Cabin Loop Trail is a 21.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Happy Jack, AZ that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
Would have been a beautiful, peaceful, secluded backpacking adventure if not for 2 unexpected things.
I am used to the elevation down in the valley. So my mother and I hop around the mountains here without much difficulty. We can hike a good 13 miles in a morning with no problem. So we planned to do the whole loop in a weekend. We figured out pretty early on that wasn’t happening.
Totally different world up here. I’ve never had issues before, but had only ever done day hikes at this elevation. Felt great the first few miles. Started at General Springs and made our way to Pinchot. By mile 6, my lungs burned. I’m pretty sure I got a mild form of altitude sickness. Couldn’t drink water most of the day because I was nauseous. Dizzy. Great times! By the time I realized I wasn’t feeling well, we were already pretty far back.
So we camped not far from the Pinchot cabin along the Houston Brothers trail (it’s the one that runs right down the middle of this loop) with plans to hike back down the next day after I recovered. There were no really good camping spots near the trail. Camp in the little meadow by Pinchot or hike off trail out of the canyon to a flat spot.
But the most interesting part was next morning when we ditched the trail system altogether, moving up to road 139A (runs parallel to the Houston Brothers Trail.) We figured a flat road would be easier for me to deal with than a trail that had several ups and downs to go. Even that morning, after waking up feeling much better, any moment I would get out of breath would make me feel sick again.
So 2 hours or so on this road, there was no car or camper in sight. The last person we saw at this point was miles back and that was about 14 hours ago. So as my mother and I hobbled our way down the road…out from the woods darts a HUGE bear. We WERE walking near “Bear Canyon” according to the map…so that was probably a hint. But we still never expected to see one. In all my adventures, I’ve never seen one out here. He didn’t pay much attention to us, but we could not tell where he went once he left the road…and we had to walk next to the section of forest he just ran into. We stayed put for a minute, made some noise in case he was still hanging around(thinking it would scare him off) then made our way down the road. We read all the “what to do”s online about bears and mountain lions. But until you are 50 ft away from a bear bigger than you thought they got in AZ, it’s hard to explain what goes through your brain. Even though we didn’t hear or see anything, I checked around us the whole way back. Now that we are out of the situation, it’s kinda cool that we saw him. He seemed fat and healthy and was super-fast and quiet. It was like he appeared on the road then just vanished. So we’ve named him Gordo the Ghost Bear. And yes, that is an important part of this review.
Eventually made it back to the truck, feeling like this was the first trail in a long time that kicked our backsides. Probably wouldn’t have been as bad if I felt better, but I still think the full loop would have been too much for us.
Pros: Beautiful, good leg workout, you can cut the loop in half by taking Houston Brothers trail, lots of water along the way (if you happen to run out), not a lot of people, bears
Cons: Not good if elevation makes you sick, long, not a lot of people, bears.