Explore the most popular backpacking trails near Payson with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Excellent trail, though I made a few modifications.
Went clockwise and was surprised how easy the Y-Bar trail was to follow after my last bushwhacking adventure in Deer Creek.
Note: at about 4.5 miles and after making it up over the 6’300’ elevation ridge I noticed that I had gone off track while following an obvious trail. I chose to backtrack to the point where you’re supposed to descend towards the Y-Bar basin. I spent 5 minutes looking for a fork in the trail and couldn’t find a way down...so I decided to follow the obvious trail which kept me closer to Mazatzal Peak. It’s possible that the original trail is completely overgrown...so prepare for a bushwhacking/pathfinding adventure if you want to do the trail as the map suggests!
On the way to Barnhardt Trail my gps wanted to lead me off trail again, but I chose to follow the obvious trail and that worked. I chose to follow Barnhardt Trail all the way down, though my map suggested going down through a wash instead.
I ended up clocking about 16 miles and 3,200’ elevation change...and the trail suggests 4,000’ elevation change which I believe might be true if following the gps closer instead of the trails I took.
Great adventure, and the waterfall on Barnhardt Trail wad running after all the recent rain!

Great trail, very scenic. I did the trail counter clockwise but would do it clockwise next time with fresh legs. Y Bar trail is rough and rocky and was a little overgrown when I went threw. Plenty of cairns to follow though. I logged 15.8 miles.

More like 15.8 mi according to my GPS. The views were wonderful, lots of wildlife. We did it “backwards” trail is challenging to identify at times.

hiking
2 months ago

Started 6.30am in August from 87.

Cool start but heated up more than I thought.

Great hike! Only went 8M up as got hot and ran out of water.

Saw Deer and plenty of different birds. Some technical area's but overall, a very nice hike.

Recommend not doing in summer.

We went 5 miles up this trail in July with temperatures well over 100 degrees and almost no shade anywhere. This is not a good time of the year to hike this trail, and could be life-threatening. I drank over 4 liters of water in the 10 mile hike. Regardless, after going enough distance, the views were good and it was quite a work-out.

After 4 miles you have to be very careful for trail marking. Lots of big boulders and fallen trees are on trail. Also carry a lot of water. If you are not into long hikes don’t attempt this trail. I completed whole loop and have not found any other hiker. So if you are planning to do whole loop carry a lot of water and carry other hiking essentials, most likely you will be by yourself.

surfing
4 months ago

Good hike, did in and out in one day. It was somewhat challenging but nothing too strenuous. I’ve now done this as a day hike 5 times, I guess the reason I keep going back is that I rarely see anyone there. I don’t recommend this for anyone who is not physically fit, the sign at the beginning of the trailhead May sound ominous but it’s there for a reason, make sure you pay attention to it. If you don’t possess the physical ability then this isn’t the right trail for you. BTW- I’m not sure where the 16 mile description comes from but this is closer to 20 miles round trip.

hiking
5 months ago

This trail is great, the views along the hike are excellent and the reward when you get to the end is amazing. It does have some challenging parts but the trail is short enough that as long as you remember it isn't a race it really isn't too bad and then at the end of it you get to go for a nice refreshing swim in the cool deep pools. I can't recommend this trail enough if you are looking for an overnight trip.

backpacking
5 months ago

Phenomenal. I haven't backpacked in a while. My legs were definitely feeling the climb out! Every step of this hike is beautiful. From the pines at the top to the stunning desert to the riparian area at the bottom. There was definitely no water along the way. I brought a gallon in with me and back out. I didn't drink it all, but any less would have been foolish. It was very warm, in the 80s. I will be back to do it again!

hiking
6 months ago

Great hike but there's a fence that cuts off the trail about 1.5-2 miles up on the ridge. Wasn't too sure about that but we decided not to continue with the trail and found another trail to hike. Still beautiful.

backpacking
7 months ago

Better known as Arizona Trail Section 23, this trail is a real treasure. Bear Spring around mile 9 has water, as well as Horse Camp Seep near the halfway point. Be prepared for elevation gain and weather changes, as the trail takes you from 2k to near 7k feet. Great for thru-hike training. Also, the last 9 miles is a steady downhill that exits the AZT and takes you to a good pick-up point on Doll Baby Ranch Road (4WD suggested).

great hike!

backpacking
7 months ago

My friend and I did this trail and it was incredible! I will say that navigation can be confusing, so study the maps given by the state as well. You have to take some other trails to get to the 37 trail. We went during the week and solitude was serene. I will do it again and soon!

Nice views. I would rate this moderate. The weather was absolutely perfect at 65 degs. Did about 4 miles in had to turn around (ugh hated to) but life calls. Will go back to complete and hook up to another trail

hiking
9 months ago

Really not that hard. Beautiful hike with a great treat at the end. The two rivers converge and there is plenty of water and photo ops

hiking
Friday, August 18, 2017

Beautiful scenery can't be enjoyed due to a poorly kept trail, requiring you to go off trail to make some decent progress even then the loop can't be finished realistically in one day due to the terrain. did 9 miles of this trail and had to turn around due to giant Boulder and fallen trees in the way making it difficult to keep a constant speed.

backpacking
Tuesday, August 08, 2017

This trail is not for beginners! I did it as an overnight in August and enjoyed it immensely. Hikers should be highly aware of snakes (heard a rattler right outside my tent down in the canyon), wasps, and the heat. The water was dark brown in the creek, wonderful to swim in, and good for drinking as long as you have proper water purification. DO NOT attempt this trail during the rainy season--after mile 5 (out of 8.5 one-way), you descend 3k feet into Hell's Canyon and camp next to the creek, which would be deadly if the water were to suddenly rise from flash flooding. The trail has a lot of scree and is pretty exposed, so you're doing it in August heat like me, make sure to soak your clothing/hat at every opportunity and drink lots of electrolytes. Last but not least--trekking poles are highly recommended! When you do this trail, you can say you've been to the gates of Hell and back! :)

hiking
Sunday, July 09, 2017

I did this as an overnight hike over Easter weekend. only 2 reasons for 4 instead of 5 stars first the distance on this site as well as the signs at the TH are wrong and it is in fact closer to 8.5mi one way. The second complaint is that in some areas it becomes quite difficult to see the trail and the cairns were few and far too far between. This trail is all about the destination, I spent the night under the stars at the confluence and couldn't have asked for a prettier view. I would only recommend this trail to experienced hikers who come prepared with trekking poles and a method of water purification.

backpacking
Thursday, May 25, 2017

Challenging hike, the mileage on this app is not accurate, it's about 8 miles one way. Bring plenty of water and prepare for a rewarding experience!!

hiking
Sunday, March 19, 2017

Went in doing a day hike. Did 5 miles in. Definitely will go back. The views were beautiful. Bring enough water. The uphill and downhill on the rocks can be a little tricky. So worth it!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Only had 2 hours to hike this morning. Went in about 3 miles Flowers are blooming. Creek is flowing a little low. A nice morning hike. Will definitely go back and make it a full day. The part I did was pretty moderate.

hiking
Saturday, February 25, 2017

Myself and a friend did the hike as a one night backpacking trip. I would not recommend doing the full loop as a day hike, the elevation gain and loss combined with the trail conditions (Deer Creek Trail is all but gone in the middle portions) make this a very challenging trek. We did it in spring so it was very green with lots of water flowing in Deer Creek. The loop shown here is actually a combination of two trails (Deer Creek and South Fork). We did a counter clockwise loop but came down Gold Ridge Trail (parallels South Fork but stays on the ridge line). These three trails converge near the top of the mountains at a the AZ trail (dirt road access) and the are plenty of camping spots. This hike is only rated poorly because few people have the skills to keep going past mile 5/6. Be prepaired with a quality top map, to stay a night if you do a loop, and be careful because it is a monster climb in tough terrane.

hiking
Saturday, February 04, 2017

only went up about 3 miles. lots of cactus and thorny scrubs but gets better as you ascend. Nice views. would like to go back and do the full 2 day hike.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The trail isn't very well marked along the creek, which when we went was completely dried up. The solitude was nice; we had to turn back 7 miles in because we wasted so much sun looking for the caryns.

hiking
Monday, October 17, 2016

Very cool hike. You traverse a variety of different landscapes. There are scenic sections on parts of Barnhardt and on the south western side of Y-Bar (the AZ trail part).

There's a bit of forest fire damage on the Y-Bar section of the loop. Took some tricky navigation to get over a few trees and identify the trail through some damaged brush areas but, otherwise, pretty safe to continue doing this trail.

BRING TOUGH PANTS! Or you will get shredded up. Trail is not very maintained on the Y-Bar side (though it was recently trimmed up to the AZ trail marker coming from the Barnhardt trailhead).

hiking
Tuesday, September 06, 2016

We only went in about 3 miles as we were not really prepped for a long 2-day hike. But, it was truly fabulous and I can't wait to do this hike properly!

Good workout but not very scenic and trail is super rocky.

Monday, June 20, 2016

One Hell of a hike. Ran out of water half way back and temps were much hotter in the wilderness than in Payson. Wow, a serious hike and not for beginners or unprepared hikers. Camped at the creek! Definitely worth the near death experience.

hiking
Sunday, November 15, 2015

Super pretty but a tough hike. But way worth it.

hiking
Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Have not taken the full trail but used it for hunting. It has a very beautiful view of the Mazatzal Mountains and has a magnificent sunset at times.

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