January 2024
Hiking Yavapai
Stan Bindell

Badger Springs

Hiking Yavapai by Stan Bindell

Badger Springs Trail, near the southern tip of Yavapai County, is a different kind of trail because most of the hike is in a streambed.

This isn’t a trail that you’ll want to rush through, because you’ll be either rock- or boulder-hopping. That’s fine because there is plenty to see, which is why Arizona Highways lists it among both its top 52 day hikes and top 13 winter hikes.

The experience of Badger Springs Trail, part of the Agua Fria National Monument, can be quite different depending on how much rain it’s seen recently. When I hiked it with the Arizona Trailblazers it had not rained here for months, leaving the Aqua Fria River mostly dry except for a few water holes.

But that is still just enough to entice wildlife: coyotes, bobcats, pronghorns and 177 bird species frequent the area. During the summer rattlesnakes are plentiful here, so keep your eyes peeled and watch where you put your hands and feet.

One of the main reasons this was established as a monument is its more than 400 archaeological sites related to the Perry Mesa Tradition people from 1250 to 1450ACE.

Petroglyphs and cliff dwellings are among the highlights along Badger Springs Trail. The first mile is flat and leads to the Agua Fria River stream bed, where the hiker can choose whether to go left or right. You can go several miles in either direction. We made it into a just over five-mile hike.

Badger Springs Trail is rated moderate, mostly level, but for those who decide to climb the hills the elevation can go from 3,122 to 4,600 feet.

Just to the left at the junction is a petroglyph worth seeing.

You’ll find cottonwoods, willows and sycamores along the creek. 

Michael Humphrey, trail leader for this hike, said in his preview that the river bed alternates between sandy and rocky terrain, and you pass many little pools of water, some quite colorful. The rocks are polished smooth from the river and consist of mostly granite boulders and slickrock areas, with some occasional lava rocks.

We had lunch where an old aqueduct crosses the river to the Rickenbar mine. Arizona Highways tells me the mining camp was named after well known miner Richard M. Barker. I advise hiking with poles on this trail because of the necessary boulder-hopping. Badger Springs Trail is easily accessible by taking Exit 256 from I-17.

Despite its proximity to the freeway, this is not a heavily traveled trail and provides some solitude for those who seek it. The trail is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and there are toilets on the road to the trailhead.

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