The Stats: Trail Name: General Springs trailhead (also known as Fred Haught trail) Distance: 19.5 miles round trip Elevation Loss/Gain: 3,927 feet Difficulty: Moderate Dog Friendliness: the fur babies will love it
If you are familiar with Arizona then you know that north of Payson you trade cacti for pine trees, city zoos and gardens for the true wilderness, and monstrous monsoons for captivatingly theatrical thunderstorms. We encountered these wonderful treasures in the woodsy wilderness of the Mogollon Rim Cabin loop trail. This is a 26 mile loop which is formed by following a handful of different trails.
Fred Haught Trail
The starting trail, Fred Haught trail, is also a part of the Arizona trail. We completed the half loop which takes you along the half circle then cuts down Houston Brothers Trail. The four log cabins for this the trail is named come in within the first 8.5 miles of the trail.
Fred Haught trailhead begins with cabin number 1, General Springs cabin. Shortly into the Cabin Loop, you will pass cabin number 2, Fred Haught cabin (though we chose not to venture off trail for a closer look). Cabin number three, Pinchot cabin, is where Houston Brothers Trail diverges. The final cabin is called Aspen Spring cabin, which is a great place to break camp.
Day 1 of the Cabin Loop Trail
The first day on the Cabin Loop trail takes you over 8.5 miles of hiking mild ascents and descents along a fairly active creek which trickled, pooled and played hide and seek at times. Though the creek was flowing, it was less than a foot deep in most areas. Our water filters definitely felt the pressure of filtering water from a shallow stream.
Cabin Loop Base Camp
We were extremely lucky to have gone on a weekend with a forecast of a high of 80 with scattered thunderstorms throughout the day. Though this seemed risky given the nature of lightning, we were rewarded for our bravery with moderate rain. This brought that 80 degree temperature to what felt like a cool mid 70’s throughout the last couple of miles of hiking on the first day. Just as we reached Aspen Springs cabin, it began to hail. The timing was great since we gained shelter and friends in fellow backpackers as we united under Aspen Springs’ leaking tin roof.
After the rain and hail stopped, we were able to set up our tents. We were also able to get a fire going by miraculously uncovering some precious dry wood. A cozy fire and a cloudy sky rounded out a spectacular night.
Day 2 of the Cabin Loop Trail
The hike out continued the trend of the mild ups and downs through lush forestry and took us along dirt pebbled roads. The trail follows Rim Road for several miles as it loops back to General Springs cabin. The fact that you’re hiking on a rocky road is overshadowed by the scenic view of mountain ranges, valleys, and cliffs. The last leg was hot and long, but we passed the time taking pics, singing songs and taking in the beautiful scenery. Day 2 totaled about 11 miles and we definitely felt it!
A few things to keep in mind
First, we encountered quite a bit of scat on the trail, which indicated there were a lot of elk, some bears and at least 1 mountain lion in the vicinity. We were not lucky/unlucky enough to encounter any of these creatures, though our cabin 4 friends said they had seen some elk there earlier.
Next, this hike is advertised as moderate. It could have been the 40 lbs on my back, or the fact that it had been a few months since my last backpacking trip, but the small but consistent ups and downs were definitely noticeable!
Finally, as mentioned above, the water situation proved a bit concerning since there was a lot of sediment from grabbing the water from a not so deep barely trickling creek. Be sure to skim water off of the top of the stream rather than diving deep. Also note that “redundancy is key” was again proven true since my friend forgot the hose to her water filter. Thankfully, we and was able to use another person’s filter.