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Coal Camp Spring Trail #203 - 4 members in 6 triplogs have rated this an average 2 ( 1 to 5 best )
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May 07 2022

 Guides 7
 Routes 160
 Photos 731
 Triplogs 202

39 male
 Joined Nov 30 2015
 Phoenix, AZ
Horsethief loop, AZ 
Horsethief loop, AZ
Run/Jog avatar May 07 2022
ShatteredArmTriplogs 202
Run/Jog16.19 Miles 3,682 AEG
Run/Jog16.19 Miles   5 Hrs   19 Mns   3.05 mph
3,682 ft AEG
no photosets
Was looking for something slightly cool with the 100 degree forecast in town, so Horsethief area seemed to fit the bill. There were a couple of trails I wanted to check out. Started at the SW end of Algonquin and took that down into Horsethief Canyon. Wasn't too hard to follow, just missed one switchback, and catclaw wasn't really an issue until the last quarter mile.

Then a brief flat-ish stretch in the canyon, and the steep climb up. Once at the Recreation Trail junctions, I headed east towards Twin Peaks. The first part was nice, but the climb up through the manzanita was kinda meh. Once into the forest it was was more pleasant.

Once back to the roads, I headed over to Kentuck Spring, and up to Horsethief Lookout. This trail was in decent condition. Chilled at the top a couple minutes. I had considered checking out East Fort, but it looked like it was burned to a crisp so I ditched that idea. Headed down Coal Camp Spring "trail", the first couple hundred feet of which offered false promises. It looks like someone started mowing a path through the manzanita, but gave up. The part on the ridge wasn't terrible, but a couple hundred feet of the drop down towards the saddle was straight up bushwhacking through manzanita and other scratchy things. But it eventually started opening up and the last part wasn't too bad, I even managed to find a cairn at one point.

The rest was just on road, headed down to Horsethief Lake, then back up to Algonquin TH. Traffic on the road wasn't too bad until the last mile or so, think I hit the post-lunch rush from CK.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Horsethief Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Lots of pools above the Algonquin junction, only found one stretch with a very slight trickle. Also a pool and a trickle where the Horsethief trail crosses a side drainage a half mile or so from the Recreation trail.
Mar 25 2021

 Photos 1,241
 Triplogs 237

28 male
 Joined Jun 02 2019
 Phoenix, AZ
Big Dipper - Horsethief Loop, AZ 
Big Dipper - Horsethief Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 25 2021
LJWTriplogs 237
Hiking22.48 Miles 5,046 AEG
Hiking22.48 Miles   8 Hrs   19 Mns   2.97 mph
5,046 ft AEG      45 Mns Break
1st trip
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
I heard there was some trail work done around Horsethief Basin and in the Castle Creek Wilderness, so I was curious to check out the conditions of the trails as well as see how the water was flowing in Horsethief and Poland Creeks. Started at the northern Algonquin TH around 7:30 and went clockwise starting with The Big Dipper.

Algonquin down to the Horsethief Trail junction is wide and clear. Left the trail where it crosses Poland Creek and hopped my way down. One tricky section where the water pools between slippery rock walls. Didn’t want to get wet, so I slid my way across on the south side of the creek. Big Dipper was running pretty good, lots of water in Poland Creek. First time seeing it running, pretty neat. Figure most are waiting a week for the temps to climb to get some swimming in.

Back on Algonquin to Horsethief Trail, which received recent maintenance. Trail is in brilliant shape. Tread is clean and the path is clear. Probably my favorite trail on the day. Steep climb up to big views.

Next was Twin Peaks Trail. Again, recently maintained and in good shape as far as I went. Looped around using Twin Peaks between Horsethief and the 240 TH. Gate is locked to get to the TH, though there’s parking on Senator not too, too far away.

Walked Senator Highway to Kentuck CG, which is no longer a true CG and is day use only. Kentuck trail is in good shape until higher up where it gets a little brushy but never too bad. Stopped at Horsethief Lookout. It’s closed for the pandemic but still offered good views of Lake Pleasant and the surrounding Bradshaws from the windy steps.

Worst part of the day was Coal Camp Spring Trail. One mile of trail from the LO to the road is lost to the forest. Needs to be regraded higher up and cleared the whole way through. Pretty good bushwack for about a mile from the LO to where it reaches the road that goes from Senator/Horsethief Lake to Coal Camp Spring/South Fort.

Road walk to Senator and then down to Horsethief Lake. Bad timing and I got there just as a few other folks pulled up. Had a walk around. Fun, short trail especially where it crosses along the dam. Then again, I’m a sucker for the small mountain lakes.

Three more miles of road walking to the southern Algonquin TH. Algonquin has been recently cleared the whole way and is a dream to follow. Big views as the trail descends. Good tread, no bushwacking. Was worried the whole hike about its condition, but it’s pretty much a highway the entire way now.

Got back down to the creeks and then back up. That final climb is never as bad as it seems. Mostly cloudy day, high 30s to low 50s. Didn’t see anyone besides a few trucks driving on Senator.
 Named place
 Named place [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Horsethief Lake

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Big Dipper - Crown King Quad Medium flow Medium flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Horsethief Canyon Medium flow Medium flow
4 archives
Apr 29 2017

 Routes 98
 Photos 6,095
 Triplogs 1,159

54 male
 Joined Apr 25 2011
 Goodyear, AZ
Horsethief Basin East Fort South Fort Loop, AZ 
Horsethief Basin East Fort South Fort Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 29 2017
NightstalkerTriplogs 1,159
Hiking6.88 Miles 1,653 AEG
Hiking6.88 Miles   4 Hrs   15 Mns   2.17 mph
1,653 ft AEG   1 Hour   5 Mns Break14 LBS Pack
Third time back in as many years to Horsethief Basin. The views are spectacular, I get to use my Jeep for what it is intended, lunch at the Mill afterwards, and fudge from the Crown King General Store; it is the quadfecta hike trip!

Gathered up my hiking harem at the McDonalds at I-17 and Carefree highway for the 2 hour drive up to Horsethief basin. I originally planned this as a beat the heat of Spring hike, but a cold front set our trailhead temp between 37 and 40 degrees. Luckily, we were prepped for the cool start.

The road up to Crown King is bladed and graded and high speed in the Jeep. The initial part of the road from Crown King to Horsethief Basin has recently been graded and is nice and smooth. It doesn't last long until you're bouncing your way through rocks and ruts on your way to the Recreation Area and toward the Fire Tower Lookout. If you leave Phoenix early enough, you will have little to no traffic to contend with on your way up the hill.

There's room for 2 cars on FS52 at the trailhead for East Fort Trail #31. We decided to do something different this year. We started our day with a hike up FS52 to the Horsethief Lookout Tower. The attendant passed us in his Suzuki Samurai on the way up, but was in no hurry to climb up the expanded metal steps and open the tower for visitors. That's OK, we were anxious to get on the trail and get out of the chilly early morning winds.

I was looking forward to Coal Camp Spring Trail #203 as it would cut some roadwork out of this already jeep road heavy loop. To quote The Eagle from his 2012 triplog, "Coal Camp #203 to Jim Creek #235 - Nice little Connector to both Willow Springs and Jim Creek TH's from the Lookout. Route not bad, GPS Track helpful" and Hansenaz from 2016, "After the overlook I needed some IT help. (Invisible Trail) But not too dense and easy enough to keep heading the right way. This whole area has burned and though it's much more green than black these days I think the net effect is that some old roads have disappeared. Eventually I hit a Jeep Rd / ATV track and took that to South Fort." From the lookout tower, there's a sign and the trail starts nice enough with some deadfall and wild flowers (weeds), but the footpath is easy enough to follow. The romance with #203 didn't last long though and we found ourselves searching for the path of least resistance through the dense fields of catclaw. Undeterred, we pushed through the pain for a little over a mile before coming out on the road to Jim Creek Trail and ultimately, South Fort Ruins.

It was a nice reprieve to be out of the catclaw and picking up the pace down the road. We were rewarded with beautiful purple snapdragons lining the roadway. For as windy as it has been over the past week, we were afforded great views south over Lake Pleasant, Cardinals Stadium, and South Mountain.

Coming back down from South Fort and heading north on FS696 toward Willow Springs trail saved us the brutal ascent up the fire cut doing the loop in the opposite direction as we had done in the past. There were a couple of slips and falls as we dropped off the hill but no injuries were sustained.

reaching the bottom of the hill we turned right on East Fort Trail #31. Nature has started reclaiming this trail at spots and despite having been on the trail twice before, there was a couple of sections that left scratching our heads for a moment. The snow capped San Francisco peaks were visible to the north and blooming hedgehog cactus were littered throughout the ruins. After enjoying some caffeinated jelly beans and relaxing on the warm rocks, we made our way back up to the jeep.

On the way back out, we stopped and took in the sites around Horsethief lake and then down into Crown King for a delicious lunch at the Mill and a round of fudge at the Crown King General Store.

What a wonderful day only 75 miles from Phoenix.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Extreme
Snapdragons abound!

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Coal Camp Spring Gallon + per minute Gallon + per minute
Running water and pools

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Horsethief Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full
Mar 17 2012

 Guides 263
 Routes 842
 Photos 13,360
 Triplogs 5,340

52 male
 Joined Nov 20 1996
Kentuck-217 Coal-203 Jim-235 Willow-236, AZ 
Kentuck-217 Coal-203 Jim-235 Willow-236, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 17 2012
joebartelsTriplogs 5,340
Hiking16.20 Miles 4,167 AEG
Hiking16.20 Miles   9 Hrs   33 Mns   2.01 mph
4,167 ft AEG   1 Hour   30 Mns Break13 LBS Pack
no photosets
1st trip
Fourth trip into the upper Bradshaw range. Algonquin / Horsethief / 201 Loop remains my favorite. Not interested in doing this one again yet it had some nice moments. Most notably the stellar views of Lake Pleasant on the Willow Springs Trail #236 and the Willow Spring area.

We lost the trail heading down Jim Creek #235 near the end. The bushwhacking slowed us down. Luckily it wasn't horrible cats claw, just undesirable dense whatnot. Found the trail at the bottom so it's probably much easier than we made it. Tore my shirt to smithereens.

Lost the trail briefly heading up Willow 236. Luckily that was short lived and the trail got consistently better heading up. Cats claw is overgrown often on 236 yet no war wounds to heal.

Water: carried 4 quarts, only consumed 2... overcast all day and breezy cool enjoyable

Whistle Pitch: the difference in tones proved interesting. Opinions still differ yet I believe we can all agree we need more cow bell.

Partners: Bruce seems to enjoy hiking without sleep now. John just doesn't complain enough for 50 consecutive days of hiking.

Wildflowers: spotted Indian Paintbrush often and small verbena or such on occasion

Locals: shiny happy people holding hands
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
- joe
Mar 17 2012

 Guides 9
 Routes 818
 Photos 11,137
 Triplogs 1,975

66 male
 Joined Jan 20 2009
 Far NE Phoenix,
Kentuck-217 Coal-203 Jim-235 Willow-236, AZ 
Kentuck-217 Coal-203 Jim-235 Willow-236, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 17 2012
The_EagleTriplogs 1,975
Hiking16.80 Miles 4,205 AEG
Hiking16.80 Miles   9 Hrs   33 Mns   2.17 mph
4,205 ft AEG   1 Hour   48 Mns Break17 LBS Pack
1st trip
My Quest to see if any other trails still existed in the Horsehief Rec Area.

Based on Trail descriptions received from the Crown King General Store a few years back, I'd drawn up the supposed tracks using the HAZ-Route Manager for these and others up there. I first do a simple trace using the TOPO! Map and the track indicated on TOPO!. Then switch to the Satellite view to move/add to the track to where it is now-a-days. The problem with most of the tracks in the Bradshaw's, is that they have not seen much traffic since the fire back in 2008.

Our route was:
- Kentuck #217 to the Horsethief Lookout -
Nice little hike to the Lookout. Route is thin, GPS Track helpful
Views from the Lookout are top notch

- Coal Camp #203 to Jim Creek #235 - Nice little Connector to both Willow Springs and Jim Creek TH's from the Lookout. Route not bad, GPS Track helpful

- Jim Creek #235 to Milk Ranch ruins -
Hard to find the start of this trail. Track gets worse the farther South you go.
If you are lucky enough to be "On Trail", be careful not to trip on overgrown Cairns.
GPS Track "Extremely" helpful

- Willow Springs #236 to FR 696 (W/Side trip to South Fort Ruins)
From Milk Ranch a "Very Rough" 4 x 4 track until you get to Willow Spring. Willow Spring area is real Cool. The climb out of the Spring area gets thin in spots. (GPS Track very Helpful) Views of Lake Pleasant are sweet. The .5 mile RT side trip to the South Fort Ruins area are the highlight of this trail and hike for me. Not that the ruins are that spectacular, but the views are some of the best up there.

- FR696 to FR52 (Senator Highway)
Road walk back to the Start

As always, Dinner back at the Crown King Saloon / Brothel was "Interesting", but there is plenty of history hanging on the walls.

No wildlife seen on this hike, including Cows or Elephants, but that's not too unusual on hikes w/ Joe.

A big thanks to Joe for driving.

I'm glad John got to "Experience" Crown King". Thanks for joining us!
 Fauna [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Teva
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Joes Tank 26-50% full 26-50% full
Muddy Water

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Willow Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
There was a 4' round 24" deep clear cool pool of water. There were two concrete troughs in the area that were dry and no longer operational. Look for the spring 30' North of the old 25' hand formed Trough.
There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
Dave Barry 🦅
Mar 17 2012

 Guides 1
 Routes 12
 Photos 5,437
 Triplogs 4,380

65 male
 Joined Mar 16 2008
Kentuck-217 Coal-203 Jim-235 Willow-236, AZ 
Kentuck-217 Coal-203 Jim-235 Willow-236, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 17 2012
johnlpTriplogs 4,380
Hiking16.80 Miles 4,205 AEG
Hiking16.80 Miles   9 Hrs   33 Mns   2.17 mph
4,205 ft AEG   1 Hour   48 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
Fortunately for all involved no elephants or cows were seen on this hike - only heard. This was my first trip up to the Crown King area. Pretty cool, worth a visit. I won't elaborate on the hike as Joe and Bruce did a nice job with that. Post hike activities at the bar were most interesting. Enjoyed a crown king ale with dinner. Fun hike, great company. Thanks for driving Joe, and thanks to Bruce for organizing the trek.
 Flora [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Wild Candytuft
 Culture [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Windmill
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
“Good people drink good beer.” Hunter S Thompson
average hiking speed 2.3 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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