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Buckhorn Mountain - 3 members in 5 triplogs have rated this an average 4.7 ( 1 to 5 best )
5 triplogs
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Mar 14 2015
Tough_Boots
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 Routes 67
 Photos 2,708
 Triplogs 755

64 male
 Joined Mar 28 2008
 Phoenix, AZ
Buckhorn MountainPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 14 2015
Tough_Boots
Hiking9.20 Miles 3,859 AEG
Hiking9.20 Miles
3,859 ft AEG
 
1st trip
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chumley
neurolizer
sbkelley
Scott invited us to do Buckhorn. I'd never heard of it so I said yes. It turned out to be a pretty sweet off-trail summit that only a couple Hazzers have done.

The view of Four Peaks from the summit was worth the whole day-- you'll never get a better view. We hit the summit together but decided on different ways down. Scott hurried back down the drainage we went up to get back to Tanya and Rincon waiting for us on the trail. Chumley wanted to explore another ridge and then drop back down. Richard and I were curious about an old trail that appears on maps that rides the ridge so we headed east.

We knew there had to have been something there. Where it eventually runs into trail #130 is very obvious. We ended up taking the ridge a little low and eventually rose back up. It was thick and a chore every step of the way. Eventually we bailed on our route.

We found wood cuts up there (not to mention the fence line) so there was definitely a trail at one point in history. Now that I've spent some time looking at maps, I'm pretty positive it must have been the original route for the Four Peaks Trail or what was once called the Granite Springs Trail. It looks to me like the old trail takes off up the ridge about 3 miles in from Mills Ridge TH (just after Granite Spring), rides the top of the ridge, and then would hit the current trail again near Black Bear Saddle.

Thanks for the invite, Scott! Killer hike-- in a good way.
Named place
Named place
Granite Spring

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Buckhorn Creek @ Trail #130 Light flow Light flow

dry Granite Spring Dry Dry
bone dry
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Mar 14 2015
chumley
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 Guides 81
 Routes 688
 Photos 15,651
 Triplogs 1,596

48 male
 Joined Sep 18 2002
 Tempe, AZ
Buckhorn MountainPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 14 2015
chumley
Hiking9.47 Miles 3,918 AEG
Hiking9.47 Miles   7 Hrs   5 Mns   1.62 mph
3,918 ft AEG   1 Hour   15 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
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sbkelley
Tough_Boots
A great hike up to the #1 A+ view of Four Peaks -- Buckhorn Mountain. With lots of off-trail options to get up there, and all of them looking thick and ugly, we settled on heading up the main drainage at the 4-mile mark from the Mills Ridge TH. The drainage is a bit overgrown, but not too difficult to travel, with no prickly plants. Eventually we left the drainage, heading up the steep, grassy slope on the left side of the drainage where the small grove of pine trees stands. Near the top there were a few thickets of young trees to fight through, but all-in-all, it was much easier than any of us had planned for.

It took just over an hour to reach the summit from the trail, climbing 1200 feet in 6/10ths of a mile.

At the summit we enjoyed the stunning views of the east valley, the entire Superstition range, the Sierra Ancha and Lake Roosevelt, and the best view of Four Peaks you could ever imagine. The various Motherlode routes are displayed crystal clear from this angle, and studying the highlights and obstacles from here was a real treat.

We split up on the way down to investigate other route options, and I chose the ridge just north of the drainage we had gone up. It was thick, and downhill momentum is all that made it tolerable. Ascending here would be nearly impossible. I reached the trail in just under 30 minutes and headed back the .35 miles to the drainage we had gone up before continuing on to meet up with the others.

Along the way, I donated my beloved eTrex to the Mazzy god Man Za Nita. It will be missed, but quite certainly never found. :-({|=

It was nice to be on the trail with some new faces. Thanks to sbkelley for putting this one on my radar.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
The lower mile of the hike featured plenty of poppy, lupine, and some others.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Buckhorn Creek @ Trail #130 Light flow Light flow
With no additional rain, this should trickle for another week or two, and then be reduced to pools before drying up.

dry Granite Spring Dry Dry
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33s over 45s
1 archive
Mar 14 2015
sbkelley
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 Guides 6
 Routes 13
 Photos 1,377
 Triplogs 184

36 male
 Joined Mar 29 2007
 Reno, NV
Buckhorn MountainPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 14 2015
sbkelley
Hiking9.10 Miles 3,918 AEG
Hiking9.10 Miles   7 Hrs   5 Mns   1.56 mph
3,918 ft AEG   1 Hour   15 Mns Break
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
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chumley
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Tough_Boots
This was a great area - glad to have finally made it over there. The views all day were top-notch and the poppy/lupine show on the lower part of the trail was great.

The trail is deceptively steep as it makes its way up to about the 5600' level near the dry Granite Springs trough, and the decent flow in Buckhorn Creek ~1.5 miles in was a nice surprise. Rincon and Tanya sat out what we assumed would be a tough bushwhack that never really materialized. The main drainage coming down from Buckhorn's summit to the east was pretty manageable. About halfway up the drainage, we spied a line on the grassy, forested slopes up to the south (left) which got us on the ridge about 300' beneath the top. The relatively flat summit area was covered in a thick carpet of grass, and the unique views of the Superstitions and Four Peaks were great. I didn't linger long, wanting to get back down to Tanya and Rincon waiting below, while the other guys checked out different lines for the descent. Great day and great company - would highly recommend this area!
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Buckhorn Creek @ Trail #130 Light flow Light flow

dry Granite Spring Dry Dry
no water in drainage or trough
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1 archive
Feb 11 2012
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Buckhorn MountainPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 11 2012
Outlander
Hiking18.00 Miles 8,448 AEG
Hiking18.00 Miles   33 Hrs      0.95 mph
8,448 ft AEG   14 Hrs    Break
 
1st trip
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The mission was to make an amphibious landing at the base of Goat Mountain, proceed north to Buckhorn Ridge, drop into Bronco Canyon, check a few springs, and then bag Buckhorn Mountain proper.

Goat Mountain is an interesting area, having both scenic beauty and historical significance. According to local resident, Tad, (short for Tadpole) behind Goat Mountain is an old thoroughfare used by pioneers and Indians back in the day. While Tad was very inebriated while we spoke, there might be some truth to his story, as I found remnants of an old trail, a stone wall, and some excellent petroglyphs.

The flat east of Goat Mountain could have been an Apache stronghold during the Indian wars; perfect for hiding stolen horses right under the nose of passing U.S cavalrymen. The place is easily defended: sheer cliffs of Goat Mountain to the west, and boulder fields to the north and south. In any event, it has some cool petroglyphs and much to explore.

From there I headed up Buckhorn Ridge, stopping to take a few pics at Seven Cottonwoods Spring along the way. The ridge is quite the hump, rising 4000' in elevation over two miles. There are several routes one can take up Buckhorn Mountain, but I do like my southern route the best. For one thing, it gives the mountain the respect that it deserves, hiking it from the bottom to the top, taking all the punishment that it can dish up at you. I am a purist when it comes to peak bagging: the mountain gets the victory unless it is traversed fully, from base to summit. Anything less is cheating; and deserving of a Barry Bonds, steroid-era asterisk in the HAZ Hall of Fame.

Hiking the ridge was not overly difficult; it has a steady climb and few rocks to scramble over; the Manzanita is light, except for the top two miles where it will try to put some hurt on you. I had the peak nearly bagged on day one but opted to drop back down into Bronco Creek to check some springs. One of them was pretty good, though I doubt it will run through the summer like some of the great ones near the Peaks. Bronco Creek runs most of the upper two miles, having some nice ash and oak trees along its course. I ended up camping at the creek for the night, bedding on a nice area of dried moss.

The wildlife at this corner of the Three Bar Wildlife Area was disappointing: I did not see a single deer, big horn, or javalina over the 18 mile hike; and there were few tracks to be found. The absence of tracks told me all I needed to know...and so did the bones. Bleached bones of dead deer litter the ridge-line, lying in great heaps in some areas; testament to the carnage that happened there, the extirpation of a once flourishing deer population. In contrast, the deer herds within the Walnut Canyon fenced enclosure, (the fence keeps predators out) just a few miles distant, are thriving.

The disappearance of the deer in the 3 Bar is a mystery: some people blame it on the 'drought', some say that the deer fell victim to alien abductions, and others blame it on predatory leprechauns.... Me, I say it was the lions. There were lion tracks everywhere, made by several individuals, up and down the ridge. Let us hope that the lions do not run out of deer completely, lest they start eating Boy Scouts and hikers instead.

Bagged Buckhorn Peak around 11 AM, paid my respects, and then headed back down the mountain. The descent was much easier than the way up, arriving at the lake around 5:30 PM. The last stop was at the Apache Lake Resort bar, where I chatted up the locals and ate dinner. It was not long before I bragged: "six hours ago I was standing on the top of that mountain over yonder". This impressed no one. In fact, they did not believe me, which I did not mind, as those are my favorite stories to tell.
Named place
Named place
Goat Mountain
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Cottonwoods Spring Gallon per minute Gallon per minute
This spring looks to run through the summer. It is not high flow and you might have to do some digging to get at it. Better water to be had at the lake, or walk up Ash Creek.

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Nov 01 2007
Hansenaz
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 Guides 4
 Routes 184
 Photos 7,245
 Triplogs 417

68 male
 Joined Apr 06 2005
 Phoenix, AZ
Buckhorn MountainPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 01 2007
Hansenaz
Hiking10.00 Miles 3,000 AEG
Hiking10.00 Miles   7 Hrs   10 Mns   1.40 mph
3,000 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Of the 15000+ triplogs recorded here I can't find any direct reference to this place. That's a little suprising considering this is one of the prominent high points in the near-to-Phoenix Four Peaks Wilderness.

I had wanted to look around here for some time and some Google searching had brought the expectation that the trails weren't very good - victims of past fires and subsequent regrowth - but I decided to check it out.

The Mills Ridge Trailhead is accessed from the Roosevelt Lake area. It's 5 miles up Forest Road 429 which comes off Rte 188, 1.4m North of its intersection with the Apache Trail (Rte 88). With road construction along the way (particularly through Miami) it took me about 3 hours to reach the trailhead from Phoenix. FR 429 is a fairly spectacular drive along a ridgecrest and doable by standard cars as long as it's dry.

From the trailhead take trail #130 (apparently this is the southern end of the Four Peaks Trail) which is also part of the Arizona Trail. Most internet accounts I found about this area were written by AZ trail through hikers or organizers. To my surprise there was another vehicle at the trailhead - bowhunters - I actually did see a couple mule deer along the trail.

The sandy trail climbs consistently until it crests a ridge and drops into the Buckhorn Creek drainage. A nice surprise here was that the trail passed through some Salado ruins. There must be 8-10 foundations and potsherds were everywhere. On the way back I noticed some ruins on the first hilltop above the trail.

The trail switchbacks out of the drainage but eventually it disappears. I had pre-loaded waypoints into my GPS and they turned out to be useful: there was a transition period before the route became "stay on top of the ridge" where these clues helped - not in staying on the incipient trail but in not wandering off in the wrong direction. Often when I did find the old trail I noticed an offset from the waypoints - the offset exists in both the Topo and Garmin maps. It's moderately steep and slow going but with long pants arterial bleeding can be avoided.

Once the top of Buckhorn is firmly in sight its a matter of staying on the shallow ridgecrest and working upwards. The summit isn't really marked. There are a few cairns dispersed along the trail which continues beyond the top - I'm not sure which is highest and didn't notice a register. The most distinguishing marker is an old barbed-wire fence, first visible near the summit. There are trees and brush and I had to wander around to get a clear view of this "back side" of the Four Peaks. It took me 4 hours and the GPS said 5.3 miles to reach the top.

Planning the trip I had hoped to make a little triangle by descending the northeast ridge to Camelback Mountain (this one has to get much less traffic than the other one), and then Camelback's southeast ridge back to the trail, avoiding the drop into Buckhorn Creek. I still think this is a good plan - if you have to bushwack you might as well go someplace new, right? - but I was marginal for remaining daylight and water and so I just headed back. The descent was a little better, mainly because I had my choice of two ways through the thicket - what I could see and what I had done on the way up.

All-in-all I'm glad I went but I can't recommend this as a pleasant hike.
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average hiking speed 1.38 mph

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.

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