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South Fork - Gold Ridge Loop - 22 members in 60 triplogs have rated this an average 3.1 ( 1 to 5 best )
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May 09 2020
AugustWest
avatar

 Photos 63
 Triplogs 23

46 male
 Joined Mar 16 2019
 Gilbert. AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar May 09 2020
AugustWest
Hiking13.95 Miles 3,447 AEG
Hiking13.95 Miles   7 Hrs   11 Mns   2.12 mph
3,447 ft AEG      37 Mns Break
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Route Scout GPS Route Recorded on Route Scout View
The Goldridge portion of this loop was uneventful. A pretty hike, that is dominated by the manzanita scrub that allows for views and sunshine. The path was wide open and in great shape.

South Fork Trail embodies the paradox of the Arizona mountains. The really beautiful places that see no human traffic are hard in most cases to get to. This is obvious to anyone reading this, but I need to say this to bring closure to my experience today.

I dropped into the South Fork canyon with high hopes. After Goldridge I was hoping for a shady, tree-lined glade similar to what you get in the first bit except with living rather than burned out trees. Boy was I in for a suprise. The upper third of this trail is absolutely stunning and nearly impossible to follow any semblance of a trail.

There are ribbons and the occasional cairn. Every once in a while the track pops out for 20 feet only to disappear in a jumble of brush, fallen snags, and the nasty brush you never want to see (poison ivy and the like).

The creek is crystal clear and running at the perfect flow. I ended up in a couple of pools up to my waist and the water was soothing to my shredded skin. The beauty is incredible like most of what I have seen in the Mazatzal's, but the pain here is too over the top to do this one again.

Saw a mountain lion drinking from the creek as I came down one of the high banks. This place is wild enough that he didn't seem to bothered by me. He scurried off down the trail that I was about to continue on down the canyon.

Parking lot was empty and I only saw people at the end of Goldridge in the first camping spot at the end of the FR.

dry Pigeon Spring Dry Dry
Nada unless mud is your thing

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max South Fork Deer Creek Medium flow Medium flow
Perfect flow almost the entire track up to the manzanita section at the end.
_____________________
Wildflower seed in the sand and wind
May the four winds blow you home again
Mar 30 2020
DixieFlyer
avatar

 Guides 35
 Routes 377
 Photos 4,819
 Triplogs 340

male
 Joined Jan 07 2017
 Fountain Hills,
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 30 2020
DixieFlyer
Hiking13.90 Miles 3,688 AEG
Hiking13.90 Miles   6 Hrs   46 Mns   2.32 mph
3,688 ft AEG      47 Mns Break
 
I did this hike 5 days ago and liked it so much that I decided to do it again. Last time I did the hike solo, but this time I met 3 friends at the TH. Normally we would have carpooled to the TH, but in this era of social distancing, we each drove to the TH.

The hike was similar to last week: the climb up on the Gold Ridge Trail was a tough one; break time at Camp Grasshopper was a winner; and the descent on the South Fork Trail was a lot of fun.

There was still a good bit of water running in the South Fork of Deer Creek, but it seemed to me to be a bit less than last week. Wildflowers on the lower portion of the South Fork Trail are amAZing right now!

We saw one person on the Gold Ridge Trail, and he was doing trail maintenance. On the South Fork Trail we met 2 people about 1.5 miles from the TH. Other than that, we had the trails to ourselves!
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
Wildflowers were moderate on the Gold Ridge Trail; were close to non-existent on the upper portion of the South Fork Trail; but were substantial if not extreme on the lower portion of the South Fork Trail. The owl clover, stemless primrose, fleabane, and desert marigold were definite winners!

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max South Fork Deer Creek Medium flow Medium flow
_____________________
I'd rather die of exhaustion than die of starvation.
1 archive
Mar 25 2020
DixieFlyer
avatar

 Guides 35
 Routes 377
 Photos 4,819
 Triplogs 340

male
 Joined Jan 07 2017
 Fountain Hills,
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 25 2020
DixieFlyer
Hiking14.00 Miles 3,714 AEG
Hiking14.00 Miles   7 Hrs   17 Mns   2.22 mph
3,714 ft AEG      58 Mns Break
 
It had been about a year since I had done this hike, and it seemed like a good one to do in this era of "social distancing".

I encountered 3 people on the hike: a guy doing trail maintenance on the Gold Ridge Trail; and 2 people on the South Fork Trail not too far from the trailhead.

I did the hike by going up the Gold Ridge Trail, and then coming down South Fork. The first mile on Gold Ridge is at a relaxed uphill grade and is a good warmup; but the next 2.5-3.0 miles are a steep butt-kicker. The trail is in pretty good shape though and has mostly been well-maintained. I don't think that they have done any maintenance on South Fork recently, and it seemed in worse shape when I hike it last about a year ago. For me, the going was a bit slow for the first 4 miles or so on South Fork.

There was a good bit of water flowing on South Fork, which made that portion of the hike enjoyable.

I enjoy this hike, and right now is a good time of year to do it.
Geology
Geology
Sedimentary
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
In some sections of the hike I'd say that the wildflowers were "subtantial", but in other sections they were non-existent, which is why I rated it "moderate". There was a wide variety of flowers though.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Pigeon Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
There was a good bit of water in the spring, but I really couldn't tell how much per minute there was.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 South Fork Deer Creek Heavy flow Heavy flow
There was a good bit of water flowing, and a few nice waterfalls.
_____________________
I'd rather die of exhaustion than die of starvation.
1 archive
Mar 21 2020
lanewinblade
avatar

 Photos 96
 Triplogs 14

44 male
 Joined Nov 04 2009
 Gilbert, AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 21 2020
lanewinblade
Hiking13.10 Miles 2,920 AEG
Hiking13.10 Miles
2,920 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
First time to this trio of trails, definitely will not be the last. The original plan was to go up Gold Ridge and back down South Fork but the running water in South Fork lured us in. Just a beautiful hike...the creek was flowing, the flowers were blooming the weather could not have been more perfect and we never saw another sole the entire day. We made it about 5 3/4 miles or so up South Fork before the trail simply disappeared. Spent quite some time trying to locate it again but were never successful which was incredibly frustrating considering how close we were to the road at the top. Oh well, the trip back down was twice as nice and even saw some waterfalls on the way out that were hidden from the other direction. The Mazzies are in full bloom and flow right now!
_____________________
Mar 07 2020
hikerdw
avatar

 Routes 165
 Photos 2,579
 Triplogs 427

61 male
 Joined Aug 16 2009
 Mesa,AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 07 2020
hikerdw
Hiking13.32 Miles 3,211 AEG
Hiking13.32 Miles   6 Hrs   4 Mns   2.41 mph
3,211 ft AEG      32 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Had this hike on the list and after seeing triplogs from @trekkin_gecko, @chumley, and @BiFrost, figured this would be a good time.

Gold Ridge Trail
AKA Switchbacks are for Sissy's. Ryan led the charge up so we made pretty good time. Saw a herd of elk just past South Fork Tank. Trail was is great shape, no remaining patches of snow.

South Fork Trail
We hiked down to the creek and stopped for an early lunch. Two and a half hours to this point. I led the navigation down the South Fork Trail. Overall not to bad. Some deadfall to go around or over, some steep spots with a thin trail tread, but overall, considering your hiking in a creekbed, not too bad. Three hours back to the car from where we had lunch.

Great to good trail conditions, excellent weather, flowing water, what else could a AZ hiker ask for :D
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
Very light in spots.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Pigeon Spring Dripping Dripping
Catchment was full.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max South Fork Tank 51-75% full 51-75% full
_____________________
Feb 09 2020
trekkin_gecko
avatar

 Guides 7
 Routes 363
 Photos 4,421
 Triplogs 2,905

62 female
 Joined Nov 17 2008
 phoenix, az
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 09 2020
trekkin_gecko
Hiking13.74 Miles 3,396 AEG
Hiking13.74 Miles   6 Hrs   14 Mns   2.32 mph
3,396 ft AEG      19 Mns Break
 
1st trip
got an invite from chums to hike this loop
kyle and karl came along, too
all new trails for me, so it sounded great
especially the part about south fork having some maintenance done recently
got going mid morning
deer creek to gold ridge, then a sustained climb of 3k in 6 miles
topped out on 201 near camp grasshopper, where we took a break
down peeley road, then a drop into south fork
very scenic with flowing water the entire way
trail was flagged and cairned and easy enough to follow
a few creek crossings, a few downed trees, and some steep bits getting away from and back down to the creek
kept things interesting :)
but nice to have the last couple miles be easy ones
temps were good for this, although it was breezy up high
nicely sheltered in the creek
good to hike with chums, kyle and karl again, and meet lily - what a sweetheart
thanks for the invite, guys

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Pigeon Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
spring box had a layer of ice on top

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max South Fork Deer Creek Medium flow Medium flow
good flow the entire way
_____________________
May 11 2019
DixieFlyer
avatar

 Guides 35
 Routes 377
 Photos 4,819
 Triplogs 340

male
 Joined Jan 07 2017
 Fountain Hills,
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar May 11 2019
DixieFlyer
Hiking13.80 Miles 3,420 AEG
Hiking13.80 Miles   6 Hrs   32 Mns   2.53 mph
3,420 ft AEG   1 Hour   5 Mns Break
 
Partners none no partners
I had originally planned to hike up to Promontory Butte today, but with a weather forecast of likely rain and thunderstorms on the Rim, I instead decided to do this hike, which I had previously done about 15 months ago.

This turned out to be a great hike, and I liked it much better than when I previously did it.

We started the hike at the Deer Creek TH; took the Deer Creek for a short distance to the junction with the Gold Ridge Trail; went up the Gold Ridge Trail until it ended at FR 201; then we took FR 201 for a short distance to the junction with the South Fork Trail; then took the South Fork trail down to the junction with the Deer Creek Trail; then took the Deer Creek Trail back to the TH.

The Gold Ridge Trail has an AEG of about 3,000' over roughly 6 miles, and you get a good workout on the climb up. It is really green right now, and there are still several wildflowers blooming. There are really nice views along the trail.

The South Fork Trail was the highlight of the hike for me, and I enjoyed it much more than on my previous hike. The creek was flowing pretty good, and there were a number of waterfalls along the way. Joe and The_Eagle did this hike about 6 weeks ago and they reported that wildflowers were really prolific on their hike. I figured that the wildflowers would largely be gone, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were LOTS of wildflowers still blooming along the trail, which was an unexpected bonus! There are a fair number of downed trees along the way, but the deadfall was much less than on my previous hike. The deadfall was generally easy to get around, and I did not think that it was too bothersome. The trail is a bit difficult to follow in places, but there are lots of cairns and ribbons on tree branches that are helpful. Having a GPS track would be useful on the hike however.

This hike is a keeper imho, and I will definitely do it again sometime!
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial
There were still substantial wildflowers along the South Fork Trail. Wildflowers on the Gold Ridge Trail were more in the moderate/isolated category.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Pigeon Spring Dripping Dripping
I did not see how the water flow in the spring was, but the tank was full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max South Fork Deer Creek Medium flow Medium flow
There was a good flow of water in the creek -- there were a number of waterfalls and clear water was in the pools. However, it was not a problem to get across the numerous creek crossings on the South Fork Trail.
_____________________
I'd rather die of exhaustion than die of starvation.
3 archives
Mar 30 2019
joebartels
avatar

 Guides 241
 Routes 830
 Photos 11,805
 Triplogs 4,643

50 male
 Joined Nov 20 1996
 Phoenix, AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 30 2019
joebartels
Hiking13.48 Miles 3,730 AEG
Hiking13.48 Miles   8 Hrs   33 Mns   1.84 mph
3,730 ft AEG   1 Hour   14 Mns Break6 LBS Pack
 
Partners partners
The_Eagle
Route Scout GPS Route Recorded on Route Scout View
Only my second loop with Gold Ridge Trail #47. I'm getting why I gave this 4 out of 5 stars in 2009. The masses will nitpic lack of switchbacks. A moderate badass ridge IMO that needs to be in the mix no less than bi-annual.

Heading up Gold Ridge we were pleasantly surprised to see and walk through dense poppies you only see mid way up. Up is the wise choice for footing. The patch of pines near the top before FR3348 is bomb diggity. Need to plan on that for future break spots.

South Fork Deer Creek #46 is cool and has received noticeable maintenance! Still needs a lot of work. I wouldn't hesitate to hike it again and again. That said I prefer [ Deer Creek Trail #45 ]

March 30th 2019 8:30 a.m. Bruce declared every living plant has a flower.
Note: get Angiosperm Kokopelli a bouquet of spruce, fern, moss and liverwort!
Named place
Named place
South Fork Tank
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial
Mountain sides plastered in poppies on a few occasions. Bruce shed the poppy blinders repeatedly mentioning the most diverse variety he recalled.

Extreme
[ Narrow-Leaved Popcorn Flower ]
[ Blue Dicks ]
[ Desert/Mojave ceanothus ]
desert see-uh-no-thus was a wonderful fragrance all day

Substantial
[ Filaree ]
[ Owl Clover ]
[ Fiddleneck ]
[ Mexican Gold Poppy ]
Notably several of the deeper robust yellow. Thought Desert Poppies, no dice.

Moderate
[ Asian Mustard ]
[ Draba ]
[ Common Dandelion ]

Light
[ Indian Paintbrush ]
[ Purple Loco ]
[ Western Wallflower ]

Isolated
[ Desert Marigold ]
[ White Primrose ]
[ Doubting Mariposa Lily ]

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max South Fork Deer Creek Medium flow Medium flow
_____________________
- joe
Mar 30 2019
The_Eagle
avatar

 Guides 7
 Routes 797
 Photos 9,717
 Triplogs 1,307

64 male
 Joined Jan 20 2009
 Far NE Phoenix,
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 30 2019
The_Eagle
Hiking13.67 Miles 3,567 AEG
Hiking13.67 Miles   8 Hrs   34 Mns   1.86 mph
3,567 ft AEG   1 Hour   13 Mns Break14 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Partners partners
joebartels
Perfect temps, a new trail and the chance for wildflowers was the impetus for this one.

I'd never done the Gold Ridge and most of the things I read did not give it high ratings. I enjoyed this climb. It didn't hurt that the flower show was pretty darn good in the 4,000' to 5,000' range. There were more types of flowers on this hike than I've seen on a single hike. Joe documented them well in his triplog. https://hikearizona.com/x.php?x=164563

No Grasshoppers had lunch waiting for us at the top of this one. We trudged on.

I'd been on South Fork before and the memories came back of all the downed trees. There has been major work to clear them... and there's more to go. We hit more fields of flowers on the way down while traversing the flowing South Fork of Deer Creek.
Named place
Named place
Pigeon Spring
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial
Substantial to Extreme 4000' - 5000'

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max South Fork Deer Creek Medium flow Medium flow
_____________________
There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
Dave Barry
Mar 17 2019
ShatteredArm
avatar

 Guides 4
 Routes 82
 Photos 440
 Triplogs 84

37 male
 Joined Nov 30 2015
 Phoenix, AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Run/Jog avatar Mar 17 2019
ShatteredArm
Run/Jog14.35 Miles 3,333 AEG
Run/Jog14.35 Miles   4 Hrs   45 Mns   3.02 mph
3,333 ft AEG
 
no photosets
1st trip
Partners none no partners
Bonus from the backlog... And one of my favorite underrated loops in the Mazatzals (honestly prefer this to the seemingly more popular Y-Bar/Barnhardt loop). This was the 2nd time I had done this exact loop (up S Fork, down Gold Ridge). I like to describe South Fork trail as Deer Creek Lite. A little less overgrown, a little less chunky, a little shorter, a little easier to follow...

There are really only a couple of spots where navigation is slightly tricky. Both times I've tried this, I've ended up on a steep slope above the creek in the upper reaches (it's probably a game trail I keep following). And the last quarter mile or so up to the road is a little faint.

The creek was flowing nicely due to recent snow, with some good flow in the falls. There was still some snowpack near the south end of the trail, on the road, and for the first half mile or so down Gold Ridge.

Gold Ridge apparently used to be overgrown, but I understand the mountain bikers have discovered it, and really cleaned it up. It is now one of my favorite trails to run down in Arizona. For one mile or two stretch, it is extremely steep yet not very technical, making it really easy for things to get out of control.
_____________________
1 archive
Aug 18 2018
rehlers
avatar

 Routes 5
 Photos 58
 Triplogs 44

44 male
 Joined Apr 18 2002
 Phoenix, AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Aug 18 2018
rehlers
Hiking13.40 Miles 2,920 AEG
Hiking13.40 Miles   7 Hrs   40 Mns   1.90 mph
2,920 ft AEG      37 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Partners none no partners
I started at 6am from trailhead. Forecast in Phoenix was for 100. Temperature was pleasant the whole trip and even cool feeling at top, other than the final few miles when the heat and lower elevation made it a bit warm.

Gold ridge was as advertised, easy to follow and well maintained for the most part. Steep in many sections, with few switchbacks.
South Fork has three different sections from my experience.
Mile 0-2 from Hwy 87 trailhead: This is mostly open desert and fairly level. Some parts of trail are faint, but route finding and bush whacking is minimal.
Mile 2-4 from Hwy 87 trailhead: The trail gets more difficult as elevation increases and there are a number of up and down sections that rise above the stream and back down to it. Route finding is fairly straight forward still and trails not really over grown.
Mile 4-6 from Hwy 87 trailhead until the junction with forest road: This section sucks. Lots of up and down. There is no trail at all for about the first half mile from the forest road. It is very easy to miss where the “trail’ takes up one bank or another and then comes back down. Some sections are very steep and the trail is washed away, making for a few treacherous steps here and there. Surprisingly I didn’t have to do a lot of bush whacking, but route finding was very slow going. The trail varies between very faint and gone in this section. Still some decent shade though. I started with Gold Ridge and came back this way. Thankfully only the first 2 or so miles were this bad, or I would have gotten back much later than I had planned.

Thankfully, not many catclaw or other thorny plants.

Overall, i thought the views on Gold Ridge were awesome and the adventure through South Fork was pretty fun. Still a decent amount of vegetation and trees along South Fork. I’d recommend the hike, just make sure to plan extra time for South Fork.
_____________________
Feb 22 2018
DixieFlyer
avatar

 Guides 35
 Routes 377
 Photos 4,819
 Triplogs 340

male
 Joined Jan 07 2017
 Fountain Hills,
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 22 2018
DixieFlyer
Hiking14.30 Miles 3,550 AEG
Hiking14.30 Miles   8 Hrs   6 Mns   2.26 mph
3,550 ft AEG   1 Hour   46 Mns Break
 
Partners none no partners
I have driven past the Deer Creek TH a number of times and had always wondered what the trails there were like, so Tracie, my intrepid hiking partner, and I decided to find out for ourselves. We did this loop clockwise, i.e., we went out on the Gold Ridge Trail and came back on the South Fork Trail. After doing the hike, I would recommend doing it this way.

The Gold Ridge Trail was well maintained and easy to follow. It was somewhat steep -- we climbed around 2,000 feet in the first 3 miles and around 1,000 feet in the next 3 miles. The trail was mostly dirt and the footing was pretty good. You could see a lot of dead, burned pine trees that were still standing from the Willow fire of 2004. There was a lot of vegetation -- mostly manzanita and holly bushes -- that had grown back since the fire. There was almost total sun exposure, and I would not want to do this hike in hot weather. The views were OK on this hike -- in places you could see Roosevelt Lake, and the Mogollon Rim could be seen off in the distance; however, as for scenery, I much prefer the Barnhardt Trail which isn't too far away.

The South Fork Trail was totally different that the Gold Ridge Trail. In places it was difficult to follow the trail, so I was glad that I had a GPS track. There were a lot cairns and some pink ribbons tied to tree branches, which helped to follow the trail. However, to me this was much more like a social trail than an "official" trail. There were lots of fallen trees over the trail that you either had to climb over or navigate around. We had to make numerous creek crossings, and in some places we had to climb up above the creek and then get back down into the creek to avoid overgrowth in the creek. The creek was mostly dry, but there were several springs that were running with water. There were lots of dead, burned trees still standing from the 2004 fire.

I think that this hike would have been a nice one back before the fire in 2004. Unless you really enjoy some scrambling in a creek bed, and aren't all that focused on scenic views, then I would recommend hiking on the Barnhardt Trail instead.

My Garmin GPS recorded the hike as being 14.3 miles with close to a 3,600 foot AEG. When we were on FR 201 we walked right past the trail marker to the South Fork Trail and had to backtrack a bit; so the actual distance was probably a tad less than 14 miles.
_____________________
I'd rather die of exhaustion than die of starvation.
2 archives
Feb 10 2018
toddak
avatar

 Guides 8
 Routes 5
 Photos 1,174
 Triplogs 444

55 male
 Joined Nov 15 2005
 Puhoynix, AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 10 2018
toddak
Hiking13.50 Miles 3,000 AEG
Hiking13.50 Miles   6 Hrs      2.25 mph
3,000 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Partners none no partners
Up GR & down SF. GR is in great condition, then SF quickly reminds you you’re still in the Mazzies. The stretches along lightly flowing SF Creek are lovely, but there’s some overgrowth and thrash sections too.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Pigeon Spring Dripping Dripping
Full tank, a little scuzzy, barely any outflow
_____________________
Jul 08 2017
jacobemerick
avatar

 Guides 31
 Routes 74
 Photos 1,014
 Triplogs 132

35 male
 Joined Dec 09 2014
 Gilbert, AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jul 08 2017
jacobemerick
Hiking13.42 Miles 3,289 AEG
Hiking13.42 Miles   6 Hrs   20 Mns   2.31 mph
3,289 ft AEG      31 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Had to back in PHX for an afternoon commitment but had the Mazzie itch so South Fork - Gold Ridge Loop it was. Early start to beat the heat and be back by the promised noontime.

Gold Ridge Trail #47
Great trail for a predawn hike, with wide tread and steep sections, though cattle in the dark are spooky creatures. Temp at the trailhead was 87F at 3:20 AM for some awful and terrible reason. Thought I saw a burnt yucca at mile two, turned out to be a skunk with tail raised. If I would have gotten sprayed I might have smelled yuck-e (yuck yuck yuck). Sunset beat me to the top of the trail by twenty minutes, apparently needed an earlier start (heh).

Camp Grasshopper
Looked nice. Was empty. So was FR 201. Quiet at the top.

South Fork #46
This trail was gorgeous. Not even kidding. Easy to follow, easy to hike, and the scenery was jaw-dropping. Huge trees, especially in the first few miles, almost completely spared from the fires. Only needed to check the GPS twice, once at Pigeon Spring because I thought the route went right past it (it doesn't, trail stays a few dozen yards to the west) and once about two miles down when the bank gets a bit thick. I'm still a bit in awe of how pleasant this trail was. Well-cairned, wide tread, and relatively low amounts of overgrowth / deadfall for this wilderness. It does climb up along the banks frequently, almost as if it's scared to stay in the creek bed for more than a few yards, which I imagine would get annoying if you hike up it. Hiking down was a dream. I think I'm in love.

Mazatzal Miles: 148.2/275 (54%)
Culture
Culture
Cairn
Named place
Named place
Pigeon Spring
Meteorology
Meteorology
Sunrise

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Pigeon Spring Dripping Dripping
Murky and green, could be filtered in a pinch (I wouldn't).

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max South Fork Deer Creek Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Pools as high as 5500'.
_____________________
Mar 11 2017
Tough_Boots
avatar

 Routes 67
 Photos 2,708
 Triplogs 755

63 male
 Joined Mar 28 2008
 Phoenix, AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 11 2017
Tough_Boots
Hiking13.27 Miles 3,167 AEG
Hiking13.27 Miles   6 Hrs   56 Mns   2.13 mph
3,167 ft AEG      43 Mns Break
 
no photosets
1st trip
Partners partners
chumley
John9L
This one has been on the list for as long as I can remember. I'm glad we finally knocked it out. Now that things are starting to warm up, I figured it was a good time to do it and a relatively short drive. We went up Gold Ridge first-- I knew Lily would appreciate the water in South Fork when it got warmer in the afternoon-- she would have been really unhappy had we come down Gold Ridge. Gold Ridge is a little boring but the views are nice-- well, they aren't amazing. We headed down South Fork after a lunch break. This is a fun trail and there's tons of water right now and a couple pretty nice little waterfalls. I was pretty tired by the end-- I'm gonna blame my allergies and the slight yearly asthma they bring with them but it was really just this first taste of summer coming.
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Mar 11 2017
chumley
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 Guides 78
 Routes 679
 Photos 14,586
 Triplogs 1,521

47 male
 Joined Sep 18 2002
 Tempe, AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 11 2017
chumley
Hiking13.96 Miles 3,669 AEG
Hiking13.96 Miles   6 Hrs   54 Mns   2.23 mph
3,669 ft AEG      38 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Partners partners
John9L
Tough_Boots
Have never even been to this trailhead before! :o

Gold Ridge is meh. The lower part is steep and seems to have forgotten about switchbacks. The upper part is actually pretty nice, but would have been a whole lot nicer pre-fire.

I took a short side-trip up to the Gold BM. It took a minute to find as it had been protected by a few rocks piled above it. There was some wire from a survey structure or height of light that made me look for it in the right spot. Didn't see any obvious reference marks, but didn't search too hard either.

South Fork offers nicer scenery but more challenging routefinding. I enjoy finding old trail tread, though there were times that it didn't seem logical. The leaves are just sprouting so it was still a little bit gray and bare. Plenty of water from the very top to the very bottom. Some pools plenty deep for full immerson, though not really large enough to actually swim. It got warmer on the way down and I considered taking a dip but ultimately decided to just hoof it back to the car.

It was nice to meet 9L. :sweat: Thanks to Kyle for driving.
Culture
Culture
Benchmark
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max South Fork Deer Creek Medium flow Medium flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 South Fork Tank 76-100% full 76-100% full
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Championing breakfast since 1994.
Mar 11 2017
John9L
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 Guides 6
 Routes 172
 Photos 4,970
 Triplogs 1,630

male
 Joined Mar 12 2004
 Scottsdale, AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 11 2017
John9L
Hiking13.51 Miles 3,370 AEG
Hiking13.51 Miles   6 Hrs   54 Mns   2.12 mph
3,370 ft AEG      32 Mns Break
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Partners partners
chumley
Tough_Boots
Headed back into the Mazatzal for an interesting loop. Kyle and I fought our way up South Fork a couple of years ago and were forced to turn around due to time constraints. We wanted to return and this was the day. Chumley joined us for the hike.

We started with Gold Ridge and it was a grind. The trail is in good condition as it makes a steep climb. With much effort we topped out and took a lunch break at Camp Grasshopper. This would be a great spot to car camp. From there we walked the road for a short ways and started down the South Fork trail at the trail sign.

The hike down South Fork is a mixed bag. We did fairly well at following trail tread whenever it was present. It completely disappears at times and you have to fight your way down canyon. There was a good flow of water and the upper canyon is very scenic. There were two solid waterfalls but they are heavily overgrown and the mid afternoon sun cast too many shadows for good pics. The lower half of trail had some trail maintenance & is fairly easy to follow.

I'm really glad we knocked out this loop. It's much better going down South Fork. Thanks Kyle for driving!
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Nov 20 2016
The_N
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 Routes 54
 Photos 1,508
 Triplogs 325

34 male
 Joined Mar 18 2015
 Payson, AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 20 2016
The_N
Hiking15.00 Miles 3,975 AEG
Hiking15.00 Miles   8 Hrs   45 Mns   2.24 mph
3,975 ft AEG   2 Hrs   4 Mns Break
 no routes
Partners partners
extremehikerbabe
Finally made it back up South Fork and completed this loop as a day-hike. I was hoping to catch a little fall foliage in this canyon. Alex experienced Deer Creek recently and had her mind set on this loop. I gave her a complete description of this hike and the punishment that comes with the beauty beforehand. The first few miles up South Fork was in good shape and easy to follow. No water flowing. Just some nasty looking pools. At around 4 miles the flow is better but the terrain and trail conditions worsen. Lots of boulder hopping, route finding, log jumping and fighting cat claw and other brush. I kept us on the path of least resistance for quite a while until all remnants of a trail were gone. The cat claw turned to locust. The downfall became more numerous. Even had a couple climbs up dry waterfalls. The grueling pace was getting to me but I had to become slave driver / emotional support as Alex had become frustrated and realized she was in over her head a little on this one. I must've said "almost there" & "keep pushing" dozens of times in that last few miles of South Fork. I'm pretty sure she stopped believing me after a while. Having now hiked South Fork in both directions and completed this loop in both directions, I can now say I'm done with it for a while. Still a very beautiful area and the entire hike was fall like and scenic. Hungry and bleeding, we were thrilled to finally reach the road and start on down Gold Ridge. It was all downhill from there. Recent trail work on Gold Ridge made this stretch very enjoyable today. The rains held off and we soaked in the wide open views after several hours in that canyon. Made it back to the TH just as the last bit of daylight left the sky. Long day, tough hike but Alex sure was proud of her accomplishment in the end. Gorgeous day in the Mazzies, overall. Wouldn't hike it again anytime soon but it's a great loop with a rugged canyon and stunning ridgeline views for someone looking for something a little more adventurous.
Meteorology
Meteorology
Autumn - Color Foliage
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Substantial
Substantial relative to the area. Mostly Sycamore and Cottonwood. Add Maple and Oak in the upper elevations.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max South Fork Deer Creek Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
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If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Nov 20 2016
extremehikerbabe
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 Photos 104
 Triplogs 47

27 female
 Joined Oct 17 2016
 Phoenix
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 20 2016
extremehikerbabe
Hiking15.00 Miles
Hiking15.00 Miles   8 Hrs   45 Mns   1.71 mph
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Partners partners
The_N
My third jaunt into my favorite mountains and this turned out to be the hardest one yet. I guess I should've listened better when Nick told me the trail disappeared but I needed to do this loop. Deer Creek had left me disappointed when I had to turn around (but it's probably a very good thing that I did). Nothing frustrates me more than losing a trail but I am so glad I had a great hiking partner with me. The first few miles were okay but once the trail disappeared it began to get frustrating. The trail really does disappear. Random cairns show up along the way as you get towards the end of the trail, but they do not really help when the trail keeps disappearing. I enjoyed the beginning of the trail but became extremely frustrated as I realized that we had to keep going along the creek or up the side of a mountain when I had no idea where the end was. Thank god for Nick. That man is amazing. I was surprised how much water there was down in the canyon as Deer Creek was pretty dry. Definitely wear pants if you don't want your legs to get all scratched up because they will be. We didn't quite make it to FR201 which will be my goal when I go back but we cut up the side of a mountain to the road that connects to Gold Ridge and I don't think I have ever been more happy to see a road in my entire life. Gold Ridge was absolutely amazing. The trail was beautiful and well maintained and all downhill. I became incredibly happy and hyper on the way down. Despite the absolute frustration I felt in the canyon this hike was worth it. I will be back one day to conquer the entire loop, and knowing what to expect, I will get to FR201 but perhaps when winter is over and the snow melts. Would absolutely love to hike up Gold Ridge in the snow. Bet that's a sight to see!
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4 archives
Mar 05 2016
The_N
avatar

 Routes 54
 Photos 1,508
 Triplogs 325

34 male
 Joined Mar 18 2015
 Payson, AZ
South Fork - Gold Ridge LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Backpack avatar Mar 05 2016
The_N
Backpack14.44 Miles 3,726 AEG
Backpack14.44 Miles   23 Hrs   50 Mns   2.31 mph
3,726 ft AEG   17 Hrs   35 Mns Break
 no routes
I decided to give this loop another shot with the advice from Grasshopper to do it as a one-night backpack. I was in need of a night under the stars. Started up Gold Ridge just after 1PM. It was a good little workout during the warmest part of that day with zero shade. All remnants of snow are gone and the trail is dry and in good shape. Passed a group of 4 as they were headed down. Stopped and chatted for 2 mins, that was my only break. The lower elevations of Gold Ridge are a wildflower show. Lots of colors and a great floral smell in the air. Arrived at Camp Grasshopper with plenty of afternoon left to gather firewood, set up camp & pick up trash/glass. Enjoyed a nice fire and a very comfy night of sleep as the wind died down just in time for bed. I was back on the trail at 845AM and running low on water so I was looking forward to being creekside. Took the most adventurous route possible down South Fork, staying next to the creek the entire time. I slipped and busted my pumpkin a few times. I came out of the brush and scared the hell out of a group of 4 lady day-hikers on their way up. They were hoping to complete the same loop and had a few questions. I told them to keep a lookout for my self-inflating camp pillow I lost in the brush. Still plenty of water in the creek and Wildflowers in the lower elevations of South Fork trail. Overall a very enjoyable trip with an awesome camp site. Personally, this is my kind of hike. From desert to pines to riparian zone with half of the hike on a ridgeline with scenic views and the other half in a rugged canyon with running water.
Geology
Geology
Jasper
Culture
Culture
Camp-fire
Named place
Named place
Pigeon Spring
Meteorology
Meteorology
Sunset
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
Several different blooms in the lower elevations.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Pigeon Spring Dripping Dripping
Spring box was full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max South Fork Deer Creek Medium flow Medium flow
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If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
average hiking speed 2.17 mph
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