|Hiking||7.65 Miles|| 6 Hrs 48 Mns ||1.23 mph|
|1,843 ft AEG|| 34 Mns Break|
||no linked trail guides|
|First step to enjoying this hike is finding the trailhead: turn right off northbound Hwy 180 (Fort Valley Rd} onto FR151. We discovered that FR151 runs mostly north-south and crosses 180 in two places. The one you want is the north end which is a little north of mile marker 235. After 1.7 miles bear left onto FR418, continue for 3 miles and watch for a wooden sign on the right indicating the turn to the Abineau Bear Jaw trailhead. Shortly after turning there will be a sign that the road is 9123J. Take it all the way to the end to find the trailhead. The dirt roads from 180 are generally pretty good for regular cars, but those with low clearance will have to navigate through some rough spots which have either potholes or rocks.|
There is no restroom or water at the trailhead, which is at about 8530 ft. elev. There was only one other hiker there with her dog, hiking the Abineau trail only. On a day when Phoenix hit a high of 114 degrees, the temperature here probably didn't exceed 80. We picked a day with no chance of rain for the area because we have experienced thunder and lightning on these mountains and never want to again. The round trip distance of the loop is supposed to be 6.8 miles according to the Coconino NF description, but that must be from the sign-in box which is where the trails split. Our GPS said 7.7 miles from the parking lot with an accumulated gain of about 1850 ft.
We decided to go up the steeper Abineau and down the Bear Jaw because we feel it is easier going up a steep slope than down it. Both trails are mostly in the wilderness which means they are generally not maintained. We were surprised to find the first 2/3 of the Abineau relatively wide, shady, and easy to hike, and it looked like someone had improved it. The last 1/3 was steeper and narrower with some pretty big steps, but well constructed. While there were wildflowers all along the trail, the upper 1/3 had an amazingly dense display of beautiful, dazzling colors, especially where many trees had fallen and opened up the area to sunshine. These clearings also provided views of Humphreys Peak and adjacent ridge line. With all these photo ops we had a good excuse to stop and catch our breath in the thin air and strenuous climb.
The high point of the hike is where the Abineau ends and you find yourself on the broad, open, high end of Pipeline Rd. We spent some time taking in the gorgeous views in all directions, and wondering how hard it would be to climb Humphreys from there. We had a pretty clear view north where you are supposed to see the Grand Canyon, but some haze made it hard to distinguish. The Pipeline Rd has an easy downward slope with steep forested hillsides on both sides. Fallen rocks and downed trees provide minor obstacles. In many places you can see the steel pipe in the road.
The road continues down to the Inner Basin, so watch on the left for the trail sign for the Bear Jaw which is narrow, steep and with loose rock at the start. We could now see why the other hiker preferred to go back down on the Abineau. As we descended it got less steep and the footing improved some, but there were several large trees to climb over and spots with somewhat difficult footing. Most of it was in shady forest but some of the lowest area was sunny and grassy. The last stretch near the loop juncture is uphill.
This loop is a great way to spend a summer day. Going up the Abineau was the best part. The Bear Jaw is a good trail also but not as scenic as the Abineau. We didn't see any bear or elk, but we did see a deer driving in and another on the way out. My husband is an amateur botanist and found a few plant species he hasn't seen before. Take a look at some of his excellent pictures.
||Wildflowers Observation Substantial
"f" indicates frequent
Groundsel - f
Paintbrush - f
Aspen Fleabane - f
Wild Chrysanthemum - f
Richardson’s Geranium - very f
Yellow Columbine - f
Little Yellow tbd.?
Slender rays orange discs tbd?
Western Sneezeweed - f
Narrow Y Petals big leaves tbd.?
Small Y Flower tbd.?
Wild Bergamot - f - higher up
Large Flower Bricklebush
Small DYC tbd.1601
Cinquefoil - f
Deer’s Ears - f - higher up