Rating: 3.2 out of 5 stars
Recommended supplies and information:
- Bring at least 80 ounces (about 2 liter) of water
- Trekking Pole (a must have for this hike)
- Small First Aid Kit (overgrown thorny foliage)
Approximate Trekking information:
Distance Round Trip: 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
Total Hiking Time: 2.5 hours
Elevation at base 6,745 ft to 7,814 ft: 1,069 ft Ascension Climb
Elevation at base Metrics: 2,056 meters to 2,382 meters: 326 meters Ascension Climb
Temperature for March 24, 2016: 59.9 F to 87.6 F / 15 C to 30.8 C
Access to Promontory Trail
There are three ways to access Promontory Trail.
- To hike Horton Creek Trail intersecting Highline Trail
- To hike Derrick Trail intersecting Highline Trail
- To drive dirt access roads at the summit of the Mogollon Rim (to hike down the trail)
Brutal Climb: But Glad I Challenged Myself
Enjoying a wonderful hike along Horton Creek Trail then onto Highline, I came upon the Promontory Trailhead sign. I knew a mile back I would come across this trail, and now here I am, staring at it and contemplating whether to ascend to the top of the rim. I actually stopped at the trailhead for a couple minutes thinking it out realistically. I knew from other hiker’s blogs what was expected to achieve this climb… and it wasn’t pretty. The past year, I had been doing a lot of cardio training and was feeling strong and fit 6 miles into the hike. So, against all matter of common sense, I decided to begin climbing the trail.
Although this trek is relatively short, as you can see by the Topo Map above, the ascension is virtually a vertical climb with extremely loose footing in some areas. Within 5 minutes of hiking, I lost sight of the trail. The trail itself is a maze of split-offs going in every direction. Cairns were placed along certain parts of the “trail?”, but most of the time leading to nowhere. 20 minutes into the hike, I decided to pull out my Garmin Oregon 650t and just GPS to the summit. Several times I would come across a cairn or two, letting me know at least that I am going the right direction.
One excellent way of traversing temporary off-trail hiking is to follow the game trails. As you can see by the image below, animal droppings led the way through tricky terrain.
While connecting back up to portions of the labyrinth-like trail, foliage, cactus, low lying bushes, and fallen tree branches riddled the path. I am going to be honest; about half way up to the summit I considered heading back down to Highline Trail. The only thing keeping me pressing on were the spectacular views.
The steep trail was tough as far as footing was concerned. The closer you come to the summit the more aggravating the climbs becomes. I am not one to complain, but my thoughts along the ascent were, “This trail is awful, but what an awesome view!” I was mainly discouraged from the unkempt trail quality is all. By the time you reach the beginning of the trailhead, most people are already exhausted and are not interested in spending the next 2.5 hours hiking 1.5 miles roundtrip.
One reason for the trail navigation confusion is that very few people will actually attempt to climb Promontory Trail. The trail is way overgrown, scrambled, with very loose footing. But on a bright side, I never saw any other hikers along this entire trek and the environment was completely peaceful and the views were expansive. I saw a majestic hawk soaring at the upper elevations which sometimes, as an avid trekker, will put things back into perspective.
Future Promontory Trail Hike
Would I ever dare to hike Promontory Trail in the future? No! But I am happy to convey I am one of the Arizona Trekkers that sucked it up, went for it, sweated it out, and accomplished a bitter sweet challenge. Don’t be discouraged with this trail. It’s tough but rewarding in many regards. I finished the trail by heading back down to Highline Trail by off-trail hiking then trekked down Derrick Trail to the campground parking lot.
Horton Creek Trail to Highline Trail to Derrick Trail Loop Information
For complete and detailed information on the Horton Creek Trail to Highline Trail to Derrick Trail Loop Trek, please visit this link: https://arizonatrekker.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/horton-creek-highline-derrick-trail-loop-payson-arizona/
View all images of the trail:
View Complete Trekking Analysis One Way
View GPS Map and photo locations:
From Payson, head east on Route 260 for about 16 miles. Take a left on Zane Gray Highway. Horton Creek Parking lot will be .8 miles (1.2 km) on the left. Parking lot fills up quick so arrive early.