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Tortuga Trail - Spur Cross, AZ

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Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
2.6 of 5 by 29
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 1.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,450 feet
Elevation Gain 154 feet
Avg Time One Way 0.5 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 1.71
Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
28  2019-04-17
Spur Cross Meander
31  2019-02-10
Spur Metate Tortuga Dragon Jewel
5  2019-02-03
Spur Cross Loop
15  2018-12-14
Limestone Trail #252 - Spur Cross
15  2018-11-13
Elephant Mountain Loop Spur Cross
8  2018-11-04
Spur Cross Limestone Loop
8  2018-04-01
Spur Cross Loop
26  2018-03-19
Dragonfly Trail - Spur Cross
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Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,261 map ( 21,471 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
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Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Jan, Dec, Mar → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:16am - 6:25pm
Official Route
24 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Afternoon Delight
by joebartels

Used to access Elephant Mountain Trail or as a loop with Spur Cross Trail.

From the northeast junction with Spur Cross Trail you immediately head up a gentle slope. Soon you top out on a small deck with nice views north of Sugarloaf Mountain. On this trip, Sugarloaf was covered in yellow brittlebush blooms.

As noted in the elevation profile the trail soon heads right back down to a usually dry ravine. Here I encountered a Parks & Recreation truck. Signs remind you going off trail is not allowed. Perhaps they were enforcing park law. Maybe somebody tried to shortcut the 250 feet down to the Spur Cross Trail... who knows!

Across the ravine you head up a huffer slope. Even at it's worst it's only a 150 foot climb. Perhaps no worse than the first switchback of Piestewa. All the lower trails up to this point could practically be negotiated in flip flops. Here the footing gets loose. Good news being the old jeep road is beyond Parks & Recreation cruiser negotiable. Especially due to the fact there's a couple boulders lined at the top as a mammoth waterbar.

Soon you'll find yourself at a junction with Elephant Mountain Trail. Take a left and head south onto the ridge-of-views. On this trip the ground was literally covered in green flora and wildflowers. The views are top notch all around. Looking ahead/SSE Black Mountain dominates the horizon. Even in this above average rainfall year the ground sports deep drought cracks.

A half mile down this subtle sloping ridge you come to the southwest junction with Spur Cross Trail. A majority of my late afternoon hike was shaded by New River Mesa. Talk about a bonus!

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2008-03-21 joebartels
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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.

Most recent of 39 deeper Triplog Reviews
Tortuga Trail - Spur Cross
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Quick, easy hike up Spur Cross Trail toward Elephant Mountain, turned off on Tortuga Trail heading South across flat section. Looks like trail improvement has been done in this section too. It is still rocky, but the ruts have been flattened out and the ground in places is very soft. Hiked down Tortuga to the intersection with Spur Cross Trail and DragonFly trails. Headed back North on Spur Cross toward the Tortuga trail (loop) and turned right at the intersection (3 miles total from parking lot) and returned to parking lot via Spur Cross Trail to the Trailhead and parking lot - total roundtrip was 3.7 miles. Great day for a hike with the temp hanging in the low 70's. Some of the sections behind the hill that were in the shade had a perceptible decrease in temperature. Nice hike to get your legs stretched out and get some exercise.
Tortuga Trail - Spur Cross
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Clouds and cool temps in the valley meant it was Elephant season today in the CCRP. I had thought about Skull or Black, but told myself I could not go hiking out until I completed some chores around the house and did not get to the trailhead until one, so just opted for the shorter Elephant.

I started at Dragon Fly to avoid the fee. I saw a few people on the trails near the trailhead, but nobody after I turned off on Elephant Mountain Trail. The trail to the summit seems to have gotten a little more defined, but that being said, I still had to take a couple minutes a few times to locate the proper route. I spooked a pack of Javelina on the summit, which was about the most excitement on the day. I returned the same way I came.
Tortuga Trail - Spur Cross
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Just a glorified dog walk and barely that really, as I cut the walk pretty short because I was feeling a little under the weather and generally beat from spending Friday and Saturday coaching at a wrestling tournament in Tucson.

Some annoying sticky mud on the trails and signs of some rainfall out there, but nothing to write home about. The area could still use about another 2-3 inches to get into prime winter condition, but I guess we have to be happy with anything at this point. Not too many people out for your typical Spur Cross Sunday in the winter, but no complaints here.
Tortuga Trail - Spur Cross
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Sugar Loaf Mtn Loop
I rounded up the all stars to follow Oregon_Hiker's track to the Sugarloaf Mountain airplane crash site. 46 degree start at the Spur Cross trail head. We followed Spur Cross trail northwest to Tortuga Loop to Elephant Mountain and continued North to Tonto NF Trail 252 Lime Creek. Stopped by the 2 nearby ruins sites just to the east and then turned west and north up Peterson Spring trail. The trail up to the spring are fairly well marked and easy to follow. Water was running and the pool and tank were full. There's also a cattle feeder above the spring that's worth checking out. This is where the off trail starts. The GPS track takes a pretty natural path to the Sugarloaf/Black Mesa saddle above that has a barb wire fence along the ridge. There's 2 places the fence is down that you can cross to the north side. I wasn't sure which side of the fence we needed to be on and we ended up crawling under once we saw we were no long going in the right direction. Between the fence and the crash site is a real bush wack, we did our best to stay near the track while avoiding pointy things. The crash site way points were right on and brought this 17 year old's tragedy to life. It's hard to imagine the agony that young man went through during his last hours on that hot July morning. From the crash site we headed east toward Trail 4. Travel was slow as we zig zagged through the prickly pear stands and deadly agave spears. The track eventually drops into the same drainage that has the wreckage further up the mountain. We opted to just follow the drainage all the way back to Trail 4. This ended up being much easier than the brutal cross country travel as we were in the shade, it was nice and cool, there was far less spikey things, and we found an large additional plane piece. This was about a half mile from the crash site up the hill! Back on Trail 4, we maintained a brisk pace back to the truck and enjoyed lunch at Big Earl's in Cave Creek.

Big thanks to Oregon_hiker for all his work on this!

Tree turning from green to yellow along Cave Creek trail #4.
Tortuga Trail - Spur Cross
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Stayed in town and got out to the Spur Cross / Jewel of the Creek area.

Temps were perfect in the am, and with the afternoon breeze, never got to warm.

Dragonfly Trail, Maricopa Trail, Elephant Mountain, Tortuga Trail, Towhee, Metate, Cave Creek #4 are all in great shape

Limestone #252 is fading away. It is also filled with icky Foxtail grass.
All 18 minutes of break time were to pull them from my shoes.
Another 45 minutes at home to get them from my shoes and socks.

Saw a Gila Monster in the tall grass, and a bit later, a dead Gray Fox in the middle of the trail. Coincidence?
Tortuga Trail - Spur Cross
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We decided to hike Spur Cross area to see wildflowers and mission was accomplished! Absolutely beautiful on the Elephant Mountain Trail. It was like the Wizard of Oz walking through a field of poppies. The weather was warm and the climb was steep but the beauty made it so rewarding. Read AZWandering Bear's write-up for more details.
Tortuga Trail - Spur Cross
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Stephanie mentioned the Elephant Mountain trail a few weeks ago. Thought it might be good for views and wildflowers about now, so off we all went to Spur Cross. Knew the day would get warm before we finished, so we went counter clockwise to get the climb out of the way early and finish in shade at the Jewel of the Creek. Flowers are maybe a week before prime, but still substantial. Noshed a bit on some juicy wolfberries along the way up Elephant.

Bumped into a solo hiker on her first Spur Cross outing. Helped with finding her way (and promoted HAZ, again).

The cottonwoods by the creek gave off nice shade when we stopped to wet some bandannas in the cool clear flow to combat the increasing heat. All is green and lush in that area, so pleasant!

Timed the drive home to allow red beer(s) for the Kutie and some a couple of full (blue) moons for the Beav with salads for all. Another fun outing to Spur Cross!
Tortuga Trail - Spur Cross
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This hike was exactly what I hoped for in regards to the wild flowers, greenery and of course of beautiful landscape. The water was flowing, hummingbirds were curious, the canyon wrens were vocal and there were no rattle snakes! The beauty was exactly what I had hoped for and can't be missed. I learned about wolf berries, delicious!!!

poppies, globe mallow, fairy dusters, Indian paintbrush, daisy, brittle bush
Tortuga Trail - Spur Cross
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Elephant Mountain Loop (Spur Cross)
We did the loop up Elephant Mountain that uses Tortuga and parts of Spur Cross. Left around 4p and finished at about 6:40p, in the dark. It ended up being fine, but with all the rocks in these trails, they aren't great for night hiking (imo). It was such a beautiful hike though! I am so glad that I finally did this one. I definitely recommend it.
Tortuga Trail - Spur Cross
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My first real adventure in a hot minute. I love love love Cave Creek, and specifically Spur Cross Ranch!!! I was at the TH before first light and paid my dues with headlamp at the self pay station. Saw about 15 javelina, one of which snorted at me at the first Cave Creek crossing. Made my way up over to Limestone Spring which was dry. All the water sources out there, expectedly are dry as a bone including Cave Creek itself.

After a hot summer in which I've had some medical issues, it felt good to get out and be alone in a beautiful beautiful place.

Permit $$
Spur Cross Conservation Area $3 per person

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To Spur Cross Trailhead
I-17 North & Exit 233, which is SR-74 the Carefree Highway. Head east on Carefree Highway 9.9 miles to Cave Creek Road. Head North on Cave Creek Road 2.6 miles to Spur Cross Ranch Road. The road jogs a bit here but you go 4.0 miles to the parking lot.

It is a well-graded dirt road. As it nears the parking area, the road leads past a large green house, through a tall gatepost and past a corral. There is a large signed parking area. Along the road about 75 yards northeast of the parking area, there is a self-pay station and a small informational kiosk with rudimentary maps. Pay the fee and carry the stub with you.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 35.8 mi - about 57 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 144 mi - about 2 hours 26 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 133 mi - about 2 hours 10 mins
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