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Horsethief Lake Trail - 3 members in 7 triplogs have rated this an average 3.7 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Sep 17 2022

 Photos 178
 Triplogs 160

40 female
 Joined Oct 26 2011
 Tempe, AZ
Horsetheif Basin Walk, AZ 
Horsetheif Basin Walk, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 17 2022
clairebearTriplogs 160
Hiking2.87 Miles 393 AEG
Hiking2.87 Miles
393 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners none no partners
Bradshaws camping with friends for a friend's bday. I forgot how rough the road gets after passing Crown King. We had a few campsites together at Hazlett Hallow campground. I get restless sitting around camp for hours so around mid afternoon I walked up the road to Horsethief Basin. I walked back to camp just in time as they were getting ready to visit the lake, so I got in the back of a truck and went back to the lake (basin). :)
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May 07 2022

 Guides 7
 Routes 160
 Photos 701
 Triplogs 198

39 male
 Joined Nov 30 2015
 Phoenix, AZ
Horsethief loop, AZ 
Horsethief loop, AZ
Run/Jog avatar May 07 2022
ShatteredArmTriplogs 198
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
May 28 2015

 Guides 27
 Routes 61
 Photos 2,620
 Triplogs 700

66 male
 Joined Jan 23 2008
 Phoenix, AZ
Horsethief Lake TrailPrescott, AZ
Prescott, AZ
Hiking avatar May 28 2015
AZWanderingBearTriplogs 700
Hiking0.60 Miles 35 AEG
Hiking0.60 Miles      45 Mns   0.80 mph
35 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners partners
While we had visited the lake quite a few times, had never hiked all the way around. One guy and his kids were fishing off the dam. The ducks with chicks in tow were patrolling edges of the lake. Found some fish bedding on a shallow sandbar. Lots of tracks of varying kinds leading down to the water. We'd seen 4 nice sized deer on the drive in about a half mile from the lake. A peaceful little walk to end the hiking day.
Fauna [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Mallard Duck
Named place
Named place [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Horsethief Dam Horsethief Lake
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated

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
All you have is your fire...
And the place you need to reach
1 archive
Sep 18 2010

 Guides 4
 Photos 2,750
 Triplogs 400

57 male
 Joined Nov 13 2005
 Cave Creek, AZ
Horsethief Lake TrailPrescott, AZ
Prescott, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 18 2010
cabelTriplogs 400
Hiking1.00 Miles 15 AEG
Hiking1.00 Miles   2 Hrs      0.50 mph
15 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Flora [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Coffeeberry
All who wander are not lost...just me.
1 archive
Jun 02 2010

 Guides 9
 Routes 818
 Photos 10,980
 Triplogs 1,941

66 male
 Joined Jan 20 2009
 Far NE Phoenix,
Horsethief Lake, AZ 
Horsethief Lake, AZ
Hiking avatar Jun 02 2010
The_EagleTriplogs 1,941
Hiking0.30 Miles 20 AEG
Hiking0.30 Miles
20 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners partners
It'd had been 4 of 5 years since I'd been out to this area, so today was the day.

This is triplog 1 of 3 from the Prescott Nation Forest including Horsethief Basin Rec Area and the Castle Creek Wilderness.

Getting to to this area is half the fun. It's 27 miles of dirt road (1 hr drive) to get to the town of Crown King. It can be done in a passenger car. Make sure to stop in the General Store/Post Office for any of your needs before heading out into the Wilderness. It's worth the stop to see a bit of history up there. They have gas available there, but a $2.00 more a gallon than in the valley make sure you have enough. I talked to the nice lady working the store and was able to get copies of trail desc/maps for 7 of trails in the area. The Saloon and ex Brothel (The Oldest in the State of AZ) is right next door. I'll talk about that in Triplog 3.

OK, leaving Crown King it's a 6 mile drive to the Horsethief Rec area and Lake. I'd recommend high clearance on this road, there are a couple of spots that may be dicey in a car.

The Crown King Area was hit by a fire in August of 2008. There are burned areas on the drive to Horsethief Lake that just make you sick.

There are no actual trails around the Lake, but it's a nice place to relax, eat lunch, and explore the Lake and Dam area. This section was spared fire damage.
Culture [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] HAZ Rides
There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
Dave Barry 🦅
Aug 27 2008

 Guides 1
 Routes 130
 Photos 21,554
 Triplogs 992

74 male
 Joined Feb 28 2003
 Tucson, AZ
Crown King - After the Fire 2008, AZ 
Crown King - After the Fire 2008, AZ
Car Camping avatar Aug 27 2008
rwstormTriplogs 992
Car Camping
Car Camping2 Days         
 no routes
1st trip
Had to do a quick trip up to check out things after the nearly 10,000 acre fire almost wiped out the town. It was pretty grim driving between Crown King and the Hazlett Hollow Campground. But thanks to the incredible efforts of the fire fighters, almost all of the buildings and recreation areas survived. On the way up, I stopped at the saloon at Cleator for a beer. The gal bartending asked if I was going up the mountain. I said yes, and she said, "Well, I have to go up and fill in at the bar up there, so guess I will sell you another beer in Crown King." And so it was, I got served by Judy, both at Cleator and Crown King. That was cool!!

This was the 10,000 acre Lane 2 Fire, which was started by a signal fire for lost hikers getting out of hand (sound familiar?). Of course this year (2012) the town was again threatened by the 16,000 acre Gladiator Fire (caused by a propane explosion at a nearby residence). I'd say the folks up there have been pretty well spooked in recent years. :scared:

I don't get up that way very often, but like the campground in Horsethief Basin. I must say it was really kind of creepy camping there, with nobody else around and the smell of fresh burn in the air. I slept in the back of my truck that night, and the sound of mice crawling around on the underside of the truck added to the spookiness! I took quite a few pictures of the old historic buildings along the way, because the fire was a reminder of quickly they could be gone.

I haven't been up there since, but might have to take a drive up soon to see how things look after the 2012 fire. (posted 9-22-2012)
average hiking speed 1.42 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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