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Draining the mountainous region north of Clifton, Arizona, is Chase Creek canyon. From the 1870's, when prospectors first noticed that its water had a metallic taste to it, to today's massive open pit mines, Chase Creek has been a major site in Arizona's copper mining industry. Although most of Chase Creek canyon has been buried in waste rock from the mines, the northern end is still intact, and quite scenic.
This short little hike takes you into a box canyon or gorge, where colorful walls of reddish, volcanic rock and small waterfalls highlight a quick 400 foot drop along the course of seasonal Chase Creek. I wouldn't recommend driving a long distance just to do this hike. The gorge is just an interesting place to explore if you are passing through the area. Mileage listed in the statistics is for a non-technical hike to the waterfalls and return.
The gorge is accessible from both ends, however, entering it at its lower end is more practical, as a waterfall and a low cliff block the upper end. From milepost 175, on highway 191, begin heading up Chase Creek towards the tangled cliffs that rise above the canyon bottom. There is a nice canopy of oak trees at the entrance to the gorge that keeps the boulder filled creek bed well shaded. The canyon closes in very quickly, and Chase Creek tumbles over and under giant boulders, forming tiny waterfalls and cascades in places. The canyon walls grow taller and more vertical as you make your way up the creek.
After a quarter mile or so, the canyon becomes steeper, and makes a sharp bend to the right. Bypass one little waterfall by climbing the talus slope to its left, and follow the canyon to the right. You'll soon come to another little waterfall, with probably a ten foot drop. If you carefully climb past this fall on its left side, you will immediately come to a very attractive little waterfall in the narrow confines of the canyon. The water falls about 15 feet over highly polished, banded, purple rock.
This is where casual hiking ends and technical climbing begins. I could not find any safe way past the falls. It might be possible to bypass the falls area without ropes by going straight at the bend in the canyon, and climbing the low cliffs above. But even that option looks treacherous. Remember that it is generally easier to climb up than to climb down.
Those with climbing skills can continue up canyon to where it crosses highway 191 near the Chase Creek overlook, about 0.2 miles up canyon, for about a 0.6 mile, one way hike. Otherwise, return the way you came.
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