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Hell's Hole Day Hike
Crown King, AZ
November 22, 2014
by Jim Buyens
 GPS Map 
 Elevation 

Finding new hikes in the Valley of the Sun can be difficult, especially if you want new adventure and great scenery. Even though there are lots of trails, there are also lots of hikers who’ve been using them for many years. Imagine my delight, then, at discovering a little-used yet historic, unique, and colorfully-named location just below the Mogollon Rim. There was even water. How could I resist?

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Arturo, Barry, Doug, Rudy, Dave, Michael, and Jim ready to go.

Hell’s Hole is a spot in the Bradshaw Mountains, located in Horsethief Canyon. The canyon has water most of the year, and because of that became a popular route for cattle drives. The hole itself is a scenic depression that collects water between little islands of rock. Although our destination was close to Phoenix, it was still a long drive. From Phoenix we took I-17 north to the Bumble Bee exit and then west 25 miles on state road 59. Twenty-three of those miles, though, were on gravel complete with ascents, descents, switchbacks, and one-lane stretches. It’s popular with jeeps and ATVs, not so much with sedans, but we did OK with an SUV. Still, travelling from I-17 to the trailhead took about an hour. From the Hell’s Hole trailhead on SR 59 we took the Algonquin Trail to Hell’s Hole itself. Like most little-used trails is the Algonquin tended to be overgrown, but fortunately it never disappeared completely. I’d recommended long pants for everyone.

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Rudy and Doug settle into the early going.

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The trail, as promised, was unmaintained and rugged.
But fortunately it never disappeared completely.

In the first 2.5 miles or so we dropped about 1000 feet before reaching Horsethief Canyon and water. We paused there to enjoy the scenery and wait for everyone to catch up, then continued on toward the hole.

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A rare treat of fall colors for late November.

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This was the starting point for the segment down Horsethief Canyon.

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Rudy Rudy pans for gold. If he found any he wouldn't tell.

Along some stretches we seemed to be following an old road with flat surfaces and human-built embankments, while others had surely never been more than footpaths. Perhaps the sections in between had washed out.

After another mile we reached the site of the Algonquin Mine, after which the trail is named. This mine operated in the years around 1900 and apparently searched for a variety of ores. Canyons were probably good places to prospect, because so many strata of rock were exposed. A fairly large building and assorted machinery still lie about the area.

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This building is the largest relic from the Algonquin mine. [photo by Dave]

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Rudy and Arturo check out the mine building.

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The interior of the mine building.
The table, the chimney, and some artifacts at the left suggest it may have been a mess hall.

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A piece of old mining gear, possibly a pressure valve.

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Another piece of old mining equipment, possibly a grinder.

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CheckChecking out the old equipment.

The trail from the mine to Hell’s Hole began steeply up and then dropped steeply down, but was nevertheless passable. Hell’s Hole itself is an interesting depression that gathers water between interesting islands and outcroppings. This was our lunch and turnaround point.

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This is Hell's Hole itself.

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Arturo takes in both the scenery and some lunch.

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Barry, Arturo, and Doug enjoy the rest stop.

The way back was the same as the way out only, of course, backwards. This time we climbed the final 1000 feet in 2.5 miles but the grade was fairly constant and not especially difficult. It also helped that the entire hike was six miles out and back.

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This rocky crag resembles a face pointing to the right, with an arch as its ear.[photo by Dave]

Once everyone was reassembled we headed west another two miles into Crown King, an wooded old mining town that maintains tons of rustic appeal. Our stopping point was an old mining building called The Mill which is now a restaurant with surprisingly good food and service.

On our way back we passed through Cleator, AZ, a ghost town of about half a dozen ramshackle buildings, most notably the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club. I’d already had a beer in Crown King but the other car stopped and, from what they recalled, had a great time.

Thanks to everyone who made the hike, and hope to see you next time!

Hike Statistics
Total Distance:5.6mi
Starting Time:9:08AM
Moving Time:3:40hrs:min
Stopped Time:0:54hrs:min
Duration:4:34hrs:min
Finishing Time:1:43PM
Avg. Speed Moving:1.5mph
Avg. Speed Overall:1.2mph
Starting Elevation:5,430ft
Minimum Elevation:4,390ft
Maximum Elevation:5,464ft
Total Ascent:1562ft
Calories:405
Starting Temperature:52°
Finishing Temperature:62°
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updated updated December 15, 2014