The Cost of Search and Rescue (SAR)

Over the past 10 years, I’ve owned a Garmin InReach GPS Satellite communicator in the unlikely event of being stranded or injured out in the wilderness. I purchased the device not only to protect myself, but to protect my loved ones as well. In the beginning, most family members didn’t really know what that orange device was hanging off the back of my daypack. But, when their cell phone signal became virtually nonexistent while we were trudging through some very cliffy terrain, it became immediately apparent that if someone in the group were to get severely injured or found themselves in a life threatening predicament, the InReach device was the only lifesaving method of communication.

Although, I almost needed to press the red “SOS” button twice throughout the years, I feel much safer knowing I have a lifeline to medical civilization. Interestingly, during my off-trail adventures, I’ve always wondered what the costs were if a trekker actually needed to be rescued. We’ve all heard stories of $20,000 helicopter rescue rides, mountaineers trapped in icy glaciers, mother’s car with children sinking in flooding river waters, and slip and fall leg fractures up in the high desert regions.

How Much Does It Cost to be Searched and Rescued?   

This is the Information I was given from a Youtuber initially inquiring about the fees. This documentation was written by The Mountain Rescue Association in 2009.  


Rescue Leaders say Charging for Rescues Can Lead to Delays in the Call for Help, and Can Put Rescuers in Greater Danger,

(San Diego, CA, August 1, 2009) — The Mountain Rescue Association (MRA), a coalition of 90 mountain rescue teams throughout North America, reminds the public that it has a long-established policy opposing charging subjects of search and rescue missions for the cost of their rescue. 

In the weeks following the search and rescue effort on Mt. Washington for Eagle Scout Scott Mason, the MRA has responded to a growing number of stories asking “who pays?” 

“Charging subjects for their rescues can be dangerous for many reasons,” explained Charley Shimanski, President of the MRA. Shimanski, who served on a U.S. Senate-mandated panel that studied charging climbers on Mt. McKinley for their rescues, added, “Often people will delay calling for help when they fear a cost, and in the mountains, that delay in the call for help can increase the risk to rescuers And the subject alike.” He added that climber rescues are infrequent when compared to rescues of hikers, skiers, mountain bikers and other backcountry users. The latest data provided by the National Park Services shows that 82 percent of rescues in parks are for hikers boaters and swimmers. Mountain climbers represented just 4 percent of their rescue activities. 

The majority of rescue services in the United States are provided by teams of unpaid professional rescue mountaineers who give up their own time to participate in search and rescue activities. 

“The typical search and rescue mission is over within a matter of a few hours, and with the vast majority of the work performed by unpaid professional volunteers, the costs are generally very low. In those cases where military aircraft are used, the military simply charges their costs to training hours that they would have otherwise performed somewhere else,” Shimanski added. 

Other facts about Rescue Cost Recovery 

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) spends $680 million a year for SAR, 13% of their budget. They perform 82 search and rescue missions a day, assisting 114 people each day. The Coast Guard does not charge for its services. 

When the United States military flies support to civilian SAR operations, it is logged as training time for them, while fulfilling a humanitarian purpose. That time flying, and the costs budgeted for it, would otherwise have been spent doing the same thing — training — but under less intense, less realistic conditions. 

Military leaders themselves agree that their crews receive extraordinary experience in often severe conditions when responding to civilian SAR operations. This experience allows them to do things such as combat SAR operations in the difficult military operations. 

The National Park Service, which also does not charge subjects for their search and rescue costs, defrays the cost of search and rescue among all visitors as part of the Park visitation pass. The search and rescue cost per visitor is 1.5 cents. 

Mountain Rescue Association Position Statement on Charging for Rescue 

The Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) with over 90 teams from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom — most of which are comprised of expert unpaid professional members — work through or for a local government search and rescue authority. In an effort to give back to the community, defray public agencies’ costs and keep taxes down, the MRA teams have been performing the bulk of all search and rescue operations for the past 48 years and those were done without charge to the victim.

The MRA firmly believes that training and education are the keystones in the solution to this issue. We believe that the individual must accept responsibility for his or her actions and that training in proper outdoors skills and for self-rescue might be the quickest and most effective method of resolving most rescue situations. 

However, no one should ever be made to feel they must delay in notifying the proper authorities of a search or rescue incident out of fear of possible charges. We ask all outdoors groups and organizations to join us in sending this mountain safety education message. 

We recognize that the governmental agencies have a need to address defraying their costs and we would welcome any opportunity to be involved in discussion of solutions or alternatives to the charge for rescue issue. The expert volunteer teams of MRA are proud to be able to provide search and rescue at NO cost and have NO plans to charge in the future. 

About the Mountain Rescue Association 

The Mountain Rescue Association is “a volunteer organization dedicated to saving lives through rescue and mountain safety education.” (

The MRA is comprised of highly-skilled, active mountain rescue teams from around the country, and has stringent requirements for membership. The teams themselves make up the Association; therefore individual memberships are NOT available. 

To become accredited by MRA, each regular member team must pass three different tests based on guidelines drawn up by the Association. These tests are conducted on appropriate terrain by at least three current MRA teams working together to evaluate the applicant group being tested. The tests involve high-angle rescue (rock rescue), Ice and snow, and wilderness search. 

Once a team has achieved full MRA status, it is expected that the new members will be trained to MRA guidelines and tested accordingly by their team. MRA- qualified 

personnel within teams are called Rescue Members. Accredited teams must re-test every five years to maintain their accreditation in the Mountain Rescue Association. 

Because MRA teams are test-qualified by their peers, local, state, and federal agencies feel confident about working with them on search and rescue operations. 

Qualified teams work hard for accreditation. Members meeting MRA guidelines are proud to wear the blue and white MRA patch.

For more information 

For more information on Rescue Cost Recovery, contact Charley Shimanski, MRA President. 

Charley Shimanski 

President and Education Director; Mountain Rescue Association ( 

25 year veteran; Alpine Rescue Team ( 

67 Pauls Road 

Evergreen, CO 80439 USA 

303-674-7937 (home) 

303-909-9348 (cell) 

303-201-2900 (pager) mailto:

In closing, I’d like to mention that being rescued in the wilderness (USA) seems to be generally cost free. However, the cost of hospital care is another story. We all know the cost of overnight hospital visits and x-rays.

Be safe and responsible for yourself and others out on your next journey. Consider purchasing an InReach GPS Communication device as a must item on your packing list.

David Pinter ~ Arizona Trekker

The Sedona Five – Great 5 Mile Loop Hikes in Sedona, Arizona



5 Mile Cockscomb – Aerie Trail Loop

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Aerie and Cockscomb are well known trails hiked and biked in the western Sedona region. This smooth and flowing loop is perfect for the casual hiker looking for a scenic and somewhat easy 5 mile trek.

Like most trailheads in Sedona, parking can be an issue at certain times of the day. I prefer to arrive early in the morning to ensure a parking spot. I would suggest hiking counter clockwise with the view of Doe Mountain always to your left side. This trek meanders you around to some very nice vast scenic views and one incredible overlook spot (hint: 34.88568°N 111.85435°W) great for lunch or a photo opportunity. I found myself at every turn snapping pictures of the beautiful terrain. Once cockscomb trail meets up with the Aerie trail, there is a gradual incline to the lower portion of Doe Mountain. At the highest point of Aerie trail on Doe Mountain are some wonderful views of Mescal Mountain and western Sedona region.

Trail Data:

5 Mile Arizona Cypress – Anaconda – Girdner – Chuckwagon – Mescal Trail Loop

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Trekking a 5 mile loop can be tricky in Sedona because some trails are not marked. This particular route has updated signs and trail kiosk maps available at the trailhead and trail intersections. This is one on my favorite loop hikes since the terrain vastly varies throughout the journey and is quintessential Sedona. Starting with the Arizona Cypress Trail, this lowland elevation point of the hike is cooled by the shady trees and makes for a good warm up along the way. Then suddenly, you’re hit with the infamous, Anaconda Trail, that zig zags its way upward in elevation making for an amazing cardio workout while seeing some of the absolute best views in Sedona.

The Anaconda Trail is long and winding with plenty of switchbacks, but every turn along the way was greeted with another beautiful scenic view. On the map above, I inserted in orange, Snake Trail, that can lead you downhill back to the AZ Cypress parking area. Due to a knee injury incurred while mountain biking, I had to bail out and use it. The southeast side of Anaconda is a steep and fast downhill hike that flows directly into Girdner Trail. Girdner Trail is a short access point leading into Chuckwagon Trail, and with a quick road crossing, the trail moderately goes back up in elevation. Along the red rocky western portion of Chuckwagon is a great place to remove your pack, grab a sandwich, and enjoy the view. From this point on, the trek is all downhill and meets with Mescal Trail which will take you back to the parking lot. There is an abundance of points of interest along this 5 mile hike.

Trail data:

5 Mile Mescal – Deadman’s Pass – Long Trail Loop

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Mescal – Deadman’s Pass – Long Trail Loop is one of the best kept secrets in Sedona. While most out-of-town people are hiking up to see Devil’s Bridge (hundreds of people a day, seriously crowded), this loop has the best views and few trekkers know about it. Notice the 5 Star Rating! I really like this loop on account of it can be hiked, mountain biked, and ultra trail ran without seeing many people along the way. The image above is the location where a woman from Chicago sprinkled her father’s ashes to rest. I asked her, “Why Here?” She replied, “Look at the magnificent views!” I was blown away. Photographs never truly capture the panoramic beauty of nature.

Hiking Mescal Trail is a true delight. It intersects directly with Deadman’s Pass, then you begin to move gradually upward in elevation. Once reaching Long Trail, it’s downhill from here with amazing peek-a-boo views. Halfway down, if you wanted to add an additional mile to your trek and visit the secret cave (the one that hikers are not supposed to talk about), there is a hidden trail that brings you to the illusive… “Birthing Cave.” The trail on the map above, highlighted in orange, is only an approximate location (I upheld the creed: Hint Trail Entrance: 34°54’45.1752″ N 111°49’51.1754″ W).

Image from inside the Birthing Cave

At the bottom and end of Long Trail, look to the right, you will see the Mescal Connector Trail that will bring you back to the parking area without having to walk down the road. Not much time to spend in Sedona..? This is the loop trail that will give you your vortex fix.

Trail Data:

Trail Data going to the Birthing Cave:

5 Mile Brins Mesa – Soldier Pass – Jordan – Cibola Pass Trail Loop

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Brins Mesa and Soldier Pass Trail is an amazing loop with some of the most drop dead views in Sedona… maybe even in Arizona. Arrive early at the Park Ridge Drive parking lot since spaces will go very quickly. Otherwise you’ll have to park along the road.

This trail loop actually begins about 100 yards in on the Cibola Pass Trail connecting onto the Brins Mesa Trail. Once onto the Brins Mesa Trail, you can immediately appreciate the peacefulness that this portion of Sedona has to offer. Mountain bikes are not allowed on this trail and halfway up I can see why. Brins Mesa Trail winds to and fro through some gorgeous terrain and well shaded resting spots. Gradually inclining upward in elevation, the trail suddenly increases in grade and becomes a steep trekking workout. However, every stop for a drink of water and to catch my breath, I’d be peering at unspeakable beauty. This trail is the reason most of us became hikers. Once reaching the top of Brins Mesa Trail, a vast 360 degree panoramic view welcomes your every effort for making it to the top. You are on the Mesa!

Intersecting with Soldier Pass, the trail begins its massive downhill trek. Great views are everywhere. However, watch your step, you’ll need to carefully navigate the tricky rock footings as you descend. At the base of the trail you’ll find yourself among several hikers photographing the Seven Sacred Pools. Unfortunately, on my last visit the pools were dried up. Don’t fret, looks like there’s rain in the future, so keep your fingers crossed. After passing the Seven Sacred Pools, the giant rock sink hole comes into view. Very interesting rock formations with an excellent opportunity to take some good photos… just don’t back up to much. Jordan Trail meets with Cibola Pass Trail to carry you back to the parking lot. Seriously, everyone who visits Sedona must checkout this amazing trail loop. You’ll be happy you did.

Trail Data:

5 Mile Mescal – Chuckwagon – Mescal Trail Loop

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fast, fun, easy and jam packed with great views galore. The Mescal – Chuckwagon – Mescal Trail Loop is one of the better treks in Sedona. If you don’t have a lot of time to spend figuring out the labyrinth of amazing trails Sedona has to offer, I would suggest this 5 mile hike. The parking is free at the Mescal parking area, but you’d better arrive early to grab your spot. I arrived at 7:30 in the morning in February (32 degrees) and half the parking lot was filled. You can also park across the street along the road.

In the warmer months, Chuckwagon Trail is teeming with mountain bikers and trail runners. However, I only came across about ten outdoor enthusiasts on my hike. The trail is heavily shaded and there are plenty of incredible scenic views to take a break for a sandwich and cold drink.

The trail starts off at Mescal Trail then gradually climbs to Chuckwagon Trail. The signage is well posted and you may run into several hikers heading up to Devil’s Bridge. Once passing the Devil’s Bridge trail split, the hike along Chuckwagon becomes very quiet and peaceful. It felt more like a nature walk with peaked views and very interesting red rock formations within this sanctuary.

Chuckwagon Trail flows gradually up and down rising to a maximum altitude of 4,700 ft. So, there is only a total ascent and descent of about 400 ft… it’s quite enjoyable!

Trail Data:

5.3 Mile Schuerman Mountain – Scorpion Trail Loop

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If I were to choose an excellent Sedona 5 mile trail loop to hike right now, it would certainly be the Schuerman Mt. – Scorpion Loop. A few things I really like about this trek: 1. Never ending panoramic views, 2. An easy to moderate hike, 3. A great water source halfway through, and 4. Hardly any people on the trails.

The trail begins right behind Sedona High School on Route 89A. At this location, there is plenty of good parking, even if you’re running late. Starting on Schuerman Mountain Trail, the trail ascends steep for about 1/8 of a mile then before you know it, you’re on a flat mesa with amazing 270º panoramic views. The trail from this point is narrow all the way across the mesa. Then the trail descends gradually revealing wide expanses of distant red mountains.

Schuerman Mountain – Scorpion Trail Loop Map

*Now here’s the thing… In order to meet up with Scorpion Trail to complete the 5 mile loop, you must first take a left and head east on a “no name” connector trail. The trail is not difficult to find, but I had my GPS map ensuring I wouldn’t veer off onto some scrambling game trail. Here are the coordinates to copy and paste into your mapping device: 34°49’41.2″N 111°50’40.4″W

By the way, a couple hikers I met along the way had different names for the unknown connector trail. One said it was called the, “Pyramids and Polygons Trail” and another claimed it was the “Overlook Trail.” But, regardless of the name, it certainly was the highlight of the trek.

*This is the trail split onto the connector trail. Head east (left):
Coordinates are as follows: 34°49’41.2″N 111°50’40.4″W

Now this is where the fun begins. The trail gradually descending back north into an interesting and narrow ravine. There are so many great photo opportunities along this narrow and steep path. Once reaching the lowest level of the ravine, there is a natural tree shaded watering hole and pocket pools. This is an amazing spot to get some rest and shade. The rock formations are incredible.

Next, continue on the unnamed trail and slowly ascend to the cliffs. This will serpentine you across to some of the greatest distant views in Sedona. Eventually, the trail intersects with Pyramid and Scorpion Trail. Take Scorpion all the way back to the school parking lot.

On Scorpion Trail, heading back to the school parking lot.

I really enjoyed this hike, but as you know, pictures don’t capture the true beauty and diversity of nature. My advice would be to take this looping trail when it is cooler, since a good portion is exposed to the open sunlight. I am usually on the trails at about 7am, however, I would totally consider heading up to the top of the mesa in the evening to view the sunset and the evening stars.

Trail Data:

Sedona has so many more amazing trails. Some trails are longer and some are shorter, but no matter which one you choose, one day you may find yourself in the middle of the Sedona Vortex. I found it by accident one day.

Trekking, UV Hydrating while Keeping Your Pack Light


A Water Supply Depletes Fast

The worst case scenario is to run out of drinking water while hiking. The extremely dry Arizona climate can be absolutely unforgiving. Unfortunately, due to inadequate hydration practices, several hikers over the past few years have fallen prey to the scorching and relentless sun along some of the most popular hiking and biking trails in the region. How can this happen? It would seem most hikers carry substantial amounts of bottled water and hydration bladders in their backpacks. This is simply not true. I have personally come across numerous hikers within the desert carrying no water at all and the ones that do are on the verge of running out soon. Excuses range from, “My friend and I are sharing” or “I’m only going a few miles” or “I don’t like to carry a lot of water with me, it’s too heavy.” Regardless of the excuse, hikers find themselves in big trouble when they do finally start to panic realizing their water supply is depleting fast.

Be Smart, Carry Less Water, but Plan!

Over the past couple years, I’ve been experimenting with the idea of going on various hikes knowing that natural water sources are available along the trail. Having these watering holes available is one example to help keep my backpack load much lighter, in effect, reducing the stress on my joints and Achilles’ tendons and allowing for a much smoother and less tiresome trek.


Water Pool Along Secret Canyon Trail

I’ve concluded that by planning out my adventures in explicit detail days before, I always end up with more plentiful drinking water than I could ever have imagined.  One day while hiking along Secret Canyon Trail, I noticed a plentiful water supply rushing down the creek beds and trapped deep pools of water cooling in the shaded areas against the red rock cliffs. In the summer months following, I re-hiked the trail noticing the same pools of water hydrating the canyon. I said to myself, “Why on earth am I carrying 100 ounces of heavy water when there is plentiful water to drink everywhere?”

I began searching for a water purification system that was easy to use and one that fit my style of long day hikes. After a thorough review researching a multitude of systems, I chose the Camelbak “All Clear” UV Water purification system. It fits my needs perfectly and may not be designed for everyone. (See video above)

How to Carrying 25 Ounces of Water on a 12-mile Adventure

Here is an example of how I would prepare my hydration hike carrying only 25 ounces (750ml) of water. View the illustration above for the 6 mile loop. An additional 6 miles is added in for bike riding to the starting point.

  1. After riding down a dirt road on my mountain bike for 3 miles to water source no. 1, I would drink all 25 ounces of water in my Camelbak All Clear Bottle and refill. At this point, I would hide my bike in the woods.
  2. Next, I would then hike to water source no. 2 and drink another 50 ounces of water by purifying two more times. I might add a Nuun electrolyte energy tab to the water bottle for some flavor.
  3. Continuing onto water source no. 3, I would decide whether or not I would purify water and fill it into my empty hydration bladder I keep in my backpack as a backup. Filling it up would give me an additional 100 ounces (total 125 ounces including my filled water bottle). Keep in mind, water source no. 4 is about 1.4 miles away.
  4. Once reaching water source no. 4, I would rehydrate again and have some trail mix and a power bar. At this time, in the summer, it would be about 90 degrees. I have to consider how deep the pools of water have been to determine if water source 5 and 6 will sustain me back to the beginning.
  5. If water source no. 5 is plentiful, I will drink as much water as I can, fill up my bottle and bladder and move onto retrieving my bike.
  6. Water source no. 6 in the summer months is usually 1/3 of what is shown on the satellite view image.

Now keep in mind, this is certainly way more water than I would normally drink on an easy 6-mile hike. But, my point is to map out all water sources using waypoints on your GPS device or plot them onto your map. Going off trail 50 yards sometimes is necessary for keeping you hydrated and your water bottle or bladder filled to the brim. Also, I retro fitted my Camelbak All Clear with a bladder tube so I can sip along the way. I like to keep moving.

My advice would be to GPS log water holes, streams, forest tanks, and lakes. Be sure to also note the time of year and perhaps depth and length. You may need a flat plastic bag in shallow water holes to gather the water then pour it into your hydration bottle.

I have now used the Camelbak All Clear system for about 3 years and have never gotten sick. Trust me, some of my sources were sketchy at best. As long as your water is clear the UV system will purify the contents. I don’t recommend murky or heavily cloudy water during the 60 second purification process.

Being prepared is the key to an enjoyable desert adventure. In order to have a safe and pleasurable time hiking with friends, certain precautions must be abided to. Simply be certain everyone in the group has enough drinkable water per person to complete the trip.

Mescal Trail, Sedona, Arizona


View Along Mescal Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars

Recommended supplies and information:

  • Bring at least 80 ounces (about 2 liter) of water
  • Trekking Pole
  • Small First Aid Kit
  • GPS
  • Camera

Approximate Trekking information:

Total Distance Hiking Round Trip: 4.0 Miles (6.4 km)

Elevation 4,485 ft to 4,662 ft: 177 ft Ascension Climb

Elevation Metrics: 1,367 meters to 1,421 meters: 54 meters Ascension Climb

Temperature for March 26, 2017: 69 F to 83 F / 20.5 C to 28.3 C


View Along Mescal Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Sedona’s Hidden Treasure

If you’re looking for a shorter hike in Sedona, one with magnificent vista views, high soaring cliffs, and a gradual ascending trail, then Mescal Trail is the trek for you.

Mescal Trail is one of Sedona’s best kept secrets since the majority of patrons using this trail are mountain bikers. Mescal Trail is one of a labyrinth of biking trails in the western Sedona region. Although, I mountain biked this difficult black diamond trail, the hiking is quite easy and perfect for a couple or fast family outing… bring a lunch!


View Along Mescal Trail, Sedona, Arizona

The Trail

Mescal Trail can be accessed free on Long Canyon Road by driving to the dirt parking lot or alongside the road by the trail head. The trail actually crosses Long Canyon Road heading in a northwestern direction. If you take the trail heading in the opposite direction, you will merge with Chuckwagon trail on route to Devil’s Bridge (another great short hike).

The trail to Mescal has the classic red clay and the environment around is green and picturesque from all directions. As the trail ascends, new spectacular views emerge around every twist and turn of the trail. A very clean and well maintained path makes for an amazing photographic opportunity.


Mountain Bike Along Mescal Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Beware of Mountain Bikers

Although this trail is utilized by hikers and mountain bikers, beware of fast groups of bikers zipping down the trails. The bikers are very respectful of the trekkers, but keep a lookout especially when meandering around tight switchbacks. Sharing the trail is important and keeping it safe is the number one key.


Red Cliffs Along Mescal Trail, Sedona, Arizona

The View

Once you’ve ascended to the top of the trail is where magnificence begins. A great giant cliff masses behind you and the path turns to a long and wide avenue of flat stone lasting about 1-mile in length.

There are actually two trails at this point for bikers, Difficult or Extreme. Both are easy to hike, but I prefer the upper Difficult trail to take in the vast expanse of the views. In every direction, amazing long distant views of mountain, trees, and plateaus color the canvas of Sedona’s western wilderness. This is a great spot for a picnic or just to hang out and enjoy the view.

Alternative Routes

Continuing west on the Mescal Trail brings you down to Deadman’s Pass Trail. Taking a right will loop you down and around to Long Canyon Trail back to the main road and trail head (recommended for a 5-mile short loop hike). Taking a left on Deadman’s Pass merges onto Aerie Trail leading to Boynton Canyon Trail and Road. Another route to take is Canyon of Fools which brings you back down an interesting rock canyon to the Boynton Canyon road. Take a left to bring you back to the Mescal parking lot.


Panoramic View, Mescal Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Final Thoughts

Mescal Trail is a great short hike in Sedona, especially for tourists on a tight deadline and lacking the time for longer full day hikes. Two miles in and two miles out is all it would take to benefit and appreciate the beauty of the Sedona Wilderness. In my opinion, I prefer Mescal over the heavily populated Devil’s Bridge trail. Although Devil’s Bridge is an incredible natural wonder, it lacks great views and is very difficult to climb for novice hikers and the elderly. Mescal is an easier climb and just as naturally fascinating in all aspects.

View all images of the trail:

View Complete Trekking Analysis One Way

View GPS Map and photo locations:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 7.51.11 AM

Map of Mescal Trail, Sedona, Arizona


From Sedona on Route 89A, go west on Dry Creek Road. At first “T” turn right onto Long Canyon Road. Go .5 miles and parking will be on the right. Trailhead will be on the left.

Squirrel Springs, Greer, Arizona

Rating: 3.0 out of 5 stars

Recommended supplies and information:

  • Bring at least 80 ounces (about 2 liter) of water
  • Water Purification System (water sources are available)
  • Electrolyte Energy Tablets
  • Trekking Pole
  • Small First Aid Kit
  • GPS

Approximate Trekking information:

Total Distance Hiking Round Trip: 6.3 Miles (10.1 km)

Elevation 8,291 ft to 8,983 ft: 692 ft Ascension Climb

Elevation Metrics: 2,527 meters to 2,738 meters: 211 meters Ascension Climb

Temperature for January 6, 2017: 49.6 F to 74.5 F / 9.7 C to 23.6 C


Fir Trail, Squirrel Springs,Greer, Arizona

A Winter Wonderland

Not very often do I have an opportunity to trek in snowy environments. However, being up in Pinetop, Arizona in January, I couldn’t resist the chance to travel over to Greer, AZ and check out the Squirrel Springs wilderness area. Since Pinetop and Greer are within a region of unpredictable weather conditions, Pinetop had scattered patches of melting snow, while Greer was completely covered within a winter wonderland.

Pulling my truck into the Squirrel Springs trailhead, I was not surprised to see an empty parking lot. The entire area was blanketed with a layer of freshly fallen snow. Conveniently, there was an impeccably clean public restroom facility adjacent to the trailhead.


Melting Snow Water Source, Squirrel Springs,Greer, Arizona

Snowy Trail

After signing the trail hiking logbook, I began my trek onto Fir Trail. Within a few hundred feet, I passed through an opened gated property fence. An extremely beautiful scenery of snow and ponderosa pines accented the deep blue sky. I couldn’t have asked for better hiking conditions on this Friday morning.


Juniper Trail, Squirrel Springs,Greer, Arizona

The trail was wide and appeared to be an old logging road with excellent blaze markings on the trees. The trail was completely covered with snow, so getting lost is difficult since the trail is well marked. On the entire hike, I did not see a single person or footprint other than an occasional elk or deer imprint. Therefore, the trek was very peaceful and the only other sound I heard was that of my own boots trudging through the dry snow.


Mountain View, Squirrel Springs,Greer, Arizona

The trail meanders in a south west direction parallel between Rosey Creek and Benny Creek. So, there is a plentiful water supply for those wishing to veer off-trail a short distance to resupply.


Snow Covered Fallen Tree, Squirrel Springs,Greer, Arizona

Glimpses of Nearby Mountains

As I slowly ascending up the trail a few hundred feet in elevation, I noticed a clearing in the pine trees to the south (leftside). To my surprise, a wonderful view of a gorgeous mountain and forested valley was before me. The view was not by any means a jaw dropping awe inspiring view, but it certainly stood on its own for an individual beauty showcasing the surrounding mountain terrain. Unfortunately, hiking this particular trail, multiple expansive picturesque mountain and lake views were lacking. However, the solitude and pristine nature of the region made up for it.


Deepening Snow, Squirrel Springs,Greer, Arizona

Deepening Snow

As I continued to slog through the paths, I began to notice the higher in elevation I went, the deeper the snow had accumulated. My trekking adventure commenced with about an inch or so at the beginning of the trailhead down by the parking lot. As I ascending to about 8,800 feet (2438.4 meters), it measured about 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) in depth making it much more difficult to negotiate the trails. At this point, snowshoes would have been the way to go.


Birch Trees, Squirrel Springs,Greer, Arizona

After about three miles of hiking through the deepening snow, I decided to cut the trail loop short by about .25 miles. I could actually see the trail loop around with a surrounding meadow in the foreground. Going off-trail just west of the path would be an ascending climb to another view of which I am assuming would be the White Mountain Reservoir and Sunrise Ski Resort in the distance. Unfortunately, the snow was getting too deep to hike in boots, so I will have to attempt this hike again in the summer months.


Final Loop Meadow, Squirrel Springs,Greer, Arizona

Final Thoughts

Squirrel Springs is a great location for a fun hike to get out into the wilderness, breathe some fresh air, and enjoy the peacefulness of nature. In dry summer months, I would highly recommend trail running and mountain biking at this location. Since the trails are wide and not difficult to walk, all ages and athletic levels would be welcomed.

Although I rated this trek a 3 out of a possible 5 stars, on account of a lack of spectacular views, I will certainly return to this location to do some more exploring and possibly mountain biking. There are approximately 14 trails in this region that run parallel to Hall, Rosey, and Benny Creek. So, a lack of water will never be an issue.  I thoroughly enjoyed hiking Squirrel Springs and am looking forward to my next adventure in the Greer, Arizona area.

View all images of the trail:

View Complete Trekking Analysis One Way

View GPS Map and photo locations:



Traveling from Payson, AZ head east on Route 260. Keep heading east on 260 past Pinetop for about 50 minutes and take a right turn onto Route 373. About 2 miles on the right you will see a sign for Squirrel Springs campground.

Knoll Lake Loop, Payson, Arizona

Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars

Recommended supplies and information:

  • Bring at least 80 ounces (about 2 liter) of water
  • Water Purification System (water sources are available)
  • Electrolyte Energy Tablets
  • Trekking Pole
  • Small First Aid Kit
  • Floatation Device
  • GPS
  • Camera

Approximate Trekking information:

Total Distance Hiking Round Trip: 10.4 Miles (16.7 km)

Elevation 7,907 ft to 7,316 ft: 591 ft Ascension Climb

Elevation Metrics: 2,410 meters to 2,229 meters: 181 meters Ascension Climb

Temperature for July 17, 2016: 71.3 F to 91.8 F / 21.8 C to 33.2 C


ArizonaTrekker David Pinter at Rim Road, Payson, Arizona

A Very Unusual Adventure

To begin the story, a hiking and mountain biking friend of mine, Jeff Forgey, went along with me on this adventure. I’ve hiked down into Knoll Lake once by way of Babe Haught Trail, so Jeff and I were very interested in exploring around the entire perimeter of the lake.

Since I prefer parking my truck on top of the rim on Route 300 (Rim Road), we decided to bike down a dirt road that intersected me to a rarely used old logging road. The entire bike ride was only about 3 miles.


Old Logging Road On Route to Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Zipping Down the Trail

The trip started off like any other 8:00am early morning ride. The air was cool and the sky had a slight overcast. The forest on both sides of the road was thickly dense with an occasional patch of green meadows. As we soared down the dusty, bumpy road we zipped off-road into a practically barren camp ground area. I noticed there was only one large tent with a jeep wrangler adjacent to it. As soon as I got my GPS bearings while riding by, we whisked down an old pine needle covered logging trail. The trail was narrow, yet wide enough for two bikes and the scenery was magnificent. The path was rocky in some spots, but our bikes had no problem flying over the flat and gradually descending terrain.

Found a Lost Dog

Riding at top speed with Jeff leading the way, I shouted from behind, “Jeff, look out, there’s a dog on the trail.” Jeff and I skidded to the side of the sandy path and set our bikes down to investigate the situation. Sadly, in the middle of the trail, lying in a dug out plot of dirt, a shivering and obviously dehydrated American Bulldog. The dog appeared it hadn’t eaten in days and its paws were very sore and partly bloody. I attempted to give the frightened dog some water, but it began growling so I backed away.

We couldn’t leave the dog just lying there in despair, so Jeff sat by it, and slowly allowed the dog to gain trust in him. Eventually, Jeff gingerly took hold of the leash and walked the dog all the way back up the trail (about 1.5 miles) where we saw the tent. In the meantime, I waited with the bikes and after about an hour or so, Jeff returned and we continued the adventure. After another 5 minutes of riding, we came to the end of the mountain biking trail.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 10.00.17 AM

Lost, Cold, and Frightened Dog Found Near Knoll Lake, Payson, AZ

See Update About the Dog at Bottom of Blog


Steep Off-Trail Incline Above Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Steep Descending Trek to the Lake

After ditching the bikes behind some large fallen trees in the bush, we proceeded to “off-trail” navigate down a very steep portion of the terrain. After descending about 300 feet, we reached a dried out rocky creek.


Dry Creek Bed Leading to Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona


Southern Most Point at Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Following the embankment further and further north, smooth yet narrow animal trails lead us to the southernmost point of Knoll Lake. The view we were waiting for was finally before us. The lake scenery was spectacular and the water was calm and serene. This was the perfect opportunity for photographers and videographers alike.

Trekking the Perimeter of Knoll Lake

Along the edges of the lake are flat, rocky walk paths, but the terrain sharply ascends upward making hiking the perimeter of the lake very difficult at times. I actually found it easier to hike on animal trails higher up in the woods than on the rock-laden embankment. Now and then there was an occasional fallen tree across the path but travelling was much smoother than jumping over boulders and spraining an ankle.


Tree Line South View of Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Even from the higher densely wooded vantage point, the scenery from every direction was certainly incredible with green pine tree forests towering up over the majestic lake.


Trash Found Along the Shores of Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Disappointing Moments

To me, as an avid Arizona outdoorsman, nothing is worse than hiking out in nature and finding scattered trash along the way. When Jeff and I were trekking closer to the northwest side of the lake, we noticed the trails and fishing areas littered with plastic water bottles, junk food bags, beer cans and broken glass. However, the further away from these fishing spots, the cleaner it became.


Kayak and Row Boat at Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Swimming to the Island

 After Jeff and I passed the crowds near the northwest parking lot, we noticed there was a long line of people waiting to use the toilet facilities. We just quickly passed by and headed back onto the trail.


Yellow Flowers and Butterflies at Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

While along the trail, we came across a field of tall yellow flowers. On top of every flower were orange butterflies fluttering about. This was quite a beautiful sight contrasting the pine green forest with a deep dark blue lake backdrop.

We eventually reached the crossing point to where Jeff and I were to swim to the small island in the middle of Knoll Lake. We left our backpacks behind and swam across through the cool deep water. Once reaching the island, we snapped a few photos and hung out for a bit. After a little while, we happened to see a rubber raft with an older couple sailing right by our location. The raft was equipped with a quiet electric motor. Asking politely, we hitched a ride back to the mainland where we left our backpacks. I must say, I was drained from swimming fully clothed, carrying a Go Pro and a GPS camera with pouch. My recommendation would be to bring a lightweight floatation device as a backup precaution. I would only recommend strong swimmers to attempt the crossing.


Canoes Out on Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Lunch and Heading Back

Following a great lunch while drinking purified lake water, Jeff and I headed back onto the trail. We kept to the perimeter of the lake as planned and eventually found our way back up to the dried creek bed and steep ascent to our bikes’ location. Hiking back up the cliffy area wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. We maintained a steady pace and switch backed often. Before you know it, we were back on our bikes on route to the campsite to see how the dog was doing.


David Pinter in Phoenix with American Bulldog Found at Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

We decided to take the lost dog back with us to Phoenix to find a good home for him. Currently, the American Bulldog is residing at Jeff’s place. 



We found the owners of “Baxter.” They live in Youngtown, AZ. They said he ran off into the woods along the Mogollon Rim near Knoll Lake Friday evening. Baxter was alone in the forest for 2 long cold nights. They’ve been happily reunited.

Final Thoughts

Knoll Lake is quite a spectacular place to visit. Whether you’re hiking, boating, fishing, swimming, or just hanging out soaking up the sun, this lake is great for families. But, please remember to pick up after yourself and to take all belongings back out with you.

For peacefulness and tranquility, I would recommend trekkers to hike down to the southern most point of the lake via Babe Haught Trail. This trail is located off Rt. 300 (Rim Road). Further information regarding this trail can be found at:


View all images of the trail:

View Complete Trekking Analysis One Way

View GPS Map and photo locations:



Map of Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona



Traveling from Payson, AZ head east on Route 260. Pass through the town of Star Valley (beware of the radar cameras). Keep heading east on 260 for about 10 miles and take a left turn onto Route 300 (Rim Road). Continue on Route 300 for about 20 miles and follow the Knoll Lake signs. Plenty of free parking in the area.


Obõz Firebrand II Hiking Shoes

Rating 4.9 out of 5

Price: $140.00



Oboz Firebrand II Hiking Shoes

Over the years I’ve been purchasing a multitude of hiking shoes and boots. Since every trail in Arizona has a significantly different texture ranging from sandy, rocky, and slippery, choosing the right shoe or boot for the hike is critical. I carefully plan out wearing the right footwear depending upon the upcoming terrain. Nothing is worse than having your feet begin to hurt half way through a trek knowing you may have to turn back to the trailhead. What’s worse is listening your handful of fellow hikers returning later on with all their great stories and pics of an amazing adventure.

The most difficult part in choosing the correct shoes to wear is knowing the extent of your trek. For longer hikes in rugged terrain I will opt for my all leather Asolo TPS 520 GV Evos. However, while the Asolo’s are incredibly comfortable and protective, they are sometimes way to bulky for shorter and smoother paths. This is where the Oboz come into play.

Ultimate All Around All Purpose Shoe

The Oboz Firebrand II, in my opinion, is the ultimate all around hiking shoe. I say this because not only are they constructed incredibly well, but they are waterproof and extremely grippy on wet and dry rock surfaces. Although the Oboz don’t fashion Vibram soles I’ve come to trust over the years, their soles stand up equally in several environments.


Oboz Firebrand II Hiking Shoe Soles

In fact, the Oboz Firebrand II are also my go to Mountain biking shoes out on the trails. Since I don’t use clip-in style riding shoes, the Oboz grip amazingly well to the pedals. In fact, an REI Rep in the bike department recommended me wearing them (I was wearing them at the time while checking out some bikes) as an alternative, since Oboz have such great low center of gravity stability when regaining your balance. Since that time, I’ve been wearing them as my biking/trekking combination. Also, I love the toe guard rubber molding over the front top of the shoe. It allows the shoe to last much longer over rugged and rocky trails.


Ankle support has always been a issue for me. Although the Oboz Firebrand do not fully support and cover the entire ankle area, the shape and design of the lower sole aids in preventing ankle rollover. To date, I have not sprained any ankle while wearing these shoes. I feel very solid on the ground and sure footed when jumping from rock to rock even in slippery areas.

Another concern regarding the hiking shoe, which in my opinion is a plus, is the weight of the shoe. As you can see by the spec chart below, the average weight for a pair of shoes is 2 lbs. 5 oz. While some ultralight hikers on the trail speak highly about how light their trail shoes are, they are giving up on support and durability over time. I prefer a more rigid and solid feel on my feet when traveling through unexpected terrain surfaces. Unfortunately, added weight in ounces in stronger materials is necessary in achieving a more durable and rigid trail shoe.

BFit Deluxe

Our anatomically-designed insole maximizes stability and support in our backpacking boots, hikers, and lifestyle shoes, with a supportive arch and a deep cushioning heel cup. Triple-density EVA throughout provides both cushioning and durability, and a shot of urethane under the metatarsals and heels adds extra protection to high-strike zones.


The inserts are well proportioned, stiff but not uncomfortable at all. Of course, all feet handle inserts differently depending on the person. I understand by reading other blogs that these trail shoes support specialized orthotic inserts. This is on account of your foot fitting deep into the shoe allowing for varying designs and styles of inserts.

Oboz Firebrand II are waterproof and very breathable due to the B-DRY™ membrane material. But since they are not a high over the ankle shoe, I don’t see myself treading in too deep a stream. However, I have completely submerged the pair and they seem to dry fairly quickly.

Final Thoughts

I totally recommend purchasing the best boot or trail shoe your money can buy. I can’t stress to you the importance of purchasing comfortable and trusting foot gear for multi surface terrain hiking. But the most important thing to remember is that buying shoes strictly by brand name like Asolo, Merrell,Salomon, or Vasque isn’t going to matter much unless they are perfect on your feet after a good 25 mile hike. Always purchase the boot or trail shoes that your foot fits perfectly into. For me, and my style of trekking/biking adventures, the Oboz Firebrand II is the clear winner in quality, durability, grip, and performance. In fact, after years of wearing them, REI still carries them in their store and claims they are their most popular shoe. Since I love them so much, I purchased another pair. My current pair are still in excellent condition after years and miles of abuse. But, in the back of my mind, I know there will always be an excellent backup waiting for me at the top shelf of my closet.


  • Waterproof nubuck leather uppers feature abrasion-resistant nylon mesh panels for just the right combination of breathability and protection
  • B-DRY™ waterproof, breathable membranes keep soggy elements out while letting water vapor escape, keeping your feet cool and comfortable
  • Nylon mesh linings wick moisture, dry quickly and further enhance breathability
  • Anatomic EVA footbeds and dual-density EVA midsoles provide cushioning over days on the trail
  • Nylon shanks offer torsional stability and protection underfoot, increasing surefootedness on varied terrain
  • The Oboz Firebrand II hiking shoes feature high-friction, nonmarking rubber outsoles that grip with ease in all directions


Best Use Hiking
Footwear height Ankle
Footwear closure Lace-up
Waterproof Yes
Upper Nubuck leather/nylon mesh
Lining B-DRY waterproof breathable membrane/nylon
Midsole Dual-density EVA
Support Nylon shank
Outsole Rubber
Average Footwear Weight (Pair) 2 lbs. 5 oz.
Gender Men’s



Babe Haught Trail to Knoll Lake

Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

Recommended supplies and information:

  • Bring at least 80 ounces (about 2 liter) of water
  • Water Purification System (water sources are available)
  • Electrolyte Energy Tablets
  • Trekking Pole
  • Small First Aid Kit
  • GPS
  • Camera

Approximate Trekking information:

Total Distance Hiking Round Trip: 3.38 Miles (5.4 km)

Elevation at base 7,320 ft to 7,612 ft: 292 ft Ascension Climb

Elevation at base Metrics: 2,231 meters to 2,320 meters: 89 meters Ascension Climb

Temperature for June 21, 2016: 77.9 F to 70.2 F / 25.5 C to 21.2 C


Babe Haught Trailhead from Rt. 300, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

A Natural Paradise

The name, “Babe Haught” is referring to an early pioneer of Arizona who blazed a trail while moving goods and supplies through the Mogollon Rim to Winslow, AZ.

Although I did not hike the entire trail, I chose to trek from the rim road Babe Haught Trailhead down to Knoll Lake. Earlier in the morning I was exploring other infrequently travelled off-shoot trails on my mountain bike. Once arriving at the trailhead, I hid my bike in the woods off trail and began to descent on foot to the lake.


Babe Haught Trail Tree Marker, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona


Babe Haught Trail Pine Trees, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

The trail is thickly forested and shaded as well as marked with large and viewable cairns along the way. I was impressed by the serene and very clean environment. The trail itself is mainly covered with pine needles and leaves (some smooth rocky areas), but the path is very visible most of the way (becomes a little confusing nearing the lake area).

Since the one way hike to the lake is fairly short (about 1.5 miles from Rim Road), I was surprised by all the variety of nature this trail had to offer. Starting off with thick shaded woods, glimpses of  narrow green grassy meadows, and pockets of wet shallow streams, Babe Haught Trail ended in grazing wetlands with great camping opportunities.


Babe Haught Trail Forest View, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

Fern Ground Coverage

Another beautiful aspect of Babe Haught Trail was the fern covered terrain surrounding the narrow path. Very green and expansive, the ferns transitioned the aromatic pine needle and pine cone forest into a lush, wet riparian sanctuary. The photo below will attest to the great contrasts in eye popping color.


Babe Haught Trail Fern View, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

Elk at Knoll Lake

Thoroughly delighted by the peacefulness and tranquility of the gradually descending trail down to Knoll Lake (a mere 292 ft / 89 meters), I was incredibly surprised to see an enormous elk grazing on the green wetland area adjacent to the lake. I wasn’t so surprised by seeing an elk, but basically in awe of the sheer mass, grace of movement and beauty of this creature in its natural habitat. A very inspiring sight!


Elk Spotted at Knoll Lake, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

Knoll Lake

After encountering the elk, I strolled through an opening of the trees and was greeted by a wonderful view from the southern most tip of Knoll lake. Further north the lake opens up into a significantly larger lake more popular for boating, fishing and canoeing. The southern tip of Knoll lake is quiet, giving it a more personal and secluded feel.

The lake was extremely clean with a few remnants of campsites in the surrounding area. There was no one at this part of the lake and it is definitely a location where lovers of nature and tranquility should photograph and further explore.


Knoll Lake Campsite View, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona


Knoll Lake Southern Tip View, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona


Grassy Embankment at Knoll Lake, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

Final Thoughts

Absolutely, without a doubt, I will trek back onto the Babe Haught Trail and venture down deeper into Knoll Lake. The lake has so much to offer. Also, the trail is easy to hike and shaded making it tolerable to hike in the summer months of the Arizona heat.

I had the urge to venture further along the lake edge to exhibit more of the lakeside beauty. However, since I had already been mountain biking earlier in the day, I decided to wait and explore the area in its entirety in weeks to come. This has been one of my most inspiring treks in a long time. I am looking forward to seeing more of what Knoll Lake has to offer. Knoll Lake gives me the feeling of being my own personal and private sanctuary. Enjoy!

View all images of the trail:

View Complete Trekking Analysis One Way

View GPS Map and photo locations:

Babe Map

Trail Location, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona


Traveling from Payson, AZ head east on Route 260. Pass through the town of Star Valley (beware of the radar cameras). Keep heading east on 260 for about 10 miles and take a left turn onto Route 300 (Rim Road). Continue on Route 300 for about 10 miles and the Babe Haught Trail sign will be on the right. Plenty of free parking in the area.

Bear Canyon Lake, Payson, Arizona

Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

Recommended supplies and information:

  • Bring at least 80 ounces (about 2 liter) of water
  • Water Purification System (water sources are available)
  • Electrolyte Energy Tablets
  • Small First Aid Kit
  • GPS
  • Camera

Approximate Trekking information:

Total Distance with Bike and Additional Hiking: 15.9 Miles (25.6 km)

Bear Canyon Trail Distance Round Trip: .25 miles (.4 km)

Total Hiking and Biking Time: 3.11 hours

Elevation at base 7,631 ft to 7,956 ft: 325 ft Ascension Climb

Elevation at base Metrics: 2,325 meters to 2,424 meters: 99 meters Ascension Climb

Temperature for June 21, 2016: 77.4 F to 95.2 F / 25.2 C to 35.1 C


David Pinter at Carr Lake Trailhead, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

A Breath of Fresh Air

For quite some time, I had been researching topographic maps surrounding the Payson, Mogollon Rim region of Arizona. I was interested in creating a multi terrain adventure that would lead me across the inner expanse of the high desert. But, the main driving force was to search and find the illusive Bear Canyon Lake.

Bear Canyon Lake is tucked far away from the more popular tourist camping destinations. Most campers tend to frequent Willow Springs Lake and Woods Canyon Lake campgrounds just off Route 260 just outside of Payson and Star Valley in Coconino County. Nearby are Aspen and Rocky Point Recreation Areas. But interestingly, no one has ever heard of Bear Canyon Lake or knows where it is located in the labyrinth of ancient logging and forest roads atop the Mogollon Rim.


Carr Lake Trailhead Sign Postings, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

I knew this would be the perfect time to brush up on my GPS navigational skills, and to search and find this hidden and mysterious lake. I decided to mountain bike a majority of the trails since the Arizona June temperatures were beginning to spike over the week. Leaving early in the morning and arriving at a designated trailhead was part of my plan to stay cool and keep my body core temperature down. The weather was perfect with portions of the sky filled with sun blocking clouds.


General Crook Trail On Route to Bear Canyon Lake, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

Carr Lake Trailhead: General Crook Trail 140

I would highly recommend to anyone Mountain biking and hiking on a Tuesday. It’s a great way to minimize crowded trails and tourist noise. The trailhead itself was completely empty of hikers with ample parking abound. The surrounding area was well treed with plenty of shade. The starting trail is actually General Crook Trail that primarily maneuvers in a northwest direction. Biking down the narrow trail was a little cumbersome in some portions on account of sand, softball sized rocks and large pinecones.


Pine Needle Covering on General Crook Trail On Route to Bear Canyon Lake, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

Gorgeous Forest Views with Open Green Meadows

Meandering through the shaded forest was an absolute delight. Scents of the pine trees and picturesque views of aspens delightfully enhanced my outdoor experience. I’ve been trekking and biking all over Arizona, but this place I could tell was going to be something very special. There is nothing better to me when a trail is rarely traveled upon.


Trail Split: Aspen and General Crook Trail, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

Now and then, General Crook Trail intersects with other trails and logging roads. Aspen Trail was one such trail that I decided to navigate along since it brought me closer to the Mogollon Rim views.


General Crook Trail On Route to Bear Canyon Lake, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

There were beautiful points along the trail to take in the true expanses of nature. The views were spectacular.


Shaded Forest Trail, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona


Fern Ground Covering, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona


Meadow View, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona


Aspen Trail On Route to Bear Canyon Lake, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

Logging Roads

Portions of the unfrequented Aspen Trail were becoming too difficult to mountain bike. So I decided to GPS switchback onto an old pine needle covered logging road. Traveling closer and closer to Bear Canyon Lake, I finally came to an intersection that crossed Rim Road Route 300. I continued north down a decently maintained dirt road.


Logging Road Mountain Bike Jump On Route to Bear Canyon Lake, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

After riding about two miles, the road ended into what appeared to be a remote camping area. I saw one car, a pup tent, and two people standing and drinking from a metal thermos bottle. Riding to the end of this concealed road, I was initially disappointed by not seeing the lake.


Bear Canyon Lake Trail, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

Bear Canyon Lake Trail

After inspecting the small campground more attentively, I noticed an obscure trail steeply heading down into the forest. I attempted to ride the trail, but it was too extreme and way beyond my skill level. Plus, eventually I knew I would have to push the mountain bike back up and out of the very rocky trail. So, I decided to hide my bike off-trail a hundred feet or so into the woods and hike down to the unseen lake.


Rocky and Steep Bear Canyon Lake Trail, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

After trekking down the trail with several twists and turns, there was no sign of the lake in sight. I was determined, so I continued to trek further and further down the trail in elevation. Then out of nowhere, the trail finally opened up to reveal a soft and green grassy meadow with a beautiful lake swaddled within the forested canyon walls.


South Bear Canyon Lake, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

My first impression was a feeling of pure awe. My second impression was in amazement while gazing at the pristine surroundings. There was no one other than me to enjoy Bear Canyon Lake at its most southern tip location. There were no boats or people, only the wind, a hawk soaring above me, the sounds of the rippling water splashing up against the embankment, and a friendly and cute chipmunk wanting some Cheezits I had packed in for lunch.


A Small Portion of Bear Canyon Lake, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

Fresh Clean Water

Although the lake water is very clean , I still take precautions in drinking any water source I come upon. I used my Camelbak UV All Clear water bottle to clean the water before drinking. I usually add a Nuun electrolyte grape flavored tablet to my drinking water to give me a little extra energy for the long trip back.


Camelbak All Clear Water UV Purifying Bottle at Bear Canyon Lake, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

After guzzling down a whole bottle of lake water, I purified another bottle of water and added it to my empty rubber bladder in my pack. I like to be fully hydrated especially when heading back out.


General Crook Trail On Route to Carr Lake Trailhead, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

The Trip Back

Since the heat was gradually beginning to kick in, I decided to travel on my bike back to Carr Trailhead by way of the forest dirt roads. I eventually arrived back onto Route 300 and rode all the way back to the last portion of General Crook Trail. Then finally, this trail placed me back to my truck at the trailhead.


Aspens Along General Crook Trail, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona

Final Thoughts

Bear Canyon Lake is a serene location I will always remember and will return to again soon. It is beautiful, quiet, and peaceful. Sure, I could have driven my truck down the dirt forest roads to access the campgrounds, but the sheer AWE EXPERIENCE would not have been the same otherwise. I would highly recommend accessing Bear Canyon Lake from the most adventuresome and remote areas as possible. The initial view of the lake makes it all worthwhile.

View all images of the trail:

View Complete Trekking Analysis One Way

View GPS Map and photo locations:


Trail Location, Mogollon Rim, Payson, Arizona


Traveling from Payson, AZ head east on Route 260. Pass through the town of Star Valley (beware of the radar cameras). Keep heading east on 260 for about 10 miles and take a left turn onto Route 300 (Rim Road). Continue on Route 300 and Carr Lake Trailhead will be on the left in about 5 miles. Plenty of free parking.

Bear Sign Trail, Sedona, Arizona


Dry Creek Trail to Bear Sign Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Dry Creek Trail to Bear Sign Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars

Recommended supplies and information:

  • Bring at least 80 ounces (about 2 liter) of water
  • Water Purification System (water locations are seasonally available)
  • Small First Aid Kit
  • Camera

Approximate Trekking information:

Total Distance with Bike and Additional Hiking: 16.3 Miles (26.2 km)

Bear Sign Trail Distance Round Trip: 4.3 miles (6.9 km)

Dry Creek Trail Distance Round Trip: 4.0 miles (6.4 km)

Total Hiking and Biking Time: 5.22 hours

Elevation at base 4,488 ft to 5,302 ft: 814 ft Ascension Climb

Elevation at base Metrics: 1,367 meters to 1,616 meters: 249 meters Ascension Climb

Temperature for June 1, 2016: 84.4 F to 99.9 F / 29.9 C to 37.7 C

Starting Off on Mescal Trail at Long Canyon Road, Sedona, Arizona

Starting Off on Mescal Trail at Long Canyon Road, Sedona, Arizona

Access to Bear Sign Trail

There are two ways to access Bear Sign Trail.

  1. To hike Secret Canyon Trail to David Miller Trail to intersect Bear Sign Trail
  2. To ride, drive or walk to the end of Vultee Arch Road (Dry Creek Road) and then trek Dry Creek Trail to intersect to Bear Sign Trail

A Great Adventure 

In my experience, the best hiking trails in Sedona are the ones that are very difficult to access. The easiest access trails (Boynton, Fay, and Devil’s Bridge) are pretty, but also overly crowded with tons of out of town tourists. Plus, the noise level can be quite annoying at times.

My trip to Bear Sign Trail took some extra planning. I spent quite some time mapping the trails, searching out possible creek water holes, and tuned up my mountain bike. The entire trip was 16.30 miles which was about 8 miles of mountain biking to gain access to the trailhead of Dry Creek Trail.

Mountain Biking on Chuckwagon En Route to Vultee Arch Road, Sedona, Arizona

Mountain Biking on Chuckwagon En Route to Vultee Arch Road, Sedona, Arizona

Biking First

I began my adventure on bike on Mescal Trail at Long Canyon Road. Snaking through black/blue diamond trails I met up with Chuckwagon Trail meandering me to the Devil’s Trail entrance at Vultee Arch Road. Vultee Arch Road then leads into Dry Creek Road. Passing the Secret Canyon Trail entrance, one more mile down Dry Creek Road the bumpy dirt road ends. The options at this point are to hike to Vultee Arch or hike Dry Creek Trail.

View on Chuckwagon Trail, Sedona, Arizona

View on Chuckwagon Trail, Sedona, Arizona

I rode my mountain bike about .25 miles on Dry Creek Trail before the trail became too burdensome. At this point, I hid my mountain bike in some thick brush about 30 meters from the trail. I left my helmet, dawned my hiking hat from my backpack, then removed my water bottle from my bike.

End of the Road on Dry Creek Road, Sedona, Arizona

End of the Road on Dry Creek Road, Sedona, Arizona

Bear Sign and Dry Creek Trail Information, Sedona, Arizona

Bear Sign and Dry Creek Trail Information, Sedona, Arizona

Hiding Bike Along Dry Creek Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Hiding Bike Along Dry Creek Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Hidden Water Holes

A few minutes trekking from my hidden bike location on Dry Creek Trail,  I came to a large red rock cliff location on the westside of the trail. In the crevice at the base of the smooth rock was a small pool of rain water. At this time, I was getting very thirsty, so I guzzled down all of my water. I drank my water in the bottle water and most of my backpack bladder. In my backpack I always carry a UV Water Purification system by Camelback called, All Clear. Once I finished purifying the water and filling up to 100%, I was on my way.

Dry Creek Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Dry Creek Trail, Sedona, Arizona

The Trail


Dry Creek Trail is anything but dry most of the year. Hidden at the lowest bases near some of the cliffs are pools of water in shaded pockets. It takes a little time to search for the water, but with a keen eye, it can be plentiful and rewarding. The image below is an example of a pool of water about 30 meters from the trail. This image was taken on June 1st, so I am not sure if water will be available in July and August.

Water Pool Found Along Dry Creek Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Water Pool Found Along Dry Creek Trail, Sedona, Arizona


Trekking Dry Creek Trail was a great experience. Most of the trail is shaded and thick vegetation is all around. Although there is not much of any incredible and gorgeous views, but canyon peaks and interesting red rock formations are bountiful.

Yellow Flowers Along Dry Creek Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Yellow Flowers Along Dry Creek Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Rock Formations Along Dry Creek Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Rock Formations Along Dry Creek Trail, Sedona, Arizona

About a mile hiking into Dry Creek Trail is the intersection of Bear Sign Trail. Bear Sign Trail takes an immediate western turn leading deeper and higher up into the canyon all the time snaking along a dried out creek. The two combined trails, Dry Creek and Bear Sign Trail, is a very easy to moderate hike with little exertion required.

Bear Sign Trail Intersection, Sedona, Arizona

Bear Sign Trail Intersection, Sedona, Arizona

It was actually quite beautiful and peaceful. I take into account I never came across another hiker. Sounds of birds, small lizards, and a cool breeze filled the mountain air. Yes, I did come across signs of bear droppings and claw markings along the way, but thankfully I never encountered one.

Shaded Bear Sign Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Shaded Bear Sign Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Another Trail Intersection

Gradually ascending up Bear Sign Trail for about two miles, I must say a feeling of solitude and tranquility can be found here. This is a great trail for trail runners and naturalists.

Woods within Bear Sign Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Woods within Bear Sign Trail, Sedona, Arizona

I would even consider staying over night in a mosquito netted hammock. Reaching my final steps to the end of Bear Sign Trail, the trail splits off once again. One split heads out north into Bear Sign Canyon Trail, and the other split heads southwest along the David Miller Trail.

Trail Split: Bear Sign Trail, Bear Sign Canyon, and David Miller Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Trail Split: Bear Sign Trail, Bear Sign Canyon, and David Miller Trail, Sedona, Arizona

David Miller Trail eventually leads into Secret Mountain Canyon Trail to complete a full loop back to Dry Creek Road. I would have continued along the loop, but I had to head back and pick up my bike hidden in the bushes.

Rocks and Tree on Bear Sign Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Rocks and Tree on Bear Sign Trail, Sedona, Arizona

The Hike Back

The hike back was terrific. Mainly all downhill, when I arrived back at the junction of Bear Sign and Dry Creek Trail, I decided to trek a mile or so into Dry Creek Trail North. As I expected, the trail was excellent and secluded meandering further up into the canyon. After a mile or so, I started heading back. The time was about noon and the heat was beginning to peak. I eventually arrived back to where my bike was along the trail and rode the rest of the way on the dusty Dry Creek and Vultee Road. I went back down Chuckwagon successfully feeling the breeze through the shaded mountain biking trails.

Final Thoughts

I would highly recommend Bear Sign Trail to anyone. I would also like to mention, I could see larger and deeper pools of water along this trail but much further and in remote areas to access. I would in the future explore these off-trail.

My advice to anyone is to make your wilderness outing a complete adventure. Don’t allow a remote trailhead far from a parking lot to discourage you from exploring. I had to bike, seek water, and travel miles. But it was incredible miles with great and lasting memories. If you’re seeking quietness, beauty, one with nature, and individuality I would highly recommend this adventure for you. Bear Sign Trail… Go for it!

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Map of Roads and Trails for Bear Sign Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Map of Roads and Trails for Bear Sign Trail, Sedona, Arizona


Enter into Sedona and travel west on Dry Creek Road which merges into Boynton Pass Road. At the intersection, take a right on Long Canyon Road. The large and free parking area will be on the right in 200 meters. Start on Mescal Trail heading east which runs into Chuckwagon Trail… take a left at intersection.