Arizona, Schell Canyon Trail

Schell Canyon Trail

State: Arizona
Location: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Length, One-Way: 2.8 miles
Trail Type: Out and Back
Minimum Elevation: 7500 feet
Maximum Elevation: 8620 feet
Best Season: May to October
Difficulty: Difficult
Usage: Light

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Trail Information

Hiking this woodland wilderness trail could be described as a double-barreled experience. First, you’ll pass some marvelous scenery along the access route to the trailhead. Then there is the rugged canyon, native trout fishing and picturesque campsites that Schell Canyon Trail itself provides access to in the Bear Wallow Wilderness. To get to the Schell Canyon trailhead you must travel about 3 miles of the Rose Spring Trail #309. That trail follows the dramatic 1500 foot escarpment that forms the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The view that this prodigious dropoff offers of the canyons and mountains to the south is one of the most expansive in Arizona.

After thrilling you with those magnificent overlooks, the Schell Trail takes you into the heart of the Bear Wallow Wilderness. Within this 11,000 acre area you’ll pass through an alpine forest of mixed conifers and aspens as the trail leaves the rim and begins dropping into the Bear Wallow drainage. Tall ponderosa pines and canyon hardwoods shade the South Fork of Bear Wallow Creek, which the trail crisscrosses on its way to the floor of the main canyon. Schell Canyon Trail ends at its junction with Bear Wallow Trail, from which point you can return the way you came (and get another look at those views) or continue down Bear Wallow Creek where a number of streamside campsites provide excellent prospects for an overnight camp or an extended stay. A little-used and unmaintained spur of Schell Canyon Trail leads up the South Fork of Bear Wallow Creek providing opportunities for further exploration in that direction.

Even more variations on this same hike are possible if you set up a shuttle or leave a mountain bike at either the Bear Wallow, Reno, or Gobbler trailheads. Then you can return by way of those trails to put together a loop hike of about the same length as a down and back hike along Schell Trail. The ride between Rose Spring trailhead and the Bear Wallow Trail is 10 miles, to Gobbler Point it’s 15 miles.


Drive south on US 191 approximately 29 miles to Forest Road 54. Head 5.9 miles west on FR 54 to a fork in the road. Proceed through the gate along the right fork about 0.6 miles to the end of the road. The Rose Spring Trail begins 20 yards below the parking area at a signed gate in the fence. Follow this trail about 3 miles to the junction marked by a sign where the Schell Trail branches off to the north. The Schell Trail is also accessible from the Bear Wallow Trail at the bottom of Bear Wallow Canyon. Campers along that stream use the trail for a scenic day hike to the Mogollon Rim and back.

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