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Ben Avery Trail
Eagletail Mountains Wilderness
February 27, 2022
by Stan Bindell
  GPS Map 
by Kevin Edwards
Group at Courthouse Rock. [photo by Li]
Li, Terry, Chris, Kevin, Tom, Anna, Michael, Ron, Terry K, Debbie, Stan

Petroglyphs and rock formations were the highlight of the Ben Avery Trail in the Eagletail Mountains Wilderness, as 11 Arizona Trailblazers made the trek February 27.

The 97,880 acre Eagletail Mountains Wilderness, which is managed by the BLM, was established in 1990. Eagletail Mountains Wilderness is about 65 miles from Phoenix and Courthouse Rock, which is near where the trail begins, can be seen from I-10.

Eagletail Mountains Wilderness is considered moderate sized for Arizona wilderness areas.

Only one other vehicle was at the trailhead. [photo by Kevin]
Trailblazers on the Ben Avery Trail. [photo by Tom]
Metate, used for grinding grain. [photo by Kevin]

Despite its closeness to Phoenix, Eagletail Mountains Wilderness doesn’t get many visitors because it takes high clearance vehicles to get in. On this day, only one other vehicle was at the trailhead aside from our vehicles.

Caves and lizards are two other enticements for this trail, which is named after famed outdoor writer Ben Avery.

But the biggest highlight of the trail is the petroglyphs found at Indian Springs, which is about three miles into the hike. The petroglyphs are plentiful at Indian Gardens.

Li inspects the petroglyphs. [photo by Kevin]
Climbing at Indian Springs. [photo by Kevin]
Climbing at Indian Springs. [photo by Li]
Kevin and Debbie at Indian Springs. [photo by Li]
The BLM reports there are:
Two distinct styles of Petroglyphs, Western Archaic and Gila are identifiable in the Indian Spring Area. The Western Archaic Style is identified by rectilinear designs such as grids, ladders, zig zags, beehives and bull’s eyes. These are the most in the area, indicating long and intense use by Archaic peoples from about 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1. The Gila Style, common to the Hohokam peoples after A.D. 500, includes abstract curvilinear designs, and human and animal forms. The lithic scatters, stone mortars, and hunting blinds found in this area indicate that the Eagletail Mountains also provided an abundance of resources that were relatively scarce in the desert.

Aside from the petroglyphs, there are ancient dance areas and sleep circles. The Hohokam to the south, the Yavapai to the north and the Palayan to the west, were among the ancients who lived here.

Inspecting the petroglyphs. [photo by Tom]
Ancient petroglyphs. [photo by Li]
Ancient petroglyphs juxtaposed with lichens. [photo by Kevin]

Mini water pools, about a foot around, were found around Indian Springs. One interesting spot here had a cactus, palo verde tree and jojoba bush growing together.

The book Hiking Arizona by Bruce Grubbs, rates the Ben Avery Trail as easy because it only goes up in elevation from 1,598 feet to 2,053 feet. But this can be deceptive as you’re constantly in and out of washes, so we came up with more than 2,000 feet in workout.

The terrain is desert wilderness which includes giant saguaro cacti, bursage and creosote bush, and ironwood, palo verde and mountain tea trees. A few oaks and junipers can found at the higher levels on Eagletail Mountain.

Barrel cacti. [photo by Kevin]
On the way to the Western Natural Arches. [photo by Tom]
Almost to the Western Natural Arches. [photo by Kevin]
Group at the Western Natural Arches. [photo by Li]

You could feel alone on this trail, but you will not be because of the wildlife and birds. You are most likely to see mule deer, but the other wildlife in Eagletail Mountains Wilderness include Desert bighorn sheep, kit fox, coyote, mountain lion, gila monster, black-tailed jack rabbit, Zebra-tailed lizard and round-tailed ground squirrel.

We passed a roadrunner going into the trail. The other birds here include Gambel’s quail, white-winged dove, Loggerhead Shrike, red-tailed hawk. Wilson’s Warbler, and Western Tanager. Rattlesnakes are known to come out in warmer weather.

Cholla skeleton. [photo by Kevin]
Landscape of the Eagletail Mountains. [photo by Li]
Michael led the hike capably. [photo by Tom]

Eagletail Mountains Wilderness is open year-round, but the BLM warns against hiking in the summer when temperatures can be over 120.

Thanks to Michael Humphrey for leading another great hike!

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated March 3, 2022