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Name: Sunflower Mine Author's Rating: (prior to the fire) - with the mill gone and the area ravaged by fire, I would downgrade my rating
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: (based on three user votes)
Type: 4WD Difficulty: - (Challenging 4WD Trail to Extreme Trail) - See Updated description since the fire
Time: 5 - 6 hours Region: NE Arizona
Length: 15 miles (roundtrip) Elevation gain/loss/change: +2940 / -2940 ft / +0 ft (roundtrip)
Type: Loop Avg Elevation: 4500 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: October, 2011
Short Description: An awesome 4WD trip to an old mercury mine
Geocaches: of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. Austin's First Cache; West Fork Sycamore; Brooklyn's Basement
References / Contact Information: Iron Miners; Pbase; Ghosttowns; Gosttown Forum; Trail Damage;
Points of interest: Old mercury mine/plant; great scenery; mines
Special Considerations: Isolated and difficult trail. Do not do this trail alone. Lots of old mines in this area, stay away from open mine shafts and be careful of mine tailings.
How to get there: From Phoenix, head north on Hwy 87 (S. Beeline Hwy). From Country Club Dr and Hwy 87, drive north almost 46 miles until you come to FR626 (a left turn at the divided highway). This is a west at sign for Sycamore Creek and Mt. Ord at mile marker 222.6. Caution: if you miss this turn, it is about another 8 miles until you can make a U-turn and retrace your steps. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

April 2014 Update: The trail has been opened once again since the fire in 2012. BUT, the trail past the wash has become extreme and dangerous.

Click here to see some pictures from the Virtual Jeep Club's recent trip out there.

Click here to go to the discussion of trail conditions, etc. on the Offroad Passport Forum.

This is a awesome and challenging 4WD trail to an old mercury mine and processing plant. The trip along the creek bed is absolutely beautiful and there's a bunch of interesting stuff to see and places to explore along the way. This is an isolated and difficult trail and should not be attempted alone.

General Information and History

April 2014 Update: It looks like the mercury mill has been dismantled and 95% of it taken away and is no longer there. What a shame. It was an awesome piece of Arizona history.

Sunflower Mine (also known as the National Mine). The National Mine was opened by a man named E.H. Bowman in 1911. He had intended to mine gold and silver, but instead found large amounts of cinnabar and malachite. Cinnabar is used in the production of mercury, which is used in the amalgation of gold.

From Mine-Engineer.com:
Cinnabar, a Mercury Sulfide, is the principal mineral of mercury. These minerals occur in veins, wide dissemination of irregular, sporadic mineralization without any pattern. Mercury is easy to recover from Cinnabar. Ore is crushed to typically 1" to 2" in size then sent to a kiln. Simply heating the ore in a kiln to 1,100 Deg. F, all of the mercury will vaporize into the kiln (mercury vaporizes at 675 deg F). The kiln vapors then must be condensed, by cooling, to recover the mercury, which becomes liquid at temperatures below 675 deg F and freezes solid at 2.8 Deg. F. Some free mercury in the ore can be recovered on Deister wet gravity concentration tables, also.

A large processing plant was built to convert the cinnabar to mercury and then they shipped it out by wagon and truck. The mine produced significant amount of mercury (and smaller amounts of gold and silver) from 1913 to 1965. The mine finally closed down in 1985.

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The Trail

April 2014 Update: The trail has been opened once again since the fire in 2012. BUT, the trail past the wash has become extreme and dangerous.

Click here to see some pictures from the Virtual Jeep Club's recent trip out there.

Click here to go to the discussion of trail conditions, etc. on the Offroad Passport Forum.

NOTE: The topo map used by National Geographic Topo software is out of date. It doesn't show the new Beeline Hwy re-alignment. Waypoint 001 is at the intersection of FR626 and S. Beeline Hwy. Turn west at sign for Sycamore Creek and Mt. Ord at mile marker 222.6.

This is FR626, but it is a paved road. Drive down this for about 1.2 miles, then turn right onto FR25 (Waypoint 002), a well-graded dirt road. Continue along this road for about another 1.2 miles, then turn left just past the cattle guard (Waypoint 003), to stay onto FR25.

This is a nice dirt road that travels along a sycamore lined wash along the left. There are a few nice camping spots along this section of the road. At Waypoint 004, there are a few foundations and an old road to the right. This road is closed to vehicular traffic, but you can walk along it for a while. We only took it for a short distance. There's a grave site a few hundred yards up this road. It's very beautiful back here. The topo map shows this continuing for a while to a possible ruin site, but we didn't visit it.

The road is still in good shape until you reach Waypoint 005. Keep going straight to be on FR25A (FR25 goes to the left). Now the road starts to deteriorate and get fun. At Waypoint 006, the trail splits. Left is the easier route. You can take either way, it joins back together shortly.

Now you will travel along a shelf road with a beautiful wash on the left. This is an easy, fun part of the trail. After about 1/2 a mile, you will come to some more challenging rock crossing in a wash. This is just a preview of what's coming after the mine. This is the easy stuff compared to what's ahead. If this is making you uneasy, then you should probably turn around after the mine.

Waypoint 007 is a nice, new metal bridge that crosses the wash. Continue straight. Waypoint 008 is a mine on the left. This is a neat old mine, but there were bats in the mine when we went through. Just after the mine, there is a short trail leading down to the wash. Here's an old building that's collapsed and an old truck that's been washed down the creek bed.

Keep driving until you reach Waypoint 009. Take a left to go up the hill to Sunflower Mine. At the top of the hill, you'll see ruins on the left. The trail to the left goes down to Sunflower Mine (Waypoint 009a). The road also continues straight, but we did not go on this road and I don't know where it leads. Take the left, go down the hill and park at the base of the Sunflower Mine. You can almost drive to the mine. There isn't a lot of room to turn around down there, so if you have lots of vehicles in your group, you may want to park at the top of the hill.

Enjoy Sunflower Mine. Lots of great stuff to see. Please be considerate of others who want to come and enjoy this area by not vandalizing or taking any items.

Retrace your steps to Waypoint 009. Between Waypoints 009 and 010 is probably the most difficult (also the most fun) portion of the trail. The wash has numerous boulder gardens to negotiate. High-clearance 4WD with 32" tires will bump and scrape, but should be able to get through. Long wheelbase vehicles and those with small tires may have issues.

Take a right, up a steep, rocky hill at Waypoint 010 on FR3721 (NOTE: The Well's book call this FR3722 which isn't correct). The next mile is almost a continuous, steep climb uphill. Lot's of baby head rocks to bump and slip on. Lot's of fun. Turn right at the T-intersection at Waypoint 011.

You are at the top of the mountain at Waypoint 012. There are a few roads leading off in either direction, but stay on the main road, FR201A (keep going straight). This is a great place to camp, with wonderful views and nice open areas.

Now it's time to go down the other side of what you just came up. Another split in the trail, the right split is easier. Continue down this shelf road until you reach Waypoint 013 at the bottom of the mountain. There are a few mines on the left just before Waypoint 013 and an old truck just off the road in the wash. Take a right after the wash crossing and up a slight hill. There are a couple of challenging washed out hills before you reach Waypoint 014. When we went, there were easier routes around the most challenging sections. For those who enjoy challenges, there are many different lines to attempt.

When you've reached Waypoint 014, congratulate yourself. You've done the hard stuff! Wasn't that a great trail? Now, take a right onto the well-graded FR201. There's an old corral at Waypoint 015 you can visit (also a nice camping spot with some great views). Continue down this road until you reach Waypoint 003 and retrace your steps out to Beeline Hwy.

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

More mines out there

I did this trail back in January [2012] of this year on a 2wd quad. Was very difficult getting across the creek areas that are small rock gardens. I just recently found another mine in the area off of 201 north of the 25 exit. More buildings at this one!

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