Barnhardt Trail Hike

This is a hike I have been wanting to do for some time and with a little cooler weather this past week in Phoenix, this trail about 75-80 miles north in the Mazatal Mountains was a pretty good bet for decent hiking weather. It was cooler, down into the 80’s, which did make for a tolerably comfortable day out in the wilderness. 

The 4.6 mile unpaved road leading to the trailhead was a bit muddy after the more frequent rains up north of Phoenix, but still very manageable, if a bit greasy at times. Other than an accumulation of packed mud on my truck, there was little evidence that I had been off road. I reached the trailhead at 1:00 p.m. and immediately set boots to ground and off on my day’s exploration. 

As reported by other hikers online, the path was rocky from the very beginning, but not so bad as to be a deterrent to me. The path was smoother at times which was a welcome relief, but it did climb steadily though not excessively. Shortly after beginning, I could hear rushing water down into a deep crevasse down to my right. But though I could hear it and see pools of water, I saw no way to descend down the steep terrain. The inviting sound of the flowing water prevailed for over a mile or more, but still no path was visible that led to what could have been a very refreshing soak and shower beneath waterfalls terracing down from the collecting pools that stair stepped up into that very narrow canyon. The further I ascended, it became apparent that no safe access to the stream below was possible. Many times I stopped and just admired the views and the ruggedness all around me. With the more plentiful rainfall up there, the path was partially obscured but not blocked by the overgrowth of vegetation. One of the features and allure of this trail for me was a reported waterfall, the Big Kahuna, that I had hoped might be flowing, but, alas, it was not. Still, it could have been a great sight to see and maybe even a good spot to enjoy a brisk wash beneath the falling waters. As I continued on the trail it turned down another canyon then around to another mountain intersection with a tiny trickle of a waterfall. I climbed up to that area but decided to end that side excursion without climbing up to what appeared to be an access to a higher vantage point. Being alone, it seemed prudent to keep to what I knew I could manage without risking life and limb climbing up the side of a cliff. 

Keeping and eye on the time, I decided to hike just until 4 p.m. and then begin the return back to the trailhead. Before the return the trail turned again, away from the views down to the valley from which I had begun. Not knowing exactly where this trail would lead, I kept to my time and started back shortly after 4 o’clock. That meant I had been hiking for 3 hours, which included many stops to admire the views and for slower going uphill. On the return I did meet a young couple who were also enjoying the cooler weather for this hike, but who intended to go further, deeper into the mountains. The hike was more difficult than I had expected but one I would love to further explore, despite my aching thighs the next day.

Other than this hike I also had places to be and people to meet as our Frends and Fenders group were having a weekend get-away in Payson, AZ, just 10 miles further up the Beeline Highway. I had informed several friends on my planned hike and that if they had not heard from me by 6:30, that then was when to be concerned and send out the dogs and search party to try to find me. Fortunately no such drama played out as I reached my truck by 6 p.m. and quickly departed back down the now mostly dry dirt road to the paved highway.

The rest of the weekend with friends and with our hosts Steve and Mark, was relaxing. My thighs were mildly aching and a day of resting was a welcome relief. © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments