Hiking Guide to Black Canyon National Recreational Trail: Drinking Snake Segment   

Mare CzinarMarch 12, 2021
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  • The Black Canyon National Recreational Trail is an 80+ mile route that runs from the Carefree Highway in Phoenix to the State Route 169 near the Town of Mayer.
  • The trail has been in use since ancient times and has been used as a Native American trade route, livestock driveway and the main wagon road between Phoenix and the Prescott area.  The development of State Route 69 and Interstate 17 from the 1930s to the 1970s moved traffic to the east and the old Black Canyon Trail began to fade into oblivion. 
  • After decades of neglect, a multi-agency effort to scope, locate and designate the Black Canyon Trail as a non-motorized recreational pathway began in the 1960s The first sections in Maricopa County were completed in 1992.  
  • Since then the trail continues to be improved and extended. Plans are in the works to extend the trail north through Prescott National Forest into the Verde Valley and several miles of trail north of the Big Bug trailhead in Mayer are already open for use including the 13+ mile Copper Mountain Loop.  
  • The Black Canyon Trail is recognized as a National Recreation Trail.  This prestigious federal designation celebrates the trail’s historic significance and positive impacts on Arizona’s outdoor recreation opportunities, tourism and economic development.  
  • Black Canyon Trail Coalitiona non-profit organization established to create, maintain and promote the trail dubbed the route “Arizona’s Outback”. 


  • The 4.8mile Drinking Snake Segment is one of the most scenic and remote-feeling stretch of the trail. It begins roughly 3 miles south of State Route 69 and 4 miles west of Interstate 17. 
  • This segment runs through Bureau of Land Management territory at the edge of Black Canyon where the Bradshaw Mountains rise to the west. 
  • It winds through hilly backcountry around Antelope Creek before emerging on the open rangeland overlooking the gaping gorge of Black Canyon 500 feet below.   
  • Most of the segment stays around 4,000 feet in elevation. 
  • Midway through, the trail passes a rustic windmill and corral area near Dripping Spring.  

LENGTH: 4.8 miles one-way 

RATING: easy 

ELEVATION: 3,932 – 4,220 feet 


Spring Valley Trailhead: 

From Interstate 17, take the Bloody Basin Road exit 259, go 3.3 miles west (Crown King Road, Forest Road 259) to the ghost town of Cordes, turn right (north) Antelope Creek Road (County Road 74) and continue 3 miles to the trailhead on the left at Forest Road 9218A. Roads are sedan-friendly dirt/gravel. 


Bureau of Land Management

Black Canyon Trail Coalition 


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