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Grapevine Trail
Mayer, AZ
April 4, 2017
by Jim Buyens
  GPS Map 

Imagine hiking along streams and through massive stands of oak, walnut, boxelder and wild canyon grape vines atop the Mogollon Rim and just 60 miles north of Phoenix! Just the ticket when the weather starts getting warm and you don’t feel like driving to Flagstaff, right? Sounds too good to be true? Well, check out the Grapevine Trail #4 near Mayer, AZ.

Jim, Barb, Eileen, Dave M., Wayne, Dave F., Monika, Biljana, Linda, Kristin, Chuck, and Michael
ready for adventure.

This tail is a largely unknown wonder. The Forest Service doesn’t include it in their list of trails for the area, but I ran across it on Facebook and decided to give it a try. Leafy trees and running streams in cool temperatures on top of the nearby Mogollon Rim?  Well of course!

The first challenge is getting there. You start off northbound on I-17, exit on AZ-69 as if you were going to Prescott, and then travel 12 miles through the town of Mayer. Then, just before you get to mile marker 274, turn left onto an unsigned road secretly named AZ-87A. Chaparral Blvd. will be on the right. Continue on AZ-87A about two miles on the unpaved road (which crosses a wash at one point) and park at the unsigned and unofficial parking area. It’s like a big turnoff on the left side of the road.

The official trailhead is another two miles down the road, and you can drive there if you want, but you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle that’ll probably get scratched up. Most write-ups therefore recommend making those last two miles part of the hike, and that’s what we did.

0110_hike start.jpg
This is the road from the unofficial parking area to the Grapevine Trail itself, and
the photo doesn’t do it justice. The surface in some parts is pretty rough. [photo by Dave]

A typical map kiosk marks the actual start of the Grapevine Trail. Going out it’s 2.4 miles, nearly all uphill, and coming back is of course the same.

0120_bees by gate 1a.jpg
Dave noticed this beehive inside a rock crevice but didn’t hang around to see if they were friendly.
[photo by Dave]

Jim and Kristin begin hiking the trail. [photo by Dave]

The Forest Service has designated Grapevine Creek as a Protected Botanical Area but day hiking is allowed. (Camping is not.) But with year-round running water and cooler temperatures than Phoenix, it’s easy to see how things might grow here.

0140_crossing creeka.jpg
Dave, Monika, Biljana, and Michael make their way across a wash.
I’m not sure if the creek was underground here or whether this was just a feeder route. [photo by Dave]

We encountered this gopher snake about halfway up the trail.
They’re constrictors, not venomous, but they’re the largest snake in Arizona.
Some get to be eight feet long!

Here’s Eileen making good time with Linda just behind.

Now it’s Linda making good time. [photo by Dave]

There appears to be no marker at the end of the trail, or at least not one we found. It’s supposed to connect with FR 103A, which we didn’t find either. But the distance was right and as you can see in the photo below, we definitely reached a point where water stopped oozing from underground and the soil above was totally dry. So we took a vote, formed a consensus, and decided this was it.

0440_is that it.jpg
The ground in front of us here was oozing water but that behind was bone dry.
So we decided this was the top of both the stream and the hike. [photo by Dave]

This well-worn pipe was near the spring at the top of the hike.
Ranchers probably used it to fill animal troughs.

Not only was this the turnaround point but near midday and therefore time for lunch. So we found a clearing, waited for everyone to catch up, chowed down, explored the area a little bit, and then headed down.

Here we are starting out again after lunch. [photo by Dave]

The last few hikers arrived late because Barb had shown them a side trail that led to a wonderful series of clear pools and waterfalls. The rest of us wanted to see that too, of course, and Michael, who’d made the stop on the way up, was able to find it for us. And lovely it was! We spent quite a bit of time just standing around, enjoying it, and chatting.

This is Grapevine Creek flowing downward a short distance from the main trail. [photo by Dave]

Another waterfall, another pool. What a rare treat in Arizona! [photo by Dave]

Kristin enjoys the flowing water. [photo by Dave]

It’s amazing what a calming (and verbose) effect falling water has on humans.

Here we are back on the mysterious AZ-87A. Nobody paved it while we were hiking. [photo by Dave]

After the hike, and at the suggestion of Barb, we repaired for rest and recuperation at Left-T’s Steakhouse & Grill, which is about eight miles north on AZ-69, at the far side of Dewey. The outside isn’t fancy but the inside is cowboy-comfy, the food was good, and the service was friendly and attentive. No wonder it’s the best restaurant in town!

I’d certainly like to hike in this area again. Cool, wooded, close by, reasonable distance and total elevation; what’s not to like?

Hike Statistics
Total Distance:8.78miles
Starting Time:9:57AM
Moving Time:4:21hrs:min
Stopped Time:0:28hrs:min
Finishing Time:2:47PM
Avg. Speed Moving:2.0mph
Avg. Speed Overall:1.8mph
Starting Elevation:5,028ft
Minimum Elevation:4,926ft
Maximum Elevation:6,208ft
Total Ascent:1,515ft
Starting Temperature:65°
Finishing Temperature:73°
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated October 8, 2017