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Mazatzal Peak Loop - Tonto National Forest

Summary: This is the standard (& frequently traveled) Barnhardt - Y Bar Basin loop hike. It's nice enough with some good views. 
Note: This hike was completed prior to the Willow fire which burned through the Mazatzal Wilderness in June and July of 2004. Actual trail conditions may differ from those described below.
Directions: From Phoenix drive northeast on State Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) for about 65 miles to the brown Forest Service sign for Barnhardt Rd (FS 419).  Turn left on this dirt road (a little bumpy, but ok for passenger cars if dry) and follow 4.7 miles to the parking area at the end.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car when dry, road becomes quite muddy and may be impassible after heavy rain.
Navigation: Easy
Length: 16.7 miles, or extend it to 18 miles
Date Hiked: October, 2001
Weather Conditions: Nice
Required Skills:
Hike Description: Begin walking on the trail (0 miles, 4220 ft) just past the large brown sign for the Barnhardt Trailhead (this sign is supposed to show some of the main trails in the area, though it doesn't make any sense to me). A couple feet past the sign is a signed junction: Barnhardt Trail (#43) heads straight & the Shake Tree Trail (#44) heads left, continue straight ahead on the Barnhardt Trail. The path is wide and rocky at first as it heads through a stile then begins following the south side of the drainage of Barnhardt Creek through a scrub forest of emory oak, alligator juniper, scrub oak, one seed juniper & prickly pear. About 15 minutes later you will pass a sign marking the Mazatzal Wilderness Boundary. The trail continues to ascend moderately for the next several miles. Look for a narrow break in the rock on the left hand side - about 100 feet up this short drainage is a nice waterfall (when it's flowing, which it probably isn't). In the upper end of the canyon manzanita becomes more common, and eventually becomes the dominant plant species. The trail bends to the right around the head of Barnhardt Creek & shortly thereafter reaches a signed junction with the right branching Sandy Saddle Trail (4.2 miles, 5960 ft), stay straight on Barnhardt. The trail for the next few miles is quite flat as it travels through manzanita corridors & in and out of shallow ponderosa pine filled drainages (the first of which appears to have some nice camp sites) below the rounded humps of Mazatzal Peak. Another 1.9 miles brings you to a signed intersection with the right branching Davenport Trail (which is also the Divide Trail and the Arizona Trail) or stay straight on the Divide Trail (also known as the Y Bar Trail) (6.1 miles, 6020 ft). For the 16.7 mile loop hike continue straight on the Divide Trail for 1.5 miles to the signed junction with the Brody Seep Trail. An alternative (if you'd like to add just over a mile to this hike) is to take a right and perform a short loop past a couple springs. If you try the latter, the Davenport trail takes you down a gradual rocky slope; in a little over a mile you will arrive at a signed junction with the left branching Brody Seep Trail (#264) (7.4 miles). Turn left and hike 1/4 mile to a nice camping area at Chilson Spring. There are two trails out of this camp & unfortunately no sign. We want the left branching trail, so skirt the camp to the left and look for some small cairns marking a route heading southeast. Follow the cairns and shortly the trail becomes very distinct. It's more rocky hiking through scrubby forest on a somewhat overgrown trail until you reach a sign for Brody Seep (which appears to have a use trail which begins just behind the sign). Just past the seep the trail begins climbing up a forested drainage before reaching a signed (?the sign was laying on the ground when the author was last there) junction with the right branching Fisher Trail (#230, Fisher Spring 3 miles). Stay straight and climb the remaining quarter mile on a steep rocky slope up to the junction (7.6 or 8.9 miles depending on the route you took, 6060 ft) with the Divide Trail (this is also the junction described earlier if you hadn't wasted your time on this loop and had stayed on the Divide Trail to begin with). Turn right and descend to the base of the rugged south face of Mazatzal Peak along a somewhat overgrown path. The trail bends right and begins a gradual ascent parallel to Suicide Ridge to a shoulder and a signed junction (9.5 or 10.8 miles, 6500 ft). Here the Divide Trail (which is also the AZ Trail) heads right; we, however, continue straight on the Y Bar Trail (#44, which is also the Shake Tree Trail - confused yet?). The trail begins its rocky descent through a pine forest and is a little overgrown with several downed trees that have begun to develop use trails around them. Follow the cairns where the path breaks out into wide treeless stretches. Eventually the trail bends left and begins a moderate climb (last one, I promise) as it follows the western escarpment of Suicide Ridge. Once at the shoulder, it's all down hill as you reach the front of the range; at which point the trail bends left and winds along the sunny, brushy slope of the front range of the mountain. The trail then bends right, heading down into the grassy lowlands as it continues eastward towards the prominent drainage of Barnhardt Creek and the parking lot (16.7 or 18 miles).
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author has completed this hike on several occasions. On his last trip he included the short loop to the springs in the hike, completing the round trip at a brisk pace in 6 hours.
Maps: Mazatzal Wilderness Tonto National Forest, USFS
Books: 'Arizona Trails - 100 Hikes in Canyon and Sierra' by David Mazel
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
View of the back side
of Mazatzal Peak.