Overland To The Expo: Exploring Remote AZ Backcountry Roads | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Overland To The Expo: Exploring Remote AZ Backcountry Roads


Elite Explorer
February 2, 2000
Reaction score
City, State
Albuquerque, NM
Year, Model & Trim Level
1991 XLT
This trip came about rather quickly for me. Originally I had planned to be in Baja and when that changed I figured I would head to the EF Moab run. Once people started dropping out of that trip there was one more idea in my head, something I have been wanting to do for a very long time.

About 2 weeks ago I put together an itinerary of a few trails and sights I have wanted to see in Arizona for a while now and the trails would lead right to Mormon Lake which was the site of Overland Expo West this past weekend (see http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3299103 ) I met Tbars4 in Peach Springs AZ just Northeast of Kingman on Rt66 to kick our adventure off on Tuesday May 13th.



1st trail started in the town of Peach Springs. Ted and I secured our Hualapai permits from the lodge in town because we would be traveling on their tribal land. You won't find this trail in a guidebook and it took me a few years to figure out that you could indeed drive to the bottom of the Grand Canyon!! We set off and 20 miles later we were at the bottom of the canyon at the Colorado River where we set up our first camp of the trip. We were about 100 miles downriver of what you typically think of as the Grand Canyon but right across the river from us was indeed the boundary for the National Park (remember we were on Hualapai land).

The drive still provided some awesome scenery and we practically had the place to ourselves!









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The next morning (Wednesday) we got up and packed up camp as this would be our longest road day of the trip. Before leaving we hung out at the beach to watch the rafting operations start up. The crew was busy launching rafts. A rafter from New Zealand stopped just upriver and hiked in to where we were so we talked with him briefly. He was waiting for a pickup after rafting down the canyon. Just as the first group of rafters arrived we started back up the canyon around 9AM.









Arriving back in Peach Springs we took Rt66 towards Seligman and got on I40 East to Flagstaff where we topped our gas tanks. From there we went to Winona and once again found another trail that was not in any guide books. This time we would head towards Grand Falls which is a very large waterfall on the Little Colorado River. I had noticed some water in the river near Winslow on my way to meet Ted the previous day so I was hoping there would be a little bit of flow. When we got there the river was completely dry :( Grand Falls was still cool to see and some day I will return when the water is flowing.





We turned around and went back out the way we came in. Arriving back to I40 we again went East a short distance to Winslow where we topped off as this would be our last gas stop for a while.


We took Rt99 South out of Winslow to Chevelon Crossing Trail. It started out rocky but soon turned to a smoother road except for the extreme washboard surface! This trail winds through a few canyons and crosses bridges over seasonal streams.



Once we got to the second crossing in Chevelon Canyon we decided to call it a day and set up camp at Chevelon Crossing Campground. This was a forest service maintained campground with a few sites with tables and was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 30's



Thursday we got up and packed up a little early.

We had about 100 miles of mostly dirt roads to get to the Expo today. We decided we would likely make it most of the way but camp somewhere East of there tonight. About 7:30 AM we were off and crossed over Chevelon crossing which surprised me. There was a rather large and well defined streambed however it was also dry with only a few standing pools of water.



The dirt road continued on and eventually we came into the town of Heber. We stopped in Heber to get a few supplies and found our next trail that took off from the edge of town.

This trail was called Black Canyon and it had several points of interest along its 17 miles including indian ruins, lakes and old gravesites. Our first stop was a few miles in where we parked and made the 1/4 mile hike to some old ruins up the hill under a rock outcropping. Not much was left except the soot of fires on the ceiling, a few defined rooms and some red pictographs on the rock left by the Mogollon Indians many years ago.



Next up was the site of the Baca family graves. The Bacas started ranching the area in 1889.

Shortly after we visited black Canyon Lake and then returned to the trail to finish it out to AZ Highway 260.


A short highway drive later and we were at the start of the Mogollon Rim trail (Pronounced muggy-own). The trail started off as what I would call a forest road more like a super highway through the woods. We stopped at a few viewpoints along the way looking off the rim and of a tall fire lookout tower.









Soon the road became more of a typical forest road winding along the edge of the rim where we stopped a few more times to take in the view.




We went down an offshoot trail a 1/2 mile to the General Springs Cabin and meadow where we stopped for lunch.






Back to the main trail and soon we were to AZ 87.



We went North on AZ 87 and soon ran into a large group of overlanders going to the Expo. Several of them pulled right out in front of us crossing the highway to line up with the rest of their group on the shoulder.


They followed us for a while before turning off to take the highway the remaining way to the Expo - boring!! We went a few more miles and turned onto Long Lake Trail. We met a Jeep towing a big heavy military trailer with a camper on it traveling the opposite way. The road wasn't smooth but was not overly rough either.



We arrived at Long Lake around 3-ish and decided to make it our camp for the day. We both had a few things we wanted to take care of before the next day arriving at the Expo including minor vehicle repairs. Before we set up camp we drove down to a spot on the beach for a little while and looked around.


We camped just up the hill at an improved camping area overlooking the lake. I setup my awning but unfortunately it was at the wrong angle to block most of the sun.


We both grilled steaks tonight and they were good.


..Tree full of black birds making computer sounds..


Tonight was the full moon and it was glowing with an orange tint because of all the dust in the air, it was a little breezy throughout the day. We heard some creatures drinking water down on the beach but never saw it/them and the coyotes were in the area as well.


..While Brian slept in, I shot some pictures of the views around our campsite..:D


Birds dancing across the water..


Moon rocks..




Friday morning we got another early start. My guidebook said the trail would take about 2.5 hours to reach Mormon Lake which was our final destination for the weekend. Overland Expo opened today and we wanted to get our moneys worth on the first day so we planned to arrive there around 9-10.


At the tip of Long Lake we joined with a new trail called Soldier and Kinnikinick Lakes Trail. The guidebook stated the trail was rough but I have never been on a trail (forest road) as rough as this one in recent memory. Weaving in and out of trees and ruts with thousands of rocks jutting out on the trail everywhere is how I would describe the next ~10 miles we traveled over.


Towards the end the forest opened up to several meadows we drove across and saw several groups of elk running across our path ahead.


At one point the elk were running with us 100 yards off to the side from Tbars pacing us before they finally turned off.


We ran into our only closed gate of the whole trip but it was a simple stick and barb wire gate typical of the backcountry with a forest service sign that said please keep gate closed which we did.


Finally the road became smooth where we stopped to repack our gear that had come loose over the past 10 rough miles.

We soon joined our final trail, Kinnikinick to Mormon Lakes Trail.

This was just a smooth forest road that took us to the pavement directly across from Mormon Lake, a large meadow and the site of Overland Expo where we could see the place was already packed with participants.




We arrived and setup camp for our final 2 days which is shown in the thread found in my first post.



Side note:

..It was on this day we heard on the radio that Christopher Columbus' ship the Santa Maria had been found..:popcorn:




..I just saw this and I am at work but I will start gathering pics asap to post up in here..;)

Nice trail write-up. It's like EF magazine in here!


..Post #3 has been updated with pictures..

Thanks for putting up the pictures Ted, looking forward to the rest!

We got out of the area just in time as there is a rapidly growing forest fire just to the west of where we were. Air quality would have been bad as we are even getting the smoke from it all the way here in Albuquerque.

..Post #4 updated which only leaves one more post to fill in..

Stay tuned..:popcorn:

Great write-up and pictures ! ! ! Much better route planning than us (but the Base Camp trailer not meant for off-asphalt). Not sure of your take, but that trip easily surpassed the activities at the Expo (in my opinion)...

"You know, you see some guys put a lift kit on an Explorer and then never take them off-road. . ." Sheesh...

Well done. In Lake Tahoe now (after Grand Canyon and Sequoia); heading back to Tacoma tomorrow.

'91 Sport

...You know the saying...

Ralph Waldo Emerson — "Life is a journey, not a destination."

..It's not where we are going but how we get there that counts..plus the scenery is much greater and the crowds are much less..:biggthump

Arizona Fire update: They are going to let it burn..


A wildfire burning in a scenic Arizona canyon is expected to nearly triple in size as crews scramble to get the upper hand in less rugged terrain.

Fire managers plan to let the flames that have been climbing and swirling about the canyon walls burn through flatter lands and into a sort of catcher's mitt to the north and the west, Deputy Incident Commander Pruett Small said Friday. That means the fire could grow to nearly 36 square miles if rain doesn't stop it.

"This is the roughest country in America," he said. "We can't send firefighters right next to the black and march them up a hill. We have to go around to the top and make a big box."

..The last of the pictures have been added..:salute:

Cool writeup. One of these times I want to join you guys on one of these adventures.

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..Bodie California trip is coming up and I'm not sure if Brian1 will be able to make the trip but it should be a fun exploration type trip..:D


..I'm waiting to see if Brian1 noticed I changed out his elk/Explorer picture with a somewhat better one..:popcorn: