• JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler

Arizona 4x4 Trails - Sunflower Mine Trail

Posted in Events on December 1, 2004 Comment (0)
Share this

In the Mazatzal Mountains northeast of Phoenix lies myriad old roads and trails dating back to the 1800s. Along with some cavalry activity in the area, there also roamed a fair number of miners, who mostly concentrated on recovering mercury deposits from deep below the Earth's surface. These hills and valleys are still rich with the scattered remnants of these bygone days.

GPS COORDINATES
Point Description
Latitude
Longitude
Elevation (ft)
Mileage (mi)
001 Turn right off pavement onto dirt road
33 55' 53"
111 27' 50"
4,101
0.0
002 Cross cattle guard; bear left onto F.S. 25 down hill
33 56' 37"
111 27' 02"
4,299
1.2
003 Route turns into F.S. 25A; continue
33 56' 30"
111 28' 58"
3,925
3.8
004 Cross bridge
33 {{{57}}}' 05"
111 29' 26"
4,154
5.0
005 Follow road back at left to mine on hill (1/4 mile away)
33 57' 27"
111 29' 30"
4,347
5.5
006 Back from mine on F.S. 25A (same spot as above)
33 57' 27"
111 29' 30"
4,348
6.0
007 End F.S. 25A; follow trail in and out of creek
33 57' 46"
111 29' 07"
4,419
6.5
008 Hard right turn up rock ledge onto F.S. 3722; up hill
33 57' 56"
111 28' 52"
4,540
6.9
009 Right at T in road; great valley view from altitude
33 58' 02"
111 28' 33"
5,178
7.5
010 Roads intersect; continue SE down hill on F.S. 201A
33 58' 05"
111 28' 16"
5,395
7.7
011 Two mines, creek crossing, and reverse trail direction
33 58' 04"
111 27' 26"
4,571
9.1
012 Emerging from F.S. 201A onto F.S. 201 going SW
33 58' 04"
111 26' 60"
4,909
9.8
013 Long windy road leads back to this start point
33 55' 53"
111 27' 50"
4,101
13.3

We set out on a dreary late-winter day with the Arizona Lo-Rangers 4WD Club and headed for the upper altitudes of the Tonto National Forest. Our trip took us north on Highway 87, where we jumped off the pavement and followed Forest Service Road 25, which started at an elevation just above 4,000 feet.

The day started out foggy and overcast, with a heavy mist floating across the mountain tops. We wound our way up and around the hills, and the going was easy, as the road had a smooth grade and rocky base. We soon found some sloppy spots, however, where our tires quickly loaded up with gooey mud. We found ourselves crab sliding on some of the slopes, but it was all in good fun, and we continued on.

Along the way, we stopped at the abandoned Sunflower Mine, sometimes called the National Mine. It's a complex with several buildings, ore crushing and processing equipment, an old water-supply pipeline, and large furnaces. In its day, this mine produced mercury. Cinnabar ore was mined, crushed, and then heated in large tubes to produce mercury vapor. This gas was then trapped in pipes until it condensed into liquid mercury.

You can step back in time and witness how much labor it must have taken to transport all the equipment and heavy building materials to this location. Work here had to have been rough, moving in cart loads of ore for crushing, extracting the mercury, and then disposing of the crushed ore via a track from under the mine structure.

After leaving the large mine complex, we continued along the main trail and encountered an occasional creek crossing, with the water flowing briskly from recent rains earlier in the week. As we entered a stretch of trail near McFarland Canyon, we found the trail became rockier, but it was nothing our vehicles couldn't walk right through. Much of the trail is beautifully scenic, with interesting spots along the creek in the lower elevations and commanding views across meandering valleys at the high spots.

We began climbing in altitude, almost as high as 5,400 feet. The temperature continued to drop, and we soon found ourselves driving in some light snowy areas as we wound our way around one of the higher peaks. As we dropped back closer to the flowing creek, we spotted a number of small mineshafts or digs right along the road. This area is littered with signs of mining activity. Shafts can be spotted up on some of the hillsides, along with tailing traces, and old metal parts can be seen down in ravines or near the creek.

The directions above describe a loop that covers about 13 miles of this area. It's a relatively short run, but there are numerous other trails in the area. If you reference the Reno Pass USGS topographic map, you could spend a full day or more exploring other trails in the vicinity. Much of the trail in this area is relatively easy, but there are some spots on the twisty shelf roads that fullsize trucks may find a little tight.

To get there, exit Highway 87 and turn left just past marker 222. Follow the paved road approximately 1.4 miles and turn right, crossing the cattle guard onto Forest Service Road 25. The GPS coordinates above can be followed from that point. Have fun.

Comments

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Sponsored Content