July 2024
Hiking Yavapai
Stan Bindell

Aspen Creek Trail

This was a damned beautiful hike.

Damned because plan A didn’t work out. We planned to hike Wabayuma Peak Wilderness on Hualapai Mountain south of Kingman. When most people think of summer hikes they think of Prescott and Payson before it gets too hot, then when the thermometer goes up it’s off to Flagstaff or the Mogollon Rim. But the Hualapai Mountains offer more than 15 trails, all above 6,000 feet, and our trails were closer to 7,000.

Kingman is not far from the Yavapai County line, about a two-hour drive from Prescott. Hualapai Mountain Park offers plenty of camping options for campgrounds, RVs and cabins, operated by Mohave County Parks.

But back to our misadventure. For the Wabayuma Peak Wilderness hike, we were following the Falcon Guides Hiking Arizona guidebook, but its directions were pretty far off. The trailhead was supposed to be four miles from Hualapai Mountain Park, and when we neared that spot a sign told us the trailhead was another 14 miles away. That wouldn’t have been a big deal on a paved road; this was far from smooth. Even in our SUV the road was rough, and if it continued that way it would have taken us at least an hour more each way, time we didn’t have.

Always have a Plan B hike, especially in this time of year, when fires can close trails.

Our Plan B was Aspen Peak Trail in Hualapai Mountain Park. This was not a bad choice, since it’s among Arizona Highways’ 52 best day hikes. This trail rises from 6,710 to 7,919 feet, with fabulous views.

Flowering trees, including New Mexico locust, and red and yellow cactus flowers light up the trail. You’ll cross an old footbridge, just don’t jump up and down on it, because it’s pretty worn. A bench at the summit calls to hikers to take a rest.

Much of Aspen Peak Trail was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937. You have to take other trails to get to Aspen Peak Trail, so this moderate hike turned into a seven-miler as we rose 1,200 feet in elevation.

You start at Forest Army Way Trail, which leads to Potato Patch Loop, which leads to Aspen Peak. You’ll pass an old water station among aspens and an old Boy Scout facility called Levi Levi Camp, just before you reach Aspen Peak Trail.

Besides the aspens you’ll be walking among chaparral, pine, oak and fir.

We saw a few fire-recovery signs along the way, as well as several burned-over areas. Locals familiar with this maze of trails told us that some of them had to be rerouted because of the fires.

Another interesting waypoint before you get to Potato Patch Loop is Stone Step Lookout, which is well signed and takes you only about a quarter mile off the trail. The stone steps take you to a natural lookout that’s well worth a look.

For more information phone 928-681-5700. The directions are complicated.

A few weeks ago I was hiking the Groom Creek Loop in Prescott. This nine-miler is one of our best maintained local trails. It seemed so easy I was going faster than usual, and not watching my feet. I hit a tree root and literally went flying, bruising my knee, scraping my arm and ruining my pride. So remember to go at a pace that’s right for you, and keep your eyes on the trail!

Stan Bindell is always looking for a good hike. If you have one, contact him at thebluesmagician@gmail. com