Highline Trail #31
Trailhead: Pine Trailhead & 260 Trailhead
Length: 51 miles one-way
Managing Agency: Tonto National Forest
Directions to Trailhead:
260 Trailhead: From Payson, go east 23 miles to the 260 Trailhead. The trailhead is well marked on the north side of AZ SR 260. It is accessible in a sedan.
Pine Trailhead: From Payson, go north 14 miles to the Pine Trailhead. The trailhead is well marked on the east side of AZ SR 87. It is accessible in a sedan.
Pine Trailhead to Geronimo: From the trailhead, the trail is very flat for the first mile to the junction with the Pine Canyon trail #28. From the junction, the Highline trail climbs a finger ridge that extends from Milk Ranch Point for the next mile and a half. This is a long climb on a slippery section of trail. We did it after a rain storm in August of 1999 and spent considerable energy trying to stay on our feet.
After cresting the ridge, the trail descend gently toward Red Rock Trail and Red Rock Spring (3.5 miles from the trailhead). From Red Rock Spring (reliable) the trail passes through an open area that is overgrown with scrub oak and manzanita. This area is quite warm. The open area lasts for 2 miles until you reach Pine Spring. The area around Pine spring is lush and green. The spring is reliable.
From Pine Spring the trail descends through more scrub oak and occasional clumps of pine and pinyon. Approximately 6.5 miles from the pine trailhead, the trail enters a pine forest and continues its descent to the Geronimo Trailhead. At the trailhead, you will cross Webber Creek in an area that has wild raspberries growing.
The Highline trail continue for 43 more miles past the Geronimo Trailhead.
Washington Park to Geronimo: From the Washington Park trailhead, the trail meanders through some lovely pine and spruce forest. After .5 mile the trail crosses a jeep road for some power lines. Do not turn here, the trail continues straight ahead. The trail then continues for another .25 miles to a private road along Mail Creek. Cross the road/creek and continue. From the road the trail climbs long and steady to a fence line.
After the fence, the trail alternately climbs an descends for the next 8 miles. Some of these areas are quite exposed. Along the way you will cross several creeks which make for nice picnic spots in their riparian areas. Of note is one unnamed creek that is two miles west of Washington Park.
After approximately 9 miles you will come to Bear Spring. Water is available here. From Bear Spring, the trail climbs briefly and the descends along a ridge line for the next 2 miles to Geronimo Spring. It is the a 15 minute jaunt to the Geronimo trailhead.
Washington Park to FR 144: We have not completed this section of the Highline Trail.
FR 144 to Tonto Fish Hatchery: We have not completed this section of the Highline Trail.
See Canyon to Tonto Fish Hatchery: From the See trailhead, the trail climbs viciously for the first mile. The trail then passes in and out of some open areas. The views here are good. After four miles the trail junctions with the Derrick Trail #33. Turn right for the Highline Trail.
From the junction with the Derrick trail , the Highline trail turns north and climbs and climbs and climbs. Although the grade is moderate, the length of the continuous climb will challenge you. About 1 mile from Horton Spring, the trail tops off and descends to Horton Creek. We found small pools of water here. From the creek, the trail climbs up and over a small ridge before dropping into beautiful Horton Spring. This is a good source of water, but after filtering it we noticed it had a very distinct aftertaste.
From Horton Spring, the Highline trail climbs away to the west.. It then crosses several ridges before dropping down to the High Voltage power lines. This area is a very pretty meadow. It also marks the beginning of the Dude Fire area. This area was devastated in 1990 and has not fully recovered. The remaining 2 miles to Tonto Creek are without shade. The trail is difficult to find and is cluttered with burned trees. There is Water available at Tonto Creek, but it too had the aftertaste.
260 Trailhead to See Canyon: From the trailhead, the trail meanders through some lovely pine and spruce forest. The going is quite easy and the views are good. This is the easiest section of the 51 mile long Highline Trail.
After 4 miles, you will reach the junction with the Drew Trail #291. Stay left for the Highline trail. From here you begin a gradual up and down section as you descend toward See Canyon. There is no water anywhere along this trail until you reach See Canyon.
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