Southern Access Point: The East Verde River
- GPS Coordinates: 34.22915° N, 111.51299° W
- NOTE: This trailhead is not directly accessible by vehicles. The nearest vehicle access point (34.21468° N, 111.48250° W) is 4 miles east of the trail at the wilderness boundary.
From the town of Payson at the intersection of AZ 87 and Main Street; take Main Street west for 2 miles, which turns into Country Club Drive. Near the end of Country Club Drive, the road passes a sanitation plant, crosses a creek and continues on paved road for another 6 miles. This newly paved road is referred to as Doll Baby Ranch Rd. or LF Ranch Rd. depending on which map is being used. At this point it becomes a dirt doubletrack (FR 406). Continue on FR 406 for approximately 3 miles, passing City Creek Trailhead and Doll Baby Ranch, eventually arriving at the locked gate. This is the Doll Baby Trailhead; parking and camping are allowed.
From the trailhead, walk around the gate and hike on the doubletrack for 3.9 miles. The road will wind around the hills and eventually level out in the valley near the ranch. The AZT will intersect the road from the west as a faint singletrack.
Northern Trailhead: Pine Trailhead
Drive south of Pine on AZ 87 for 0.6 miles and turn left (east) to reach a large parking area and the trailhead.
Trail Route Description
Starting on the north side of the East Verde River the trail follows the Rock Creek drainage up to Polk Spring and then climbs onto Polles Mesa. It reaches Red Saddle Tank and a gate, another gate, turns to the east and comes to Whiterock Spring. There it climbs back to the west and begins working north across Whiterock Mesa. At a junction approximately 2.9 miles north of White Rock Spring the AZT turns east and the Saddle Ridge Trail continues north towards Twin Buttes trailhead.
The AZT drops into Rock Creek drainage and climbs onto Alder Ridge, where it trends north-northeasterly with expansive views to the south and east. It exits the Mazatzal Wilderness and bends east. It enters a wooded area, very briefly joins a two-track trail to cross a drainage, leaves the two-track trail, and climbs out of the drainage. It passes one-quarter mile north of Bee Tree Tank, goes through a steel AZT gate and continues contouring easterly, north of East Tank, before joining a two-track trail that soon gives way to single-track.
The trail descends past Ridge Tank and around to Oak Spring and a trail junction with Walnut Trail (#251). From here the trail climbs out of Oak Spring Canyon, runs more-or-less level for nearly a mile before descending past Bradshaw Tank to Pine Creek. A short ways downstream the trail heads east again and loops around to Highway 87. After crossing the highway it passes a resupply box near a fence corner and then quickly hits a junction (stay left through a heavy steel gate) and loop back to the Pine trailhead.
All year. Snow can be present at higher elevations after winter storms and lower elevations can be quite warm in summer
Water can usually be found at the East Verde River, Polk Spring, Whiterock Spring and at Oak Spring. Water can sometimes be found in some of the stock tanks along the route.
- All water along this passage should be purified prior to use.
- Mountain bikes are prohibited in the Mazatzal Wilderness.
- Please respect all livestock operations in this area.
- USGS Topographic Maps: Cypress Butte, Cane Springs Mountain and Buckhead Mesa.
- Tonto National Forest map.
- BLM Information Center maps.
- “Day Hikes & Trail Rides in Payson’s Rim Country” by Roger and Ethel Freeman, Gem Guides Book Co., Baldwin Park, CA., ISBN 1-889786-24-1.
For more information
Current Passage Info
June 22, 2021
The Backbone Fire has forced a closure of the Arizona Trail west of the town of Pine. In the interest of public safety, AZT Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa) and a portion of Passage 26 (Highline) is currently closed between East Verde River (mile 430) and Bray Creek (mile 462). Trail users are discouraged from visiting any portion of Passage 26 as the fire advances further west. Nearby communities of Pine and Strawberry have already evacuated. The Backbone Fire was first reported on June 7 and has grown to over 40,855 acres (as of June 26). To learn more about the Backbone Fire, visit the Inciweb page here.
May 12, 2021
Payson Roundup (May 11, 2021) by Michele Nelson After six months, a grant, a donation, and hundreds of volunteer hours, the Arizona Trail Association has completed a re-route of one of the most hated portions of the Arizona Trail — Passage 25. The Arizona Trail marches up the middle of Arizona. It starts in the south at the Mexican border, then ends in the north at the Utah border. Completed during Arizona’s centennial year 2012, the trail has an extreme reputation due to the lack of water and challenging terrain. Yet since it opened, hundreds have hiked from border to border. The original Passage 25 route took hikers along a power line road for 8.2 miles. Not only were the power lines unsightly, hikers didn’t like hiking along the volcanic rock road. To top it off, ATVs also used that road. The completion of this project is a major milestone in the ATA’s commitment to removing the Arizona Trail from dirt roads, “where interaction with motor vehicles detracts from the Arizona Trail experience,” wrote staff. The new trail keeps more of the trail within designated wilderness and crosses Rock Creek, a seasonal water source. “There are now 6.7 miles of...
April 15, 2021
We are delighted to share the news that the Alder Ridge Project is now complete. Thanks to the hard work of conservation corps members from American Conservation Experience, machine operator extraordinaire Rob Bauer, and Arizona Trail Association (ATA) staff and volunteers, there is now 6.7 miles of new trail on the Tonto National Forest. Please join us in celebrating this grand accomplishment! The Alder Ridge Project eliminates 8.2 miles of AZT that has been co-located along a powerline road east of Twin Buttes Trailhead along Passage 25, west of the Arizona Trail Gateway Community of Pine. This road walk has been among the least desirable segments of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, and is frequently used by OHVs. Now, it’s all singletrack from the Mazatzal Wilderness to the Pine Trailhead (and beyond). Thanks to a grant from the Recreational Trails Program administered by Arizona State Parks & Trails; funding from REI Co-op; and support from ATA members and donors, we have worked hard to make this dream improvement a reality. The Alder Ridge Project is another major milestone in our ongoing commitment to removing the AZT from dirt roads – where interaction with motor vehicles detracts from the Arizona Trail...
October 7, 2020
Payson Roundup (October 6, 2020) by Michele Nelson The Arizona Trail Association knows no hiker enjoys walking along a forest service road, especially when power lines accompany the route. “Roads suck,” said Matthew Nelson, executive director of the ATA. But that’s exactly what hikers on the Arizona Trail’s Passage 25 found between the East Verde River and Pine. Adding insult to injury, the road had a lot of volcanic rock. “It is chunky boulders that goes on for miles and miles,” said Nelson. But not for long. The ATA has broken ground on a re-route that will turn a rocky road into a smooth single track. In terms of through hikes, the Arizona Trail is young. It was only completed in 2011 making it the youngest through trail in the U.S. To complete the trail, builders relied on old wagon roads and cattle trails, not as beautiful as single track trails to hikers. Although new, the Arizona Trail has gained a reputation as extreme due to the lack of water and topography. As well, the remote trailheads make resupply difficult. But this kind of reputation attracts super athletes who compete for the quickest through hike or the most Yo-Yo trips...
November 6, 2019
Payson Roundup (November 5, 2019) by Alexis Bechman New mapping software led Pine-Strawberry Fire Chief Gary Morris astray last week, and it may be responsible for other rescues off the Arizona Trail this year. Morris said he purchased a new GPS tracker a month ago and installed a SIM card with maps of the Arizona Trail. He tested the device on the Highline Trail, which the Arizona Trail follows below the Mogollon Rim for a distance, and everything seemed to work fine. So, Morris set off on a four-day solo hike on the Arizona Trail between Sunflower and the Doll Baby Ranch area. Everything was going as planned and his wife expected him home Oct. 28. When he didn’t call as expected, she called the Gila County Sheriff’s Office, handing over Morris’ detailed hiking plan, which included his route, everywhere he planned to camp and even a picture of his boot print. Morris said his wife was confident he would make it out all right given his experience level. Morris says shortly after noon Oct. 28, he inadvertently got off the main trail. He believes he was roughly five miles from exiting at the LF Ranch. From the ranch, it...
October 15, 2017
The trail traverses long stretches of gently sloping volcanic boulder fields. Cairns mark the way along the low-use trail, which can become rather obscure from grassy overgrowth in the spring. Cairns are the same color as the surrounding rocks, so users must train their eyes to recognize them more by shape than color.
Photos from the Arizona Trail Association’s Flickr galleries, for this specific passage. View the entire Flickr account.