The Herb Martyr Trail was once part of the multi-segmented Basin Trail #600 (formerly #247, the number now used by this trail), and most signs and some maps still reflect the old names/numbers. The Basin Trail now only exists between Herb Martyr and Forest Road 42.
As of September 2019, the Herb Martyr Trail has been completely cleared of deadfall, and numerous areas have been brushed and had the tread repaired by volunteer and conservation corps crews. The old Basin Trail sign at the upper parking lot has been moved to mark the new trailhead location.
Length: 2.9 mi
The Herb Martyr Trail is accessible from four locations.
The northern terminus is at the lower Herb Martyr parking area. Heading west out of Portal, follow the paved road as it turns southwest into Cave Creek Canyon. After three quarters of a mile you will cross the National Forest boundary and the road becomes Forest Road 42. Continue on the paved road 3.3 miles, at which point you will cross a bridge and the pavement ends. After an additional two thirds of a mile on the dirt road you will pass the Southwestern Research Station. Just beyond, turn left onto the Herb Martyr Road (FR 42A). (31.88461, -109.20631) Follow this road for 2.1 miles until you come to a fork in the road where traffic becomes one-way. Continuing on the right fork for another 0.12 mile, you will first come to the upper/overflow parking lot (formerly used as the trailhead parking lot when Herb Martyr was a developed campground). Continue through to a fork in the road and turn right to the lower lot. The trail begins at the edge of the parking lot, behind the restroom, and is marked by an old sign for the Basin Trail. (31.87247, -109.23473)
600 feet beyond the Basin Trail junction, after crossing the middle fork of Cave Creek and climbing to the Wilderness boundary, the Snowshed Basin Trail departs to the northeast. The Wilderness boundary is marked with a sign and an unusual metal pedestrian gate, but the trail signs at this junction have rotted and fallen to the ground in pieces. (31.86994, -109.23550)
The Herb Martyr Trail begins at the southwest corner of the lower Herb Martyr parking lot (31.87247, -109.23473) and begins dropping towards the Cima Creek drainage almost immediately. (Note that the official trailhead was moved from the upper parking lot in February 2015 and no sign has been added yet for the new trailhead, while an old Basin Trail sign still marks the old, abandoned trailhead in the upper parking lot.)
After crossing Cima Creek (often dry here outside of wet seasons) about 100 feet later, the trail angles to the left, marked by an arrow sign, (31.87213, -109.23485) and climbs shortly to an old sign for the Herb Martyr Dam, which can be visited via a faint 160 foot trail that drops down to the left to Cave Creek. The dam is fully silted in and you can walk down the creekbed to it from upstream. From the sign, the Herb Martyr Trail swings to the south and remains alongside and above Cave Creek for the remaining 390 feet to the Basin Trail junction. (31.87119, -109.23522)
Continuing southwest from the Basin Trail junction, the trail drops into and crosses the Cave Creek drainage in 240 feet. (31.87082, -109.23584) To the west of the crossing, you can see the remnants of Little Dam, (31.87080, -109.23599) a check dam that was built to prevent the much larger Herb Martyr Dam below from silting in. This function failed in the late 1970s when flooding broke through the dam, and more recent flooding has largely buried the dam as well as washed away a trail sign that used to be here. The trail climbs up to the left of Little Dam and begins a very steep 375 foot stretch to a uniquely styled Wilderness boundary pedestrian gate and the Snowshed Basin Trail junction just beyond. (31.86994, -109.23550)
The terrain remains relatively flat over the next 0.18 miles as it parallels Cave Creek on the bench above, before dropping into a drainage and crossing the creek a couple times in a 400 foot stretch before climbing back out. The next three quarter miles pass through a roughly 50 acre area of heavy fire damage, starting out in a wash—the trail is sometimes washed away here—before climbing above it with a switchback and continuing up the ridge. At the southern edge of the most heavily burned part of this area, the trail switchbacks and begins climbing more steeply to the spine of a higher ridge over a quarter mile stretch, switchbacking several more times along the way.
The trail is very exposed while traversing the ridge for the next quarter mile, making it hot in summer and at risk of lightning strikes during thunderstorms. As it approaches a small hill rising out of the surrounding terrain, it begins to re-enter tree cover before skirting around the hill's north and west edges, passing just underneath a large talus field. A third of a mile after re-entering the trees, the trail makes a 90° bend to the left among a beautiful stand of tall pines. Three hundred feet due east and a short climb later lies another 90° bend, this time to the right. This point affords great views of the Cave Creek Basin below, and also serves as the best way to head out to the hill you just passed on the way up. You may notice several large tree stumps here which have had a grid cut into them with a chainsaw to allow the wood to absorb more water and rot more quickly.
At this point, the terrain changes somewhat—though it passes through occasional open stretches, the trail is largely in pine forest the remainder of its length, and despite a significant climb remaining to its terminus at the Snowshed Trail, this stretch only has two switchbacks and instead prefers to generally stick to gradually climbing while contouring around several side drainages. The first drainage is crossed after 0.21 miles, followed by the switchbacks 0.18 miles later, and the final drainage crossing 0.15 miles after that, at which point it begins climbing at a steeper angle. The trail can be a little overgrown here and while it generally remains quite easy to follow, take care not to trip in the tall grass and weeds, as it's narrow with a very steep drop off to the left.
The final quarter mile climbs in almost a straight line to the southeast, with only a couple curves in the path. Along the way you may notice a large pine tree that has been struck by lightning, a huge gash torn down its side. The junction with the Snowshed Trail is marked with signs (these signs refer to the Herb Martyr Trail as the Basin Trail—see note at top of page). To continue a loop back into the Cave Creek Basin, you can go left and either follow the Snowshed Trail to its lower terminus or use it in conjunction with the Snowshed Basin Trail to return to Herb Martyr or a point between. Fossil Seep also lies in that direction, but there is generally no water to be found. To visit Pine Park or points further up the Snowshed Trail, turn right. Pine Park lies 0.18 miles up the trail and is marked by a (partially burned) sign.
Last updated September 28, 2019.