Location

  • Gila River to Tonto National Forest Boundary

Length

  • 26.0 miles

Southern Access Point: Kelvin-Riverside Bridge

Access

From the town of Superior, take AZ 177 south for 15.2 miles (MP 152.1) and turn south onto Florence-Kelvin Highway (next to RR crossing) for 1.2 miles through the community of Kelvin and cross the Kelvin Bridge. The passage begins at the south end of the old bridge. Parking is limited here since the new bridge was completed in 2018. Ample parking is available at the Florence-Kelvin Trailhead ~1.5 miles further west on the Florence-Kelvin Highway. Another option is the BLM trailhead at the end of Centurion Road (one-half mile into the passage northbound). Either location provides easy access to the Arizona Trail and an increasingly popular segment of this scenic trail along the Gila River.


Northern Access Point: Tonto National Forest Boundary

  • GPS Coordinates: 33.18106° N, 111.13717° W
  • NOTE: This trailhead is not directly accessible by vehicles. See adjoining passages for access.

Access

The closest way to access the north end of Passage 16 is to hike in on Alamo Passage from either Picketpost Trailhead (11.5 miles), or drive to the historic town of Cochran (follow Cochran Road south from the Florence-Kelvin Highway to the Gila River), cross the Gila River carefully, then hike north on the Arizona Trail for 9.3 miles. Forest Road 4 (Telegraph Canyon Road) is currently blocked south of the town of Superior due to mineral exploration activities. There is currently no way to access the Arizona Trail from this rugged jeep trail.


Trail Route Description

This passage begins at the Kelvin Bridge as it crosses the Gila River. Just beyond the north end of the bridge the route turns west onto Centurion Road and follows this past a few homes to a trailhead. From the trailhead, pass by the AZT Gate to the north, then follow the road along the railroad tracks for 0.25-mile. Then, look for singletrack to the north. The trail follows the Gila River for many miles – sometimes rising several hundred feet above and sometimes near river level. It passes through several gates, crosses numerous canyon drainages and occasionally catches a glimpse of The Spine, Walnut Canyon Narrows, Copper Butte, and The Rincon, all to the north.

At just over 15 miles from the beginning the trail turns north, leaving the river and traverses through the canyons. It climbs steadily on beautifully designed singletrack and several short sections of old mining roads. After traversing spectacular ridgelines and winding around numerous side drainages, the trail crosses the boundary of Tonto National Forest and then ends at a gate on an abandoned two-track road.


Difficulty

  • Difficult

Season(s):


Water

Water sources are very limited along this passage, except for the Gila River which is usually murky/muddy.


Notes/Warnings

  • All water along this passage should be purified prior to use.
  • Although this passage crosses State Trust Land, a permit is not required as long as you are on or near the Arizona Trail.
  • There is no access to the Arizona Trail from Forest Road 4.
  • If planning to cross the Gila River near the historic town site of Cochran to access Passage 16 (Gila River Canyons) of the Arizona Trail, be aware that the Gila River flow at this location varies widely. It is controlled by the San Carlos Dam and, with seasonal runoff, is often unsafe to cross.  The USGS Kelvin bridge gage at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv/?site_no=09474000&agency_cd=USGS is an indicator of flows but is several miles upstream from Cochran and may not fully reflect conditions at Cochran. When in doubt, access the passage from the Kelvin Access Trailhead or the Florence-Kelvin Highway Trailhead near Kelvin/Riverside.

Resources

  • USGS Topographic Maps: Kearny, Grayback, North Butte and Mineral Mountain.
  • BLM Information Center maps.

For more information


Current Passage Info

AZT Rainwater Collector

AZT Rainwater Collector

On August 30-31, a dedicated crew of eight Arizona Trail Association volunteers joined Assistant Trail Director Zach MacDonald to venture into a particularly remote segment of the Arizona Trail to install an AZT Rainwater Collector. This unit is the first of its kind and was designed by the Arizona Trail Association and metalsmith extraordinaire Rob Bauer in consultation with sustainability professionals, land managers and engineers. It features a steel apron that catches rainwater and stores the precious resource within a 1,500-gallon tank that is protected on all sides by steel panels. A spigot with an automatic shutoff valve allows trail users to fill and filter their bottles along this very dry and exposed segment of the Arizona Trail. Once the tank is full, an overflow pipe fills a steel water trough nearby for the benefit of wildlife. The entire unit is fenced to keep livestock out, and posted signs inform trail users that the water must be filtered before consumption. The AZT Rainwater Collector is located halfway between reliable water sources at the Gila River and a windmill near Picketpost Trailhead. This particular 21-mile segment has repeatedly proven to be daunting for many hikers, runners, and mountain bikers. Covering the...
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Gila River Flowing Fast

For anyone planning on crossing the Gila River near the historic townsite of Cochran to access Passage 16 (Gila River Canyons) of the Arizona Trail, be aware that the flow of the Gila River at this location is controlled by water released from the San Carlos Dam upstream and, with seasonal runoff, is highly variable. When in doubt, don't cross the Gila River at Cochran. Instead, drive to the Kelvin Access Trailhead or the Florence-Kelvin Highway Trailhead nearby.
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Flickr Photos

Photos from the Arizona Trail Association’s Flickr galleries, for this specific passage. View the entire Flickr account.

[AFG_gallery id=’17’]