Arizona Pt.1 – Hassayampa Plain & Big Horn Mountains

Some good friends of ours moved to Arizona nearly two years ago to Litchfield Park, just west of Phoenix. Since their time there, we’ve visited a few times and even made a day trip out to Lake Pleasant, but haven’t ventured any further then that. There were talks about doing a offroad/camping trip utilizing their new Polaris RZR but nothing materialized until March of this year.

We had originally talked about getting up to Sedona, but towing the RZR back and forth didn’t make sense since some of the trails to surrounding areas were still seasonally closed. Instead, I came up with a plan to explore their backyard.

Thursday after work I rushed home to pick up Candace and Summer and make the journey to Richard and Haley’s. Adventure awaits!

TAC1 hearts gas stations

About 5 hours later and we had arrived. Eager to stretch our legs and excited about the days to come, we spent a couple hours hanging out catching up on whats new and discussing a bit of the morning plans before eventually calling it a night.

Literally leaving their driveway, I had mapped a creative set of routes to take us from Litchfield Park all the way to Tonopah, where we’d grab fuel and last minute supplies before officially starting the trip. While it feels like you’re breaking the law as a Californian, operating UTV’s on the streets is legal, and for our purposes worked out awesome. Before anything though, we needed coffee. Richard, Haley and Summer led the way to a local spot.

Coffee?

Onward to Tonopah

Surprisingly (mostly to myself), there are no pictures documenting the adventure to the adventure. Ha. But we got our fuel and last minute items and set off on our way up 387th Ave to where we’d meet up with the Belmont Mountain trailhead.

Made a quick stop at the canal crossing to let some air out of the tires to reduce weight and rotating mass. Kidding of course.

I’m glad we did decide to air down here as along the way I could have sworn to smell gas, but wasn’t sure if it was something else. Turned out I forgot to close the jerry can after adding a couple gallons to it……. whew.

Tucked away in the Belmont Mountain is the Tonopah Belmont  Mine. A large crushing mill foundation and outcroppings can be spotted well before you reach the area.

Looking back on the trail we came in on

Unfortunately the mines adit and shaft are all gated off

Some foundations and additional outcroppings in the distance

There are so many claims in this area that you could easily spend a good part of a day checking them all out, but that wasn’t our goal. From the Belmont Mountain we’d continue though the Hassayampa Plain towards the northern edge of the Big Horn Mountains.

From our location at the Tonopah Belmont mine, we headed north to meet up with Aguila Rd.

Aguila Rd is a wide, flat and highly maintained dirt road due to the current day mining that goes through the valley. We ended up getting stuck behind a transport truck for quite a few miles before we made a break onto a BLM trail.

The timing worked out great to use the Purple Pansey Mine as a spot to take a break and have lunch. A old tin building, concrete foundations, water tanks and the numerous mine shafts made this a big operation back in it’s day. Unfortunately, history of these types of places is usually non existent so we can only speculate what it once was.

This is one of only a handful of available mines from the historic Aguila Arizona mining district. Aquila is largely known as a manganese and copper mining area that is located at the North end of the Bighorn Mountains, about 14 miles South of Aguila at an altitude of 2,300 feet. At one time it was actually the second greatest producer of manganese in all of Arizona.

Next stop – Black Mountain Mine/Little Horn claim. Only a short distance away from the Purple Pansey, a series of trails and washes end up at the end of Little Horn Rd.

Came around a blind corner and slowed down to a crawl, occasionally honking my horn. Usually enough to scare them away but this one stood it’s ground and even did the food shuffle as if charging was imminent. Finally coming to a complete stop, I honked and flashed lights for at least a minute or two before it finally ran off into the bushes to join the others.

Just after this encounter we came across a group of cattle and calf near a water source, and my thinking the new borns were most likely the reason for the territorial/defensive behavior.

Nearly to the mine, the only set of obstacles of the day were ahead in the wash.  One being a tight turn that required a few attempts to get through minimizing pinstriping and a rock that appeared more of a challenge then it really was while approaching it.

The RZR definitely had the advantage here

A sharp turn forces a exit from the wash with a decently steep climb to the top of the hillside. At the top the mine comes into view.

A spiraling road brings you to the bottom of what appears to be a open pit.

At the bottom, you can see the numerous adits and interconnected tunnels bored throughout the mountain. The cooler temperature and shade was a welcomed change so we ended up hanging out and exploring all the areas for a couple hours.

Candace in her happy place

By the time we were ready to crawl out of the giant hole we were in, the realization that it was almost sunset became apparent. There were a couple choice camping spots just above where we were so it worked out rather well.

Got everything setup and while Candace was cooking us all a rad dinner I took Lucy for a hike to get a view of our surroundings.

Time for some beverages and campfire stories under a blanket of stars

To be continued…

By | 2017-04-11T21:23:17+00:00 March 30th, 2017|Trip Reports|0 Comments

About the Author:

Desert explorer. Photographer. Vehicle enthusiast. In constant pursuit to find something new. Mining history buff.

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