ARIZONA HIKING TRAILS IN SIERRA VISTA
This page sponsored by Dr. Bill McCormick
Thanks to local author Leonard
Taylor (Hiker's Guide to the Huachuca Mountains), SVFINDIT.COM is
pleased to provide you with several day hikes including maps and directions for
your enjoyment. If you find that you enjoy the day hikes provided; more
trails, hikes, and canyons are available by purchasing Leonard's guide.
Brown Canyon Trail
Clark Spring Trail
Reef Historical Trail
Carr Peak Trail
Carr Canyon Trail
An open and sunny place,
Brown Canyon was named after John Brown, who moved to the canyon in 1880, though
prospectors had been working in the area at least ten years prior. One of
the most obvious landmarks of the canyon is the tailings pile from the Pomona
Mine, which is near the top of the ridge and can be seen for miles.
This mine, once known as
the James Group, was worked during World War I, the primary ores being tungsten
and galena, though gold was also present. In 1946 the Pomona Mining
Company acquired the property, and built a road from the canyon bottom to the
mine site. They also put in an aerial tram, but operations were abandoned
about a year later. Another feature of Brown is a beautiful box canyon,
located near an excellent camp site.
From Highway 92 take
Ramsey Canyon Road west 2.1 miles to a Forest Service gate on the right. A
dirt road begins here, though low clearance cars should park just inside the
gate. Most two wheel drive can go another 0.4 miles to a large ravine,
where there is plenty of space to park. The trail begins here. Brown
Canyon is slated for some access changes in the near future, one of which is the
closure of the dirt road where it crosses the ravine.
BROWN CANYON TRAIL
The trail through the
lower part of the canyon follows an old road, then becomes a foot trail that
goes up a shady canyon.
Trail Begins [0.0 miles; 5100 feet]
The trail follows the
dirt road up to a saddle on a ridge above Brown Canyon. From here, the
trail is to the left of a "no vehicles allowed" sign. A slow
descent is made to the west until you are in the sycamore-lined canyon bottom on
an old road. Follow the road up, through a gate, then to the left away
from the often-dry stream bed. After following along a wash, the trail
crosses it, then another one, and climbs a hill through an open oak forest as it
turns to the left. Just after the turn the grave of W.H. Frierson
(1855-1928) is visible off the trail to the left [1.3;5250]
The trail crosses the
creek bed at the ruins of a house. Keeping on the north side of the
canyon, the trail takes the course of an eroded road, and shouldn't be too
difficult to follow. At 1.4 miles is a junction, the right branch leading
to an old ore processing site. There are several interesting artifacts
lying around, one of which is the front of an old Buick pickup.
The trail continues up
the road, and soon you are at a road junction. The right branch is the
trail to the Pomona Mine, while the Brown Canyon Trail is to the left. In
400 feet you come to a trail sign beside a stock tank [2.3; 5600]. There
is usually water here, but it is unfit to drink.
The road that comes in
from the east is the now-closed road from Ramsey Canyon. At this trough
the foot trails begins, gently climbing up the riparian canyon to the Brown
Canyon Box. The trail leaves the canyon bottom with a sharp left turn at a
rock-walled spring; the water from here is piped down-canyon, and supplies the
trough below, as well as a pond at the Barchas Ranch.
The box canyon can be
seen by continuing along the stream bed another 200 feet; after some rock
scrambling, you are at the bottom of the gorge. A circular pool has been
carved out here, above it a 20 foot high rock wall which the stream flows
over. The layers of rock exposed here are fascinating, as they are bent
and folded at crazy angles.
The trail makes a series
of switchbacks as it climbs around the box, and when it levels out on a rock
ledge you get a good view of the upper end of Brown Canyon and the Pomona Mine
high above. The trail returns to the stream bed for awhile, then makes
another left turn as it begins its ascent through pine-oak forest to the ridge
between Brown and Ramsey Canyons. At the saddle [3.4;6300], you
pass through a gate, then begin dropping into Ramsey Canyon.
The trees change from oak
to pine as you go from an east to a north slope. The trail is eroded in
places, but is fairly level as it parallels a fence line. After going
through a ravine, a trail is seen taking off to the left. It was built in
1980, and drops into Ramsey Canyon rather steeply. Flooding made the lower
end inaccessible, and it is now abandoned and unmaintained.
Continue straight ahead
as the trail turns to the left and climbs up the hillside to a bench, where
excellent views are available by going out on the ledge to the left. From
here the trail goes over to the saddle, then begins descending into Ramsey,
though several ups and downs are encountered along the way. After a slow
descent, it drops suddenly beside a ravine, then levels off before joining the
Hamburg Trail [4.5;6250]
Ramsey Canyon, once
known as Dunton Canyon, has a long and colorful history, and was the vacation
spot of the county for several decades. It is believed to be named after
Gardner Ramsay, who lived here at least as early as 1878. There was also a
W.H. Ramsey and a Frank Ramsey here about the same time. Much of the
activity took place on what is now The Nature Conservancy's Mile Hi/Ramsey
Canyon Preserve, located at about the middle of the canyon. The apple
trees here were custom-grafted, and have been in production since the
'20's. Prehistoric Indians settled along the mouth of the canyon, and
their acorn grinding holes can still be seen in the bedrock along a wash.
The trail in Ramsey is
called the Hamburg Trail, in honor of the mining town that existed at the upper
end of the canyon at the start of this century. Just for the record, there
never was a Hamburg Mine; that was the name of the town, which was named
after Henry Hamburg, the general manager of the Hartford-Arizona Mining Company.
The original claim was
staked in 1878 by an M. Burns and Peter Tompkins. The area developed
quickly, and many locally prominent people had their hand in it, among them
Richard Gird, of Tombstone fame. One claim, the Wisconsin, was located by
a man named Patrick Scott, and for some reason those names were applied to the
two canyons that begin where Ramsey ends.
There was a post office
here from 1906 to 1916, then again from 1925 to 1928. The town met an
explosive end when an angry young man, thought to be Lionel Hamburg, blew up
everything in sight, including most of the tunnels, about 1928. Then in
the 40's the remaining mining equipment was removed, to be recycled for the war
effort. Little remains today, but Hamburg still makes for an interesting
Paved Ramsey Canyon Road
starts 6 miles south of the 90/92 intersection, and it crosses Ramsey Creek in
3.5 miles; 0.1 mile further up the road is the property of The Nature
TNC is a non-profit
conservation organization, and the 300 acres they own in this canyon contain two
dozen rare and endangered species of plants and animals. Parking is
available and a $3 donation is requested for non-members. The number to
call for information is 520-378-2785. The preserve is open to the public
daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. All the property along Ramsey Road is
private, and no parking is allowed along the edges. As of this writing,
there is a dispute over access in Ramsey, and changes may be on the way.
There is a lot to see in
this canyon. It is well-known as a birder's delight, not to mention
botanists and zoologists. After getting past the overlook, it is an easy
walk, and one of the most-used trails in the mountain.
Trail Begins [0.0 miles; 5550 feet]
After obtaining a permit
from the Mile Hi office, the trail can be followed up the road past a log cabin,
built in 1903. Further up, past a cement pond, is a huge sycamore; this is
where Fletcher's Dance Hall once stood. This was a very popular
attraction, and even had a German orchestra to entertain the dancers.
Past this the road
begins a short climb, and down on the right you can see two cabins. These
belonged to Dr. Nelson Bledsoe, a pioneer doctor who bought this land bit by
bit, and left it to The Nature Conservancy after his death in 1974.
Here the road ends, and
the foot trail takes off to the left. The overgrown road heading straight
up the mountainside was used as a firebreak in 1977, but was originally a
toll-road, built by Gardner Ramsay in 1878. The trail follows an old ox
trail that switchbacks up a divide, and where it comes out on the old toll-road
you enter the Miller Peak Wilderness Area. A little more climbing and you
are on the top of the overlook [1.0;6390], or Point Lookout, as it used to be
called. From here are excellent views both up and down the canyon, and
across the San Pedro Valley.
The trail now drops
down to the canyon bottom, passing an un-named spring on the way, then crosses
the stream and begins ascending the canyon. Soon the Brown Canyon Trail
comes in on the right [1.5;6250].
The trail stays along
the creek, sometimes in it, and crosses it often. A fire in Pat Scott
Canyon in 1983 resulted in flash flooding here, washing out major portions of
the canyon bottom, and much of the trail. Even in dry years this is a lush
canyon, with abundant oak, sycamore, and maple mixed with pine and fir.
Watercress grows in the creek, and horsetail grows beside it. There was a
time when a tram was planned for this canyon, to transport ore, but fortunately
it was never built.
A large pile of broken
glass is passed on the left, just past which is the Carr Canyon Trail [2.3;6840].
The trail then enters Hamburg Meadow, once home to 150 miners. This used
to be a beautiful spot to camp, but flooding has cut a large channel through
it. The white cliffs above you to the north are below Ramsey Peak.
They are thought to have been created in 1887, when an earthquake shook half of
the peak into the canyon. Leaving the meadow, the trail ends in 400 feet
at the junction of the Wisconsin and Pat Scott Canyon Trails. [2.4;6960]
Log Cabin near Hamburg, circa 1920. Photo courtesy Mirriam Tefft.
Carr Canyon, once Dublin
Canyon, offers the only improved campsites in the Huachucas, located high up the
mountain below Carr Peak. Several areas along the lower portion of the
road are suitable for camping or picnicking. A large meadow is available
for use as a sports field.
The top of Carr Canyon
has been the sight of mining activity for many years, starting about 1878.
At first for gold, tungsten proved to be the more profitable mineral, and the
site was worked sporadically until about 1974. The name has changed from
the Exposed Reef, to the Tungsten Reef, and now is just The Reef, all due to the
large outcrops of quartz.
In 1878 a sawmill was
built here by John McCloskey, and the canyon bore his name for about two years,
when the mill was bought by James Carr. It's hard to imagine now, but
almost two million board feet of lumber was taken from here in just two years,
and they were projecting another three and a half million. There were 30
men employed by the mill, and they used oxen and mules to haul the timber to the
There was also a saw
mill in Ramsey Canyon, and in 1883 J. G. Lemmon, a famous botanist, wrote:
"... its proprietor's cutting down a body of pine and fir timber as rich as
any on this coast outside Sierra."
The Reef Road makes a
steep, switch backing climb from the canyon bottom up to the level areas above,
and passes near the top of Carr Falls on its way. These falls are very
dangerous, and are fenced off for your safety; the bedrock is surprisingly
slick, and at least 19 people have died after losing their footing and going
over the edge. Please stay away from it.
The first campground is
called Reef Townsite; the town of Reef was scattered through this level area,
and had a post office from 1901 to 1904. The town served both the miners
and the loggers, as the sawmill was located near here. An excellent
interpretive trail built in 1990 starts here. The other campground is
Ramsey Vista; the huge white cliffs you see across the canyon to the west are
below Ramsey Peak.
The campgrounds are
public, but the Forest Service has imposed a number of regulations governing
their use. First is the fee: $10 per night for camping, $3 per day for
picnicking, and $2 per day for trailhead parking. A group ramada is
available on a reservation basis; call 520-378-0311 for information. Camp
sites have picnic tables, barbecue pits, and tent pads. Both campgrounds
have toilet facilities, and water is available at Townsite.
In June of 1977, some
careless people left a fire unattended; it quickly grew into a forest fire, and
destroyed 9,000 acres of trees; most of Upper Carr and Miller Canyons.
Heavy rains followed, causing severe erosion, and most of the top soil was
washed down the mountain. Where once a shaded trail led through towering
pines and flower-filled meadows, now a rocky path winds among charred stumps.
The mountain is
recovering, however, and after the monsoons start the Carr Peak Trail is one of
the most flowered trails in the range. Also, magnificent views abound, as
they are no longer obstructed by trees.
In June 1991, more
careless people left another campfire unattended, and a portion of upper Carr
burned again. Of course, they were camped in the only area of pine left on
the trail. The trees are now burnt, but should recover. Please, be
careful with fire, including cigarettes.
Carr Canyon Road begins
6.9 miles south of the 90/92 intersection, and is 7.8 miles long; only the first
mile is paved. Private property is left behind at the cattle guard, and
soon a wide spot on the road is seen with a parking area on the right. The
meadow is to the south-west from here, and a short hike through the oaks and up
the creek bed will take you to it. The road crosses the creek once more,
then begins climbing the mountain at a steady grade. Where it makes its
first hairpin curve is the start of the trail to Clark Spring and Miller
Canyon. There are a number of switchbacks before the road stops climbing,
and just before it tops out is an excellent view from the top of a cliff.
Winter snows can make this road impassable.
There are several blind
corners on the Reef Road, so it is recommended that speeds by kept below 15
mph. Also remember that the person going uphill has the right of way.
At 6.5 miles is a
parking area opposite the Reef Townsite campground; the Old Sawmill Spring Trail
starts here. Continue up the road 1.3 miles to the parking area just
before Ramsey Vista for the Carr Peak Trailhead. A trailhead within the
campground is the start of the Carr Canyon Trail, as well as another access to
Carr Peak Trail.
CLARK SPRING TRAIL
This is a level walk
along a closed road, and takes you past a good birding area.
Trail Begins [0.0;6000]
Climb over the dirt
pile, then follow the road as it heads south, on its way to Miller Canyon.
After going through a gate, keep right, and you are soon at Clark Spring [0.7;6100].
This area did not burn in '77, and is a cool, shady spot on the side of the
mountain. At one time there was a cabin here, and a trail up to The
Reef. The trail continues as a foot trail, and makes a gradual descent to
Miller Canyon, ending at the Miller Canyon Trail [1.6; 5800] 0.2 mile
from its start.
REEF HISTORICAL TRAIL
A 0.7 mile loop, this
trail features interpretive signs along its route describing historical and
geological points of interest, and photographs of the structures that used to be
here. The trail provides great views of Sierra Vista and the Carr Gorge,
and follows old roads, rail road grades, and new trail.
It begins at the rear of
the Reef Townsite Campground, between spaces 10 and 11. Take the level
trail past the first sign, and you enter an area that burned on July 4,
1989. The trail goes into a deep ravine, then past an old mill site,
before returning to the starting point.
CARR PEAK TRAIL
By far the easiest route
to both Carr and Miller Peaks, the Carr Peak Trail is also one of the most
popular trails in the Huachucas. The trail begins across from the lower
parking area at the Ramsey Vista Campground.
Trail Begins [0.0; 7400]
A short hike up the
hillside puts you on a ridge. There is a firebreak to the right, and it is
often used as a trail; the actual trail turns left, and is immediately joined by
the trail coming from the campground [0.1; 7490]. Continue along
the ridge and soon you enter an area that was spared during the '77 fire, but
was not so lucky '91. This fire was not as hot, so the trees
survived. Even in as bad a shape as they are in, the trees provide a cool
section on the trail, a reminder of what the mountain used to be like.
Shortly after leaving this the junction to Old Sawmill Spring is passed [0.5;
From here the trail
begins a series of switchbacks, a fairly easy climb along a trail that is rather
rough due to erosion. At one point a cave sink hole is seen on the
right. The lower part of the trail is open; a cool breeze is often
present, and excellent views abound. A section of trail is crossed that is
often overgrown with shrubs, and further up with aspen. Leaving the
thickets behind, you come out on a bench, and can see into Miller Canyon, as
well as the jump-off point for hang gliders. Carr Peak is close above, and
Miller Peak far across the canyon.
The trail is now on the south side of
Carr Peak, and continues to climb. A large outcrop on the left provides
good views of upper Miller, and the Crest Trail can be seen just below the ridge
between Carr and Miller Peaks. A little further on is a trail junction [2.3;
The left fork makes a
slow descent, and ends at the Crest Trail [3.3;8850], just above Tub
Spring. The right fork makes a 0.3 mile climb up to Carr Peak. This
last bit of trail is on narrow ridge, then onto the bald point of the peak [2.6;
9220]. Wild onions cover the ground, and swifts are a common sight as
they zoom overhead.
CARR CANYON TRAIL
Located at the western-most
part of the Ramsey Vista Campground is a trailhead; the left trail joins the
Carr Peak Trail in 0.2 mile, and the right fork is the Carr Canyon Trail.
The canyon bottom at Comfort Spring was devastated by fire, but the presence of
water still attracts a lot of birds. If you go to the spring just to bird,
remember the Grand Canyon: easy to get into, but a lot of work to get out of.
Trail Begins [0.0; 7400]
The trail starts with a
slow descent through a few remaining pines, and after entering the wilderness
area makes a couple of switchbacks down to the bottom of a ravine, then crosses
over to another creek that usually has water. Cross this and follow the
trail as it winds through one more ravine, then to reliable Comfort Spring [0.6;
7200], once home to Camp Comfort, a wood cutter's camp. During a
severe winter in the early '30's, several men who lived here died of pneumonia.
There used to be a "haunted" cabin here, but it burned down in the big
From here, you enter
another ravine, then follow beside it a ways. The trail turns right and
enters a level area, then contours over to a saddle. This is the edge of
the burn, the trees providing welcome shade. Below you is Ramsey Canyon,
and the trail makes an easy walk down the forested mountainside to join the
Hamburg Trail [2.3; 6840] just below Hamburg Meadow.
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