Discover the Black Canyon Trail

The 80-mile long Black Canyon Trail in Arizona is a non-motorized trail used for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and taking in the abundant scenery.  The Black Canyon Trail has a long history dating back to the 1600’s when it was used as a Native American pathway linking local settlements.  It was utilizes as a way to move people and livestock.  In 1919, it was established by the Department of the as a livestock route.  At that time it was used mostly by ranchers from the Phoenix area to herd sheep to and from ranges in the Bradshaw and Mingus Mountains. Today, cattle can still be found using this trail north of highway 69.   

Currently, a 13.3 mile portion of the trail, termed the Black Canyon Corridor, has been developed for use.  Just north of Pheonix, this portion of the trail, completed in 1992, runs between the Emery Henderson Trailhead and the Table Mesa Road Trailhead.  Several miles of the trail takes travelers along the desert floor at the southern end of the Bradshaw Mountains.  Near mile 7, the trail enters the foothills and leads users around ridges and drainages.  The corridor ends at mile 13.3 and trail becomes more challenging as portions are not yet reconstructed and the trail can be hard to locate due to tracks having faded over time.  The end of the trail is at the Prescott National Forest boundary.  This trail is considered part of the Arizona State Trails System and it can be found in the State Trails Guide.

There are several ways to access the Black Canyon trail.  The Emery Henderson Trailhead, named for Mr. Emery Henderson, who has spent the last twenty-five years working towards the establishment of the Black Canyon Trail, is the most developed of the trailheads.  The Emery Henderson Trailhead, designed to provide access to all, is an award winning facility that is reminiscent of an old mining camp. The trailhead provides a kiosk with information, a picnic area, restrooms, and railings to tether horses.  The paved parking area includes several pull-through parking spaces created for vehicles pulling trailers.  Another trailhead, The Black Canyon City Trailhead offers an ample gravel parking area for cars and vehicles with trailers.  However, there are no amenities and no camping is allowed here.   Table Mesa Road Trailhead is another less developed trailhead with limited parking.   Additionally, Doe Peak Access, although not a trailhead, is another point of entry.  The access road here is not completely maintained.  This road is on Arizona State Land and an annual use permit is required to be on Arizona State Lands.  There is no cost to gain access at any of the trailheads and pets are welcomed.

As with using any trails, there are precautions that should be taken when using The Black Canyon Trail.  Cell phone coverage is limited in areas along the trail, so being prepared is essential to insure enjoyment and safety.  Drinking water is not provided at the trailheads, so be sure to bring plenty of water.  The Black Canyon Trail is a natural-base trail bed and it winds through some harsh terrain.  The soil and rocks can be unstable.  The grade varies and there are numerous elevation changes.  The trail is recommended for use from November through April only.      

The Black Canyon Trail is an amazing opportunity to experience the beauty and wonder of the natural desert.   Whether biking, hiking or horseback riding, there is something for everyone to enjoy on this amazing, historic trail.