Tip Top Trail

I had the opportunity to wheel this nasty little piece of trail with some of my Arizona Virtual Jeep Club members….Bill Mish, Ross Skinner & son, Keith Auble, and Rob Wilson, and Becky (who would never tell me her last name!).  The trail is located on the south side of FR52, just across from the Forest Dept. Helo Pad near Horse Thief Basin Recreation Area.  The GPS puts it 4.0 miles SSE of Crown King.  

I always do my own write-ups for my web page.  However, Bill did such an outstanding trail report, and posted it on the VJC club reflector, that I just can’t pass up the opportunity to use it here.  The pictures of the Jeeps on the trail were graciously taken by Rob and are used with permission.  I took the ones of us stacking the Jeeps after we got back up the hill. Rob and Keith hang with the folks from www.alloffroad.com.

Bill writes:

Where to begin.  Originally, it started out as a small idea I had when I discovered the road about a year ago. It was what appeared to be a road up to Crown King from Table Mesa or Black Canyon city.  I checked topo maps, it appeared to go through to within 3/4 of a mile to the old FR52 from Packer. The upper end of the road from Packer has been closed due to the “Horsethief wilderness area” designation in the area.

I finally got to wheel it this weekend. It didn’t go through as I had expected. At least not in the sense of passable by vehicle travel.  Our attempt makes for a good story though, so here goes.

I dropped my truck and trailer off in Black Canyon City. I drove the Maggie Mine trail up into the Bumble Bee trail with Eric in his YJ. Greg Banfield And Chet were on Quads. We got as far as Cleator, when Greg’s wife Dodi and Glen caught up to us in his CJ-7. We went up the hill (the front way), and took a pause for the “b” cause at the saloon and hotel on the west side of the street, before heading on up. Eric had turned around to head back home in his YJ, he was out of time.

When we finally arrived at Tip Top trailhead, Stu was already there. I FINALLY MEET THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE LEGEND, Stu Olson!!

Brief introductions, I began bowing feverishly,(in true to form “we’re not worthy” fashion) before he sent me scampering off for firewood. It was getting dark. Greg Chet and Dodi weren’t staying up there, and now their time was up, so they headed back down the hill. Keith, Rob and Becky were next to arrive in Keith’s TJ.  Stu and I were swapping stories and pouring over the maps for a plan of attack like 2 generals chasing victory……or not… Anyway we were interrupted by the clamorous entrance.

“Friends of yours?” Stu asked. To which I replied, ” Just wait, It gets worse!!” Stu wisely decided on the “peaceful” campsite he already established and sent us down the way. We lit the fire. It was Big. Fair warning if you camp with us. Don’t worry, you won’t hurt our feelings!  The trio wanted to go back to town for a Fireman’s fund raiser that promised lots of excitement and fun. I opted to seclude myself in camp, enjoying the magnificent view of the city lights, the moon, the peace and quiet of the mountains and the cool breeze blowing thru camp. I am a self proclaimed complex and diverse man, which would explain The Kid Rock cd blaring from my stereo the next morning……

The trio came back……at 2:00am, I woke and joined in on the party, which ended at 3:00am. I woke with the sun at 5:30am, rekindled the fire, ate some of the most magnificent one’s “most magnificent Breakfast burritos”. Great Job, Stu!!

Ross never arrived, until now, so we broke camp while he attended to his last minute details. The most exciting part of the trail is the first 600-800 yards of near vertical decomposed granite (no traction) hill. Which rises approx 1200 feet on the Topo. The remainder of the trail was pretty much a bust, since we had to turn around and come back….. No one was looking forward to tackling the hill, but unless we go up, we can’t leave.  Ross was 1st, and made it up the 1st section with grave difficulty. The second section, he winched himself up, due to some advice from me to try the hill in first gear low. He made good progress, I didn’t want him to lose the progress he made to this point without breaking, so I advised him to winch, and so he did. Next up was Keith Auble (Crus) and, while we were getting Ross’ Jeep in position to winch the rest of us up, Keith DROVE to the top!  As all our jaws dropped in amazement, Keith was beaming ear to ear, and high fiving us. Next was Stu, he too winched after making fantastic progress, however a rock which his Jeep slid into while struggling for traction, managed to scratch his rim and partly tear his valve stem. It didn’t leak, and the wise thing to do was winch from this position, to prevent further damage.  I was last up the hill, and having the advantage of watching what worked and what didn’t, I drove up in 2nd gear 4lo with a whole lot of dust and cool air under my tires. We all made it to the top after that, stacking our Jeeps in celebration (childish, I know, but it was my idea….). Those who went thanks for the wonderful memories……….. Then there was the trip down to civilization. But that is another adventure all together!!

Bill Mish
1955 Willys CJ3B

Here are some pics that Rob took while we were wheelin.  I am going to have to get some kind of a Jeep CAM mounted on my TJ so I can get more of these shots.  You just can’t do it when you got your hands full going up these kind of hills!

One other disclaimer….as usual, the pics don’t do it justice.  The hills are about 3 times steeper than what they appear in these photos.  Were Ross and I winched, I had one heck of a time trying to walk on that section of the trail.  At one point, I took a spill and banged up some ribs a bit.  NASTY, NASTY TRAIL!

Here is Bill by Keith’s TJ.  As you can see, his write up was just a bit off.  The bowing was being done by me, not him….oh…I am not worthy!  I think Bill catches a bit too many rays during the day on account of him not wearing a hat!

Yes, you guessed it….the way out is up that little thin ribbon of trail.  Oh my….will we ever make it back to the top?  That and a few dozen other things were going through my mind as we picked our way down the trail.


Here is Lady starting at the bottom of the trail and working her way up to a point where we could stop and group up for the next section.  As you can see, Bill’s Jeep is not that far away from me, but is much lower on the trail.  It gets steeper from here!

After I made it up to the first staging point, Bill put it in 4LO and worked his way up the hill to join us.  A little bit of dust from the tires slipping on the decomposed granite.  Parts of this trail had all the traction of a well oiled set of roller bearings!

Tip Top Trail

As we worked our way up the hill, we got to the section that was going to give Ross and I our problems.  

Ross got just a few yards further up the trail before he played out the winch cable and assisted himself up to the next “level” spot.  I bogged down at the same spot and Ross was nice enough to send the cable down to me for a fairly quick ride back this section of trail.  Bill and Keith made it up this part with some good effort.  By this time, Bill was learning that with the very low gears that he and Ross were running, the big Swampers did better when going over this stuff in 4LO, 2nd gear.

After we had all gotten past the section where we winched, Ross took off for the top.  After giving him a few minutes of travel time, I headed out after him, followed by Bill.  We were all at the top, except for Keith, and getting ready to celebrate when we realized that Keith was overdue.  Little did we realize that he had caught a rock with his right front tire (locked axle) and it spun him around on the trail in a microsecond.  We saw the minor damage on his right front fender where his TJ came to rest against the manzanita (sp) bush that kept him from rolling down the hill.  We heard all about it once Keith and Becky made it to the top to join us in Bill’s Jeep stacking celebration!


Lady managed to get her 32″ BFG up onto Ross’ 38.5″ Swamper.  

Bill parks his 38.5″ Swamper on Ross’ CJ-7.

While Bill wasn’t looking, Keith hopped his TJ up onto Bill’s rear tire.  Yo Bill!  Gotcha ya!

Shortly after we un-stacked our Jeeps, we headed into Crown King for something wet and cold to drink.  From there, I headed for home, wrapping up a two day trip in the Southern Bradshaw Mountains near Crown King, Arizona.  So many trails to run, so few weekends in which to do it.

More pics from Tip Top Trail

Tip Top Trail


This shot was taken as we were still working our way along the trail to see if we could punch through.  A lot of brush….a lot of brush every direction you turned.  A fire had swept through this area some time ago.  You can see the remains of a burned tree in this picture.


This one was taken near the top.  We were on the last section of the trail climbing back out.  Although no walk in the park, this section was much easier than the level just below where this was taken, which was where we had to break out the winch.


Keith and I are discussing getting my TJ out of this spot on the trail.  Although hardly detectable here, this section was so steep you could hardly stand on it.  You can see the rear diff housing touching the ground.  Makes for a hard time getting up the hill when you are trying to plow a new path at the same time!  After a couple of foiled attempts from this spot, I had Ross send down the winch cable.


Bill’s CJ-3b waits its turn to go up the last section.  Once we had all made it past middle section and had gotten parked on something that resembled level ground, we headed toward the top and a cold one back in Crown King!