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Name: Temporal Gulch (FR72) Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Easy 4WD for Temporal Gulch alone)
(Moderate for FR72A)
Time: 3 - 5 hours (Temporal Gulch alone), add another 3 hours or more for FR72A Region: SE Arizona
Length: 24.5 miles (roundtrip for Temporal Gulch), add about 9 more miles for FR72A Elevation gain/loss/change: +2128 / -2128 ft / +0 ft (roundtrip)
Type: Out and back Avg Elevation: 5000 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: Medium
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: January, 2011
Short Description: This is a great, easy 4WD trip down in the Santa Rita Mountains to a hidden spot of natural tanks
Geocaches: of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. The Pools; Walker Canyon in AZ; Temporal Canyon
References / Contact Information: Temporal Gulch Trail: Arizona Backcountry Adventures; Arizona Trail Association; Expeditions West
Points of interest: Walker Tanks (the pools); access to hiking trails; old mines; Mansfield Canyon; Patagonia
Special Considerations: 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.

Trail Description

This is a great easy, 4WD trail that takes you from the desert up into the pines of the Santa Rita Mountains. There are numerous side trips that can be taken on this trail. I've detailed one (FR72A). The trail ends up at some nice natural "tanks" up at the Upper Walker Tank. This is a great spot for a picnic. There are numerous places to explore and camp along this trail. This makes a great family adventure.

General Information and History

I’ve been on the trail about five times and I always find new things and places to explore. I had heard that a few years ago the trail (which I had always considered a very easy 4WD trail) had been severely damaged in a flash flood after the area was ravaged by a fire. I had read posts that a few of the wash crossings were impassible after the flood. Before our latest trip, I’d attempted to get some up-to-date information on the trail, but nothing was conclusive. We set out in January, 2011 not knowing what to expect.

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The Trail

The trail starts at the north end of Patagonia, just south of the Patagonia High School. If you're coming from Sonoita, turn right (north) on 1st Avenue. This is a small residential street. Don't worry, it's the right one.

Stay on the main road and shortly it will turn into Temporal Road. At about Waypoint 002, the pavement turns to a well-graded dirt road.This road is usually in very good condition. Drive north along the dirt road, there are some roads that shoot off in both directions (stay on the main trail). At Waypoint 002A (about 2.4 miles from the trailhead), you enter Coronado National Forest land.

After about 6.5 miles, you will come to the Arizona Trailhead (Waypoint 003). Up to this point, the trail can typically be accessed by most passenger cars or high-clearance vehicles, however, to finish out the trail you will need a four-wheel drive vehicle. Just beyond this point, there's some interesting rock formations on your left that are fun to explore on foot.

At Waypoint 003A, keep straight on the main road past FR4094. You will shortly see a small metal building (recent structure) and windmill to your right. This is private property, please stay off these structures.

At Waypoint 004, keep going straight to stay on Temporal Gulch. A left takes you on FR72A (we'll come back to this later). There's some nice places to camp around here as you crisscross the wash for the next few miles. On one trip, my family and I were lucky enough to witness a real roundup, using horses and dogs. It was very cool.

Waypoint 005 is the trailhead for the Temporal Gulch hiking trail. I have not been on this trail, but I hear it's nice. Keep on the main road as you pass Waypoints 005A and 005B (FR4090). I have never been on this road, but I have heard it doesn't go anywhere. You'll need to open (then close) at least one gate along this portion of the trail.

The last portion of the trail is great. You finally get up into the pines. You can drive all the way to Waypoint 006 (Upper Walker Tank). My suggestion is to park here, take a break and explore the dam and natural water tanks that are on your left.

The 4WD trail appears to continue on from this point. It does, for a short distance (until it reaches the wilderness area). I have not continued on this trail, but I have seen the results of doing so. It’s rough and you’ll probably have to back down. I warned a guy in a Tacoma, but he ignored me and went up there anyway. 15-minutes later, he was backing down with some minor damage to his vehicle. The parking area near the tanks easily holds 4-5 vehicles.

The dam used to have about a six foot drop to the ground on the other side. This was entirely filled in by debris from the flash flood that had damaged the road a while back. The road, at least for this trip, was in great shape. In the winter, this area gets some decent snow. We had a great snowball fight during this latest trip.

After lunch, turn around and head back down the way you came. If you're ready for some more adventure, take a right at Waypoint 004 onto FR72A.

This road is rougher than the Temporal Gulch road. You will mostly transverse a shelf road with a nice view into the canyon on your left. Open and close the gates. At Waypoint 007, take a left down the track down the hill. There are some foundations just beyond this intersection and FR72A will take you up to Dixie Mine if you wish to go. I've only been as far as the Dixie Mine (Waypoint 008), but the road continues after that. In my opinion, the road to Dixie Mine wasn't worth the additional time spent on the trail.

After Waypoint 007, you will head down into Mansfield Canyon. This is a truly beautiful area. At the bottom of the canyon (Waypoint 009), the trail ends fairly quickly (though there are remnants in both directions that go for a while).

When I first visited this area in 2004, there was a nice cabin at Waypoint 010. When we went there in January, 2011, I was going to show this to the rest of the people in my group. We parked in a fairly large open area by a cattle tank and went walking in search of the cabin. We passed the area where I thought it was and nothing was there. I thought my GPS and my mind were lying to me, so we continued to walk down the canyon.

After a while, I Knew we had passed it and we turned around. We came back to the spot my GPS said it was and we found just the remains of a portion of the foundation (with a huge boulder in the center) and a few scattered boards from one of the out buildings.

I'm not sure what exactly happened, but the cabin and surrounding area could have been damaged (or completely destroyed) by the fire (there were some burned boards nearby) and then it was washed away in the flood. If anyone has any information on this, I would appreciate you letting me know.

Once you've explored this area, go back to Temporal Gulch Rd and return to Patagonia. If you have time, Patagonia is a nice little town to explore.

Whatever you decide to do, have fun and be safe!

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Member Comments

Great trail!

February 11, 2012: Excellent write up! Had lots of fun on the trail.

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