A couple of days ago, we had an opportunity to explore the nearby Bulldog Canyon OHV trails in our newly acquired 1998 Jeep Wrangler. That morning I just had a set of Rancho RS5000X shocks installed on the Jeep and, wow, let me tell you they were badly needed. The shocks that were on it were the OEMs from 1998 and had 107,000 miles on them. As you’d expect, they were completely shot. It was a good thing that I had them installed. The Jeep got a very good workout on Bulldog Canyon’s rough and rocky trails.
The Bulldog Canyon OHV trails are located in the Tonto National Forest and is adjacent to the Apache Trail and the world-famous Superstition Mountains. In this part of the Tonto National Forest you won’t find any pine forests like you will around Payson, but you will find lots of Saguaro Cacti and natural desert beauty that can only be found in the Sonoran Desert. Access to Bulldog Canyon OHV area is by permit only through the Mesa District Ranger Office, but the process is quick and easy, and more importantly, free (the permit can be obtained either online or in person). The six-month permit you receive includes combinations to each of the six access gates locks.
The Bulldog Canyon OHV area consists of six forest roads, FR-10, FR-1356, FR-3512, FR-3554, FR-3556, and FR-12. Our plan was to start at the so-called Cottonwood entrance to FR-1356 off the Apache Trail, but we found a key lock on the gate not a combo lock, so we couldn’t get in. The Ranger Office was surprised as much as we were when we told them that on the cell and recommended that we try another gate. We decided to try the nearby FR-12, an isolated, 4-mile long trail not connected to the main trail system, but this was a mistake. We found the trail poorly marked and slow going. After snapping a few pics, we decided to turn around and drive the main Bulldog Canyon route, FR-10. This road is a part of the newly christened Great Western Trail, a scenic trail system connecting several states in the Western U.S.
We decided to start our drive at the Wolverine south entrance to FR-10, but we couldn’t find it (we later learned we were close, real close to finding it). I’m including the directions here so others can find the gate quickly without trouble. The Wolverine gate is located in the city of Apache Junction. From Mesa head east on the Superstition Freeway (US 60) and take the Idaho Street exit. Follow Idaho Street north 4.5 miles to McKellips Road. Turn right on McKellips and travel half a mile to the Wolverine Pass Road then turn left. Follow Wolverine Pass Road for 7/8 mile and then turn right on Tonto Road. Travel north on Tonto Road for a 1/4 mile to Cactus Road and turn left. Follow Cactus to McDowell Road and follow it to the FR-10 gate.
A key lock was on the Cottonwood gate so we couldn’t enter.
So instead we started on nearby FR12.
Stunning scenery near the start of FR-12.
After snapping a few scenic pics we decided to turn around.
Kiosk at the north entrance to FR-10.
The beginning of the trail was very smooth and easy going.
The scenery in the Goldfield Mountains was stunning.
Another view of the Goldfields.
View of FR-10 heading south.
Parts of the trail were very rocky. This part wasn’t that bad.
A smooth stretch approaching Bulldog Canyon.
This rocky part of the trail was much worse than it looks.
Flowering Sagauro with its arms held high.
Another view of the trail.
View of Four Peaks Mountain to the northeast.
The end of FR-10 at the Wolverine Gate.
The length of FR-10 is approximately eight miles long and took us about 90 minutes to drive with a few short stops. The trail at times is very rocky and slow going. For the most part, we drove the entire route in 1st gear and had to use Four-wheel drive during a couple of steep and rocky stretches. There are, however, parts of the trail that are level and smooth, especially at the south and north ends of FR-10. There you can find several pull-offs were you can dispersed camp/boondock. In fact, during our drive, we passed a couple of Class B van conversions which had set-up camp for the night. Can an RV tackle this Jeep trail? For the most part, no. I wouldn’t try this in my 4×4 truck camper or anything larger, but I would if I owned a small 4×4 pop-up truck camper or a 4×4 Sportsmobile Van.
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure Magazine. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a truck camper and Jeep enthusiast, and has owned and restored several Airstream travel trailers. He enjoys college football, hiking, travel, off-roading, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years and now works as a project manager for a major banking and security firm. He also does some RV consulting and RV inspections on the side.