By: Harry Melts
Mazatzal Peak (7688'), is the high point of the Mazatzal Wilderness Area in Tonto National Forest in central Arizona. This extensive wilderness area is very rarely visited, except during the hunting season by people with the urge to kill. Visiting during this period should be avoided.
The eastern central section of the wilderness area is the most scenic and a choice of several backpack loop hikes exist. Barnhardt Canyon is a must in any loop trip plan since it contains a multitude of waterfalls with plenty of water (in May), striking examples of folded rocks, and steep, narrow canyons. I had the good fortune to see my first mountain lion in full light. A word of warning. The natives in this area are hostile and very suspicious. On more than one occasion, deliberate misinformation was given by local ranchers concerning access roads, trails, etc. Fortunately, having corresponded with and visited the district ranger offices in the area, we were not misled. For information write to Tonto National Forest Supervisor, 230 N. 1st Ave, Room 6208, Phoenix 25, Arizona.
A hike into this area would not be complete without climbing to the top of Mazatzal Peak, from which most of the wilderness area can be surveyed. The peak is reached via a dim branch trail from the main Barnhardt Canyon trail. Both the USGS and the USFS maps are recommended, since the information and misinformation is equally divided between them. No trail signs exist except for a few remnants of ancient illegible ones. Mazatzal Wilderness Area is a good place to observe the undisturbed flora of central Arizona.
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