Directions to Trailhead:
Trailhead 1: This one is accessible by car. From the
intersection of I-17 and AZ 260, drive east on AZ 260, approximately 21.5 miles.
Turn right onto FR 9247B. Drive 100 yards down this dirt road to a parking lot
on the left. The signed trailhead is across FR9247B.
Trailhead 2: You definitely need high-clearance and 4WD for this one. A lifted
vehicle would be best. Follow the rutted, rocky FR9427B about 1 mile to a
junction. Take the right fork which says 90E. This rocky road parallels and then
follows the high-voltage power lines. Continue along the powerline road until
you cross a cattle guard. Turn left on the road immediately after the cattle
guard. Shortly after the turn, the road will fork and the cairns will go right.
Go left here. Follow this very rough road about two miles to the road's end at
Mail Tank #2. It took us about an hour to drive to this trailhead from the
highway in a stock Toyota 4-Runner.
This hike is a route finder's dream or a casual hiker's nightmare. This trail
would be essentially non-existent if it were not for the cylindrical cairns,
tree ribbons, and blue rocks that guide your way. The cylindrical cairns are
very important. The lack of tread means that you must literally stand at one
cairn and spot the next one to find out which way to go. If you travel more than
100 feet from a cairn without spotting the next one, retreat and check again.
From trailhead #1, the trail heads west on a rocky trail. Who am I kidding, the
ENTIRE TRAIL is rocky. Go west about .75 miles where the trail turns left (watch
those cairns!). The trail then ascends a small ridge and continues south
descending and climbing over several low ridges. When the trail approaches Pine
Tank, the trail crosses through a gate and continues south to a old road. Follow
the road (mostly south) to the powerline road. Turn right and cross a cattle
guard and take the first left. The trail continues to follow a road south for a
while and then leaves the road and climbs a ridge. After cresting the ridge, the
trail descends and jogs through some trees to meet another road. Turn right on
this road and follow it to its end at Mail Tank #2 and the second trailhead. For
those of you who were counting there are 110 cylindrical cairns between
Trailhead #1 and Trailhead #2 (hiking with a child will get you this bit of
From Trailhead #2 the trail climbs to a small ridge and then begins its descent
about 1/4 mile from trailhead #2. The trail drops down to the wilderness
boundary and continues to descend along the north rim of the canyon. The descent
is moderate and the trail faint. About four-tenths of a mile from trailhead # 2
the trail turns right (south) and drops more steeply to a plateau high above the
canyon bottom. This section requires close attention to the cairns. Thirty-seven
cairns from trailhead #2 (about 1 mile), the trail turns left (east) at a wooden
sign. This is also where you will find the last of the regular cylindrical
The trail then drops quickly off of the plateau, crosses a drainage and levels
out on a lower plateau. Route finding becomes more difficult in this section.
Follow the hiker made cairns, ribbons in the trees and occasional rocks painted
blue to stay on the trail. The trail heads east along a plateau towards an
unnamed drainage. If you reach the boulder strewn creek, you've gone too far.
The trail turns south and heads through thick oak forest. The trail is very
overgrown with scrub oak and catclaw mimosa and is difficult to follow. The
trail descends along a small drainage to Fossil Creek (about 2.5 miles from
Cross Fossil Creek and pick up the well-defined trail on the other side. Now you
are on a very recognizable trail. Follow this trail west for .6 miles to the
junction with the Fossil Springs Trail. Stay
right at the junction for another 1/2 mile to reach Fossil Springs.
Return the way you came.