Sierra Anchas Wilderness

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While not large in acres, this very special wilderness has precipitious box canyons, high vertical cliffs, and pine-covered mesas.

The extremely rough topography limits (and in some places prohibits) cross-country travel; however, the area has a good system of trails. The many plant and animal species vary from those found on the desert to those found at 8,000 feet.

Location: Just east of the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest in Arizona
Size and Elevation: 20,850 acres, 4,000 feet to 7,400 feet
Ecosystem: Ponderosa pine forests and chaparral.
Features: Mountains and box canyons featuring prehistoric ruins.
Activities: Hiking, Horseback Riding

Before you hit the trails, you may want to learn more about the topography, vegetation, geology, climate, wildlife, livestock regulations, water, or natural fire management. Still not satisified? Check out more sources for information and other Tonto wilderness trails.

Trails

The condition of these trails varies between excellent and poor. Signs are installed at trail junctions, are often damaged or stolen. All trails within Wilderness are off-limits to bikes.

Short Trails
Murphy Ranch Trail - 1.1 mile connecting trail.
Center Mountain Trail - 2.5 miles to top of Center Mountain. Views.
Cienega Spring Trail - 3.3 mile old jeep trail.
Mcfadden Horse Trail - 3.3 miles. Good views.
Parker Creek Trail - 3.4 miles. Scenic and easier than most in this wilderness.

Medium Trails
Spring Trail - 4.4 mile drop into Coon Canyon.
Reynolds Creek Trail - 3.7 miles across scenic Knoles Hole.
Coon Creek Trail - 4.5 miles paralleling Coon Creek.

Long Trails
Deep Creek Trail - 5 miles of easy hiking through chapparal/grassland basin.
Grapevine Trail - 5 miles. Old jeep trail under the bluffs.
Rim Trail - 7.6 miles. Follows canyon rim. Easiest of the bunch.
Moody Point Trail - 8.6 miles. Longest and most difficult. A challenge.
Lucky Strike Trail - 5 miles past old mining area.

Short Trails

141 - Murphy Ranch Trail
1.1 miles in length. This trail drops down to Rim Trail 139 from near the privately-owned Murphy Ranch. It travels through mixed-conifer and some thickets of New Mexican locust.
Lowest elevation: 6.400 feet; highest elevation 7,200 feet.
Difficulty level: more difficult.
Use level: Light.
Trailhead: Murphy.

142 - Center Mountain Trail
2.5 miles in length. Climbs onto Center Mountain through stands of Ponderosa pine. Good viewpoints.
Lowest elevation: 6,700 feet; highest elevation 7,500 feet.
Difficulty level: more difficult.
Use level: Light.
Trailhead: Billy Lawrence.

145 - Cienega Spring Trail
3.3 miles in length. This is an old jeep road which is outside the Wilderness, but provides access to the Wilderness.
Lowest elevation: 5,600 feet; highest elevation 6,200 feet.
Difficulty level: easiest.
Use level: Very light.
Trailheads: Cienega; McFadden.

146 - Mcfadden Horse Trail
3.3 miles in length. This dead-end trail climbs steeply up onto pine-covered McFadden Horse Mountain. Some excellent views.
Lowest elevation: 6,200 feet; highest elevation 7,400 feet.
Difficulty level: most difficult.
Use level: very light.

160 - Parker Creek Trail
3.4 miles in length. This is a scenic trail which climbs on an easy grade from the Young Highway up into the Sierra Anchas. Access is through the old Sierra Ancha Experimental Station Headquarters (now partially occupied by A.S.U.). Please do not block roads if you park in this compound.
Lowest elevation: 5,100 feet; highest elevation 7,000 feet.
Difficulty level: more difficult.
Use level: Light to moderate.
Trailhead: Parker Creek.

Medium Trails

124 - Spring Trail
4.0 miles in length. This trail which drops into Coon Creek Canyon passes through a riparian zone and a grove Arizona cypress.
Lowest elevation: 4,400 feet; highest elevation 5,100 feet.
Difficulty level: easiest.
Use level: Light.

150 - Reynolds Creek Trail
3.7 miles in length. The southern end of this trail borders the privately-owned Murphy Ranch. It climbs "The Switchbacks" and traverses scenic Knoles Hole. A part outside the Wilderness was an old logging road. Some segments are brushy and hard to find.
Lowest elevation: 6,200 feet; highest elevation 7,600 feet.
Difficulty level: more difficult.
Use level: Light.
Trailheads: Reynolds; Murphy.

254 - Coon Creek Trail
4.4 miles in length. This trail parallels Coon Creek for much of its length and may be washed out in spots. It drops below the rim through mixed conifer into chaparral.
Lowest elevation: 4,700 feet; highest elevation 7,100 feet.
Difficulty level: more difficult.
Use level: Very light.
Trailhead: Oak Creek.

Long Trails

128 - Deep Creek Trail
5.0 miles in length. This trail provides easy hiking and passes through a chaparral/grassland basin with fine views of the bluffs of the Sierra Ancha Mountains.
Lowest elevation: 5,000 feet; highest elevation: 5,500 feet.
Difficulty level: easiest.
Use level: Light.
Trailhead: Bull Canyon.

135 - Grapevine Trail
5.0 miles in length. Most of this trail was an old jeep road which generally contours under the high bluffs of the Sierra Anchas. There is no major elevation change and travel is easy.
Lowest elevation: 4,400 feet; highest elevation: 4,900 feet.
Difficulty level: easiest.
Use level: Light.
Trailhead: Grapevine.

139 - Rim Trail
7.6 miles in length. This trail is relatively level and is easily traveled. It follows the rim and passes through stands of Ponderosa pine. Excellent views.
Lowest elevation: 6,300 feet; highest elevation: 6,800 feet.
Difficulty level: easiest.
Use level: Moderate.

140 - Moody Point Trail
At 8.6 miles in length, this is the longest and one of the most difficult trails in this Wilderness. There is some major elevation change on this trail. It may be vague and difficult to follow in some places. West-to-east (downhill) travel is recommended. Travelers might not be able to cross Cherry Creek at higher water levels.
Lowest elevation: 3,000 feet; highest elevation 7,200 feet.
Difficulty level: most difficult.
Use level: Very light.
Trailhead: Moody Point.

144 - Lucky Strike Trail
5.0 miles in length. There is some major elevation change on this trail which was an old jeep road. It is easy to follow and passes by an area of past mining activity.
Lowest elevation: 4,000 feet; highest elevation 6,800 feet.
Difficulty level: more difficult.
Use level: Very light.
Trailheads: Lucky Strike; Billy Lawrence.

Directions to Trailheads

Billy Lawrence
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe) take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 27.5 miles gust past Reynolds Creek). Turn right (east) onto Forest Road 410 and drive approximately 2.5 miles to the junction with Forest Road 235. A high clearance or 4WD vehicle is needed beyond this point. Turn left onto Road 235 and drive approximately 2.5 miles to the trailhead.
Trails accessed: Lucky Strike Trail 144; Center Mountain Trail 142.

Bull Canyon
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 6.6 miles to the Cherry Creek Road (Forest Road 203). Take Road 203 east for nine miles, then turn north on Forest Road 203A. Follow this road for approximately 6.5 miles to the trailhead. High clearance or 4x4 vehicles are recommended.
Trails accessed: Deep Creek Trail 128; Coon Spring Trail 124.

Carr
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 25.5 miles to Forest Road 487 (just past the Workman Creek Bridge). A high-clearance or 4WD vehicle is needed beyond this point. Take Road 487 east for 5.5 miles the trailhead which is a small parking area on the right side of the road.
Note: This road is closed from December 15 through March 30 annually due to snow.
Trails accessed: Parker Creek Trail 160; Rim Trail 139; Coon Creek Trail 254.

Cienega
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 27.5 miles gust past Reynolds Creek). Turn right (east) onto Forest Road 410 and drive approximately 2.5 miles to the junction with Forest Road 235. A high clearance or 4WD vehicle is needed beyond this point. Turn left onto Road 235 and drive approximately 0.5 miles to the trailhead.
Trail accessed: Cienega Trail 145.

Grapevine
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 6.6 miles to the Cherry Creek Road (Forest Road 203). Take Road 203 east for 31.8 miles to the trailhead. A high clearance or 4x4 vehicle is needed. There is room for a couple of vehicles to park along the road where the trailhead is located. This trailhead can also be reached by driving south on Road 203 approximately nine rough miles from its junction with State Highway 288.
Trail accessed: Grapevine Trail 135.

Leisure Canyon
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88-northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 6.6 miles to the Cherry Creek Road (Forest Road 203). Take Road 203 east for 18.8 miles to the trailhead. There is a small parking area here.
Trail accessed: Moody Point Trail 140.

Lucky Strike
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 6.6 miles to the Cherry Creek Road (Forest Road 203). Take Road 203 east for 26.6 miles to the trailhead. A high clearance or 4x4 vehicle is needed. Parking is very limited right at the trailhead, but is available nearby.
Trail accessed: Lucky Strike Trail 144.

McFadden
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe) take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 29 miles. This obscure trailhead is easy to miss and has very limited parking. This is accessible to all vehicles.
Trails accessed: Cienega Trail 145; McFadden Horse Trail 146.

Moody Point
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 25.5 miles to Forest Road 487 just past the Workman Creek Bridge). A high-clearance or 4WD vehicle is needed beyond this point. Take Road 487 east for 5 miles the trailhead.
Note: This road is closed from December 15 through March 30 annually due to snow.
Trail accessed: Moody Point Trail 140.

Murphy
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 25.5 miles to Forest Road 487 just past the Workman Creek Bridge). A high-clearance or 4WD vehicle is needed beyond this point. Take Road 487 east for 6 miles the junction with Forest Road 487A. Turn onto Road 487A and drive one mile to the trailhead.
Note: This road is closed from December 15 through March 30 annually due to snow.
Trails accessed: Murphy Ranch Trail 141; Reynolds Creek Trail 150.

Oak Creek
From Claypool (between Miami and Globs). take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 15 miles to the junction with Forest Road 189. Take Road 189 east for five miles to the trailhead at the Oak Creek Cabin (Please do not disturb the range facilities located here. A high clearance or 4x4 vehicle is recommended.
Trails accessed: Coon Creek Trail 254; Coon Spring Trail 124.

Parker Creek
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe) take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 19.7 miles to the old Sierra Ancha Experiment Station Headquarters. Turn right and drive a short distance to a grave led parking area just outside the gate. From here, walk through the gate and down an interior road about 100 yards to the Parker Creek Trail 160. Look for trail signs near the flagpole to the left. This trailhead is accessible to all vehicles.
Trail accessed: Parker Creek Trail 160.

Reynolds
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe) take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 27.5 miles (just past Reynolds Creek). Turn right (east) onto Forest Road 410 and drive approximately four miles to the trailhead. Several places to park are nearby. A 4WD vehicle is recommended.
Trail accessed: Reynolds Creek Trail 150.

Topography

This is exceptionally rough, scenic, and often inaccessible country. The mountains include precipitous box canyons, high vertical cliffs, and prehistoric cliff dwellings (these Indian ruins are protected by law. No digging or removal of any artifacts is permitted without authorization of the Forest Service).

Elevations vary from 4,000 feet near Cherry Creek to 7,400 feet on the higher peaks.

Vegetative Types

Higher elevations contain good stands of ponderosa pine. Unexpectedly there are also several pockets' of mixed conifer. At a somewhat lower elevation (and sometimes inter-mixed with the ponderosa pine) begins the Chaparral vegetative type. These brush stands are often quite dense and contain species such as turbinella oak, manzanita, and mountain mahogany.

Other sites are occupied by a Pinyon -Juniper vegetative type. At still lower elevations on the east side of the Wilderness, a semi-desert brush/grass vegetative type is found. The relationships and juxtaposition of plants caused by often extremely rapid changes in elevation is of particular interest in this Wilderness.

Geology

All the consolidated rocks in one sample area are considered to be of Precambrian age, with the possible exception of the Apache Diabase. The earliest rocks in that area are designated as Pinal schist. Resting on the eroded surface of these older Precambrian rocks is a Scanlan conglomerate. This is overlain conformably by the Pioneer shale, which is in turn overlain by the Barnes conglomerate and a much thicker Dripping Spring quartzite.

Remnants of a light gray to white Mescal limestone overlie the quartzite, however much has been removed by erosion. The younger Precambrian sediments overlying the Pinal schist are known as the Apache series. Diabase dykes and masses intrude the Apache series, and this is accompanied by very extensive faulting.

Climate

At the highest elevations, precipitation averages 36 inches per year; much is received in the form of snow during the winter months. At lower elevations, rainfall averages about 20 inches per year, and can come as high intensity storms during the late summer months. Temperatures can be quite hot during the summer, but become more pleasant with an increase in elevation.

Livestock

Yeah, it's here. Contact a local Forest Officer if you want to camp in a location that does not have cattle present.

Water Resources

There are a number of small springs and a few streams where water is available much of the time. Unfortunately even clear cool mountain springs can no longer be assumed to be drinkable, without treating the water.

Just west of the Wilderness is the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest. The research arm of the Forest Service has conducted a number of research projects there, most dealing with the water resource.

Remember that flash foods are a hazard even though no storm has occurred in your immediate area.

History

The rugged Sierra Ancha Wilderness was the site of Indian villages during Arizona's prehistoric period; their culture is often called "Salado". They built and lived in their "cliff dwellings" between 1200 and 1300 A.D. It is unknown why they selected such remote and precipitous locations for their homes. Some have Suggested fear of attack, while others suggest these villages were "timber camps" where prehistoric loggers lived. Because we know so little about the Sierra Ancha cliff dwellings, it is extremely important to preserve and protect anything you may see during your wilderness visit.

Sources for More Information

"Walking Softly In The Wilderness", by John Hart, (Sierra Club Books, 1977).

"The Archeology of Arizona", by P. Martin and F. Plog, (Doubleday/N. History Press, 1973).

"Geology of Arizona", by D. Nations and E. Stump, (Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1981).

"Horse Packing in Pictures", by Francis Davis, (C. Scribner's Sons, 1975).

"11,000 Years on the Tonto National Forest", by J.S. Wood, M. McAllister, and M. Sullivan, (Forest Service, 1989).


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Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 23 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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