TRAIL: BUMBLE BEE SEGMENT
|Old gate with Sunset Point on canyon edge–far right.|
Look down from
the viewing deck at Sunset Point rest area on Interstate 17 south of Cordes
Junction and the rugged terrain of what the Black Canyon Trail Coalition calls “Arizona’s Outback” rolls out 600 feet
below. The land down under the lookout is
appropriately named Sheep Gulch. Whether this is happenstance or a nod to the
Australian sheep stations (Aussie speak for ranches) that this gorge resembles,
it’s an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Although it’s tough to see from the rest
area, the middle section of the 80-mile Black Canyon Trail cuts through this
beautiful abyss that’s cradled in a geological upheaval of pre-Cambrian
granites, and scaly schists with sprinklings of orange-tinged quartz tossed
about like confetti.
|Saguaros frame Bradshaw Mountains vistas.|
route that stretches from the Carefree Highway in Phoenix to near the town of Mayer off
State Route 69, has been designated a National Recreational Trail for its
|Hikers traverse a section burned by 2017 wildfires.|
The trail has been in use since pre-historic times serving
as a Native American pathway, a track for herding sheep and other livestock and
a travel corridor for traders. Surrounded
by the rough-cut, mineral-rich peaks of the Bradshaw Mountains and the
stream-chiseled gullies of Black Canyon, this moderately difficult,
easy-to-follow section of trail clings to the canyon walls as it moves
northward in smooth swoops and hairpin turns.
|Mountain views are the highlight of the hike.|
Beginning at the Gloriana Mine trailhead, the hike heads 4.6 miles north
to where it meets the American Gulch Segment near the town of Bumble Bee—a
former Phoenix-to-Prescott stage stop established in the mid nineteenth century.
|Ocotillo near the Gloriana Mine trailhead.|
Although this area was impacted by the July
2017 lightning-caused Brooklyn, Bull, and Cedar fires, the scenic value of the
hike was only marginally diminished. The trail is clear and the epic mountain
vistas for which this segment is famous are still as crisp and inspiring as
ever. The trail mostly follows the
2800-foot elevation contour before it dips into the gulch below Sunset Point.
Here, the faint rumble and whir of the freeway above caps a contrasting pastoral
scene of ranches, cacti-studded grasslands, creekside willows and the comings
and goings of ATVs, hikers and the seasonal parades of sheep that still graze around
the sleepy ghost town and its defunct gold mine prospects.
|The land down under Sunset Point.|
ELEVATION: 2520′ – 2840′
Trailhead: From Interstate 17, take the Bumble Bee/Crown King exit 248 and go
1.2-miles west on Bumble Bee Road (FR 59) to the trailhead on the left. Segment
begins across the road from the parking area.
Roads are 100% paved.
INFO & MAPS:
Black Canyon Trail Coalition