The Mazatzal Wilderness is a very large area (250,000 acres) encompassing the north western section of the Tonto National Forest. Elevations range from 1,600 feet at the Verde River to Mazatzal Peak which tops out at 7,903 feet (expect snow in the winter). The plant life is typical for this portion of Arizona with Lower Sonoran vegetation at the lower altitudes, grassy chaparral as you climb the slopes and mixed conifers towards the upper regions.
A three day trek through Mazatzal Wilderness.The video doesn’t show it, but parts of this trip were downright miserable. Although I wouldn’t recommend anyone following our footsteps on this one, the area is quite worth visiting and many of the trails are very well maintained. Some highlights of this trip: snow, turkeys, deer, mountainside camping, and near dehydration.some of the roughest terrain that I’ve ever hiked during my time in Arizona
Directions to Trailhead:
Trailhead is at junction of Arizona SR 87 and SR 188. From Fountain Hills, take AZ 87 north to mile marker 235.5. Trailhead is well marked on a well maintained dirt road.
From the trailhead, the trail rises gently to the north. Within the first 1/2 mile you will encounter the signed junctions for the Gold Ridge Trail #47 and South Fork Trail #46. Keep right at both junctions for the Deer Creek Trail. The trail then passes through a gate and descends to Deer Creek. The trail follows along the south side of the creek in a beautiful riparian forest. The trail is a gentle climb but has a few sections that switchback over some natural obstacles.
At 3.3 miles the trail enters the Mazatzal Wilderness. At this point the noise from Highway 87 dissipates and you can enjoy the solitude of the wilderness. From here on the trail gets narrower and more overgrown.
The trail crosses the creek nearly 20 times in the next 4 miles. In several sections, you must walk in the rocky bed of the river. Keep an eye out for cairns to help find the trail. Although the cairns are numerous, it was easy to miss one and get off track. If this happens, retrace your steps to last cairn and look around for the next one.
After about 7 miles the trail enters a mature ponderosa forest. The trail continues its gentle climb until it reaches the Davey Gowan Trail #48. Stay right at this juncture. The last mile is a moderate to steep switchback that climbs out of the canyon and the trail ends in a forested parking lot at the end of Forest Road #201.
From the end of the trail, you can either return the way you came or walk west on Forest Road #201 and return on either the South Fork Trail or the Gold Ridge Trail.
This video was shot by Brandon Kelone