Ryal Canyon used to be a trail without a trailhead.
Thanks to a $211,000 motorized trail grant from Arizona State Parks and Trails, the Ryal Canyon Trailhead is now ready for folks to enjoy as they start – or finish – their 5.03-mile hike off Salt Mine Road just a few miles southeast of town.
“We identified it as a good candidate for a trailhead,” Camp Verde Economic Development Director Steve Ayers said recently. “It was the only U.S. Forest Service trail in the Verde Valley that began as a piece of private land.”
Ayers explained that in 2017, the state approached the property owner about selling a four-acre triangle of land where the trailhead now sits. The grant paid for the land and the trailhead.
“Ryal Trail has been part of a motorized trail network on the Prescott National Forest,” Ayers said. “We also realized it was being used by hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.”
In 2019, Camp Verde took possession of the land. In September – six months ahead of schedule – the trailhead was finished.
With a restroom, two picnic ramadas, charcoal BBQ grills and ADA-accessible trailhead amenities, Ryal Canyon Trailhead also has a hardened surface parking area with an interpretive panel with signage and eight maps.
“While building the trailhead, a hiking club from Cave Creek came up to hike it one day,” Ayers said. “They were fascinated with the white cliffs around it. We worked with Laura Koller, had her draw the interpretive panel.”
Employed by the U.S. Forest Service as forestry technician, Koller has also served as volunteer groundskeeper for the Clear Creek Cemetery Association since July. In September, Koller finished work on the trailhead’s interpretive panel.
The multi-modal trail is for motorized and non-motorized users, Ayers said. Ryal Canyon Trail is a difficult trek, according to Camp Verde Economic Development Specialist Jessica Bryson.
“It’s a typical forest service trail where you climb aggressively and then you reach a bench. Then there’s another climb and then another bench,” Bryson said.
Ryal Canyon Trail is not, as they say, for the faint of heart. After you pass through the U.S. Forest Service boundary gate at the trailhead, a level one-quarter mile trek then becomes a 600-foot climb up the side of the canyon over the next one-half mile.
The trail then levels before you make another steep and rocky climb.
Bryson explained that this pattern continues for the remainder of the 2.5-mile trail, which intersects with the Box-T Trail (No. 511). Once you reach that point, you will have climbed about 1,678 feet.
Ayers explained that Ryal Canyon Trail is the first component to what Camp Verde now calls its new Urban Upland Trail System.
Because of limited shade, the Town of Camp Verde recommends hiking the trail during fall, winter, and spring.
Ryal Canyon Trail is at 2425 S. Salt Mine Road, accessible off Oasis Road at State Road 260. Follow the signs for Copper Canyon Trailhead. Pass Forest Service Road 136 (for Copper Canyon Trailhead). At the stop sign, turn right onto Salt Mine Road and continue two miles to the large trailhead on the right.
Allow three to six hours for the round-trip hike.
Parts of the trail “cling eerily close to the edges of the canyon, and those ambitious enough to tackle this fierce workout are rewarded with beautiful views of the San Francisco Peaks, Sedona, Camp Verde, and the Verde River greenbelt,” Bryson said. “Despite Ryal’s difficulty, the views get better with each step, and an array of desert vegetation and various desert wildlife remind you of the trails remote and peaceful locale.”
Bryson also explained that because of the trail’s steep nature, the return trip down to the trailhead is equally as challenging.
“The rocky ground requires conscious foot placement with each step,” Bryson said. “However, because you are now able to breathe, you have the opportunity to truly appreciate the scenery and challenge that you have just completed.”
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @AZShutterbug42