Off-Road Trails – Northwestern Arizona, Part 2

Apr. 16, 2013 By Jim Brightly, KF7SCT

Northwestern Arizona Trails, Part 2 Cont.

Steve Strain, Ghost Town Jamboree co-chair, likes taking the more adventurous bypasses.

Secret Pass
This is another one of my favorite trails, and one of the more challenging ones. I really enjoy introducing it to four wheelers who have recently moved into the area. It has outstanding scenery, extremely technical spots on the trail (rated 3 to 3.5), and overnight camping spots. In my mind, its only downside is that it is an in-and-out trail—in other words, you can only take it to its end at an 8-foot dry waterfall and then return by the same route.

This is the power line hill I mentioned in the text around which you hang a left and enter a shallow arroyo full of S-turns—or you can drive up and over the hill as we did.

This trail screams at you to take pictures; this is one trail on which you definitely want to take a camera! But don’t go alone; you may need a tug or two (especially if you don’t have lockers).

The first “gatekeeper” is a few off-camber solid rocks followed by a series of stair steps downward.

This trail is also off SR68—way off—in Golden Valley. Go south off SR68 on Egar Road, then turn right on Bolsa Drive (at the water tank) and take Bolsa to its end. Turn left on the dirt road that follows the fence line; at the cattle guard, turn westward again (this is also a good point to air down).

Duke is sliding down the second gatekeeper. If you can negotiate both of these gatekeepers—up and down—you’ll enjoy the rest of Secret Pass.

Continue on this road westward around the base of a hillside on your right until it drops into a well-traveled sandy wash. Cross the sandy wash at a right-hand diagonal (in the military we’d say “right oblique”) until you can leave the wash on a dirt road westward. Keep an eye on the hills to the left of the trail for the high-tension power lines, and as soon as the power lines drop down off the hill curve around the base of the hill to the left. Follow this shallow arroyo track through several series of S-turns—ignoring all the branching trails—until the trail comes to a “Y” at the base of a hill. Take the right fork—the left fork dead-ends at the wilderness boundary shortly—which circles around the base of the hill for a ways and then it enters a steep and sharp arroyo downward.

Just one of the many spots along the Secret Pass trail that cries out for pictures.

Follow this trail until you see a hitching rail with several horseshoes welded to it and a kiosk or signboard. At this point you’ll want to engage your hubs and select low range in your transfer case. This is the first of two “gatekeepers,” and you’re now entering Secret Pass. Secret Pass was named in the 1800s because the local Indians would use this pass to avoid the US Cavalry when returning to the Colorado River after a raid in the Kingman area. The troopers would use Union Pass to the north and had no idea that Secret Pass even existed, so the Indians always avoided capture.

Gale’s XJ is taking the only available line through the notch on the way back from end of trail.

The first gatekeeper is an off-camber notch over solid rock with some fairly steep stair steps downward. The second gatekeeper is just down the trail, around a left turn and it’s a doozy. It’s a 5-foot vertical dry waterfall that’s been built up over the years with a pile of rocks and small boulders. If you can make it through both gatekeepers, and have no fear about climbing them on the way out, you’ll be able to enjoy the rest of Secret Pass—that’s why the obstacles are called gatekeepers. Just follow the trail for a few miles to where it dead-ends at the top of the eight-foot dry waterfall I mentioned earlier. (The first portion of these directions is in the Vega book; however, the directions stop at the first gatekeeper.)

Duke’s making his way back up the second gatekeeper.

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