Disclaimer: Hiking can be a dangerous activity and should be undertaken with caution. It is your responsibility to study routes, alert others to your plans, assess local conditions, bring the appropriate gear, and assure that these hikes are within your ability level before attempting any hike. Difficultly levels are subjectively assigned by me from personal experience on each trail at the time I hiked it, and may not be reflective of your experience level or physical fitness.
Spring is here and the next few weeks will be prime time hiking across in Arizona. Need some ideas?
We need to be honest with each other: Sedona sucks. Assuming you can get past the ridiculous traffic, Sedona rewards you with a crowded town full of rich people, expensive souvenirs, and, unforgivably, A WINE BAR THAT DOES WINE TASTING IN PLASTIC CUPS. Infested with frat dudes in muscle shirts and neon colored sun glasses, the trails nearby are just as bad. Luckily, you don’t have to go all the way to Sedona to enjoy red rocks. Sycamore Canyon (accessed via Parsons Trail #144), just outside Cottonwood, offers 95% of the awesome with only 5% of the annoying. Only three downsides come to mind: 1.) Even though it is less crowded, this trail still gets a fair amount of use, 2.) The road going in probably demands a little extra ground clearance (small-SUV okay), and 3.) The first .1 miles of the hike are pretty steep, though reasonable and short.
Distance: 4.25 mi, each way, to Parson’s Springs
No, I have never seen a deer at Deer Creek. In every other way though, the Deer Creek Trail (#45) never disappoints. Starting from a car accessible trailhead just off AZ-87 and running along a beautiful perennial creek, the trail is as easy as they come for the first 3ish miles and gets remarkably little use. The best part? The early portions of the trail sticks to one side of the creek for the vast majority of the trip keeping wet-feet adverse nice and dry.
Distance: 3.25 miles, each way, before the mass of creek crossings start
Reavis Ranch via 109 North:
Reavis Ranch was first settled by Europeans when in the late 1870s Elisha Reavis, noted family abandoner and general nut-job, decided he would take the land from its local people. Reavis fought the local Apache tribe for several days, before realizing that he, one man, couldn’t single-handedly kill every person in the entire tribe. He thus decided that the next logical step WAS TO THROW DOWN HIS GUN, TAKE OFF HIS CLOTHES, AND RUN AROUND NAKED WITH BUTTER KNIFES IN HIS HANDS until the locals (rightly) decided he was too crazy to screw with. Somehow this plan worked, and Reavis founded a ranch at the site, producing fruit and nuts for decades. Unfortunately Reavis hadn’t really thought the whole thing out: the nearest towns were multiple days away and he eventually died because hiking in and out of the Superstitions every time you need something is freaking hard. I made up 0% of this story.
Nearly 150 years later some signs of the ranch still appear– it’s apple orchards are productive and rusted out gear lays right were it was left. Don’t let the human impacts scare you off though, Reavis Ranch is amazingly full of wildlife and the Eastern Superstitions provide some of the most impressive views south of Rim country. Though there are many ways to the Ranch site my favorite is via 105 north, which provides great views of Apache Lake, Four Peaks, and Castle Dome. Not terribly steep, this earns a medium listing because of the 18 mile round trip required. Be ready for a long drive to the trailhead, and a high clearance vehicle is required.
Distance: 18 miles round trip.
Ridiculous details on Reavis’ Life: http://www.ajpl.org/aj/superstition/stories/elisha%20m%20reavis.pdf
Hike details: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=246
Upsides: Amazing views, complete solitude, great fishing.
Downsides: Death. Every friend you bring on this hike is going to want to murder you on the way out. Also, snakes. Lots of snakes.
Easily on my Mt. Rushmore of AZ hiking, the Hell’s Gate trail starts just off highway 260 near Payson before dropping a mind boggling 1700 ft in just 1.4 miles. The other 5.5 miles are a set of maddeningly steep rolling hills that assure you constantly, uncomfortably ascending or descending.
The rewards, though, are great. The hike is astonishingly beautiful. Rumor has it monster Brown Trout are living in the creek at the hike’s end. And, best of all, when you get out you will feel like you have really accomplished something.
Distance: 14 miles round trip
Fun fact: signs in the Grand Canyon are designed to make you feel bad about yourself. For example:
As far as I can tell every single sign in the Grand Canyon is designed to make sure you don’t go hiking in the area that was specifically set aside for hiking. While I’m sure the rangers get a ton of pleasure pointing out all these signs to the people they rescue, it is important to note that they aren’t wrong. Reading Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon, which chronicles every death in the Grand Canyon (it’s a long book), makes it pretty clear that unless you are well initiated you probably shouldn’t try to hike to the River in a day. Instead take the Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point as the next best option. Following the extremely well developed Bright Angel Trail past the idyllic Indian Garden, the Plateau Point Cut off takes you too a large overlook with clear views of the river. Start early though, it’s a long, long way back up.
Distance: 12 miles round trip
Anything I missed? I’ll post an updated list when Phoenix temperatures get over 100 degrees.