Mahan Ranch starts in the pristine Ponderosa pine woodlands of the Coconino National Forest. The road skirts the forested southern slopes of Hutch Mountain before passing through a section of private property, once the headquarters of the namesake Mahan Ranch. Today the cattle you see grazing summer pastures belong to the Apache Maid ranch, one of Arizona's earliest and most storied ranching operations. Periodically the pines give way to flowery alpine meadows, parks in local parlance. The road is smooth and well-traveled, but that will change. The intersection with Bargaman Park marks a change in the road. At first, the trail just seems narrower. Then the dirt surface turns to a jumble of rock. Then comes the embedded boulders. Loose items in your vehicle begin a journey of their own. Cattle watch you pass with a bit of surprise. Don't despair. It gets a little better after two miles of testing the quality of your dental fillings. Mahan Ranch breaks out onto Anderson Mesa, leaving the pine forest behind in favor of more open savanna grasslands with long views of mountain promontories far away. Here the trail is abasic two-track snaking out ahead. Tall grasses swipe the undercarriage of your vehicle. Cresting a ridge, picturesque Pine Tank leaps into your view. The beauty of Anderson Mesa makes you forget the rough rocky trail behind you. But don't worry, you will be reminded again. Unfortunately, Mahan Ranch, despite what maps may show, comes to an inglorious end at a sign informing the traveler of a locked gate ahead. The gate serves to protect a fragile habitat used by the more permanent residents of the area. The unused roadbed can be traversed on foot. The reverse route back does require enduring the rough section, but the adventure is definitely worth the price.
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