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Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto Creek - 42 members in 102 triplogs have rated this an average 3.8 ( 1 to 5 best )
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May 19 2019
lhalloran
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 Photos 9
 Triplogs 4

25 male
 Joined May 09 2018
 Phoenix, Arizona
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar May 19 2019
lhalloran
Hiking16.00 Miles 3,800 AEG
Hiking16.00 Miles   6 Hrs   30 Mns   2.46 mph
3,800 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This breathtaking hike was a welcome retreat from the valley. We camped out the night before, just up the road from the trailhead where there were numerous spots to choose from, slept in, and got a 10:00 start on the trail. From start to the last mile before the creek the trail was wide, well-maintained, well-marked, and easy (save for a couple minor slogs). Scenery along the hike was stunning - peaks, cliffs, and canyons in pristine wilderness so close to home. The last mile hiking down into the canyon and back up was a little tough and required some scrambling in a place or two, but was well worth the effort. Tonto was flowing strong with cold, delicious water and the numerous campsites at the bottom of the canyon gave us a great place to stop for lunch and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Shockingly we only ran into one group on the whole trip - a trio with as many Australian Shepherds from a local rescue in Payson.

This hike was an absolute treat and I cannot wait to return.
Apr 20 2019
caragruey
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 Guides 1
 Routes 43
 Photos 880
 Triplogs 39

female
 Joined Feb 04 2017
 Sun City
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 20 2019
caragruey
Hiking14.60 Miles 2,558 AEG
Hiking14.60 Miles
2,558 ft AEG22 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Checked this off my list. I've been pondering this hike for 2 years and finally managed to squeeze it in. Yes it's a burning hike. I'm not a fan of reverse hikes but here we go.

As usual I like the road less traveled. We ran into one domesticated human hiking out as we were about 1 mile in. A quick chat revealed he had camped overnight and warned of the confusing trails within. Continuing on we ran into a family hiking out and looking pretty haggard. Chalking that up to the fact that they didn't look like hikers we continued on. Fabulous views as we crossed the ridgelines and began the descent into the steep switchbacks. Yes this hike will burn but well worth it. The meadow before the final descent is definitely a sound of music through back. A must do hike into hell and hell's gate. What goes down must go back up.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial
Things are all blooming
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Mar 06 2019
DixieFlyer
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 Guides 15
 Routes 202
 Photos 2,475
 Triplogs 189

male
 Joined Jan 07 2017
 Fountain Hills,
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 06 2019
DixieFlyer
Hiking14.90 Miles 3,375 AEG
Hiking14.90 Miles   7 Hrs   16 Mns   2.44 mph
3,375 ft AEG   1 Hour   10 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Partners none no partners
It had been about 5 months since I had been to Payson, and I had never hiked to Hellsgate, so I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone and hike from the Hell's Gate TH to Tonto Creek.

There were quite a few creek crossings for the first and last 2.5 miles of the hike. I managed to do enough rock hopping to keep my feet dry.

I thought that this hike was VERY scenic. I didn't see any wildlife, but there were quite a few signs of elk in the area.

The descent over the last 1/4 mile down to Hell's Gate was really steep -- it was much better coming back up than it was going down.

There was lots of water in the confluence of Haigler Creek and Tonto Creek. Here is a video: [ youtube video ]

There were several creek crossings over the first couple of miles of the hike. I managed to keep my feet dry, but had to do a good bit of rock hopping to do so.

This is definitely a hike that I will do again. I imagine that it could be a hot hike in the summertime though.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Haigler Creek Heavy flow Heavy flow
There was lots of water in Hell's Gate at the confluence of Haigler Creek and Tonto Creek. There was also a good bit of water in the creek that is within a couple of miles of the Hell's Gate TH.
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5 archives
Apr 07 2018
chumley
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 Guides 75
 Routes 667
 Photos 13,238
 Triplogs 1,423

46 male
 Joined Sep 18 2002
 Tempe, AZ
Hellsgate Exploration, AZ 
Hellsgate Exploration, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Apr 07 2018
chumley
Hiking17.79 Miles 4,256 AEG
Hiking17.79 Miles   10 Hrs   55 Mns   1.92 mph
4,256 ft AEG   1 Hour   40 Mns Break
 
1st trip
I've knocked out more than a few miles in the Hellsgate Wilderness with Joel. Most have involved slow, but spectacularly scenic miles in Haigler Creek, negotiating pools, waterfalls, cascades, bypasses, and most everything an Arizona wilderness area can serve up.

When he suggested this one recently, I was quickly on board. Having never hiked the actual #37 trail, I was happy to try it out on this day/night schedule. The hike in was pleasant, the temperature warm and the cool spring water refreshing to get into at the bottom. We ventured separate ways at the confluence, where I headed up Haigler to finish off the only mile of the creek I hadn't previously covered. This section provided surprisingly nice scenery, and unanticipated slow going, including 5 deep swimmers that I didn't expect.

With time a concern, I didn't want to retrace my steps and then fight the upstream current going up Tonto to where I'd expect to find Joel, so I took the cross-country route, climbing ~600 feet to cross the peninsula between the two creeks and then headed down Tonto toward Hellsgate.

I've been impressed with Haigler since my early introduction in the 90s. Tonto down near Hellsgate is even more impressive. The Hellsgate to Gisela trip remains on my to-do list, and now I'm certain that I'd like to do the whole Tonto from Bear Flat too. It looks like it could have some special places.

Eventually, I got far enough downstream that I found Joel. I kept going to the confluence and changed into dry clothes. Joel returned a while later and after a short fire to dry out and warm up, we headed out at 8pm for the 7+ miles back to the trailhead. The temperature was cool and there was occasionally a nice breeze that made for a perfect startlit evening for this hike. We hadn't been talking much on the steep climb, so as we passed El Grande Tank, I decided to talk loudly, knowing that this would be a prime spot for a predator to keep watch. As Joel remarked that it was almost certain a cat was keeping an eye on the tank, he panned his headlamp up the slope and caught the eyes of a lion that just sat and observed us as we hiked by. Sometimes it's nice to be hiking with two people!

A bit later I caught glimpse of what might have been another lion, but seemed smaller so I'm going to say it was a bobcat, and I also got to within a couple of feet of an owl in the trail that waited until the last second to fly away and absolutely scared the poop out of me. My headlamp made it clear that I had scared the poop out of it too. Literally.

A couple of cats down, and a crazy-close owl experience had us on alert, but the remaining glowing eyes belonged to cows. Still those future burgers managed to grab our attention for a split second too!

Good times in the wilderness. It was a long day, and I was happy to crawl into bed after 0100.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 El Grande Tank 76-100% full 76-100% full
ugly looking but prob 80% or so

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Haigler Canyon Medium flow Medium flow
clear and nice

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Haigler Creek Medium flow Medium flow
clear and nice
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Profound observer
2 archives
Mar 24 2018
The_N
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 Routes 54
 Photos 1,508
 Triplogs 325

33 male
 Joined Mar 18 2015
 Payson, AZ
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 24 2018
The_N
Hiking15.78 Miles 3,528 AEG
Hiking15.78 Miles   6 Hrs   29 Mns   2.64 mph
3,528 ft AEG      30 Mns Break
 
Partners none no partners
Weather this weekend looked about perfect for a visit to Hellsgate, so I went for it. Cruised on up to the ridgeline and enjoyed the views before the trails dips back down. Tonto was running clear and spring leaves have started to pop. I followed Haigler downstream briefly, then upstream for a little longer. This was done by walking through the creek and pushing through brush along the shores. I climbed a cliff wall and found a spot for lunch. Taking advantage of the overcast, I got moving shortly after and started the trek back to the TH. On my way out, I met a new haz member out for a solo overnighter. Made the stroll back to the TH under cloudy skies and a nice breeze. Saw a garter snake and had a close encounter with a hawk.
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If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Jul 22 2017
Lumberjill
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 Routes 2
 Photos 26
 Triplogs 26

37 female
 Joined Aug 22 2014
 Phoenix, AZ
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jul 22 2017
Lumberjill
Hiking14.10 Miles 3,200 AEG
Hiking14.10 Miles   8 Hrs   12 Mns   2.06 mph
3,200 ft AEG   1 Hour   21 Mns Break10 LBS Pack
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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This trail was hard. The "rolling hills" I read about included more elevation gain and loss than I had anticipated. It was really humid out, so I was covered in sweat right from the get-go. We brought out frozen strips of t-shirts to help keep cool at about 4 miles into the trip. We climbed, climbed, climbed to some incredible views that I took photos of, though I don't think there's any way to capture the views with my camera phone.

Then we went down, down, down to the creek. Much of the descent was very steep and covered in loose rocks, making for pretty slow going. And though I Wasn't surprised, it was still a little disappointing that Tonto Creek was as brown as chocolate milk. After the 7 mile journey, I was hoping to jump into the cool clear waters. But, a little dirt never hurt anyone, so it still didn't keep me from soaking my feet. The gate was seriously impressive! The other two people I Was with wanted to explore the creek and the gate a bit, but didn't get far from shore before realizing that the water got higher than waist level pretty quick, so they made a quick retreat to dry ground.

We made a half-attempt to go downstream to the confluence, but some seriously dark monsoon clouds started rolling and to get to the confluence, we'd have been creek hiking, which is incredibly slow going in a brown creek. We retreated and started making the climb back up, up, up. The monsoon clouds skirted us, and left us exposed in the sun for a good portion of the climb back out. It kind of felt like hiking in a sauna between the heat and humidity. Again, the incredible views amazed us, particularly because we were able to see a lot of monsoonal activity in the distance (and in the not-so distant area).

Thankfully, more clouds came in and gave us some relief, eventually dropping a little bit of rain as well. I was very happy to see the car and to have a comfortable seat. About one miles from the TH on our way back, we saw a deer cross the trail about 50 feet in front of us. It gave me a much needed energy perk!

We saw only one other group all day, and otherwise had the trail to ourselves. I'd love to go back to see Tonto Creek when it's clear sometime. This is a beautiful part of the state that I hadn't hiked before. All of my previous rim hikes have been on the north side of Hwy 260.
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2 archives
Dec 11 2016
extremehikerba
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 Photos 104
 Triplogs 47

26 female
 Joined Oct 17 2016
 Phoenix
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 11 2016
extremehikerbabe
Hiking14.10 Miles 3,200 AEG
Hiking14.10 Miles   7 Hrs      2.01 mph
3,200 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The hike: This trail was absolutely beautiful. Well, any trail is when you don't have to work through overgrown brush. I took two friends who are still getting used to the long hike and they thoroughly enjoyed it though the way back wore us all out. I thought the sign at the beginning was a bit excessive as that trail felt very easy. We made it to the creek no problem and the last half mile that everyone said was a bit hairy was not as bad as I thought it would be. I kept expecting a drop off or a straight climb down. The creek was absolutely amazing and I am definitely planning a trip back in the summer as a backpack. I saw that the trail kept going past the creek and I would also like to check that out, too. The hike back was where it got hard and we were huffing and puffing. I can see how that can be a bit dangerous in the summer when it is hot and now that sign finally made sense. Of course the trail was easy- we were going downhill most of the time! My friends were thoroughly excited to see the car and ran to it. It reminded me of my first big hike, when the sight of a car never looked more amazing. This wilderness was beautiful and I cannot wait to go back.

The trail: The trail can seem a bit confusing to follow. There is a wide road that leads to the start of the trail and the trail is nicely marked with a sign off to the left. After following it through the forest there is a steep grade to the top of a ridge. Another sign there points you to the trail and from there it is beautifully laid out. It does intersect with an old jeep road at one point, however there is a cairn marking the trail when it turns off to the right as you go up the old road. From that turn off the trail is nicely laid out. Once you reach the Hellsgate Wilderness sign, simply head behind it and that trail takes you the rest of the way to the creek. The trail does continue on south and is marked with cairns. Any questions about the trail just ask!
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4 archives
Aug 06 2016
Tough_Boots
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 Routes 67
 Photos 2,708
 Triplogs 755

40 male
 Joined Mar 28 2008
 Phoenix, AZ
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Aug 06 2016
Tough_Boots
Hiking15.46 Miles 3,465 AEG
Hiking15.46 Miles
3,465 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked linked
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clairebear
John9L
This one has been on the list for a long time and I was happy to get it done. We managed to gain an entire mile after a single wrong turn. We also timed it perfectly so that the climb out of Tonto Creek was during the most scorching part of the day. Everything went our way today :y:
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"there is no love where there is no bramble."
--bill callahan
Jun 18 2016
The_Dude
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 Guides 1
 Routes 114
 Photos 1,339
 Triplogs 336

41 male
 Joined Jun 10 2011
 Phoenix, AZ
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Backpack avatar Jun 18 2016
The_Dude
Backpack17.42 Miles 4,025 AEG
Backpack17.42 Miles2 Days         
4,025 ft AEG28 LBS Pack
 
Partners partners
Droog
Eartheist
Falke
Ah, Father's Day Weekend out in the wild. I had done this trip with the Earthiest and Azwildguide 5 years ago as our first backpack trip, and I have been wanting to make it back ever since now that I know what I am doing a little better. Unfortunate that we got the hottest weekend of the year to do it on, but we have had the planning in the works for about a month and none of us wanted to bail. 5 of us drove up Friday night to car camp at the trailhead only to find out that we could not camp within a 1/4 mile due to there being a spring box at the TH...no worries we just went down the road a bit and found a nice clearing. We got loaded up and on the trail by 7:30 Saturday morning and it was already starting to get warm. There is a decent amount of shade for the first few miles, but it gets progressively more open the farther along you go. We got down to Tonto Creek a bit after noon and had lunch and set up camp. Three of us had hammocks and two had tents so we had to split up camp a bit. We hung our hammocks on the west side of the creek where there were many Sycamores and Willows to do the trick, the tenters set up on the sandy beach just to the east. Tonto was very silty and chocolaty, so we had to head down to Haigler to get better water to filter. After a little break, three of us started out way up Tonto Creek through the gates of Hell. Gorgeous canyon, even if we could not see what was in the water. It must have been about 68-70 degrees in the water, blissful on the sore legs and made the 100+ temps in the canyon much more reasonable. There are long stretches that are too deep to touch so lots of swimming was required. No worries, I just inflated my little 5L dry bag and used it as a floater to take it easy. We made it a good mile + up the creek alternating swimming, bouldering, and scrambling when needed. We must have passed by a good 5 or 6 waterfalls along the way. This is really the highlight of the whole trip and makes the hike out worth it in my opinion. Got back to camp and made some dinner shortly thereafter, once we had gone through our beer we all turned in by 8-9 so we could get an early start in the morning. We all got on the trail between 6-7 the next morning, I had to filter some more water so I was the last man out, but quickly caught up with the group. Don't kid yourself, the first two miles coming out of the canyon are pretty rough, it is like climbing Piestewa one and a half times, with an overnight pack to boot. We all continued our way with many breaks, and made it back to the trucks about 12:30. Quick stop at the Payson McD's (I think this is the only time I ever eat there) to replenish salts and a hobo bath in the sink and we were on back down the hill. Hard fought in the heat, but fantastic trip!
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
Cholla and Prickly Pear had some nice bloom, but that was about it.
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1 archive
Jun 18 2016
Eartheist
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 Routes 5
 Photos 269
 Triplogs 177

48 male
 Joined Jul 16 2011
 Phoenix, AZ
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Backpack avatar Jun 18 2016
Eartheist
Backpack17.42 Miles 4,025 AEG
Backpack17.42 Miles2 Days         
4,025 ft AEG25 LBS Pack
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Droog
Falke
The_Dude
Did this trip as our first ever backpack trip 5 years ago, and we sure have learned a lot since then, so this time it was 500% easier. Now, this hike is still a bastard, but at least I didn't want to curl into a fetal position and just wait for the vultures to come and put me out my misery like last time. It's actually beautiful country and the creek at the bottom is quite amazing, the only problem this time was the heat. We happened to go when we had a massive heat wave come through for about a week; it was 100+ in Payson if that says anything.
Wisely we drove up Friday and camped near the trailhead so we could get an early start, which we did, about 7:30am, but after a couple hours, it felt like it was pushing 90 already. And with those hills and a heavy pack, it's a little challenging. And it's a lot more exposed than I remembered, which didn't help.
Got to the bottom just before noon, had some lunch and a well deserved beer. A few of my comrades swam up the creek into the canyons, I was too exhausted to swim with them, so I just swam in the pool by the campsite. Water was cold at first but very refreshing from the stifling heat in the canyon. We had another friend that was in similar shape I was on that first trip and ill-prepared for what he was getting into, so he vegged in his hammock for the rest of the day recovering from the shock I imagine, so I also stayed to keep him company. The water in Tonto was chocolatey brown, but around the bend to the south, Haigler creek was crystal clear. There was actually a distinct border line where clear Haigler turned into chocolate Tonto.
The night was warm at first, but cooled off nicely, and I slept peacefully listening to the creek and the bugs chirping.
Up around dawn, packed up and started the hike out around 6-6:30 since we knew it was going to be a beast and only get hotter the longer we took. It was pretty brutal getting out of there just because of the heat, and the little shade the trail has to offer. Those last couple of miles seemed to take forever. We were so spent and negative on calories afterwards, we actually stopped at Mcdonalds to scarf down some mystery meat entrees. It was amazing of course.
So this trip is nicer in summer since the water in the creek is warmer, but you have to make sure you catch it on a normal summer day and not a scorcher like we had.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
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Jun 18 2016
Falke
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 Routes 3
 Photos 5
 Triplogs 6

43 male
 Joined Sep 13 2013
 phoenix, az
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jun 18 2016
Falke
Hiking7.99 Miles 1,071 AEG
Hiking7.99 Miles   10 Hrs   33 Mns   0.76 mph
1,071 ft AEG
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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The_Dude
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Apr 14 2016
The_N
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 Routes 54
 Photos 1,508
 Triplogs 325

33 male
 Joined Mar 18 2015
 Payson, AZ
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 14 2016
The_N
Hiking16.23 Miles 3,610 AEG
Hiking16.23 Miles   6 Hrs   3 Mns   2.89 mph
3,610 ft AEG      26 Mns Break
 
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I was contemplating doing this as an overnighter this weekend but the weather was absolutely perfect for a day hike today. High of 70, sunny and breezy. It's a beautiful trail and very easy to follow. It gets rocky at times but nothing too serious. It felt like I flew through those first 7 miles and arrived at the creek in no time. I crossed and went down to the confluence for a swim and lunch. I couldn't help but wonder what other sights were around the corner so I wandered up stream into Haigler Canyon along the banks until I ran out of real estate and ended up walking directly in the creek for another mile. The water felt amazing, not too cold. It was mostly knee to thigh deep but there were 2 swimmers with options to bail out and bushwack. Following my ears, I made it to a nice little waterfall with a deep pool at the end. This is were I turned around and started my trek back. It was nice to be wearing wet clothes for those first few miles because it seemed almost entirely uphill with zero shade. Made decent time back to the TH. I truly enjoy the terrain here. Being less than 15mins from my house, I felt right at home. Everything from Cholla and Prickly Pear to Pines and everything in between with a beautiful riparian zone and rugged canyons as a reward. Didn't see any hikers today, just a dozen deer and twice that many cows & calves.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 El Grande Tank 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Haigler Creek Medium flow Medium flow
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If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Apr 10 2016
joebartels
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 Guides 213
 Routes 824
 Photos 10,880
 Triplogs 4,287

49 male
 Joined Nov 20 1996
 Phoenix, AZ
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 10 2016
joebartels
Hiking14.25 Miles 3,200 AEG
Hiking14.25 Miles   8 Hrs      1.97 mph
3,200 ft AEG      45 Mns Break14 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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DarthStiller
Back in the early 90's my sister went on a small group hike down this trail. Believe it was an overnight backpack. She asked me to join on a slew of trips but I just wasn't into hiking yet so it's all a blur. Anyhow, something went amiss heading out. I think the group spread out and someone took a wrong turn. SAR may have been involved, just recall it was figured out pretty quick. Needless to say, I've held some preconceived ideas this trail is a mean ol' pumpkin.

The upper end had a lot more pines and the course was more of a roller coaster than I had envisioned. With a 90% chance of rain predicted at a half inch I brought a rain jacket suitable for a rainforest. I have two sitting in the closet for nearly a decade unused. Problem being it's rarely cool enough to use without sweating up a storm yourself.

We started out in borderline freezing temps, probably 44 degrees. By the time we reached the creek I thought I was gonna burst into flames. The heat wave lasted a couple minutes tops. After watching Chris consume his standard burrito lunch with four billion packets of hot sauce the storm moved in. The wind picked up and the sky cast a Houdini spell on the sun.

The bottom half mile is a steep unstable slide. Undesirable, nothing to fret. Gotta agree with the signage at the top stating unsuitable for horses.

Heading up the rain jacket went off and on a couple times. Along the way I mentally noted the questionable route options. Roughly three or four angled unsigned junctions. Easy corrections peeking at Fenix. Seems to be quite a bit of mid trail signage I doubt was here twenty years ago. Mid trail signage seem rare in general, so kudos to those that made it happen.

The storm unleashed on our last three miles. About a half a mile involved small hail. Only 1 gate, not 37. Other than numb hands by the finish it was a dandy hike.
Named place
Named place
El Grande Tank

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 El Grande Tank 76-100% full 76-100% full
full
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Hike Arizona it ROCKS!
Apr 10 2016
DarthStiller
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 Guides 15
 Routes 234
 Photos 6,048
 Triplogs 438

50 male
 Joined Jul 05 2006
 Mesa, AZ
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 10 2016
DarthStiller
Hiking14.20 Miles 3,138 AEG
Hiking14.20 Miles   7 Hrs   30 Mns   1.89 mph
3,138 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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joebartels
Finally got a chance to get out and hike this trail. I was putting it off because I expected it to be harder than it actually was, although I am somewhat sore the next day. April seems to be one of the better months to try to hike this, since the days are long enough to not need a headlamp for any portion of it, and the temperatures are still cool enough so that it’s not miserable. I was still a little worried about hot weather once we had the date picked, but a few days before, the forecast was for rain. :scared:

One car was at the trailhead when we arrived at 6am. We saw those guys on their way out after an overnighter at the creek. They all had official hats for Game and Fish or other state agencies, so it may have been a work related trip for them.

The trail ascends right away from the trail along the old dirt road. There’s only 2 fairly big climbs, then it’s ups and downs along a ridge before the big descent. The trail cuts away from the dirt road and then seems to reconnect to another one or three until finally it’s just a single track. Lots of pines up top. Once the trail ascends to the ridge, there are some really nice views to the east and west. :y: For our entire hike into the canyon, the skies were very clear and the temperature was very warm. Once we finally got to the creek, Joe and I both got rid of our coat/sweatshirt, at which point the clouds almost immediately rolled in, along with some wind. By the time we were done eating lunch, it was already chilly. :oplz:

The area by the creek is very nice. Hells Gate looks more impressive than any of the pics people post, you kind of have to see it in person. I would have liked to explore more up and downstream, but there was no way to do that without getting wet. With the cooler weather rolling in and our time constraint for a dayhike, that wasn’t happening this day.

The last half mile descent to the creek is steep and loose like everyone says, but nothing I haven’t encountered elsewhere. Probably a bit worse than Leisure Canyon, but not as bad as getting up to the ruins at Cold Spring Canyon.

On the way out, there were two waves of sprinkles that hit us for a few minutes, then a little bit of rain. For a little while, it looked like we might luck out and avoid the 90% chance of rain in the forecast. Then, with 3 miles left to go, the rain finally came. It was a pretty steady downpour, with some hail mixed in. The temperature dropped enough and the wind picked up enough to make our hands somewhat numb. At one point, Joe stopped to make a video of the hail on the trail while he narrated. This didn’t turn out so well as I walked thru the middle of it during his zoom in close up of the ground, because waiting for him to finish that didn’t seem like a fun thing to do as the rain continued. We even saw a few flashes of lightning and some loud thunder, but no close calls, thankfully. It was perfect to get caught in the rain just enough to be happy the hike was over and appreciate a warm car ride home. Our fingers were still numb and not working so well once we got back to the car trying to put our gear away and change into dry clothes. But this will seem more pleasant than it was 2 months from now when the heat hits.

This was the first big hike for my new Camelbak Fourteener, and it's working out great. Very good purchase that I'm extremely happy with. Much more comfortable daypack than my Kelty, and still has enough room to carry 7 liters of water and my standard Taco Bell lunch. :D
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1 archive
Mar 25 2016
NorthWest
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 Guides 1
 Photos 16
 Triplogs 3

30 female
 Joined Feb 07 2016
 Tempe, AZ
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Backpack avatar Mar 25 2016
NorthWest
Backpack14.10 Miles 3,200 AEG
Backpack14.10 Miles2 Days         
3,200 ft AEG25 LBS Pack
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I joined several people and some dogs to do the Hellsgate Trail to Tonto Creek. This was a beautiful, challenging hike with some lovely views and knee-crushing hills.

I would rate this hike as dog friendly, providing that your dog is in excellent shape. You will need to be cautious about the heat and water, as we found little to no water along the trail. My dog did ok on the way in, but on the way out his paws started cracking and blistering, as well as the dog of my companion. The other 2 dogs on the hike did fine, they had tougher pads. The sharp rocks are hard on pups delicate feet, so be aware! There is a small pond about 3/4 of the way in that is good for them to jump in and cool off, but I did not attempt to filter the water, as it was very swampy and full of mosquitoes.

Tonto creek is lovely and cold! Very refreshing after the long hike in. Be prepared to get wet crossing. Several large, flat areas to pitch your tents, and possibly could hang hammocks if you were creative, as there were some small shrub trees. There's also a nice, large fire ring already established.

The last 1 mile or so of the hike is VERY steep and slippery rock, almost scrambling. I was severely scolding myself for not bringing hiking poles.

This was a lovely hike that I would do again, but would leave the dog at home this time.
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Hold my beer and watch this!
Apr 25 2015
toddak
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 Guides 8
 Routes 5
 Photos 1,071
 Triplogs 399

54 male
 Joined Nov 15 2005
 Puhoynix, AZ
Hell's Gate Trail #37Payson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 25 2015
toddak
Hiking26.00 Miles 5,000 AEG
Hiking26.00 Miles   12 Hrs      2.17 mph
5,000 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Partners none no partners
In a recent forum post, chumley asked if anyone had hiked the full length of this trail (most hikers come from the north trailhead and understandably don't venture beyond the confluence of Tonto and Haigler Creeks). As a big fan of Hellsgate Wilderness, of course I had to go check out the southern end of the trail. Since driving to the south trailhead on FR133 from Young was questionable, I started from the north trailhead. This report covers the trail section south of the confluence.

The trail continues a short distance up Haigler Creek from the confluence in the first obvious drainage, which is Smoky Hollow canyon. Shortly after entering the drainage the trail climbs out and up and stays on the eastern slope, paralleling the canyon. The trail is overgrown and faint in spots, but not too hard to follow. After climbing for about 0.75 miles, the trail crosses over to the west side of the drainage and continues climbing on a faint, abandoned road with steadily improving views. There aren't a lot of cairns, but the trail route and GPS track shown on MyTopo are pretty close to accurate.

From the south trailhead at the junction with FR133 I continued road-hiking east and south about 3 miles through beautiful open range country to go check out the "winter camp" shown on the maps. At some point the camp must have been a bustling place, but it appears to be abandoned. FR133 between the trailhead and winter camp is quite steep and rocky in places and would require a pretty serious off-road vehicle, and based on the grass growing on the road and the lack of tire tracks, I doubt it gets much use. I think it's safe to say that taking the southern route into this rugged area isn't going to be easy.
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Culture
Corral Windmill
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Apr 18 2015
Thoreau
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 Routes 10
 Photos 466
 Triplogs 656

male
 Joined Mar 10 2008
 Phoenix, AZ
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Backpack avatar Apr 18 2015
Thoreau
Backpack14.10 Miles 3,200 AEG
Backpack14.10 Miles2 Days         
3,200 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I swore this one off after doing it years ago as my 2nd ever backpacking trip, and all these years later it's still the grueling trek it was back then. A little bit easier with the amount of exercise I've been getting lately, and with vastly improved, lighter gear (mostly negated by being supplemented with more heavy junk like cigars, ham radio, etc.) but it was worth it.

We got to the bottom in 4:45 which shocked me. Only encountered a few people going in the other direction the entire day, so hopes were high of having the bottom to ourselves.

Soaked our feet in the water for a bit and crossed over to where the campsite I used last time was located. We got there and there was a tent packed up and stuck on a low-hanging tree branch nearby, with a large sleeping bag rolled up at the base. Not wanting to crash someone else's site, we went downstream a bit and ended up crossing back to the other side and downstream before finally finding a site. That one too had some oddities in that there was a sun-bleached sleeping bag laying off in the rocks nearby. We were beaten and staked a claim anyway.

Not a chance at finding any close firewood, so the fire ring that was already there didn't get used but the temps weren't really too bad anyway, and none of us were gonna be able to stay awake long enough to tend to one.

Headed back up this morning dreading the initial ascent. Poked our heads in to the other campsite and found it still empty of people and unchanged from how we last saw it. That kinda pissed us off to say the least. We still don't know what the heck that gear was doing there or why anyone would leave it.

What felt like a snails-pace on the way back up turned out to only be 15 minutes longer than our descent which was as much of a shock as our descent time was to us.

The new Quarter Dome 1 design, by the way, was fantastic. A bit of a pain to stake out (and they included way too few stakes to do it right, not sure why) but once you get it taut, it's fantastic. JUST enough space for myself and all of my gear. REI Flash sleeping bag and pad also proved to be worthy of the use of my REI coupons and dividend recently =)

Edit: one member of our party started off earlier than the rest and managed to drop his Delorme InReach along the way. Luckily we had radio communications with him and he was able to let us know. Not 30 minutes later a group of 4-5 people were on their way in and the lady at the end stopped us to ask if 'this thing is yours'. Huge thanks, and my friend was ecstatic to get that back!
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5 archives
Apr 17 2015
rowenjon
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 Triplogs 1

37 male
 Joined Apr 02 2015
 United States
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Backpack avatar Apr 17 2015
rowenjon
Backpack14.10 Miles 3,200 AEG
Backpack14.10 Miles1 Day   2 Hrs   30 Mns   
3,200 ft AEG      1 Min Break37 LBS Pack
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners none no partners
First ever triplog! Love HikeAZ and the community of knowledge that has helped me get started. Anyway, needed a break from the job and convinced two novice buddies to shirk their filial duties and find a quiet corner in Hell's Gate. Had some great new equipment to try out and a day and a half to do it. Arrived at the trail-head at 1:00 PM Friday, April 17. No cars in the lot. Perfect 65 degree day.

First mile was tough for new guys as they weren't used to the weight and one decided to bring eight liters of water! Oh well. Whatever makes you happy. Trail is well make although signs are a bit run down. Almost made one wrong turn following left onto trailhead 1625, but figured it out. :y:

Reaching the ridge went easily. One buddy, however, lost his sole (had to cut off section of rubber) which made traction really difficult. But we still made good time. There was a little water in the wash leading up to the Apache ridge. Side trails really were nice in helping to avoid climbing the complete ridge. The only wildlife were a number of cows passing El Grande tank along the ridge.

Our final descent into Hell's Gate was breathtaking and frightening in those final slides. At the bottom, no one was using the two campsites, so we had our choice. We were alone all evening. The old tent and sleeping bag previously left behind were still there. I really wanted to pack it out as it seemed more trash than useful, but I had already picked up enough glass from the fire area to feel as though I had appeased the Karmic gods.

Water was icy, but all of us made it in before we left. Ran into a real nice dad and his two sons that had hiked in to fish at the confluence. They videotaped our ice cold idiocy. Hopefully no videos go public...

The trip out was a tough one. Stopped for lunch on the Apache Ridge and was able to get enough of a signal to call home with our progress. Made it back to the truck in 4.5 hours--in time for a victory-dance cold one.

Great trip and great company. Where to next? :app:

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 El Grande Tank 76-100% full 76-100% full
Tank seemed nearly full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Haigler Creek Medium flow Medium flow
Tonto and Haigler running high
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1 archive
Apr 03 2015
dallen_ellswor
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 Photos 18
 Triplogs 6

26 male
 Joined Feb 18 2015
 Safford
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 03 2015
dallen_ellsworth
Hiking14.10 Miles 3,200 AEG
Hiking14.10 Miles   9 Hrs   30 Mns   1.48 mph
3,200 ft AEG28 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This was a great trip, definitely a difficult hike. Me and my lovely wife were the first at the trail head (the forest roads were great I had no problem getting a 98 toyota Camry to the trail head). The hike in was a fun one, it was my wife's first backpacking trip so we stayed at a nice steady pace the whole time. The last bit of the hike when it drops down into tonto creek is VERY steep. It is a difficult set of switch backs going to the bottom. Once down there the creek was cool, not the most lush or beautiful thing i have ever seen but definitely cool. We crossed over the stream and set up camp on top of the hill that splits the creek and have and great night up there, a few other people made there way down but kept their distance. I definitely reccomend taking a swim in the big water hole, it was so cold but felt fantastic after a long days hike. lots of water in the creek and overall a good hard hike.
Additional note: Great camping spot just up the ridge from where the abandoned gear is at the location estimate is 34.215639, -111.095609 hope you enjoy
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Culture
HAZ - Selfie
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
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Sep 26 2014
jtaylor
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 Guides 1
 Routes 4
 Photos 373
 Triplogs 348

41 male
 Joined Jul 20 2007
 Gilbert, AZ
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 26 2014
jtaylor
Hiking7.20 Miles
Hiking7.20 Miles
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Another day hike with my favorite Pastor Jeff. This guy is one of the best conversationalists I've ever met. Just a great guy all around. We met up at 8am at just had time to go about half-way in. We found some shade and took in some views while we relaxed, and then hoofed it back. It was good timing, as it was warmer than I expected and I was itching to get back to the forested portion of the hike.

Back at the trailhead, Jeff left for home. I had other plans: Namely beckoning Autumn with an IPA and some alone chill time at the car. Love it.
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“...wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.”
-Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
average hiking speed 2.06 mph
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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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