The Mazatzal Wilderness contains over 252,500 acres of the Tonto and Coconino National Forests. Established in 1940 and expanded to its present size in 1984, its name is from an old Indian culture in Mexico and is correctly pronounced “Mah-zaht-zahl,” meaning “land of the deer.”
The eastern side of this wilderness predominantly consists of brush or pine-covered mountains, sometimes broken by narrow, vertical-walled canyons. On its west side below the steep brush-covered foothills, the Verde River flows through the Sonoran Desert. This river was designated by the U.S Congress as Arizona’s only Wild River Area in 1984.
A Recreation Opportunity Guide (21 pages) is available from the Payson Ranger Station. (Tonto National Forest)
Verde River Trail #11
More Difficult – Located in the Mazatzal Wilderness area. A long trail much of which runs parallel to the Verde River. Northern seven-mile section climbs away from the river, and is easy to travel. River crossings at Red Creek and Pete’s Cabin Mesa may be dangerous (proceed with care) and may also be difficult to locate.
Saddle Ridge Trail #14
Easiest – Located in the northeast part of the Mazatzal Wilderness area. Passes through a large pinyon-juniper forest.
Deadman Mesa Trail #17
MOST Difficult – Parts are rocky and very steep. Portions of trail in Fossil Creek may be washed out. Not recommended for horses.
Highwater Trail #20
More Difficult – Provides a route up the east side of the Verde River, eliminating two rivers crossing on the Verde River Trail 11.
Dutchman Trail #22
More Difficult – Located in the middle of the Mazatzal Wilderness area. Scenis vistas. Some parts difficult to follow. Condition of this trail varies from satisfactory to very poor.
Mazatzal Divide Trail #23
More Difficult- A popular and well laid-out trail, which is the major north-south route.
North Peak Trail #24
MOST Difficult – Middle section is very steep. East end is hard to find. West-to-east travel is recommended because of grade.
Deadman Trail #25
MOST Difficult – Located in the south center section of the Mazatzal Wilderness area. A significant trail with some steep grades.
Bull Springs Trail #34
More Difficult – It has steep grades as it climbs out of the East Verde Canyon. Parts are also rocky and eroded.
Rock Creek Trail #42
MOST Difficult – Very scenic trail but with very steep grades. Not recommended for horses
Barnhardt Trail #43
More Difficult – Scenic but with long uphill grades. One of the heaviest-used trails in the Mazatzal Wilderness.
Y Bar Trail #44
More Difficult – One of the more popular hiking trails. Northern end near Barnhardt Trailhead may be difficult to follow
Deer Creek Trail #45
More Difficult – Follows the north fork of Deer Creek, subject to heavy flood damage. Trail is located in a deep canyon. Not recommended for horses.
South Fork Trail #46
More Difficult – East end begins as old roadway. Travels up an interesting canyon with good shade.
Gold Ridge Trail #47
More Difficult – Located outside the wilderness, but is closed to motor vehicles wider than 40 inches.
Davey Gowan Trail #48
Easiest – An alternate route into or out of Deer Creek Canyon. Located in a stand of mixed conifer and named after a pioneer explorer of this area.
Cornucopia Trail #86
Easiest – A portion is an old road. The northern portion is easy to travel, but other areas may be overgrown.
Copper Camp Trail #87
More Difficult – Mazatzal Wilderness area. Some parts are steep; some are difficult to follow.
Sheep Creek Trail #88
MOST Difficult – Passes through a scenic but little-visited area. Very steep section northeast of Squaw Flat.
Davenport Wash Trail #89
More Difficult – Mazatzal Wilderness area. Passes near Club Cabin. A portion is steep northeast of south fork of Deadman Creek.
Saddle Mountain Trail #91
Easiest – An interesting and popular trail that is easy to follow. Ends at the abandoned “Story Mine.”
Sears Trail #90
More Difficult – West end may be difficult to locate
Thicket Trail #95
Willow Trail #223
More Difficult – A major east-west route, that begins on east side of the Sheep Bridge (Bridge Not Recommended For Horses). Scenic vistas. Some steep grades.
Fisher Trail #230
MOST Difficult – Parts are steep and very rocky. Passes through some nice stands of trees.
Willow Basin Trail #224
Sandy Saddle Trail #231
More Difficult – Very long grade east of Sandy Saddle. West to-east travel is recommended to avoid a long climb.
Brush Trail #249
MOST Difficult- Scenic vistas. Northern end has some sharp switchbacks.
West Fork Trail #260
More Difficult- A short trail connecting the Thicket Spring Trail to the West Fork of Sycamore.
Red Hills Trail #262
MOST Difficult- Scenic vistas. Parts are steep and some sections may be difficult to follow. Goes into a little-visited area, climbing in and out of several drainages.
Brody Seep Trail #264
More Difficult- Chilson Camp is located on this trail.
Midnight Trail #272
More Difficult- A little used but useful connecting trail near Midnight Mesa.
Lost Spr. Trail #279
Easiest- A dead-end trail that ends at a small spring.
Half Moon Trail #288
Easiest- Well-constructed trail running generally on contour at base of mountains. Suitable for short day-hikes.