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Nelson Trail #159


Nelson Trail #159 was originally a service trail for the livestock industry. It now serves as one in a network of trails traversing the Pine Mountain Wilderness. It connects with Willow Springs Trail #12, Pine Mountain Trail #14, Verde Rim Trail #161, and Pine Flat Trail #165, providing excellent opportunities for extended backpacking trips within this remote area. The lowest portions of the Nelson Trail #159 stay mainly in chaparral vegetation, but ponderosa pine forest characterizes the area between the trailhead and Bishop Spring. There is ample shade where this trail passes alongside Sycamore Creek. Yellow columbine and wild roses grow along the banks, blooming in the spring and summer. From the creek, the trail turns southeast, climbing steadily to its intersection with Trail #14, known as the Cloverleaf. Pine Mountain Wilderness, designated by Congress in 1972, boasts a diversity of animal inhabitants. It is not unusual to encounter white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and javelina. Though seldom seen, black bear are also common in this area.

This trail lies within the Pine Mountain Wilderness. Motor vehicles and the use of any mechanized equipment, including bicycles, are prohibited. Wilderness is an important resource and national heritage—please, leave no trace. Although there may be water present along the trail, it has not been tested for quality.


Printable Trail Description and Map (613 KB PDF; 8.5” X 11”)

At a Glance

Fees No
Open Season: Spring - Fall
Usage: Medium
Closest Towns: Approximately 1 hour from I-17
Water: Not available. Surface water should be treated.

General Information


Beginning at I-17, take Dugas Exit #268. Turn right onto Dugas Road (also FR 68) and travel 6.7 miles to the Dugas homestead. Continue on FR 68 for another 2.3 miles to a fork in the road. Bear right to remain on FR 68 and go 1.8 miles to the junction with FR 68G. Turn right to remain on FR 68 and continue 6.9 miles to Salt Flat Campground and the trailhead for Trail #71 and Trail #159. There is parking for 5-10 vehicles.  FR 68 is graded dirt. A high clearance vehicle is recommended. As of May 2011, FR 68 was recently maintained and in good condition. 4WD may be necessary when the road is wet.

General Notes:



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  Area/Length : 
8.7 miles

  Elevation : 
6,070 feet