The Black Canyon Trail of Arizona (BCT)
This prehistoric path consists of a quality 77 mile trail that has partly been used since the 1600's by Native Americans traveling through this region of central Arizona. Official construction of this trail to its current quality was done with federal stimulus funds in 2008 and was professionally routed through this stretch of Arizona with excellent engineering and attention to sensitive areas and to avoid erosion. The BCT was built to last and to provide an excellent well-marked travel surface for hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Signage along the Black Canyon Trail is unparalleled to other trails its size in Arizona and marks even the trickiest junctions quite well, minimizing the need to keep staring at maps and GPS.
The Black Canyon Trail travels north/south from the northern Phoenix area at the Carefree Highway close to Lake Pleasant and finishes just north of Highway 69 in the Prescott National Forest just north of Mayer. This thru hike can be section hiked in either direction via multiple well-marked trailheads with ample parking and either paved or well-grated dirt roads which provide easy passenger car access to the trail via various exits along Interstate 17. Northbound travelers will encounter a gradually increasing altitude while southbound travelers will get the advantage of more downhills.
I have been tackling this trail in smaller northbound section hikes on the weekends, mostly due to its lack of reliable water along the trail which requires either water resupply caches or having to carry many liters of water at a time. As I hike the trail during the early part of 2018, I'm finding water still flowing in the Agua Fria river at multiple crossings, and also water at Bumble Bee creek, Hidden Treasure trailhead, and just 1 mile off-trail at Black Canyon City at local restaurants. This trail could be backpacked in one trip during cooler months even in a dry fall/winter based on the water that I've come across even when we haven't had decent rains in over 2 months and with virtually no snowmelt from the Bradshaw mountains. At most, a 15 mile water carry would be all that was needed to backpack this entire trail without even a resupply in town.
I separated out each completed section as its own write-up, and I have been carefully recording my GPS tracks in KML format (compatible with Google Earth, Google Maps, and most phone apps like Backcountry Navigator that allow track imports). I recorded my track points in 2-second intervals for maximum accuracy so you never miss a junction or a switchback and you can get correct mileage measurements as you plan your own hike. You can find free downloads to my actual tracks for each section near the top of each write-up page, which are listed below. There is very little digital mapping information online for the BCT, so I hope that the information I provided will help you learn about this high-quality Arizona trail before you head out, and help you easily navigate it with your own GPS app or device.
I completed the Black Canyon Trail in 6 day hikes due to time limitations, car shuttle logistics, concerns of water availability, and easier access to the trailheads that I used. Had I known what I know now about water availability this season, I would have backpacked the trail in 3 weekend sections.
Digital Track Download Files for the Black Canyon Trail (KML format)
Simply click the file name below to download to your computer. You can import these KML files into Google Earth, Google Maps, or directly into your compatible phone application such as Backcountry Navigator (what I use) or other GPS devices that can accept a KML file. I will be creating GPX format downloads in the near future and will post them here for direct import into most major GPS units.
Bob Bentley Trailhead to Table Mesa Trailhead - KML download
Table Mesa Trailhead to Black Canyon City Trailhead - KML download
Black Canyon City Trialhead to Gloriana Mine Trailhead - KML download
Gloriana Mine Trialhead to Hidden Treasure Trailhead - KML download
Hidden Treasure Trailhead to Big Bug Trailhead (Hwy 69) - KML download
Big Bug Trailhead (Hwy 79) to Northern Terminus - KML download
Date: March 10, 2018
My 6th and final official section of the Black Canyon Trail starts at Big Bug Trailhead (Hwy 69) and goes north to a farm road with no officially marked northern trailhead.
Date: February 10, 2018
My fifth section of the Black Canyon Trail starts at the Hidden Treasure Trailhead and heads north again to the Big Bug Trailhead at Hwy 69 near Mayer, AZ
Date: February 3, 2018
My fourth section of the Black Canyon Trail starts at the Gloriana Mine Trailhead and heads north to the Hidden Treasure Trailhead
Date: January 27, 2018
The third section of the Black Canyon Trail began at the Black Canyon City Trailhead in Rock Springs, Arizona and finished north at the Gloriana Mine Trailhead
Date: January 6, 2018
My second section of the Black Canyon Trail started at the Table Mesa Trailhead and headed north again to the Black Canyon City Trailhead in Rock Springs, Arizona.
Date: December 30, 2017
This was my first section of the Black Canyon Trail, starting at the southern terminus at the Bob Bentley Trailhead and finishing to the north at the Table Mesa Trailhead.