register help

Cave Canyon Trail #149, AZ

Guide 30 Triplogs  1 Active Topic
  4.4 of 5 
1 Active
33 30 1
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance One Way 3.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,720 feet
Elevation Gain 2,105 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,105 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.81
Interest Ruins, Historic, Perennial Waterfall & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
6  2021-02-27
Florida Canyon Trail #145
11  2020-10-03
East Sawmill Canyon Trail #146
12  2020-05-16
Wrightson - Florida
7  2019-11-17
Wrightson-Florida Peak loop
2  2019-11-17
Gardner n Cave Canyons
6  2017-10-07
Wrightson Gardner Canyon /Cave Canyon Loop
23  2015-08-08
Big Casa Blanca-Cave Canyon Loop
11  2014-11-10
Cave Canyon Trail #149
Page 1,  2
Author Jeffshadows
author avatar Guides 28
Routes 20
Photos 672
Trips 169 map ( 1,088 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Old Pueblo
Co-Author fricknaley
co-author avatarGuides 93
Routes 387
Photos 3,971
Trips 3,102 map (20,159 Miles)
Age 45 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Oct, Apr, May, Sep → Early
Seasons   ALL
Sun  5:18am - 7:31pm
Official Route
6 Alternative

Go prepared! - Caving Checklist
Why crawl in mud when you can walk in pines?
by Jeffshadows & fricknaley

Background The Cave Canyon Trail is a little-known cousin to the more popular Gardner Canyon Trail, and it's neighbor. It is not easy to speculate about the age of the trail. The canyon was almost certainly named due to two well-known limestone caves, Onyx and Cave of the Bells (both are gated). USGS maps dating to 1953 show a Jeep trail for part of the trail's current course and a faint foot trail for the remainder; neither appear named. The current USGS Mount Wrightson quad shows the trail in its entirety and distinguishes between the sections that are a jeep trail and a footpath. The trail passes several old mine workings along its initial course, including a large shaft that belongs to "rock Candy" mine. Some of the intriguing geology in the canyon might explain that choice of name for a mine.

The Hike The course of the Cave Canyon trail #192 has recently changed to incorporate a 1.8-mile section of Forest Service Road 92, making it a 3.8-mile climb from the eastern foothills of the Santa Ritas into Florida Saddle. After leaving the parking area at the signed trailhead marking the end of FSR 92, the trail is still essentially an unimproved dirt road leading west and slightly northward. After just an eighth of a mile, it encounters the junction with the Gardner-Cave Cutoff Trail #10. Follow the larger track leading right and alongside the creek bed. This trail section has recently been closed to OHV activity and is strewn with downed trees for roughly another an eighth of a mile. The trail is flanked on one side by a new fence and the other by a hill preventing circumvention of the vehicle barrier for the course of this eighth-mile track. After passing the vehicle barrier, the track seems to end at a fence stretched across the trail, terminating at an unkempt tree. The track leads to the right around this tree, allowing only foot traffic to pass. The tree will probably be overgrown, however, making route-finding difficult at this point.

After passing the tree barrier, the trail makes the second of its many creek crossings. Cairns may or may not be present at all crossings; however, the trail is easy to find during these first two miles as it's the remnant of an old Jeep trail, so its track is almost always wide and gravel-laden. The trail winds its way beneath the Sycamore and Juniper, generally following close to the creek. Many small waterfalls exist along the course of the creek, and they are frequently visible at the crossing points. This section of the trail is quite lush and inviting. The trail climbs only slightly and is well-shaded. Birds and other wildlife frequent the area. After following the canyon's bottom for roughly 1.8 miles, the trail drops into a small natural amphitheater and encounters another 'trailhead' marker.

The trail narrows to a footpath from the second marker and begins its climb toward Florida saddle. Throughout these next two miles, the trail will gain almost 1800' of elevation. For the first six-tenths of a mile, the trail climbs gradually but continuously along a ridge rising away from Cave Creek. This section of the trail offers spectacular views of both Cave and Gardner canyons. The trail then takes up a course of extended switchbacks. Route finding will finally become a challenge along this section of the trail, as the track will frequently disappear under low brush growing in to repopulate after the fires that damaged much of this area not long ago. At one point, roughly one mile in, the trail encounters a large downed tree that requires one to shortcut up the canyon's side to the track on its return course from the switchback.

As the trail begins to approach the saddle, roughly one-half mile before joining it, it makes another longer and more gradual climb along the canyon wall's final sections. The trail approaches a small drainage, and the track is almost lost, as it makes a sharp and steep step up and turns almost 180-degrees leading into a switchback. The track is easy to lose here, and caution should be exercised not to follow the drainage. The trail continues to switchback, now in a much more pronounced fashion, for another half-mile until approaching the slope of Florida saddle, which houses a forest of burned and dead Aspens. The mood here is eerie, as the skeletons of these once tall and imposing trees hang hollow and empty above like the ribcage of some long-departed prehistoric giant. The saddle comes into view as denoted by numerous signs marking trail intersections. The track turns sharply north and climbs gradually on its final approach to Florida Saddle. From this point, it is possible to connect to the Crest and Florida Canyon trails, as well as the Sawmill Canyon and Four Springs trails. Amazing views of both Cave and Florida canyon abound, though Mount Wrightson is now masked. Return the way you came.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2008-08-04 Jeffshadows & fricknaley
  • Cave Canyon Trail 149 Map
    guide related
    Cave Canyon Trail 149 Map

Coronado FS Details
Cave Canyon Trail leads from Cave Creek Basin to Florida Saddle and the northern end of the Santa Rita Crest. Florida Saddle is one of the two main trail hubs in the Santa Ritas. Trails radiate from it to virtually every corner of the mountain range. Cave Canyon Trail is one of two major trails that provide access to this spectacular high country from the east. The other is Gardner Trail #143 which is located a few miles to the south. These two little-used trails are connected via the Crest Trail #144 and Super Trail #134 along the top of the mountain range and via a short trail called the Cave Gardner Cutoff Trail #10 which provides a path between their two access roads. (While we're talking about access, please note that the road leading to the Cave Creek Trailhead requires a high clearance vehicle, especially when the stream has water in it.) A loop can be put together using Cave Canyon and Gardner Canyon trails and various combinations of other high country trails (See the Guide sheet on Gardner Trail #143). The climb up Cave Canyon Trail is relatively steep, so you'll most likely find yourself enjoying the view as you take time out to catch your breath or rest your horse. From the heights of the trail, the smooth, muscular-looking slopes of the Mustang Mountains stand out across the broad lower Cave Creek Valley. North of the Mustangs lie the Whetstones, and beyond is the San Pedro Valley. Farther south, the horizon is defined by the massive Huachucas capped by 9,466-foot Miller Peak. The high slopes of the Santa Ritas are home to a forest that varies according to aspect (the direction it faces) and altitude. Forest communities range from scrub oak and high desert pinyon-juniper woodlands on lower or south-facing slopes, to stands of ponderosa, Arizona and Chihuahua pines and Douglas-fir on higher or north-facing slopes. This diverse ecosystem provides excellent wildlife habitat for large animals such as Coues white-tailed deer, black bear and an occasional mountain lion. Smaller animals such as Arizona gray squirrels and a number of songbirds and hawks are usually easier to see and, unless you're a hunter with a particular quarry in mind, just as rewarding.

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Permit $$
Visit this link for full details.
2021 - FAQ
$8 per vehicle per day
$10 per vehicle per week
$40 per vehicle per year (valid for one year from date of purchase)

There are four specific day use areas that require a Coronado Recreational Pass or a National Pass/America the Beautiful Pass.
1) Sabino Canyon - located on the Santa Catalina Ranger District (520)749-8700
2) Madera Canyon - located on the Nogales Ranger District (520)281-2296
3) Cave Creek - located on the Douglas Ranger District (520)364-3468
4) Mt. Lemmon at 11 day-use sites.

2021 Catalina State Park
Per vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00
Individual/bicycle: $3.00

2021 Sabino Canyon Tram is $12 extra. [ website ]

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To hike
From Interstate 10, take State Route 83 south toward Sonoita. After roughly 21 miles, turn onto Gardner Canyon Road, signed on SR-83 as the turnoff for "Kentucky Camp." Gardner Canyon Road (FR-92) is an improved dirt road. Ignore the numerous side roads and trails, following signs for the Cave Canyon Trail, which begins when the road ends 8.6 miles from SR-83. The road makes two creek crossings, and caution should be exercised during or just after heavy rain.
page created by Jeffshadows on Aug 04 2008 8:16 pm
90+° 8am - 6pm kills
help comment issue

end of page marker