Limestone terraces frame the tranquil pools of East Clear Creek on Arizona's Mogollon Rim.
© Nick Berezenko
>> Click on image to view
it larger in a separate window.
Additional Reading expand
Our newest book, Arizona Highways Hiking Guide, is now available and features 52 of Arizona's best day hikes for winter, spring, summer and fall.
To order, call 800-543-5432
Kinder CrossingNarrow canyons, pine-covered hillsides and the allure of East Clear Creek highlight this hike in the heart of Rim Country.
By Scott Parrish
More than 100 years have passed since R.C. Kinder's sheep waded East Clear Creek at his namesake crossing below Blue Ridge Reservoir in the heart of Mogollon Rim Country. Now, the lug-soled boots of hikers and fishermen track Kinder Crossing Trail, a one-way hike of .75 miles or 1.5 miles, depending on your sense of adventure.
East Clear Creek slips between terraced limestone cliffs. Thickets of willow and alder trees frame somnolent pools, and an occasional trout surfaces to inhale its insect lunch. An easy access into the 600-foot-deep chasm along Kinder Crossing Trail appears at the end of Forest Road 95T and heads northeast down an easy slope conveniently stacked with steps of pitted limestone and gnarled roots. Steller's jays flash blue among the trees, and hawks pirouette overhead. After about 200 yards, the stream comes into view to the right. The track descends gently over bony limestone rubble and through a shaded saddle, where footprints of deer, elk and humans mingle.
After the saddle, instead of the route shown on the USGS map, the trail drops off steeply to the right. Long, angled slabs of sandstone offer footholds for hikers on a series of tightly wound, well-engineered switchbacks.
Near the end of the .75-mile trip, about 100 feet separate the trail and stream. A large, dark pool broods below a ledge overgrown with pines, firs and oaks. Outcrops of layered sandstone peek from the grassy slope. Underfoot, a hematite-encrusted section of sandstone leaves the impression you're walking on a pavement of iron.
The trail reaches the stream at an elevated bench covered by mighty ponderosa pines. The path continues downstream to the confluence of Yaeger Canyon and crosses at the head of a long, shallow pool formed by a large sandstone abutment that juts into the stream. Relentless water and persistent time have eaten through the rock, creating an algae-covered spillway into the next large pool. Most day-hikers stop for lunch and a swim there, and then head back out the way they came.
But adventurous types continue along the trail and cross the canyon — if they're armed with good route-finding skills and the appropriate topo maps. From the pool on, no cairns or blazes mark the way. This trail section heads downstream for another .75 miles over gravel bars dotted with willows, alders and wildflowers. Beavers inhabit some of the long pools. Then the trail turns east up a long, sloping ridge to connect with Forest Road 137.
Trail Guideclick to expand
Length: .75 miles or 1.5 miles, one way
Elevation: 6,460 to 7,000 feet
Payoff: Scenery, creekside swimming
Getting There: From Payson, drive 50 miles north on State Route 87 to the Blue Ridge Ranger Station. Just past the ranger station, take the first right onto Forest Road 95 and drive 4.1 miles to Forest Road 95T, turn left and follow the road for .6 miles to the Kinder Crossing Trail sign at a fork in the road. Four-wheel-drive vehicles can continue for another .1 miles to the actual trailhead.
Information: 928-477-2255 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino
Leave No Trace Ethics: