Horseshoe Ridge Trail #282

Current Trail Conditions

This trail was maintained between the Baker Canyon Trail and Burnt Stump Trail junctions in April 2014, with logs and brush removed, and tread repaired in several locations. Large cairns were constructed just above the Burnt Stump junction to make it more difficult to take the firebreak up Sentinel Peak instead of the much easier trail. Conditions are still good in this section as of May 2017, with the exception of the area immediately around Baker Canyon Saddle, where numerous trees are down and the trail is quite hard to follow.

Below the Burnt Stump junction, the trail has not been maintained in years and is badly overgrown, covered in deadfall in a few places, and has extensive erosion damage. As of August 2017, the eastern 0.7 mi from Horseshoe Saddle heading west is in reasonable condition, with occasional overgrowth, deadfall and erosion, but generally quite good tread. Above that, extreme overgrowth and erosion damage make things more difficult to follow.

Length: 3.53 mi

Difficulty: expert

Condition: terrible

Elevation gain/loss: 305 ft ↑ / 1,250 ft ↓

Average slope: 5.1%

Access

The Horseshoe Ridge Trail is accessible from three locations.

The higher-elevation southwestern terminus is on the east side of Sentinel Peak at a junction with the Baker Canyon Trail which drops down to Price Canyon and climbs up to the top of the peak. This junction is not marked by a sign, but there is some rockwork outlining the edges of the trails here. (31.80945, -109.24040)

Half a mile below the upper terminus, the Burnt Stump Trail climbs up from the South Fork Trail. (31.81321, -109.23636).

The lower-elevation northeastern terminus is at Horseshoe Saddle, the high point along the Burro Trail between South Fork and Horseshoe Canyon. (31.82976, -109.20287) The signs here have rotted and the junction can be hard to find—the Horseshoe Ridge Trail leaves from the northwest edge of the saddle and continues in that direction for a few hundred feet before changing course.

Trail Description

Baker Canyon Trail to Burnt Stump Spring Trail Junction

From the Baker Canyon Trail, the Burnt Stump Trail heads northwest before contouring along the eastern slope of Sentinel Peak. After approximately 0.1 mile it drops to a faint junction with a bypass trail that connects in further down the Baker Canyon Trail to avoid climbing if visiting Sentinel Peak was not someone's goal. The trail crosses a scree field shortly after, quite visible through here, then becomes fairly rugged for the next 0.38 mile until it hits Horseshoe Ridge proper.

Here, running up the spine of a ridge heading northwest, is the junction with the old fire lookouts' very steep shortcut route down to Burnt Stump Spring. (31.81315, -109.23643) More recently, this was used as a firebreak. Note that many maps show this as the only route to Sentinel Peak from here, leading to some taking it rather than the much more pleasant Baker Canyon Trail route which does not appear on many maps. Other maps show it heading straight up the drainage from the Burnt Stump Spring area itself, which is even more incorrect.

The Horseshoe Ridge Trail cuts across the ridge here, heading northeast, then gradually drops down the northwestern side. Note that the firebreak ran along the top of the ridge itself and can be misleading, appearing to be a trail. A nice campsite (when it isn't windy) (31.81415, -109.23420) can be found among the pines a short distance in that direction, but it does not ultimately reconnect with the trail. The junction with the Burnt Stump Trail is only 400 feet beyond where the trail begins to descend. (31.81408, -109.23487)

Burnt Stump Spring Trail Junction to Horseshoe Saddle

Heading northeast out of this junction, you will contour to the right around the top of a drainage after 270 feet before resuming the same course. Enjoy the trees here, because after another 350 feet the remainder of the trail will be across slopes with little more than brush except in a very few patches. The same distance beyond that, you cross a small saddle and angle to the right, keeping to the south of a small hill. Six tenths of a mile later lies another saddle, this one with a great view of South Fork below to the northwest.

The trail heads generally to the east out of this saddle, again staying south of the peaks along the ridge and contouring around the terrain. Two thirds of a mile later, another saddle is reached. (31.82175, -109.21611) The trail is difficult to find here, and it can be easy to miss the correct turn. You need to head northeast out of the saddle, dropping down among a small stand of living pines. As you descend, you should be able to pick up the trail again and locate a couple switchbacks along the way. After the second switchback, the trail heads north for two tenths of a mile along the slope before resuming its contouring course for the remaining distance. This last stretch is the toughest along the trail, with manzanita and an assortment of thorny bushes having overgrown the trail completely in several places.

Nearly an additional two tenths of a mile beyond, a major washout cuts across the trail, 10 to 15 feet deep. (31.82528, -109.21302) It is possible to slide down this and climb up the other side a short distance below, but it is difficult and should not be attempted unless you are comfortable with scrambling up steep, rough terrain.

From here, the trail remains generally followable and non-eroded, but it is heavily overgrown and takes a long time. Contouring around frequent drainages and ridges, you can frequently see Horseshoe Saddle and the end of the trail ahead but despite seeming so close it will still take a while to get there.

A little over two thirds of a mile beyond the washout you will turn left around a ridge and from here the trail becomes much easier—the overgrowth has been cleared and you can easily and quickly follow the path through three bends over the final three tenths of a mile to the saddle. The Burro Trail heads east and south out of the saddle. It's 3 miles down to the South Fork Trail and 2.5 miles to the end of Horseshoe Canyon Road (but the road is badly washed out and can't be driven much beyond Licklog Tank).

Map

Topographic map of Horseshoe Ridge Trail #282

Last updated August 21, 2017.