Bonanza Bill Trail (# 23 ) is one of the main trails offering access to the remote eastern reaches of the Blue Primitive Area. In addition to traversing a good portion of this country on its own, Bonanza Bill serves as a connector between several other trails leading into this beautiful, wild country.
Like all Wilderness and Primitive Area trails, Bonanza Bill Trail is open to hiking and horseback riding, but motorized and mechanized travel is prohibited.
The trail is named for Bonanza Bill Point, which stands out as one of the more prominent features along the route. This easy to follow pathway snakes along a divide that separates the canyons of the Blue and San Francisco Rivers. It sets a course through ponderosa pine stands so open and clear of undergrowth that in places someone from the brushy forests of the east might swear it is maintained by crews of meticulous gardeners. Of course, that's not true, openness is a natural characteristic of a ponderosa pine forest, especially one that is as dry as this. That openness also makes the surrounding scenery easier to see from the trail. Views include overlooks of Steeple and Tige canyons as well as the larger canyons of the Blue and San Francisco rivers.
This trail also roughly follows the boundary between Arizona and New Mexico, and in one place crosses that line for a two and a half mile visit to Arizona's eastern neighbor. In this vicinity you'll get some good views of Devil's Monument, a prominent landform in New Mexico. Another interesting area along the trail called Hell's Hole is quite a bit closer to the trailhead. Here dwarfed and deformed ponderosas hold to a precarious existence among exposed layers of white rock.
Watch for evidence of black bears in this remote area. As a matter of fact, the sign marking the trailhead usually has teeth and claw marks put there by resident bruins. No one knows for sure why these shy brutes chew on signs, but the conventional wisdom is that their unnatural shape makes them stand out from their natural surroundings enough to serve as excellent bulletin boards for bears to mark their territorial boundaries. Trail side signs that have been splintered or even ripped apart certainly make the point that bears live in the area and you should take special care with food and garbage.
0.0 Trailhead on Pueblo Park Road.
0.9 Junction with Tige Rim Trail (# 90). Bonanza Bill takes a sharp right at this point.
3.7 Junction with Hinkle Trail (# 30), Hell's Hole.
5.9 Junction with Cow Flat Trail, (# 55).
6.2 Bonanza Bill Point on right.
8.3 View of Devils Monument to east.
8.5 Trail goes through gate in New Mexico State Line fence.
11.1 Trail crosses back into Arizona.
12.1 Junction with Franz Spring Trail (# 43).
At a Glance
April through November
No mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) permitted within the Primitive Area.
Drive 3 miles east of Alpine on US 180 to Forest Road 281 (Blue River Road). Turn south and follow this scenic back road 20.7 miles to the Pueblo Park Road (Forest Road 232). The Bonanza Bill Trailhead is 4.7 miles east on this dirt road just before it crosses the New Mexico state line. A wood fenced corral serves as a landmark.
Steeple Canyon has pools of water except during the dry seasons of the year.
Hinkle Springs, located one quarter mile down the adjoining Hinkle Trail is a dependable spring.
WS Lake provides water for stock except during the dry season.
Keep a clean camp so as not to create problem bears (or trash the area).