Sunflower's just a good get out of dodge trail. For built rigs, it qualifies as a classic scenic Arizona creek trail and for lightly modified Jeeps, it still offers some beginners fun. You'll see this trail run by multiple clubs with 4 to 40 vehicles at different times of the year due to it's history, cooler air, and full leaved tree cover. We've run it in every season, from when the creek water's all but dry, flowing, rushing, and almost snowed over. For these reason's Sunflower remains as one of the classic Arizona trails everyone must do.


With our big Higher Ground Colorado trip adventure coming up, we've been keeping trails pretty low key as members squirrel away funds or spend their time with their tools buttoning everything up on their rigs. Member Daniel had had enough of that and knowing that his smaller Grand Cherokee couldn't quite lead a trip out to Table Mesa or anywhere too hard so Sunflower was decided upon.


Map Quad: Reno Pass


This medium trail proposal agreed with some of the larger rig drivers as it didn't fall into the assuredly breakable trail arena and they counted it as a good test area for their new parts before the long CO drive.

We ended up with 4 Jeeps and plenty of riders after the spectators peeled off when the first rocks started. This made for a nice quicker loop while allowing more stopping time to poke around in the mines and goof it up in the shade. We took about half a day to complete the 11 mile loop from our air down spot at the 201/25 split where the old 87 route used to pass through.

Sycamore Creek was only at a trickle this time around but some of the better pools were still full and clear as well as a few of the crossings. When actually running, this trail becomes more challenging as rubber fights the wet rocks for purchase. Alan on his 40" tires waited patiently as the grand (I refuse to put a capital G there) Cherokees made their way slowly though the rock gardens. As long as a driver is paying attention, there is always a way to place your tires on top of the rocks to make up for any clearance issues they may have, but armor is always recommended just in case. For lower vehicles, sliders on this trail are a must, and don't even think of taking something through with nerf bars through.

While many of us enjoy the old mines, we skipped the Sunflower/National Mecury Mine buildings since we had seen them plenty before. We led some newbies into the chilly and better mine down the road at 33 57' 35" N 111 29' 18" W  that goes into the hillside for decent ways and still has some track and an ore chute coming in from above. After that we progressed to the end of our route on the 25A. You may keep going about a mile more on the creek trail but it turns (rather unexpectedly) into a pack trail just past the old blue bus. After eating our lunch we took the long hill climb up the 3722 to complete the loop. It seems pertinent to mention that even though the hill out of the creek doesn't look like much, we've seen 2 Jeeps and 1 Xterra break rear spider gears here. It's pretty unimaginable once you've seen it, just go easy on the skinny pedal until you're up over the first hump and turning right and up.

The hill here seems to drag on forever but the views continue to increase keeping it interesting. You're done with the rock once you've left the creek; all that remains is dirt and some fun alternating side dips for your flex to play with. Almost as soon as you get to the top, it's back down again into the East Fork of Sycamore. Just before crossing the creek, there are two really nice mines 33 58' 02" N 111 27' 23" W (Oneida Mercury Mine Complex) to explore. While the one on the left will almost certainly have 6" of water on the floor for a stint, it's worth walking into as the tunnel extends 1500ft into the hillside. Just bring an extra pair of shoes if you want to make it to the colors at the rear. There is also an apple tree remaining where Chris Martin's 1920's cabin used to reside should you be there the right time of year and find it as we did Manmping.

One more hill climb and you're back on maintained road. This little section can be fun as it's pretty rutted up equaling tippines to some vehicles. As long as your 4 wheel drive is working and you have gas (ahem Alan) you'll be fine. At the top you get a few more views out over where you've been and towards the highway as you cruise back to your start.

Besides the gas incident, the other items to report this trip were one of Russ's control arm mounts which was already torn. It held through the trip but you could see it getting worked in the rocks. Also, Daniel added some dents to his sliderless rockers on the grand towards the end of the creek section were the rocks grow a little bigger. We had a good little group with rigs of extreme differences on this trip, but as stated before, Sunflower contains a good mix of family friendly scenic Arizona trailage with bonus creek shad on the side.

Previous Higher Ground Trips:

November 11, 2006

January 30, 2005

May 16, 2004

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