Description: About 20 mile trail in beautiful Sonoran Desert with towering red buttes. A small part of the trail crosses State Trust Land so make sure you have a State Trust Land permit (read this post).
Time & Distance: 20 mile trip, allow about 5-6 hours.
Trail Conditions: Bureau of Land Management, Gila District, Tucson Field Office. Call (520) 258-7200.
Directions to the Trail: From Phoenix and Apache Junction, take Hwy 60 east to the town of Superior. On the east side of the town, head south on Hwy 177. Turn right at the top of the hill on well-graded Battle Axe Road 0.9 miles past mile marker 159.
View Walnut Canyon in a larger map for even more DETAILS!
The trail begins as soon as you turn on Battle Axe Road. There’s few places you can use as staging areas. There’s some room before the gate right off Hwy 177, a little spot about half a mile down the road on the left, and a couple of places about 1.6 miles down also on the left. Right after that last staging area, at 1.7 miles, the road splits, N Battle Axe Road goes strait up the hill and a lesser trail turns right, into a wide, well defined wash (pic 03). At 2.0 miles the wash turns slightly to the left, just follow it until you get to the first cattle gate at about 2.8 miles (pic 04). Make sure you close the gate behind you. Follow the trail up the hill, bear left at 3.8 miles, climb a couple of rocky switchbacks at 4.3 miles (pic 06). Turn right at a T on top of the hill at about 4.8 miles, and follow the trail down the hill, another 1000 feet (pic 28), where you need to turn left. That starts the loop portion of the trail, and you will return to this point on your way back. As soon as you turn left, there is a barb wire gate you need to open and close behind you again (pic 09). You’ll climb to a high point with great views before a long descent, down a series of rocky switchbacks (pic 10). After getting to the bottom, there is another long climb up a rocky hill (pic 16), and then another series of switchbacks, with some badly washed-out spots (pic 17 & pic 18), taking you down to a sandy wash (pic 19). Turn right into the wash at about 8.0 miles. This wide, sandy wash (pic 20) takes you towards the Gila River. Right before the river, turn right into a smaller wash at 9.1 miles. If you go straight instead, the trail takes you to the river. It’s a dead end, but it’s always nice to go down to the river (pic 22)! That smaller wash takes you west, along the river, for about 1.5 miles. There is another barb wire gate along the way. At about 10.5 miles trail turns north into a bigger wash again. This one is really wide and sand is really deep (pic 27). At 11.8 miles watch for a small road that comes out of the wash to the left, almost reversing direction. There is a small rocky section around that area so make sure to get out of the wash right there. The trail becomes more defined again. Bear left at a Y at 12.5 miles (right goes up the hill, if you go that way there is a way to turn left down the hill, in about 1500 feet). Bear right at another Y at 12.6 miles and then left at a Y at 12.7 miles. Follow the trail up the hill until it takes you to the spot where the loop began. From here simply go out the way you came in (pic 30).
Get yourself and your TOY ready for the trip: Make sure both you and your vehicle are ready for your next adventure.
Before you venture out on your offroading trip you need to make sure you are prepared for emergencies. Even if nothing happens to you or your vehicle, you might come across someone who needs help. Short of always having your full-on Bug-Out-Bag with you, you should at least have some basic emergency items. It might seem obvious to some, but you should get yourself a tool box with appropriate tools and leather gloves, good first aid kit, fire extinguisher, set of jumper cables, emergency blankets (stored in heavy plastic bag – both are useful), flashlight, tow strap and some extra water. I would also suggest a recovery strap, a military folding shovel, heavy duty garbage bags, and a hand crank self powered weather radio. These items are not expensive, but they just might save your day.
Another thing you should definitely do before you leave is to save Joe’s number in your cellphone in case you find yourself in need of recovery in the middle of nowhere. Joe is the owner of Arizona 4×4 Off Road Recovery and has become a real hero to many in the Arizona offroad community. His number is (602) 697-8306.
If you’re ready for a next adventure and want to plan it right, check out some of these trail guides – Arizona has so many awesome destinations to explore!