On July 4th, 2015 we finished section hiking the AZT northbound to Stateline Campground on the Utah Border. Fast forward to 2019 and we decided to hike the AZT southbound and start from the same Stateline Campground on same July 4th weekend. However, this time our plan was to do multi-day backpacks instead of day hikes to complete the trail.
We had a shuttle pick us up at South Rim of Grand Canyon visitor center and drive us around to Stateline Campground where we camped July 3rd. Next morning on the 4th we started about 545am up the trail. Our goal, 5 days to make the South Rim by Monday afternoon.
Day 1 - Good start in the morning as the trail climbs out of House Rock Valley and up onto the Kaibab Plateau. We ran into 2 hikers in the first 2hours but then nobody else rest of day. Up on the plateau it’s lots of Juniper, Pinyon Pine, Sage brush and gates. Several AZT gates have been new additions since our 2015 hike. We passed Joes and Government Reservoir before the trail finally climbs into the Ponderosa Pine. With a few side trips in search of water (Umbrella Tank and Ponderosa Trick Tank were good) we covered about 23 miles first day and camped near FR 249.
Day 2 – Now in the pines the trail gradually climbs higher and the scenery gets better with the addition of aspens and Douglas fir. We only had 5 miles to reach Hwy 89A crossing. We ran into a retired couple who was on the last part of their AZT trip northbound and interesting to talk with them for a bit. Moving on we headed up to Buffalo Tank where I found decent water in the metal tank (not the cow tank). Continuing the trail heads above 8,000 feet so it was nice until we hiked into the burn section. There is an 8 mile long burn area but we did find good water at a wildlife cement trough before finding camp in a cluster of Ponderosa. 19.5 miles
Day 3 – We finished crossing the burn area and passed Crane Lake (water not very accessible but we didn’t need any). We continued onto Little Pleasant Valley which did have water but again we didn’t need any. Really enjoyed the section from Crane Lake to Dog Lake and East Rim area. Lots of meadows and thick forest crossings. Near Dog Lake there is a wildlife cement trough which had great water. Filtered four liters before hiking to East Rim to take in some views of Saddle Mountain Wilderness and Marble Canyon in the distance. We continued on to Crystal Spring which also had excellent ice cold water. Filtered another 5 liters before hiking another 2.5 miles to our nights camp. We found a nice spot in the aspens and mixed pines. 23.8 miles
Day 4 – Only objective was to make the North Rim Lodge where we had a reservation. Shower, cold beer, and something other than trail food was a good motivator. We only had to cover about 17.5 miles our shortest day yet. Being motivated we made the lodge by 145 and fortunately they let us check in early. After getting cleaned up we headed over to the bar for some beverages and grabbed something from the deli. Great way to spend the afternoon and evening before crashing for the night!
Day 5 – We arranged for the 4am shuttle back to the North Kaibab Trailhead. The shuttle was quick so we started shortly after 4am with headlamps for the first 45 minutes. North Kaibab trail is still one of my favorites despite lots of people. From the Supai Tunnel down there are no mules allowed so the trail below that is always great. Was able to turn off the headlamp just below the tunnel as we descended to Supai Bridge. Favorite part is the switchbacks through the Red Wall and down to the Pumphouse where we took the first break and got some water. We encountered maybe 10 people on the way there which wasn’t too bad. After the break we headed for Cottonwood Camp but continued on with our next stop at Phantom with the exception of a short break in The Box which always a nice section even as things started to get warm.
Eventually we made it to Phantom and stopped for an ice cold lemonade and some salty potato chips at the cantina. Took a fairly long break to get ready for the hot hike out. Once we were all hydrated and ready to go we pressed on across Black Bridge and started the long hot hike up South Kaibab. The bottom part felt like an oven especially since it was almost noon. We stopped in the shady spots for a breather when we could and there is a good spot just below Tip Off that is there probably all day. After Tip Off we continued up through the Red Wall and found another nice shady spot just below Skeleton Point where we took a break. Once past Skeleton it was noticeably cooler and we were able to keep going to the rim. We hit the rim just before 4pm and happy to be done with about the first 105 miles of AZT sections 43 to 38.
We took the shuttle over to the visitors center to a waiting vehicle and then much earned Mexican food at Plaza Bonita in Tusayan!
Long time since I've done this hike and like Joe mentioned it's worth the drive. We hiked up Marshall Gulch and into Wilderness of Rocks. Really great trail that makes it way through the rocks and pines as we traversed the WOR. It was a bit warm but given the heat in Phoenix we were not complaining. Good water in two crossings around Lemmon Creek which also had plenty of shade. We took our time crossing the WOR since it was the highlight.
However, once we started up Mount Lemmon trail #5 we were pleasantly surprised with a lush fern forest as we made our way up to Radio Ridge. We stopped along the top and found a rock outcrop for lunch with great views of the WOR that we had just traversed. After lunch we continued past the top of Mount Lemmon and over to the ski lift. We decided to go down the Aspen Trail just far enough to then hike back up the ski run under the lift. Back on the ridge we continued over to the Summerhaven side of the mountain and down to Mint Spring trailhead.
From there it's an easy hike on good trail over to Marshall Gulch junction. Again the ferns were abundant especially around Mint Spring. A little rain started to fall but nothing too heavy as we finished up the hike back at the trailhead.
Joe and Bruce had hiked this same loop in 2013 but it's changed a lot since the fire that pretty much took out 80% of the route. We had various conditions from road hike, trail, bad trail, and no trail. The no trail was particularly rough with very thick Manzanita and scrub Oak that took us awhile to negotiate. However, to counter the tough sections we took some nice breaks in the sections that survived the burn. There are some good stands of ponderosa still left especially on Big Bug Mesa and the area around Seaton Spring where we had lunch.
Near the end of the hike we dropped off Big Bug Mesa and did more off trail down to Grapevine Spring. It was steep down to the spring but not the thick brush we encountered earlier in the hike. Again some of the ponderosa forest survived above the spring and made for a decent hike. The spring had good water with decent pools along the creek. From here it was probably best trail of the day for the last 2 miles back to the vehicles.
After the big Saturday hike on AZT Happy Jack #28 we did short hike on the same section. The previous day we had to leave the AZT short of the trailhead so we hiked the 2 miles we missed. This section is also a newly completed section that takes it off the road and onto single track. Really nice section that contours through heavily wooded pine forest. We hiked until we reached the point where we left AZT the previous day before heading back to the trailhead.
Shortly after turning around we ran into 3 hikers heading southbound and talked to them for a few minutes. In conversation they said they were hiking AZT #30 to their car they had dropped at the other end of 14 mile section. Only problem is they were heading southbound instead of northbound towards the waiting car and they had the wrong section #28 instead of #30. I showed them their error and they headed back to the trailhead they just left. Kathy and I wondered how long they would have hiked before realizing they were hiking in the wrong direction. Funny thing is she had a GPS so that was apparently not helping their navigation very much
The original plan was to do an extended version of the Cabin Loop but I didn’t check the fire situation and the forest service had closed the area when we arrived at FR 300. I had cell signal so I slapped together an alternate route close by on the Happy Jack AZT #28 section.
We car camped Friday night and got started hiking at 5am. Morning route took us on some forest roads until we eventually looped around to the AZT at Bargaman Park. From there we headed southbound on old AZT before meeting up with the newly completed section at Wild Horse Tank. We continued southbound following flags on the yet to be completed AZT for about 3 miles. It was interesting to explore this yet to be completed trail which takes if off the road and on single track. Eventually we got back on the current AZT and hiked back to Wild Horse Tank where we then hiked another new section northbound back to Bargaman Park.
From Bargaman Park the AZT goes back to original trail as we headed northbound towards Gooseberry Trail head. We hiked within about 2 miles of the trailhead before we had to leave trail and follow old road back to our car camp spot. Long day but nice to see all the newly completed and soon to be completed AZT on this section. Also, great to see it being moved off the roads and onto nice single track.
Looking at the forecast I noticed that the high temp in Phoenix was only supposed to be 78. I had to do a double take as I thought it was a misprint. But that was the forecast and not wanting to be on roads Memorial Day I opted for something close to town. Decided on this long loop in the McDowells starting from Lost Dog trail head.
I headed for Sunrise Peak with some cool clouds and really nice temps. Took my breath on the summit and then went back down to the Andrew Kinsey Trail. Only saw one other hiker on this very pleasant stretch of trail. Eventually made it down to Adero Canyon trail head which I haven’t seen since it was completed. Although I’m not 100% sure it’s open yet since there was nobody there and the road to it is unpaved.
After that it was onto the Promenade Trail and the Sonoran Trail where I did not see any other hikers. The Sonoran ends at Dixie Mine Trail where I started to see lots of hikers presumably heading for Thompson Peak. Then I jumped on Prospector Trail to Bell Pass Trail where again I didn’t see anyone.
Very windy at Bell Pass as I dropped down towards the Paradise Trail turnoff. Then jumped on Paradise Trail and had lunch in the wash. After lunch I continued on Paradise Trail to Quartz and past Taliesin Overlook. Last 2.5 miles back to Lost Dog went quickly. Still can’t believe it was only 78….never felt hot during the entire hike. Too bad it won’t last
Another cool day in the pines. Kathy had a dog from the animal shelter she wanted to take out for the day so we chose Horton Springs area. While Kathy went up Horton Springs Trail I headed up Derrick Trail and the plan was to meet at Horton Spring. Derrick Trail was in decent shape and not very steep so I made the Highline turnoff quickly. Once on the Highline it’s a super trail and I think some work has been done since last time I hiked it. Making good time I decided to try the Promontory Butte Trail with the goal of getting to the rim. The trail is in rough shape and unfortunately I lost the trail and ended up on some game trails about 200 feet short of the rim. Not wanting to waste too much time headed back to Highline Trail.
Back on the Highline it’s quick hike over to Horton Springs where Kathy was waiting. Only saw 3 people on the Derrick and Highline trail with great weather so it was a very pleasant hike. However, being Memorial Day weekend Horton Springs Trail was somewhat a cluster as expected. Despite that still was able to check out some of the cool cascades on the way down canyon. At least the shelter dog had great time away from the kennel
We wanted to hike in some snow so we headed up to Bear Jaw-Abineau Loop. Of course, there was plenty of snow and we packed the micro spikes and gators. At the parking lot there were about a dozen skiers heading up Abineau who planned on skiing the bowl above Waterline Trail. We went up Abineau first and started seeing deep snow about 1.5 miles up trail. Fortunately, it was packed down and still a bit frozen in the morning so very little post holing. Once we got to the Waterline Trail junction we could see the skiers up the hill above tree line. There was a distinct snow switchback trail they were using to hike up the hill.
After watching the skiers for a few minutes we ventured down Waterline Trail. On Waterline there were some pretty substantial drifts and we had to traverse a few sections side slopping. After about a mile the drifts were less frequent and by the time we reached Bear Jaw junction there was mostly patches of snow remaining. We continued down Waterline for another couple miles to check out the trail and snow conditions…mostly clear except on the shaded turns. Eventually we headed back to Bear Jaw junction and exit back to the trail head. A lot less snow on Bear Jaw but still nice…the real winner was the weather. Perfect sunny day, with low wind, and about 45 to 50 degrees
We made the drive up to Tanner trailhead Friday morning and started about 9am. The plan was to hike down Tanner Trail to the beach on the river and then continue on the first part of Escalante Route downstream towards our destination Unkar Creek. However, instead of hiking the 3 miles of Escalante Route to Unkar we ended up pack rafting that distance from just below Tanner Rapids to Unkar Rapids. Most of the current between rapids is fairly calm with only a few riffles.
Once we were in Unkar Creek we headed upstream to find a camp. We were surprised by a pleasant flowing stream in Unkar that Dave had mentioned last time was nearly dry. Eventually we found a good camp spot about 6 miles upstream to set us up for the summit attempt.
Next morning started hiking around 6am up canyon towards Freya Saddle which was top of the red wall. The red wall break to Freya included two bypasses around pour offs but they were fairly short and easy to navigate. We made the saddle by 830 and then continued on the traverse over to the Supai layer which was the next obstacle. The traverse is very long rough terrain so it took us a few hours to navigate to the Supai. From this point we didn’t have good data on the Supai route so we had to figure it out and piece together the route. There were some cairns that assisted getting through several layers but eventually we cliffed out on the top Supai layer. We looked around and tried several different approaches but could not find anything that looked like the right route or could work for us. After several hours trying figure out the puzzle we decided that a summit was no in our future.
We took a break before heading back on the traverse to Freya Saddle. The trip was faster going back and the down climb from the saddle back to camp also went fairly quick as well. Once back at camp we decided to pack up and hike the 6 miles back to the Colorado to make the last day shorter. We made camp late around 730 but still some light to setup.
Next day we just had to hike out from Unkar up the Escalante Route back to Tanner beach and then up Tanner Trail to the vehicle. The clouds rolled in on the hike out so the temps were cool and towards the top it started to rain and actually quite cold on the rim with wind and rain. Despite not making the summit it was a fun weekend in the canyon and we learned more about the route. Just need better data and research to make the summit more likely.
We did Windgate Pass Loop a little different than normal starting from the Legacy parking lot instead of Gateway. Started on the Desert Park Trail to Windgate Trail and over the pass. Then around the backside over Bell Pass to Gateway Loop and down to Horseshoe Trail back to Legacy. Nice loop with cloudy and somewhat cool overcast skies.
Fun weekend but not too much hiking. The CCCragin reservoir was great and I've never kayaked on it before..only hiked in the area. The lake was basically full from the winter snow so conditions exploring the reservoir were very nice. Chumley was looking for a volunteer to get one of the kayaks to our camp spot so I joined in on a short hike and enjoyable kayak back to camp. We had a combination of kayaks, floaties and pack raft to chose from for floatation so there was no shortage of water opportunities.
Loop hike up Bell Pass around the backside and then up East End Trail. Down Tom's Thumb trail and back to the Gateway TH. Still some decent spring flowers at the top around Toms Thumb. Feels like summer already
Visiting some family found a couple of hours to go for trail run. I needed something close by so the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area was only 15 minutes away. Not the most exciting area for hiking but the trail running was great. Flat sandy two track to run on with a couple of lakes for scenery. Looks like popular fishing area with signs all over for anglers. As is typical for Florida had a short but torrential downpour on the last mile of the run. Wish I had more time to check other state parks and wildlife management areas because there are quite a few in this part of central Florida.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.