Houston Brothers Trail Sometimes, You Have to Lose Your Way to Get Back Home! So, what not take a walk on the wild side.

The Proper Function

O’ Houston Brothers, Where Art Thou?

You may be a man of constant sorrow, but not today O’ Houston Brother! Today, The Proper Function is going to propose you a proposition that will place you within a geographical marvel – Aspen Springs Cabin! Since nobody is gonna pick up a filthy unshaven backpacker, you best make your way down the Houston Draw and enjoy the life of a Dapper Dan Man!


Sam Houston, We Have A Problem

While Sam & Andrew Houston were ranchers and not convicts attempting to escape the chain gang, they did construct the Houston Brothers Trail to move livestock across the rugged Rim country during the late 1800’s. Relocating from California, the Houston Brothers purchased land from a gentlemen named John Starr. According to the Payson Round Up, Mr. Starr was later killed when his “team (horses) was running and straddled a tree”. So, after developing a cattle ranch the brothers decided to call the area Star(r) Valley – brother thou other ‘r’ got lost in history!


As unluckiness would have it, Sam Houston was also killed in what can only be described as a freak accident. One day, he decided to dismount his horse so that he could tighten the cinch and commonly flipped his stirrup over the saddle. When he flipped the stirrup, it struck the hammer of his pistol causing it to discharge. The bullet struck him in the leg and he bled to death. On a lighter note, let’s talk about the trail!

Houston Brothers Trail #171

The Houston Brothers Trail courses a 7.5 mile stretch between Pinchot Cabin and General Cook’s trail. It traverses along the bottom of Houston Draw, which is extremely picturesque as you hike down a perennial spring-fed stream. It is now part of the Cabin Loop System which was utilized by the Forest Service during the early 1900s.



After parking, you walk through a green gate and follow the draw that leads to Pinchot Cabin, a historic cabin worth it’s exploration. Further past Pinchot Cabin, you will see a trail sign directing to the Houston Brothers Trail #171. The trail meanders through tall ponderosa pine as you cross Pinchot Spring. After you cross the spring, you continue into Houston Draw as a large meadow covered in sunflowers emerge. There are several camp spots along this area, but I recommend that you continue on towards Aspen Springs and discover what makes this particular function a proper one!

“So long boy’s! See you in the funny papers!” – Ulysses Everett McGill

Aspen Springs Cabin

As you approach, the rustic remains of the Aspen Springs Cabin comes gently into view. You think to yourself, “If you can improve heaven, this may be it!”. Aspen Springs Cabin is one of the earliest fire guard cabins on the Mogollon Rim. The cabins on the cabin loop trail were part of the Bly Ranger District, which is now the Blue Ridge Office of the Mogollon Rim Ranger District.


“Live in the Sunshine. Swim in the Sea. Drink the Wild Air.” – Emerson

The Cabin Loop Trail System provided the only access to this country back in the early 1900’s. These trails were all maintained by forest rangers, ranchers and settlers. To this day, you can still see the historic trail blazes which today are approximately 6-7 feet high and filled in with bark. Want to learn how to read trail blazes? Well, brother….check out The Railroad Tunnel Postbreak_line_mtn



Call it glamping or glampacking…..but, having your own fireplace while tent camping launches you into an immediate Proper Function status! In the Meadow of Aspen Springs Cabin, there is a lone fireplace next to the beginning of Aspen Springs. There is something simply magical about stoking a fire in the fireplace as you sit on a log in the wilderness listening to the elk bugel outside of the rut.


Trail BlazesPinchot Cabin


In earlier times, trail blazes were carved with either an axe or a knife. The standard for the US Forest Service is a blocked letter “i”, which symbolizes a candle. While trail blazes are no longer used for environmental reasons, many of them are still quite visible. The symbols aren’t universal, but there are some standards to indicate trail direction. Here is a simple image on how to navigate the blazes upon the Mogollon Rim. Click the image to enlarge.

Pinchot Cabin.Gifford Pinchot is generally regarded as the “father” of American conservation because of his great and unrelenting concern for the protection of the American forests. He was the primary founder of the Society of American Foresters, which first met at his home in Washington in November 1900. He served as chief with great distinction, motivating and providing leadership in the management of natural resources and protection of the national forests. He continued as forester until 1910, when he was fired by President Taft in a controversy over coal claims in Alaska.

This Proper Function
(Approximate Data)
Party Cloudy
2,315ftElevation 13.7hrsDistance From You
State, RegionArizona,Northeast
Coordinates34.432967°, -111.215359°
DirectionsView on Google Maps


Dan is an explorer for The Outbound and founder of The Proper Function, an outdoor editorial. He is passionate about exploration and can’t stay put for more than a week.