Water is scarce. If you find it, fill up. You should start off with enough water for your entire trip. Campsites are very scarce so you should keep that in mind if you see a flat area and it's close to the end of the day. These trails can be very brushy. You might want to consider long sleeve shirts and long pants. Depending on what maps you use, some trails displayed on maps are not present on the ground; similarly, some trails have been rerouted from their original location so use common sense and a map, compass, GPS, and the Trail Run Project mobile app
to find your way.
We started from the Barnhardt Trailhead at 4:26 PM. The trailhead is 5 miles off the highway on a gravel forest service road. The parking lot is large and flat. You can opt to start the loop on the Barnhardt Trail #43
or the Y Bar Trail #44
. We started on the Barnhardt Trail #43
trail which is well marked and mostly rocky. In some places, the trail is very rocky and tough especially if you are wearing light weight shoes. This area had rain the week before so the usually dry creek was full of water but off the trail. There was only one water source, and it was this creek, off the trail, down a canyon. Also due to the rain, wildflowers and cactus were in bloom making a beautiful sight in the desert. Since we got a late start, we needed a campsite before sunset. We were rewarded with the only viable place to setup a tent about 3.6 miles in on the trail. This site was right on a cliff overlooking the valley below, the Mogollon rim and Paysen. (34.0923° N, 111.454° W)
The next day, we set out from our camp at 7:30 for water and another campsite. The run on this part of the Barnhardt Trail #43
was a narrow brushy path which was very tough to run through. We followed the contours towards the intersection of the Arizona Trail (AZT). On our map there was a trail shown that rolls down towards the creek but this was blocked and looked like it hadn't been used in many years.
When we reached the trail intersection with the AZT, there is one trail on the map that is missing at this intersection. We went south, left, on the AZT and immediately we were on a wide and well defined trail. Running south, we again stayed on the contour heading towards the Mazatzal Peak. The trail at time was narrow but not brushy. On the way, we saw lots of manzanita blooming and rocks of all shades including red, purple, yellow, and blue. This area has big veins of quartz running through the cliffs which are evident along the Mazatzal and across from where we camped.
We came accross an AZT through-hiker just at the beginning of the ascent at the base at Mazatzal Peak. He started at the border and was going to finish at Flagstaff.
We reached a saddle and saw that we had to run just below the steep ridge and ascend up to another saddle. This portion of the trail became narrow and brushy. I am not sure if horses could traverse this section. Once we reached the saddle, we searched for a listed spring but there was no water.
We then joined the Y Bar Trail #44
which would turn out to be a very troublesome trail. We couldn't find water at the last 2 marked water locations so we decided we had to make it back to the trailhead. This last 4 miles was downhill on a rock trail with large rocks, no switchbacks, and a very difficult base. By the end of the run my feet were sore. The Y Bar Trail #44
might be scenic but you couldn't tell since you had to be watching the trail right in front of you due to the rockiness and not wanting to lose your footing.I don't know that I would run the Y Bar Trail #44
again. The Barnhardt Trail #43
, however, was very nice in comparison.
We happened to run this loop one week after rain in the spring. There were lots of wildflowers and blooming cactus. We saw lupine, Indian paintbrush, and numerous other flowers that I couldn't identify. There was a fire here years ago so there are very few trees. We did happen to find a few isolated groves of pine trees.