A Gila Monster and Climbing Castle Rock … Who Could Ask for More?
Badger Trail? Never heard of it. Castle Rock? I had seen many over the years. Beale Flats? Nope.
I didn’t really know what I was going to ride here on my second day. Cindy found out the BLM office was open at 8:00 so I figured I would go ask there. I had seen some maps that the BLM had posted on the previous day’s ride that I wanted so off we went to their office.
The guy running the office didn’t really seem to know anything about the trails in Kingman but he did have the map so the trip wasn’t a total waste.
Then Cindy suggested we go back over and try the bike shop again. I had heard the shop was a good one but we had gotten to Kingman too late on a Saturday and they were closed on Sunday (see Monolith Gardens for that story).
The guy at Bicycle World was very helpful. He told me there were really only two trails in the area. When I told him I’d ridden Monolith Gardens the day before he said I only had one option left.
He took my map and showed me my options. I could either start at one of the two Beale Flat Trailheads and head north up the Beale Flat Trail … then continued heading north on the Castle Rock Trail, take the spur out to Castle Rock, and then finish off with the Badger Trail. I could then have Cindy pick me up there.
I could do the whole thing in reverse.
I did decide which way I would ride as soon as he told me about the climbing.
He said the grade up from the Beale Flats Trailhead was long and gradual. On the contrary, the climb up the Badger Trail was steep with mostly switchbacks. He said he had some buddies that rode up Badger almost every day, trying to beat their own record or that of their friends. He said they would tap their wheel on the gate, turn quickly around, then race up all those switchbacks to the top. “That doesn’t sound like my type of ride, that’s for sure,” I said.
I had Cindy drop me off at the Badger Trailhead because I would much prefer to grind up a steep hill and enjoy the trip down … rather than to have it a little easier on the way up only to give up all my hard gained elevation in a sudden, steep drop. Who likes riding down switchbacks anyway?
INTERACTIVE MAP FOR BADGER, CASTLE ROCK, AND BEALE TRAILS
- Click the Green or Red balloons for driving directions to either trailhead.
- Click Tracks or Icons for More Specific Information.
After saying my goodbye to Cindy I headed up the Badger Trail, all prepared to grind out the climb. But after just a little bit of an easy ascent I came across a interesting site … a solid cube of quartz. The piece probably weighed a couple hundred pounds … likely the only reason someone had not taken it for a hike to their car.
Just a half mile up the trail I noticed something moving in the middle of the trail. I knew it had to be something real for I had not been riding long enough to be delirious … at least not yet.
I jumped off my bike and snatched my video camera (which had been mounted on my bike frame) and sprinted up the trail. Yes, it was what I originally thought it was … a Gila Monster! He was orange, about two feet long from head to toe, and pretty skinny (all the Gila Monsters I’d ever seen in pictures looked fat).
He was moving up the trail in the same direction I was, but ever slower. I got quite a few still shots and video before he heard me behind him. At one point he stopped, turned his head around, and hissed at me. I stayed a few feet back, knowing they didn’t move very fast but also knowing they were deadly poisonous. I also knew they were different than a rattle snake, the Gila Monster has to chew their poison into their subject whereas a rattler can deliver a sometimes deadly dose with a lightning quick strike.
The Gila Monster turned and continued up the trail, plodding along, not ever bothering to look back again. I moved up along his left side (staying a few feet away) hoping I could get him to go off the trail so I could get my bike and pass him. After a few more feet of slow travel he did just that … finally crawling under a cactus.
I actually enjoyed the rest of the climb. There were a few spots where I had to get off and walk a little due to rough tread and the steepness … and I must have stopped 15 times for photos, but overall I found the climb do-able and the views breathtaking.
The Badger Trail ends in a wide saddle at the 3.5 mile mark. My choices were to go left and take the Castle Rock trail to visit Castle Rock, or to go right on the Castle Rock Trail and head down the hill toward Beale Flats. I chose to do both … but not before climbing the hill above The Saddle.
The views from above The Saddle were incredible. I could see for at least a dozen miles in all directions. The most gratifying view was almost straight down … down toward the Badger Trailhead … far, far below.
I trudged back down to The Saddle, got back on my bike, and headed to Castle Rock. The 6 tenth mile ride was easy compared to the last 3.5 as the trail was mostly flat. From the trail I took a few photos showing just how tall Castle Rock stood.
Rounding the final turn I came across a sign I found hilarious. The sign appeared ten feet before the trail came up against a cluster of large rocks. The sign said, “The End,” like you find at the conclusion of a story.
I jumped off my bike and set off to climb Castle Rock. A quarter mile hike brought me to the base of Castle Rock. Looking up, I realized the rock was a whole lot taller than it had looked from a distance. I began to circle around its base looking for a path to the crest. The farther I circled the more I began to think I might not be able to get to the top.
Climbing the Rock
I finally found a crevice that went up through the center of the rock and tried to force my way up and through. I had to take my Camelback off so I could fit. Eventually I did make it to the top. Several times I thought about going back down, thinking I was being stupid for trying the climb with no buddy to seek help if I fell. But then I thought I was being a baby, and when I was a kid I would climb something like that without a second thought.
I felt instant exhilaration as I stood on top of Castle Rock. The views were not much different from those from the saddle, just a little different perspective since I was a mile or so north.
Some say coming down is harder, but not for me. Places where I had struggled to get up I just jumped down, gliding 3-4 feet to the boulder below.
I retrieved my Camelback and hiked back to the bike, feeling proud that I had accomplished what I had set out to in regards to Castle Rock.
Riding to Beale Flats
I made quick time back to The Saddle, at one point passing through a patch of quartz the size of a football field. The trail from The Saddle down toward Beale Flats was mostly smooth, the tread being much like the fine DG (decomposed granite) I bought and spread around my yard for my daughter’s wedding. I hit top speeds as I wove my way around crumbling pinnacles of rock. But the smooth road ended about mile nine, when I entered the Strava segments called The Surge and Beale Loop Downhill.
The Surge and Beale Loop Downhill
For the next mile or so the trail became real rough, scattered with loose, football size rocks. One of the problems was trail construction … making a trail travel down the fall line so it soon becomes a creek bed. This type of trail can be very tiring, as you must concentrate on every rock or you might find yourself all scraped up at the bottom of a canyon.
Robert the Stud
Focused so hard on the tread I didn’t see a fellow on the side of the trail until I was right upon him.
First off, based on the trail I could see why he was resting. I am pretty sure everyone I know would have been hike-a-biking up that trail.
I stopped and introduced myself. Soon I found out Robert does 100 mile runs, 200 mile mountain bike rides, and owns a business called Kayak Lake Mead. By looking at his website I soon realized Robert was also quite a photographer!
End of the Trail
The trail riding ended when I passed under a bridge with highway 93 on top. I pushed my bike up the bank, locked my suspension into the stiff setting, and rode back into town where I met Cindy and Kayley.
The highlights of this ride were climbing Castle Rock, meeting Robert Finlay, and … following that Gila Monster up the trail. The trails were challenging and offered some fantastic views of the surrounding area. You must ride this trail if you find yourself in Kingman Arizona.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured on these trails … 54 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.
The following link can give you all the stats for my Havasu Trails ride … just click on the box below.