Old Black Canyon Highway

Black Canyon City, Arizona (Maricopa County)
Last Updated: 09/11/2018
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 3-5
Length: 3.4 miles
Highest Elevation: 1986 feet
Duration: About 1 hour 30 minutes
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Black Canyon City
Nearest Town w/ Services: Black Canyon City
Official Road Name: 9982
Management Agency: Bureau of Land Management
District: Table Mesa Recreation Area
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Highlight: Old Black Canyon Highway

Today this dirt trail gives access to private property and the Black Canyon hiking trail, but also leads you south to a very skinny, winding, and hilly off-road trail; not too different from how it's was described in the 1930's (https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=kBwOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=vn0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=6746%2C1194561). Old maps also show it continued through parts of today's Table Mesa Recreation Area (likely AZCO Mine Road (https://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1572-azco-mine-road)), and a town call Gillett that is now a section of private property in the same area, near the Agua Fria River. Old Black Canyon Highway is one of the more difficult paths into the Table Mesa Recreation Area with the most challenging part consists of sharp switchbacks on a narrow trail surrounded by cliffs, making it unsuitable for larger trucks and trailers.


Route Information

Technical Rating: (3-5)

Rutted and/or rocky road. No shelves. Rocks up to 12" and water crossings up to 12" with possible currents. Passable mud. Moderate grades to 15 degrees. 6" holes. Side hill to 20 degrees. 4WD required. No width problems.

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Old Black Canyon Highway is the northern-most part of this off-road trail, and as a basic dirt road is the most uneventful part of the trail. This part of the trail provides access to private property and a trailhead to the Black Canyon Hiking Trails. However, as you travel further south, you'll enter a deep, dry river bed and eventually up onto some very narrow and winding hills with tight switchbacks. Wide vehicles are not going to fit in the middle section of this trail, and all but the smallest of trailers will likely get damaged. You can also expect to get some natural pinstriping on the sides of any mid-sized rig and more serious scratches are possible as you are forced to drive close to the sides of small cliffs and steep drop-offs. In fact, if two larger ATV's tried to pass each other, they would have difficulty in some spots; especially areas with sharp cliffs on both sides of the trail. A small Jeep or skinnier 4x4 truck can easily make it through, but there are only a few areas where you can get off to the side of the road to let someone else pass. Also being that much of this trail goes through private property, you are strongly encouraged - with threats of fines and a criminal record - to stay on the trail at all times.
Some sections of this trail cross private property. Be sure to stay on the trail, and respect the private property to insure the trail will remain open.

Seasonal Information

Spring:Usually Dry
Summer:Usually Dry
Fall:Can be wet from Monsoons
Winter:Occasional wet conditions


1. Old Black Canyon Highway Trailhead

Old Black Canyon Highway trail goes right alongside Interstate 17 as it heads north to south between Black Canyon City and Table Mesa Recreation Area. This spot is right next to the southbound entrance to I-17 on the south end of Black Canyon City (technically in the minuscule town of Rock Springs) and provides plenty of room for staging. There are also some parking areas to the west of the trail intended for use by hikers.

2. Black Canyon to 9982 (0.4 mi)

Turn right (west) at this pole to continue down BLM trail 9982. The original Black Canyon Highway likely continued straight ahead, but It's likely best to stay on the marked BLM trail.

3. Rocky Curve (0.5 mi)

Just west of the well-marked turn from Old Black Canyon Highway, onto BLM trail 9982, is a relatively small obstacle. This slight curve has some rocks on it, that any vehicle with decent clearance can easily drive over to give their suspension a little warm up.

4. Hill Washes (0.7 mi)

Less than a mile from the Old Black Canyon Highway trailhead, you'll find a section full of small hills and washes. If you have poor approach and departure angles on your rig you may find your bumpers a bit scratched up. Good ground clearance is also helpful.

5. Big Wash North End (1.2 mi)

Making up about a third of a mile along the trail, this dry river bed is not difficult to drive through as long as your tires can handle the sand. Avoid this area if there is any heavy rain close by or uphill (north) of this area, as it has the potential to turn into a very lively river. To the left is likely the original Black Canyon Highway, but the trail may only be suitable for ATV's and leads you into private land.

6. Big Wash South End (1.6 mi)

Continuing south on the trail requires taking a sharp left (east) turn into an area of very skinny, winding, steep hills and switchbacks. Passing someone coming from the other direction, turning around, or reversing beyond this point will not be an easy task. Some maps also show the possibility of heading right (west) - further down the wash - leading you into the Little Squaw Creek to the Agua Fria River along a trail named Twister; which also connects to the western trailhead for Rock Bottom (these are all part of the Table Mesa Recreation Area). This direction is likely also the original Black Canyon Highway route as it would take you to the town of Gillette; a town that now only exists as private property but once serviced the Tip Top silver mine.

7. Narrow Hill Climbs (1.7 mi)

There are two hills in this area that are not only narrow but also very steep and slanted, giving some exhilarating off-camber excitement. The peaks are also sharp, making it difficult to see what's ahead as you crest, until dropping sharply down the other side.

8. Tight Switchbacks North End (2.1 mi)

This is the northern end of a set of very tight and sharp switchbacks. A wide and/or long wheelbase vehicle could likely find this area very dangerous with the likelihood of falling off the cliffs on the side of the trail, thus the higher trail rating as avoiding this area is not optional. As you can see from the pictures, it's easy to sustain damage through this section as there are tight areas next to rocks and cliffs where a wider vehicle or protruding side-step will get caught up and damaged. Running into the Saguaro cacti is also not advised as they are protected with its blooms being the [Arizona State Flower](http://azgolfhomes.com/12-facts-about-the-saguaro-cactus-the-sonoran-deserts-most-famous-plant-arizona/).

9. Private Land to South (2.3 mi)

From here south is private land, and the warning signs make it clear they expect you to stay on the trail.

10. Narrow Switchbacks South End (2.4 mi)

This is the southern end of the very tight and sharp switchbacks. A wide and/or long wheelbase vehicle could likely find this area very dangerous with the likelihood of falling off the cliffs on the side of the trail.

11. Rock Hill (2.5 mi)

This steep hill is covered in rocks, but nothing big or difficult. The most challenging part of this hill is squeezing between the large [Saguaro cacti](http://cronkitezine.asu.edu/spring2010/arizonalaws/nativeplants.html) that are prevalent throughout the Black Canyon area. This is also the southern end of the narrow trail section.

12. Rock Bottom Trailhead (2.7 mi)

This is the eastern end of the Rock Bottom Trail which follows the Little Squaw Creek to the west.

13. Private Road and Camping to North (3 mi)

At this intersection, it's easy to keep heading straight ahead (south), but if you are looking for a camping area, make an almost u-turn to the left and head northwest. From here north is private land, and the warning signs make it clear they expect you to stay on the trail.

14. 9982 & Private Land / Moores Gulch

9982 turns to the left (west) at this intersection. Continuing straight is un-marked, but will take you onto private land and indirectly towards Moores Gulch Rd.

15. Camping Area (3.3 mi)

This is one of the many dispersed camping areas within the Table Mesa Recreation Area. It can also be used as a staging area.

16. 9999 & 9982 Trailhead (3.4 mi)

The 9999 trail heads northwest and southeast as one of the main roads through the Table Mesa Recreation Area while the 9982 trail heads northeast towards the Old Black Canyon Highway.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 34.045010, -112.148960

Starting Point: Black Canyon City

From the southern-most Black Canyon City exit, number 242 off I-17, head west from the freeway entrance/exit to Old Black Canyon Highway. Old Black Canyon Hwy is paved throughout Black Canyon City and is the main road through the city. Take this road south until just before it changes from a two-way road into a one-way freeway entrance (just past the famous Rock Springs Cafe). At this point, there will be a dirt road on the right. This dirt road is the continuation of Old Black Canyon Highway and soon turns into Table Mesa Recreation Area trail number 9982. From Table Mesa Recreation Area, take 9999 to the intersection with 9982. Take 9982 northeast towards Old Black Canyon Highway.


There are plenty of primitive camping areas within the Table Mesa Recreation Area. You can find more details on the BLM's webpage here: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/recreation/camping/dev_camps/table-mesa.html. You can also find plenty of hotel choices half-an-hour to the south in the Northern Phoenix area. There's also the Mountain Breeze Motel within Black Canyon City (http://www.yelp.com/biz/mountain-breeze-motel-black-canyon-city), and a Black Canyon City KOA (http://koa.com/campgrounds/black-canyon/). Also be sure to stop at the Rock Springs Cafe (http://rocksprings.cafe/) located just a few hundred feet north of waypoint 1. They are famous for their amazing pies.
Camping: Old Black Canyon Highway

Writer Information

S.J. Hollist

Mapping Crew - Arizona
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I've been writing for TrailsOffroad since August 2015. Before that, I had been off-road in places like central and northern Utah, east and west Texas, and central and northern Arizona. I've even driven off-road on an island in the Caribbean (the one time I've driven a Jeep off-road). I joined TrailsOffroad because it combines my three favorite hobbies: Off-roading obviously; I've also been blogging for most of my life - even before it was done on the internet (ever heard of a dial-up BBS?) - and even wrote a political column for Examiner.com for a few years; I also have experience with building websites and promoting on social media. These experiences made writing for Trails Offroad a good fit for me, and I've been enjoying it very much. When I'm not working at my IT job, or playing with my kids, I go on runs with a group of people who like to collaborate on [AZFJ.org](http://azfj.org), and run my own online marketing and web content company (my wife calls it my hobby business) [The Rotisory Foundation](http://rotisory.spaldam.com) (named after a BBS I used to run back in High School and College before the Internet became overwhelmingly popular). I'm a big Toyota fan. I've owned two 4x4 Tacomas, an older 4x4 Toyota pickup, and I'm now on my second FJ Cruiser (the first was a TRD SE 6 speed, that I got rid of after my twins were born). You can learn more about my adventures at [SJsAdv.com](http://sjsadv.com).


Questions & Answers (1)

Q: Do you think a current gen Tacoma would make it though this trail? Additionally, is running it backwards an option, or will there be too many issues with “oncoming” traffic?
–Ryan Burger (09/20/2018)
A: It should be able to make it. There's a couple of spots you'll likely get some pinstriping, and the switchback will require some carefully maneuvering. Traffic flows both ways, so it's always a concern no matter what direction you go. It's mostly used by ATV traffic from what I've seen.
–S.J. Hollist (09/21/2018)

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