It’s only 582 feet downhill from the paved side road of State Route 260 to the rocky trails of Black Mountain Canyon, but getting there by hiking the dirt roads is deceptively complicated.
Located in the foothills of the Upper Verde River volcanic region in Yavapai County, 15 miles east of Camp Verde, Forest Road 9243B has a backdrop of lava flows, volcanic ash deposits, water-washed ravines, and numerous geological landslides. It cuts through dramatic terrain.
These two rough tracks head north from a dirt loophole along SR 260 in the Prescott National Forest, following an eye-pleasing and leg-challenging roller coaster course with over 1,000 feet of elevation change.
Refuel with new favorites:100 Must-Try Restaurants in Metro Phoenix
Evidence of volcanoes will soon be revealed
The shady, sparsely-lit roads soon take you through the region’s diverse eco-zones with spectacular views.
The trailhead is supported by two volcanic terrains. One is 13 Mile Rock Butte (5,515 feet). A striking basalt-covered terrain, it served as the midpoint of the historic 200-mile General Crook Trail, built in the 1800s to connect a series of military forts. It continued from eastern Arizona along the Mogollon Rim to the Prescott area.
Another geological standout is the unnamed 5,283-foot volcanic spire. The eastern slope is broken, exposing the base of red and black cinders. FR 9243B begins by running between two stone massifs.
Passable by off-roaders, hikers, bikers and equestrians, the road is a beautiful destination for all types of trips, but many of the details along the route are best seen on foot.
Aurora:Want to see the northern lights in Arizona? Here’s when and where to see them
On a clear day, you can see all the way to northern Arizona
Within the first 400 miles, the road ends on high ground overlooking the Verde Valley. On a clear day, the distant silhouette of Mount Bill Williams near Williams in northern Arizona can be seen towering over green valleys and red rocks on the northwestern horizon.
The route then traverses the first of several descents and climbs, passes through an exposed cider pit, then circles uphill again for another spectacular view, and then an undulating climb. A downward spiral begins.
At the 0.8 mile point, the route continues straight and turns left onto an unmarked dirt road (FR 9243C).
The vegetation along the first mile is of typical high desert variety. Yucca, juniper, rabbit thorn, cliff rose, scrub oak, skunkbush, and cacti dominate the landscape, while understory of primroses, lupines, lilies, wild carrots, and other wildflowers color the cinder-strewn ground. .
Diverse wildlife congregates at Parsons Tank
A steep descent reveals Parsons Tank water in a hollow surrounded by juniper trees.
A road winds around a small pool, and skunk, bobcat, deer and raccoon tracks demonstrate the importance of this created waterhole to wildlife. Yet another uphill section brings hikers to a spectacular vantage point above the final descent into Black Mountain Canyon.
In the final sharp plunge, the vegetation gradually changes from desert to riverside, mingling with ash trees and fruit-bearing shrubs.
The road hits the canyon floor at 2 miles. It is marked by a tree-lined rocky intersection and the main drainage is a good turn-around point. However, the hike can be extended on the labyrinthine dirt roads shown on the Prescott National Forest map.
Hike Black Mountain Canyon
length: 4 miles round trip.
elevation: 4,374 to 4,956 feet (1,077 feet cumulative elevation change).
directions: From Interstate 17 in Camp Verde, take exit 287 onto State Route 260 and continue 25.3 miles east (towards Payson) to forest road 9243B, just past mile marker 234, on the left. Go through the gate (close behind it) and park at the turnout. along the road.
Read more Arizona’s best hikes in Mare Zinal http://arizonahiking.blogspot.com.