there is a small river walk to get there. The road walk after the crossing was as fine as a road walk can be. We did not run into any vehicles on the road.

Once we got back on the single track, we ran into three mountain bikers doing a multiday southbound bikepacking trip along the BCT. We had a nice conversation with them about the overall trail and how they were camping on the trail. Getting going again, we had great views as we went in and out of the draws and canyons. There was one particularly gorgeous canyon with what would be waterfalls if water actually fell from the sky.

Coming down to the second Agua Fria crossing was interesting for me. The "stairs" that seemed to be cut out of the rock face were a surprise but pretty cool to see. There was no water in this very wide section of the river. Given the water only a couple miles upstream, I assume it was flowing underground in this area.

Overall, the hike was a great way to spend the morning. Once a quarter mile or so past the trailhead, the beauty of the upper Sonoran desert is really on display. I'll happily do it again while just pretending the area around the trailhead doesn't exist.
6.1 mi • 1,500 ft aeg
 The guide and route were accurate, but I want to add these instructions on how to find the Soap Creek Trailhead:
To find the Soap Creek Rd. trailhead for the Black Canyon Trail, exit 1-17 and go left on Old Black Canyon Hwy. Take the first right turn onto Maggie Mine Rd. and drive about a mile. Turn left onto Maren Ave. which crosses Black Canyon Creek, then right onto Lisa Dr. Drive to the lowest point on this road where Soap Creek crosses the road. About 30 ft. south of the creek there is a dirt road that goes up steeply to the west. This is Soap Creek road, but there is no sign and it looks like a driveway for a house which is very close to it. This road crosses the Black Canyon Trail, marked by short, brown trail signs, about 0.2 mile from Lisa Dr. and there is plenty of room to park close to the trail crossing. On Oct. 31, 2019, the road was in good enough condition for any car to drive up it and looked like it was maintained. An alternative place to park is in the creek bed about 70 ft. west of Lisa Dr., where it is level and sandy with room to turn around. If you park in the creek bed and plan to hike south on the K-Mine segment from here, you should hike up the road rather than in the creek to get to the trail because the creek walls are very steep and brushy at the trail crossing.

I would also suggest checking at the visitor center in Black Canyon City regarding how much water is flowing in the Agua Fria River before starting. We didn't and were surprised at how much water is still flowing. We were a little hesitant to try jumping the stones laid across the narrowest crossing because they were barely visible and there was a small waterfall to jump across at the end of them. The rocks turned out to be stable and we made it across with dry feet. Once across the water it was very difficult to find the trail on the other side because it was totally overgrown with 8 ft. tall seep willow. It was a struggle getting through them. Look for a sandy, slightly less weedy spot just before a big patch of water in the river. I don't think this river crossing is ready for bicycles.

Creosote, Yellow Menodora, Broom Snakeweed, Spiny Daisy, Fairy Duster, Desert Trumpet, Narrowleaf Silverbush, Janusia, Lemon Verbena, Odora, Desert Wishbone, Desert Senna, Desert Lavender, Viguiera, Desert Broom (M & F), Burro Brush, Seep Willow, Tamarisk / Salt Cedar, Sweetbush, Buckwheat sp., Mesquite, Jimmyweed, Rattlesnake Weed, Slimleaf Bursage
11.2 mi • 690 ft aeg
 We hiked the alternative route posted by Mudhole, titled "Gloriana Mine to Hidden Treasure," in Feb 2018 using the parking at the large tank rather than Government Spring, which is where the BC trail now crosses Crown King Rd. We hiked it in reverse with more downhill than uphill, starting at Hidden Treasure and ending at Gloriana where we left a second car. Thanks to the excellent route and triplog provided by Mudhole, we had no problems. It is very hard to find info on hiking the Black Canyon Trail since it was designed for bicycles, which can handle a 20 to 30 mile segment between official trailheads. Learning about the Hidden Treasure parking lot was the key to making this hike possible for us. We will probably do the route from the Big Bug trailhead on Hwy 69 to Hidden Treasure next.
Another reason we chose this segment of the BCT for Oct. 10, 2019, was the recent heavy rain and that there are no river crossings on this route. Several of the other segments require crossing the Agua Fria River. Early in 2019 with a very wet winter we started hiking the Little Pan Loop segment, only to find a raging river like we had never seen before. Now we know how the large trees are uprooted and thrown about. It was an awesome sight but spoiled our hike.
Mudhole hiked this route during a long, hot drought, so conditions were disappointing for him. We were delighted to find cool, breezy conditions to start in the morning, with a continuous array of wildflowers and greenery along the way, with no signs of trash or ATV damage. We enjoyed seeing the old cattle trail sign on the left side of the trail and the nearby Bland Mine on the right. Since there is little to no shade on the trail, it did get warm in the sunny afternoon, so we took Mudhole's advice and had lunch under the Bumble Bee Creek bridge where the trail crosses Crown King Rd. About 2 miles before the Gloriana trailhead, we were surprised to find scattered on the steep hillside on the east side of the trail the largest number of Desert Rose Mallow flowers, probably about 3 dozen, we had ever seen in one place. After many years of exploring this area we had never seen any here before this hike.
One advantage of hiking a bicycle trail is that most of it is relatively smooth compared to most hiking trails in Arizona. This allows us to hike faster without constantly looking at our feet. There were a few mildly washed out areas, but nothing I would complain about. Due to recent rains there were many catclaw bushes reaching out into the trail, but most were easy to get by without getting snagged. Volunteers seem to do a pretty good job of maintaining this trail, so it is likely they will be working on it soon. We enjoyed it.

Species seen: Prickly Poppy,Desert Senna, Jimmyweed, Trailing Four O’clock, Broom Snakeweed, Rattlesnake Weed, Blackfoot Daisy, Fairy Duster, Wright’s Buckwheat, Desert Trumpet,Dogweed, Scrub Oak, Lemonweed, Viguiera, Ratany sp., Desert Broom, Desert Wishbone, Shrubby Deervetch, Desert Straw, Scarlet Gaura, Thick-leaved Groundcherry, Janusia, Fleabane, Arizona Blue Eyes, Desert Lavender, Spiny Daisy, Herissantia, Sweetbush, Twining Snapdragon, Hop Bush, Mesa Tansy-Aster,Camphorweed, Odora, Desert Rose-mallow, Desert Marigold, Pretty Dodder, Red Spiderling, Blue Palo Verde
9.31 mi • 1,016 ft aeg
 I decided to #optoutside on the Black Canyon trail for Black Friday. I hiked the Little Pan loop clockwise, starting at the Table Mesa trailhead.

It was busy on the way to the trailhead. There was even a large RV and trailer camped at the trailhead. Okay, whatever. Lots of people out shooting and riding OHVs around so it was busy for the first mile, after that I didn't see anybody else except for 4 cyclists doing the loop counterclockwise. I saw them twice, first on the west side, and then again on the east side.

The trail could use some trimming in places, especially the first mile or so and somewhat throughout the loop. It wasn't too bad though, as I never got scraped up but I did get poked a couple of times.

There was no flow in the Agua Fria on the west crossing though there were lots of pools above and below where the trail crosses the riverbed. On the east crossing, there was a fair bit of flow and I had to go downstream a bit to find a place where I could rock hop across without getting my feet wet.
12.07 mi • 1,604 ft aeg
 This was planned to be a run, but old age, rattlesnakes, no water, and perhaps doing too many hikes without enough rest in between kept this from coming off as I envisioned. Got to the TH a little before 5am. I was running later than I wanted to so skipped my store (and water) and came straight to the TH. Temps were great throughout, probably upper 60's when I started. This being my 3rd time on the trail...the trail is super easy to follow and has a nice rolling feel to it. No huge climbs. Ideal for running in that sense. But the trail seemed more rocky than I remember it, or at least, more rocky than other sections of BCT. I feel that terrain/and biker usage makes for a much smoother trail in other sections of the BCT. I will have to pay attention to this as I progress to see if this is indeed the case. I had 2 rattlesnake encounters. One about 3 miles in and the second around mile 9. Both snakes were just off the trail and we're kind enough to let me know of their presence. Also saw 12 very quiet burros (no braying) just off the trail. Ended up, walking-jogging the last 3 miles, only in part because of the snake enounters.
11.2 mi • 758 ft aeg
 Nice morning run. Started from Emery TH a little after 6am. The trail is a little rocky in parts, but otherwise ideal for jogging. The trail does piggy back onto some forest roads a couple of times that slightly detracts from the "trail experience", but for the most part it is all well signed so there is little chance of confusion. The one exception is the road that makes up the western half of the Boy Scout Loop coming in from the south side wasn't signed (I think it had been on one of my previous visits). There are BCT along this western segment, but none are visible from the juncture so I wasn't able to confirm the juncture until I had completed the loop CCW. I did deviate from the trail a little bit as I approached the Boy Scout Loop because I could see and smell smoke coming from the east. I went off trail and climbed a hill to take a look but couldn't see a source. This would have been just north of Gavelin Peak. This diversion slowed my time down, but I think it made me fresher for the rest of the run. Weather was perfect today. Mid 70's with a slight breeze to keep things cool. Encountered some dog walkers along the Boy Scout and several bikers throughout, but pretty much had the trail to myself. Wildlife was minimal some rabbits and chipmunks.
16.58 mi • 1,775 ft aeg
 I've been trying some minimilist shoes (Xero Shoes' TerraFlex) and wanted to take them on a longish hike to see how my feet do. I'd put 102 miles on the shoes with my longest days just over 10 miles. In a month I'll be departing on a long distance hike and am deciding whether to go with these or the Altra Lone Peaks I've been rocking for the past couple of years. My feet were definitely more tired with the TerraFlex but that may be temporary. Still thinking.

So the trail is in good shape. There seems to have been some rock moving/trail smoothing going on just south of the Soap Creek road junction. That's the rockiest part of the whole BCT so it was nice to see some work being done there. One thing I was disappointed about is that since the last time I was out here (last November) someone painted orange arrows/marks on the rocks crossing the Agua Fria riverbed. Totally uncalled for and actually takes one in a sub-optimum path. Ugh.

The temps seemed to be warmer than the advertised high of low 80s but I survived. Was definitely ready for a cold drink near the end though. I didn't see too much in the wildlife department other than the usual lizards, a couple of large coveys of quail, and vultures soaring. I did spot a pair of cardinals though. That's always a pleasure.

7.65 mi • 819 ft aeg
 I had planned to hike Black Canyon Trail segment #9, from Bumble Bee to Government Spring, and segment #10 on to the ghost town of Cordes, last week. At this time of year, the BCT segments north of Black Canyon City are awash in spring flowers.

The last time I hiked from Bumble Bee to Government Spring, seven years ago, I had a topo, but no GPS. Just past the mine claim gate, I went left when I shoulda taken a right toin at Albuquerque. I mean, split right. I ended up a gulch, unsure exactly where I was. I eventually managed to get myself back on the Black Canyon Trail.

You are not lost unless you both don’t know where you are and don’t know how to get to where you want to be.

The BCT was damp from light rain last night. Temperatures have also been increasing. So, once the sun was fully up, illuminating the various washes and spurs, I was hoping to enjoy some quality flora.

The first color I saw was an orange Aravaipa Running trail ribbon.

Four miles north of Bumble Bee, I turned up a wash to do a wee bit of mine exploring. The topo indicated a vertical shaft, but I did not find it, nor any evidence of past human presence other than a man made retaining wall paralleling the wash. Near the end of the wall, there was a thin metal plate across the wall. I could not pull it out, or peer past it. I wonder if it was covering an adit?

Finally, two thirds of the way into my hike, I spotted a flower, a yellow wiry lotus. And … that was it. One flower all day long. 😕

Due to the lack of flowers, I called it quits at the oasis, rather than continue on Black Canyon Trail segment #10 to Cordes. Not only did I avoid the subsequent Sunset Point brush fire, but my wife & I had time to stop at historical Rock Springs Cafe for lunch and a slice of their best-in-Arizona pie. 🤗🥧

Hike Video: [ youtube video ]

One. Just one.

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