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Name: Juniper Flat (FR72A) Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Moderate 4WD) - See Update Below
Time: 4 - 6 hours Region: SE Arizona
Length (all one way): FR72A: 7.6 miles
Mansfield 1: 1.64 miles
Mansfield 2: 1.1 miles
Elevation gain/loss/change (one way): FR72A: +2585 / -430 ft / +2155 ft
Mansfield 1: +71 / -831 ft / - 760 ft
Mansfield 2: +16 / -398 ft / - 382 ft
Type: Out and back Avg Elevation: 6000 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: August, 2012
Short Description: A trail in the Santa Rita Mountains to a hunting cabin and down to a beautiful canyon
Geocaches: Lots of Geocaches in the area, here's just a few: Temporal Canyon; The Pools; Hog Heaven
References / Contact Information: Temporal Gulch Trail: Arizona Backcountry Adventures; Arizona Trail Association; Expeditions West
Points of interest: Hunting cabin, Temporal Gulch, Mansfield Canyon, Dixie Mine, Hosey Mine
Special Considerations: Trail is located in illegal immigrant and smuggler high traffic area, see page regarding warning (it's not as bad as it sounds). Lots of old mines in this area, stay away from open mine shafts and be careful of mine tailings.
How to get there: From Tucson, take I-10 east to exit 281, then drive 12 miles south on Hwy 83 to Sonoita (25.5 miles). Turn right on Hwy 82, drive 12 miles to Patagonia until you reach Waypoint 001. Turn right on 1st Avenue. Click here for directions. Follow the Temporal Gulch trail to Waypoint 001 (7.5 miles).

Trail Description

NOTE: See recent updates from Experience Arizona subscribers in comments below.

This is an moderate 4x4 trail in the Santa Rita Mountains just north of Patagonia. The trail is a spur trail off the popular Temporal Gulch Trail. The trail leads to up to an awesome open area with an old cabin called Juniper Flat.

You can also take a few side trails down to Mansfield Canyon. This is a beautiful canyon that usually has water in it. Another cabin that was in really nice shape used to be down there, but fire/flood have almost completely taken it away in the last few years. Nevertheless, it's still worth the trip.

General Information and History

I believe this cabin is an old hunting cabin, but I don't have any information on it.

History of Patagonia from Patagoniaaz.com:

The histories of Patagonia, Sonoita, and Elgin are as colorful as their sunsets and as rich as the ore that came from local mines. Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans, ranchers, miners, and Jesuit priests have all inhabited this land over the past five hundred years.

Native Americans and Spanish Missions
The area's original inhabitants were Native Americans who found that the lush area along the Sonoita and Harshaw Creeks provided ideal living conditions with plentiful hunting and fishing opportunities. In 1539, Spanish explorer Fray Marcos de Niza entered the area near present-day Lochiel on the Mexican border. A century and a half later, the Jesuit priest Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino traveled through the region, establishing missions and mapping the territory.

Spanish records indicate that in 1698 Father Eusebio Francisco Kino encouraged his group to leave the San Pedro River and make their way up to Sonoita Creek. There they encountered clusters of indigenous people living along Sonoita Creek in Patagonia, and in 1701, Kino designated Sonoita as one of his visitas (overnight houses located between full-fledged missions). The area then became part of the Mission at Guevavi.

Gadsen Purchase Invites Prospecting and Land Use
1851 saw the historic visitation of U.S. Boundary Commissioner John R. Bartlett, who was one of the first to publish descriptions of the Sonoita Valley. He designated it too dangerous and impassible for inhabitants, and suggested the U.S. boundary lie farther north. But by 1853, the Gadsen Purchase made the southeastern corner of Arizona, then the northern part of Mexico, part of the United States. The vast Spanish land grants began to break up as Easterners moved west to homestead and ranch.

In the late 1850s, prospectors mined the silver-rich mountains east of Sonoita and the boom was on. The Patagonia Mountains were filled with rich ore bodies, and by the 1860s, the mining industry procured vast amounts of silver and lead each year. The growth of mining towns such as Mowry, Harshaw, Washington Camp, and Duquesne reflect the extent of the mining boom that last until the early part of the 20th century.

Railroads Connect Miners and Attract Ranchers
The Mountain Empire got a big boost when the New Mexico & Arizona Railroad connected the area to Mexico in 1882. The villages of Sonoita (known then as the Sonoita Settlement) and Elgin came into being with the arrival of the Benson-to-Nogales Railway, which at one point had three daily stops in Patagonia. Despite the dangers of Apache raids, prospectors headed west to mine silver, gold, lead, copper, and other minerals. Ranchers thrived in Sonoita's rich grasslands and the railroads allowed as many as 3,000 head of cattle a day to be shipped to the East.

The End of an Era
A direct rail line from Tucson to Nogales, Sonora, as well as the decline in mining activity, cattle shipping, and population caused segments of the New Mexico & Arizona Railroad to be abandoned between 1926 and 1962. In July 1929, after the tracks were washed out near Patagonia, the bridges were salvaged and the rails picked up between Flux Siding and Patagonia (about four miles of track).

The last ore was shipped to the smelter in 1960, and the last of the original railroad line was removed in 1962. The Patagonia Station grounds were donated to the Town of Patagonia and made into a Town Park. The Patagonia Depot was sold in about 1950 to a local businessman, but a local Rotarian purchased it from him. After the Patagonia-Sonoita Club's partial restoration, the Town purchased the building, which still serves as the Town Hall.

Today, the mining camp ghost towns of Harshaw, Mowry, Washington Camp, and Duquesne bear mute testimony to the boom days of yesteryear. Cattle ranches, no longer the vast spreads of the early days, still remain a vital part of the economy and culture. Fourth and fifth generation ranchers and miners still live in the area, as do newcomers such as artists and retirees. Residents have restored historic buildings, and many are in use today....constant reminders of the boom years of yesterday.

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The Trail

The trail begins 7.5 miles up the Temporal Gulch trail at Waypoint 001. Take a left onto FR72A. You will immediately begin to climb up Piper Gulch. There are a few gates to open and close and Mansfield Canyon will be on your left. A few mines sprinkle the area around the trail (you will see the Mansfield Group Mine off to your right).

After 2.3 miles, you will come to a junction. A left takes you down to Mansfield Canyon (#2), straight will keep you on track for going to Juniper Flat. Mansfield Canyon #2 will be covered later. For now, continue going straight.

Just after (a hundred feet or so) the turn to Mansfield Canyon, you will come to a small pass. On your left will be some concrete foundations. Maybe from pumps?? It's a nice area to get out and stretch for five minutes.

Usually this portion of the trail is very easy, the next part of the trail I have seen from easy to more challenging. The last time we took it, the trail was super easy (had recently been worked). The time before, it was much more challenging (a 3/5 rating). I guess you just never know.

Keep straight on the trail and follow the shelf road for about 0.7 miles (Waypoint 003) until you reach Dixie Mine (it will be obvious). This section of the trail used to be washed out badly and was much more difficult than the last time we ran it. Get out and explore the tailings, there are some nice views from on top (walk, don't drive the last 50 feet).

If you would rather keep going, take the very sharp turn to the right just before you get to the mine tailings. I can't make this (or choose not to) with my 4dr Jeep in one turn. Drive 1.37 miles until you reach another left turn (Waypoint 004). This is Mansfield Canyon #1 (also covered later). For now, keep going straight.

There is some really beautiful scenery here. We saw a rafter of turkeys. Yes, I looked it up. I had never head of a "rafter" before. My guess is that there were 7-10 big birds. They let us get within 10-15 feet of them. What wonderful creatures. It was fantastic.

Keep driving for another 0.83 miles until you reach Waypoint 005. This is Juniper Flat. You will see the cabin off to your right. It's a great place to camp or have a picnic. Be careful and considerate. Don't trash the cabin or the surrounding area.

You can continue on if you would like, but the route we took was not worth the effort. If you decide to go, follow the trail around the cabin and travel another 0.8 miles until you reach another intersection (Waypoint 006). We choose to go left. It was VERY brushy and there was nothing of interest. At the end was a small parking/turn (Waypoint 007) around area with OK views, but the thick brush eliminated most of it. We did not go right, but I do know it's a dead end. When you're ready, turn around and head back the way you came. Retrace your path all the way back or do some more exploring down in Mansfield Canyon.

Mansfield Canyon #1

From FR72A, turn south onto trail at Waypoint 004. Almost immediately, the trail gets overgrown and brushy. You will follow a shelf road as it goes down into the canyon. It wasn't difficult, just overgrown and a little brushy in spots when we went.

After about 1 mile, you will come to a large tailing spot (Waypoint 008) at Hosey Mine. You may even be able to smell it before you get there. The sulpher (I believe that's what it was), was very strong and enough to make a chemical sensitive person like me a little sick. That didn't mean I wasn't going to do a little exploring :-). There's some cool metal boiler parts, foundations, etc. in the area. Well worth the trip.

If you want you can continue on, but for me, unless you want to try and go further than we did, I would just turn around here. If you decide to press on, keep going for another 1/2 mile or so (Waypoint 009). You will see a faint trail leading further down into the canyon of your left. A large tree had fallen across the trail making it impassible without a lot of work when we went. We continued straight. After a short distance, we came to a earthen dam, and cattle tank (Waypoint 010). A hunter said one of the pieces came from an old aircraft? Maybe...

The path across the dam looked extremely sketchy. If you made a mistake, it would be a 15' drop as you rolled your vehicle a few times before you got to the bottom. Looking at Google Earth, I think this trail ends after a 1/2 to a mile anyway. The trail does continue on with a sharp switchback to the right (which we did not take). I believe this trail may go on for a while, but not sure if it's worth it. Anyway, we turned around here and headed back.

Mansfield Canyon #2

From Waypoint 002, head south down into the canyon. It's about 0.8 miles until you reach the canyon bottom (Waypoint 011). A few years ago, this used to be much more difficult (I had to use my locker in my Tacoma to get up a washed out hill). The canyon is very beautiful with large trees and every time I have gone, there was water running in it.

There's a great place to park shortly after you get down in the bottom. You can hike to Waypoint 012. This is where the cabin used to be. It is now 99% gone, except for some small foundations. We found evidence of a large flood and a fire. Not sure which one came first or caused the demise of the cabin, but sad nonetheless. If you walk down the canyon, you will notice there are other roads in the area, but these are for boots, not tires. We have also seen some really big bear prints in the snow down there. When you're done, head back the way you came in.

Whatever you decide, have fun and be safe!

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Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here. You can also rate this adventure by clicking here.

Member Comments

May 30, 2016:

The wife and I went up to Temporal Gulch yesterday and wanted to mention that FR72A has been improved by the USFS. All the rough washed out areas have been bladed by a bulldozer from the start to well beyond the Dixie Mine to the end of the road. Any four wheel drive with 33” tires will have no problems with this leg.

April 21, 2015:

On 4/21/15 I decided to check out Juniper Flat. I did make it to the site (the building is still there), but there were a couple things to note...

The rut the previous poster wrote about is located approximately .6 miles from waypoint two while your climbing a hill. I was able to navigate over it with my stock 2012 Jeep Rubicon using 4 low. I would think if you had a high clearance 4x4 vehicle, decent off road tires, and a spotter thrown in for good measure, it shouldn't be too difficult. There are still a lot loose rocks on that hill, so some 4x4 experience is probably needed.

After that hill the rest of the trail to Juniper Flat was easy. Also, while I was headed down Mansfield Canyon #1, aka 4091 (the trail off of waypoint 4), there was a large dead tree on the trail making it impossible to proceed any further. I was able to do an eight point turn in my Jeep, but that was after backing up about 100 feet or so as the trail is very narrow and on the side of a hill. The deadfall is only .4 miles from waypoint 4, so if you insist on checking out the canyon, I would hike down to see if the tree is still there or not. A lot of the trail to Juniper Flat and both Mansfield Canyons are overgrown, so some minor scratches will occur.

Was an enjoyable trip for sure. Thanks for the site, I'm having fun exploring AZ!


December 22, 2013:
I just wanted to update you, I went out to Juniper Flat yesterday and found a huge rut followed by a pretty good sized cliff about a mile or 2 from the cabin (so after the route down into Mansfield canyon) that neither my 3 inch lifted XJ or my buddy's lifted Grand Cherokee could clear. I dont have technical problems with your moderate trails usually so until the cliff is fixed, that plus a pretty good amount of loose rocks in the area make me think it should be closer to a 3 out of 5.

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