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The Barnhardt Trail winds about six miles through Arizona’s Mazatzal wilderness section of Tonto National Park. Starting at 4,200 feet elevation, it gains over 1,900 feet. If one were actually to complete the hike, which Hikin’ Buddy and I did not on our most recent foray, you would be higher than Denver. Which is one reason HB and I never complete this hike: the air is noticeably thinner and one of us becomes breathless rather easily.

HB and I love to tackle this trail – for us it is a bit of a challenge (well, for one of us anyway, the one who is not HB). It’s a haul to get there – about an hour and half north of where we live. But the drive up SR 87 from Mesa is gorgeous, the road undulating between rocky outcroppings and mesas. The driving distance means that Expatriate has to get up a lot earlier than her accustomed hour of rising – but it is well worth the sacrifice, for the scenery on the drive, for the company and for the hike. The greatest challenge of the day turns out to be trying to stay awake while HB nobly drives us home after our exertions.

Sections of the trail are flattish, but by and large it is up all the way.

Elly on path

Complex and colorful, manzanita grows along the trail.

manzanita root


Red rocks rise on the southern side of the trail. Every now and then a section of cliff collapses, leaving a river of red stones… easier to cross than a river of water, but giving one an uneasy feeling of possible danger.

rocksrock slide-001rock slide-002

Someone who looks like Frankenstein in Stone stands guard over the wilderness.


We ate our picnic on the rocky out-cropping that is sunlit in the photo. Yes! The one that is way up there.


On a smaller scale there is much to see underfoot, a variety of shapes, materials and colors that is endlessly interesting.

greens on red

I keep thinking I want to understand geology, and even once attempted an online course on the subject. It told me much more than ‘what is this rock’, and it turns out I am little more than a ‘what is this rock’ person. I would love to tell you what this formation is, I’m sure it has a name. HB and I have dubbed it the M Rocks (me) and/or the W Rocks (HB). Whichever, if you ever doubted the incredible forces that the earth exerts, these rocks will make you a believer.

upper M rocks-001 Upper M rocksBarnhardt is relatively remote and not heavily trafficked.  We were surprised to encounter two other hiking groups, as it’s the first time we’ve ever seen anyone else on this particular trail. And we were even more surprised that both groups were accompanied by Hikin’ Dogs. Meet Herbie:


and Ballo:

Ballo-001 After our hike we had a second picnic in a field. Mallow is blooming early this year:


A challenging trail, a good friend, a picnic, fine weather and a pair of Hikin’ Dogs. It doesn’t get any better.