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BLM > Arizona > What We Do > Recreation > Hiking > Black Canyon National Recreation Trail
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Black Canyon National Recreation Trail

horseback riding on the Black Canyon National Recreation TrailDescription: 
This 80 mile trail features hiking, mountain biking, and horse riding. This historic trail is of national significance, following a route used since the times of pre-historic Native American travelers and traders.  The Department of the Interior officially established the route as a livestock driveway in 1919, when it was used by woolgrowers from the Phoenix area to herd sheep to and from their summer ranges in the Bradshaw and Mingus Mountains. The trail north of highway 69 is still used as a cattle driveway. The trail ends at the Prescott National Forest boundary.

The Black Canyon National Recreation Trail was originally designed as a livestock driveway. Many segments of the trail roughly parallel the old Black Canyon stagecoach road between Phoenix and Prescott.  At present, 13.3 miles of this trail between the Emery Henderson Trailhead and Table Mesa Road, provide a pleasant route to follow.

The trail travels the desert floor along the southern end of the Bradshaw Mountains for several miles, linking segments of the trail with four-wheel-drive roads.  At about mile 7, the trail enters the foothills and winds around ridges and drainages.  At mile 13.3, the trail becomes a challenge to follow.  Segments not yet reconstructed are hard to locate because tracks have faded over time.

The southern end of the trail is located in Maricopa County, approximately 40 miles north of Sky Harbor Airport.  The northern end of the trail is located in Yavapai County, approximately 40 miles from Prescott, Arizona.
There are several trailheads available to access the Black Canyon Trail.
Emery Henderson Trailhead: From Phoenix, take Interstate 17 north and exit at New River Road.   Head west (left).  The Trailhead is on the north side of the road. From Prescott, take Highway 69 to Interstate 17, and head south. Take the New River Exit and head west. Travel about two miles on the New River Road and turn right at the developed area.
Black Canyon City Trailhead: From Phoenix, take Interstate 17 north and exit at Black Canyon City. Head west (left). At the stop sign turn right then a quick left onto Warner Road. Follow the road to the white tank which marks the Black Canyon City Trailhead. From Prescott, take highway 69 to Interstate 17, head south. Take the Black Canyon City Exit and turn west. Drive through town and turn west onto Werner Road. Follow road to white tank.
Visitor Activities:
Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and viewing scenery. Picnic facilities exist at the Emery Henderson Trailhead.
Special Features:
This is a non-motorized trail for mountain bikers, hikers and horseback riders.
Permits, Fees, Limitations:
There are no fees associated with trail use. Efforts are being made to mark the trail, however, trail signage is lacking in areas.  Segments of the trail are not recommended for novice horseback riders. Some challenging terrain exists for mountain bikers. Cliffs exist along the trail south of the Black Canyon City Trailhead and north of Table Mesa. 
The Black Canyon Trail was not designed to be universally accessible; it is a natural-base trail bed through harsh terrain and sometimes rough, unstable soils and rocks, with various grades and numerous elevation changes and often a harsh desert climate. The Emery Henderson Trailhead is accessible with a paved parking area and hardened surfaces. Picnic facilities and restrooms are wheelchair accessible, although there are no specialized docks or loading ramps designed to assist in specialized mounting of horses or mountain bikes for visitors to use the trail. The Black Canyon City Trailhead contains a gravel parking area. There are no facilities.
Camping and Lodging:
Dispersed primitive camping is allowed on BLM public lands in Arizona along the trail for no more than 14 days within a 28 consecutive day period.  Camping and lodging opportunities exist in Black Canyon City, Anthem and Phoenix, as well as Cordes Lakes, Mayer, and towns along Highway 69.
Food and Supplies:
Food and supplies are available in Phoenix, Black Canyon City, Rock Spring, Prescott and areas in-between.
First Aid:
No first aid available on site.  The nearest medical facilities are John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital in north Phoenix (623-879-5351; 19829 N. 27th Ave.) or Yavapai Regional Medical Center in Prescott (928-455-2700; 1003 Willow Creek Road).  Cell phone coverage is limited in areas along the trail.

Additional Information:

  • The trail is recommended for use from November through April.  At other times of the year, the trail is seldom used.
  • Always tell a friend or relative where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Drinking water is not provided at either trailhead, so bring plenty of water.
  • The area is prone to heavy rains and flash floods in inclement weather and may hold waist deep water.  Do not attempt to cross flooded rivers or washes.
  • You may encounter venomous reptiles, including rattlesnakes and Gila Monsters which live in this environment.  Watch out for them and be careful where you put your hands and feet.  Do not harass reptiles.  Most bites result from people playing with, collecting or attempting to kill them.
  • Pets are allowed.
  • New River, Black Canyon City, Bumble Bee, and Cleater United State Geologic Survey topographic maps can be useful in this area.


Related Documents

Environmental Assessment & Travel Management Plan Underway

Fact Sheet & Trail Map

 Hassayampa Field Office 
21605 N. 7th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85027-2929
Phone: (623) 580-5500
Fax: (623) 580-5580
Field Manager:  Rem Hawes
Hours:  7:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m., M-F