Maverick MountainAfter parking near the intersection of Forest roads 79 and 79A, the first place of interest for hikers at Maverick Mountain is at Kendall Camp, a 15-minute walk from that intersection. In the days when men with picks and dreams roamed these mountains, prospectors processed gold ore at this place. Today the site holds an apple orchard surrounded by a rail fence. Continue walking on 79A a short distance to its meeting with Trail 65. To stay on the trail, walk between the posts stuck in the ground at intersections, and watch the trees for arrow signs labeled, "65." Rocks on the trail make the going rough and necessitate keeping your eyes down to avoid a sprained ankle. Even so, don't miss the remains of an old miner's cabin, three logs high, about 20 feet to the right of the trail. The hike of less than 2 miles takes about 90 minutes and deposits you 700 feet higher than the starting point.
Trail GuideLength: 1.75 miles, one, way
Elevation: 6,740 to 7,443 feet
Directions: The Senator Highway, also marked County Road 56, begins at the top of Mount Vernon Street, on the east end of downtown Prescott. Drive south on the Senator Highway to a sign pointing left toward Crown King. Turn left. Follow the road to a right fork and a sign pointing toward the Whispering Pines Camp. From there, continue .3 of a mile and turn right onto Forest Service Road 79. Drive 1.1 miles to a bridge across the Hassayampa River and another .4 of a mile to FR 79A. Park roadside and begin the hike by walking up the hill along 79A to Trail 65. The total distance from the top of Mount Vernon Street to where you park and walk is 9.9 miles.
Information: Prescott National Forest, Prescott Ranger District, 928-443-8000; www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott.
Haunted CanyonThe 7.8-mile one-way Haunted Canyon Trail 203 hides on the fringes of the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix. Some stories say the canyon earned its name from Apache tales of woe told to early pioneers. Others tell tales of ghosts and gold. The trail drops down into dark canopy, where at the 2.8-mile mark, the Bull Basin Trail branches off to the west. Over the next several miles, you'll climb the saguaro-studded canyon rim, and then drop back down to meet Wood Creek before crossing over to Pinto Creek's tangle of oak limbs and bared roots.
Trail GuideLength: 7.8 miles, one-way
Elevation: 3,145 to 5,000 feet
Directions: From Phoenix, drive east on U.S. Route 60. At 12.8 miles past Superior, turn north (left) onto Pinto Valley Road, between Mileposts 239 and 240. The road goes 3 miles to the entrance of Pinto Valley Mine. At the mine entrance, turn left, heading northwest on Forest Service Road 287 for 4 miles to the Haunted Canyon Trailhead, just past the bridge over Pinto Creek. For a one-way hike, leave one car here and continue in another vehicle .2 miles to the junction with Forest Service Road 287A. Drive 4 miles west on FR 287A to the opposite end of the trail into Haunted Canyon.
Information: Tonto National Forest, Superstition Wilderness, Globe Ranger District, 928-402-6200; www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto.
Lost Goldmine TrailLost Goldmine Trail was named in honor of the legend of the Lost Dutchman, Jacob Waltz, who was supposed to have found an old Spanish mine in the Superstitions, but probably took its secret location with him to the grave in the early 1890s. The path meanders west across the foothills at the base of the Superstition Mountains, between the Peralta and Hieroglyphics trails. On the Peralta side, at an elevation of 5,057 feet, the Superstitions' highest peak rises straight ahead, and locally named Turks Cap hunkers west and slightly south. Flatiron Mountain graces the northwest skyline at the other end.
Trail GuideLength: 5.75 miles, one-way
Elevation: 2,100 feet
Location: 50 miles east of Phoenix.
Directions: Take U.S. Route 60 east to Peralta Road. Turn north and drive 8.5 miles. Park in the Dons Camp lower parking lot.
Information: The trail is co-sponsored by Pinal County and the Superstition Area Land Trust; Pinal County Supervisor's Office, 480-982-0652.
Woods Canyon TrailThis stunning Red Rock Country tail ambles along Dry Beaver Creek, then crosses the stream and heads north into Woods Canyon. After about 20 minutes of brisk hiking along an abandoned jeep trail, you'll arrive at a check-in station marking the Munds Mountain Wilderness boundary. About an hour into the hike, you'll reach an intersection of the Woods Canyon and Hot Loop trails. Woods Canyon continues straight ahead; Hot Loop, identified by a metal marker as Trail 94, turns left toward Horse Mesa. From this point, the Hot Loop Trail contours north and east, gradually gaining elevation before topping out on Horse Mesa at 5,200 feet, approximately 1,300 feet above the hike's start. The trail proves rough and boulder-clogged in places, encouraging caution and occasional stops to look west down the broad Verde Valley.
Trail GuideLength: 5.5 miles, round-trip
Elevation: 3,900 to 5,200 feet
Directions: Woods Canyon trailhead (#93) is on the east side of State Route 179, 1.5 miles south of Jacks Canyon Road in the Village of Oak Creek.
Information: Coconino National Forest, Sedona Ranger District, 928-282-4119; www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino.
Little Wolf CreekThe remote 2.7-mile Little Wolf Creek Trail in central Arizona's Bradshaw Mountains has an elevation gain of about 800 feet and offers hikers glimpses of wildlife and opportunities to speculate about what might have occurred along its route during the last century. Beginning on a road that has relinquished its definition to the forces of nature, the trail flirts with the Little Wolf Creek drainage, getting close enough for hikers to see the sparkles of mica-flecked quartz strewn upon its dry creek bed. Within a half-mile, a stone foundation appears. The route soon parts company with the drainage and makes its arduous way up a hillside. Pockets of ponderosa pines that shaded the drainage disappear as the trail reaches a sunbaked ridgeline. Manzanita bushes cover the Bradshaw Mountains' rounded slopes like a nappy blanket. After another half-mile, the trail passes a ramshackle corral as it heads toward Little Wolf Creek again. Within a mile from the corral, the trail ducks under an old cow gate as it starts to climb out of the drainage and back into the sun-drenched manzanitas. The path quickly heads into an oak forest and then fades to a nuance as it parallels a rusty barbed-wire fence. The trail ends in less than a mile at a working corral.
Trail GuideLength: 2.7 miles, one-way
Elevation: 5,245 to 6,045 feet
Directions: From Phoenix, take Interstate 17 north to State Route 69; drive north 7 miles and turn left into the town of Mayer. Turn right onto Main Street and proceed 1.3 miles to a blue and white sign for the Prescott National Forest (First Street). Turn left and follow a jog in the road and two more signs for the national forest to County Road 177; drive 6.5 miles to the sign for Trail No. 304.
Information: Prescott National Forest, Bradshaw Ranger District, 928-771-4700; www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott.
Robber's RoostNot far from Loy Butte, a familiar Sedona landmark, sits the legendary Robber's Roost. Heading south through an open space at the top of the ridge spur, you'll come to an unmarked trailhead, barely distinguishable from the surrounding terrain. The trail descends, gently at first, then a bit steeper, going from mostly soil to rocks. Passing a stone outcrop on your right, you'll swing east onto a level stretch. Here the trail drops onto a south-facing ledge roughly 30 feet below the broad, flat summit. To your left, the cliff falls away, revealing an extensive vista that sweepsouth to distant mountains. A huge opening looms as you round the corner. There stands the mouth of Robbers Roost. The cave's eroded round "window" measures 6 feet in diameter, while the interior covers roughly 20 feet from front to back, 40 feet in width and 15 feet in height. Modern hands had stacked stones atop the ruined Indian wall that spans the cave's mouth. A door, steps, separate room and firepit also were added later. The way down lead from the northeastern end of the butte across a south-facing slope of grass, prickly pear and a mixture of juniper trees and other dwarf conifers. You'll curl around to the west, entering an area where house-size blocks of rock have fallen from the cliff above. From the boulder field, work your way back and forth along the sandstone layers.
Trail GuideLength: .6 miles, round-trip
Elevation: 4,967 to 5,045
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Directions: From Sedona, travel southwest on State Route 89A to Red Canyon Road, also known as Forest Road 525. Turn right and follow it 12.4 miles where Forest Road 525C branches to the left. Turn left and travel 19.2 miles to Forest Road 9530 on the right. This rough road may require a high-clearance vehicle. You may drive or walk the 1.1 miles to the trail.
Travel Advisory: A Red Rock Pass is required when parking in the national forest to hike in Red Rock Country. Passes are sold on the Internet and at the Gateway Visitor Centers, a variety of local vendors and automated self-pay stations.
Information: Coconino National Forest, Red Rock Ranger District, 928-282-4119; www.redrockcountry.com.
Brins Mesa TrailThe Brins Mesa Trail begins mere blocks from Uptown Sedona, climbing 1.5 miles to a tabletop aerie sandwiched between Brins Ridge and Wilson Mountain. The highlight of this hike is the view, and Sedona's red rock landmarks play starring roles. The 1-mile point – where the real climb begins – offers an ideal turnaround for novices, while the strong of lung might take on the steep half-mile to the mesa's edge. The trail, which begins at the gate to the old shooting range, winds through fresh-scented cypress and piñon pine tress. Manzanita bushes line the route. Despite the lush vegetation, the wide trail conveys an open feeling. At a low spot, about three-quarters of a mile along, the trail forks. The left fork continues the climb to Brins Mesa, named in memory of a wily brindle-colored bull that evaded a roundup on the mesa's high pastures.
Trail GuideLength: 3 miles, round-trip
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
Directions: From Uptown Sedona, take Jordan Road north; turn left onto West Park Ridge Drive, which ends at a dirt parking area. A sign indicates Brins Mesa No. 119.
Travel Advisory: Parking on national forest land in Red Rock Country requires purchase of a Red Rock Pass, available at four visitor centers in the Sedona vicinity. Stay on the trail and be respectful of nearby private property. The trail can be hiked year-round, though spring and fall feel most comfortable.
Information: Sedona Ranger District, 520-282-4119. Parking pass information, 520-282-4119; www.redrockcountry.org.
Pieper Hatchery TrailHidden below the lofty escarpment of the Mogollon Rim about 12 miles northeast of Payson, the "bones" of Pieper Hatchery lie buried under a thick carpet of vinca. Here, nature slowly reclaims what man has borrowed. The crystal water of Pieper Hatchery Spring that once detoured through raceways and holding ponds now flows freely under a splendid canopy of alder, fir and pine trees. From the parking lot of the Washington Park Trailhead, the path heads north down a gentle slope about 70 yards until it crosses the river – only a dozen feet wide and maybe 10 inches deep at this spot. After walking up a short slope to the Highline Trail (No. 31) sign, turn left onto an old overgrown logging road that parallels the river. After a hundred or so yards of careful picking, you'll see in the grass the first rusted implements from the old hatchery enticing you forward. Another 200 yards of casual walking through shady silence, and the meadow of the hatchery appears. It's possible to follow the old road north for about a hundred yards, crossing the East Verde River and traveling up a short slope to the unmarked Colonel Devin Trail. This major trail connects back to the trailhead along the west side of the river.
Trail GuideLength: Approximately .75 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Directions: From the intersection of State Route 260 and State Route 87 in Payson, drive north on State 87 for 2 miles to Forest Road 199 (Houston Mesa Road) and turn right. Drive 10 miles and turn left onto Forest Road 64. Continue .6 of a mile and turn right onto Forest Road 32. Travel 3.3 miles to Forest Road 32A and follow it a half-mile north to the Washington Park Trailhead.
Information: Tonto National Forest, Payson Ranger District, 520-474-7900; www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto.
West Fork of Oak CreekIt would be a stretch to call this a hike. An amble, maybe or a mosey, perhaps a walk. In any case, the pace proves just right for those who love to stop and smell the roses. And the beebalm, the goldenrods, the taperleaf, the yarrow and the bugbanes, too. The first 3 miles of the hike are marked and the trail crosses the creek several times. After that, there's no trail up the canyon; instead, you'll follow the boulder-strewn streambed, detouring to see what's growing in a sunny meadow or on a shady hillside.
Trail GuideLength: 3 miles, but can continue beyond that for a total of 14 miles
Elevation Gain: None
Directions: From Phoenix, drive north 60 miles on Interstate 17 to Sedona and State Route 179, Exit 298. Drive northwest for 15 miles on State 179 to the "Y" intersection with U.S. Route 89A in Sedona. Turn right onto 89A and drive north approximately 10 miles to halfway between Mileposts 385 and 384. The trailhead is at the Call O' the Canyon day-use area on the left (west) side of the road.
Information: Coconino National Forest, 928-203-7500; www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino.
Picketpost MountainPicketpost is nobody's idea of classic alpine beauty. Clunky and squarish, the mountain resembles a huge, flat-topped iceberg carved from the cliffs of nearby Apache Leap. This "berg," however, floats more than 1,700 feet above the desert near Superior, about 60 miles east of Phoenix. And its summit encompasses enough flat space to hold two football fields. The most popular track takes hikers directly up the west face. It starts south of U.S. Route 60, and follows a dirt-road section of the Arizona Trail for about a quarter of a mile south before heading southeasterly up an abandoned mine road toward the mountain's western midsection. From there, a variety of paths converge in a shadowed notch that allows scramblers a passage to the top. Each variation on this route features either treacherous gravel, polished slick-rock, trickling waterfalls, large chockstones or all of the above, making it a stimulating test for the strong and agile.
Trail GuideLength: Approximately 4 miles, round-trip
Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet
Directions: From Phoenix, take U.S. Route 60 east to Forest Road 231 at approximately .4 of a mile east of Milepost 221 (5 miles west of Superior). Turn south and proceed for about .3 of a mile to a "T" intersection with an old paved road. Turn east and continue .6 of a mile to a parking area at the Arizona Trail's Picketpost Mountain trailhead.
Travel Advisory: This is not an official Forest Service trail. Some scrambling and route-finding ability are required. Best weather conditions exist from November to April. Carry water. Information: Tonto National Forest, Globe Ranger District, 928-402-6200; www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto.
Parsons TrailParsons Trail is considered the "easy trail" into the harsh beauty of Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, probably because nearly everyone can manage the first 2 miles. The trail begins as a gentle, shaded promenade on a well-worn path through dense riparian forest dominated by cottonwoods and sycamores. About 2 miles from the trailhead, Summers Spring adds to Parsons Spring's flow, enabling lower Sycamore Creek to flow year-round for about 4 miles before merging with the Verde River. Beyond a popular beach and swimming hole, the canyon closes tighter around the trail. Columns of boulders jacketed in wire mesh mark six stepping-stone fords. Parsons Trail begins from a parking lot at the end of Forest Road 131, then descends steeply about 200 feet to a fork. Packard Mesa Trail No. 66 turns left up Packard Mesa toward the upper Sycamore Canyon Wilderness. Keep right for Parsons Trail. You can spot Parsons seeping out from beneath twisted roots at the base of the canyon wall to form a long pool of flat water.
Trail GuideLength: 4 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain: None
Directions: From Interstate 17 take State Route 260 to State 89A through Cottonwood, then take the turnoff for Tuzigoot National Monument. After crossing the bridge at the Verde River, turn left onto Sycamore Canyon Road, Forest Road 131, and follow the road along the river up onto Duff Flat. The pavement quickly ends but the dirt road is suitable for passenger cars. Follow the signs to Sycamore Canyon and the clearly marked trailhead, about 11 miles from the Tuzigoot road.
Information: Coconino National Forest, Sedona Ranger District, 928-282-4119; www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino.