Bear Jaw Canyon - Abineau Canyon Loop, 2003
Kachina Peaks Wilderness


October 17, 2003

Northern Arizona's fall color consists primarily of golden yellow aspens. Although much of the forested portions of the state is ruled by pine, fir and juniper, there are large stands of aspens that excel in beauty. This visit to northern Arizona was timed to allow us to view the aspens at the peak of their fall colors. Our choice of hikes this day was a 7.5 mile loop on the Bear Jaw and Abineau trails on the north side of the San Francisco peaks, just north of Flagstaff. The loop was not excessively long, but did include a challenging 2000' climb to the Pipeline Road that contours around the north side of the peaks. We started up the Bear Jaw Trail on a pleasant, sunny day, marvelling at the color and diversity of Arizona.

North Side of San Francisco Peaks
North side of Peaks
Bear Jaw - Abineau Trail Junction
Bear Jaw - Abineau jct.
Golden aspens
Trail in Bear Jaw Canyon
Trail in Bear Jaw Canyon

The first portion of the Bear Jaw Trail follows an abandoned jeep trail, now reverted to a hiking trail. After a mile, the old road turned to single track, crossed Bear Jaw Canyon and began climbing with a vengance. The trail glowed golden yellow as it wound its way through a beautiful aspen grove. At this higher elevation, many of the aspens had already lost their leaves, leaving a thick coat on the ground. After another 1-1/2 miles, we arrived at the Watershed road and stopped for a rest and to enjoy the scenery.

Pipeline Road
The Pipeline Road
Us on the Pipeline Road
Dave and Cindy
Pipeline Road
Stolling the Pipeline Road

We followed the Pipeline Road westward along an easy grade. The temperature was in the low 60's and the day was stunning. In a couple of miles, the road ended in a large bowl at Abineau Canyon, elevation 10,400'. We took another scenery break, enjoyed the views and fine weather, then headed down the Abineau Trail through Abineau Canyon.

Road End in Abineau Canyon
Road end, Abineau Canyon
Humphreys Ridgeline
Humphreys ridgeline
Abineau Canyon
Abineau Canyon

The Abineau Trail was steep near its upper end, but eventually settled down to a grade that provided easy walking. Once again, the trail cut through an aspen forest that had given up most of its leaves, and once again the leaves provided a dazzling display on the ground if not on the trees. The fallen leaves also littered the trailside pine trees, giving them the look of Christmas trees decorated with yellow-gold ornaments. Now shaded, the Abineau Trail was cool and dark. We immensely enjoyed this stroll and relished the climate and scenery contrast, as compared to our home in the Sonoran Desert environment of Phoenix. A couple of more miles brought us back to the Bear Jaw - Abineau Trail junction and a few minutes more, back to the trailhead and the end of the hike.

Leaf-lined Trail
Leaf lined trail
Trail in Abineau Canyon
Trail in Abineau Canyon
Break Time in Abineau Canyon
Break time

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