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Towhee Trail - Spur Cross, AZ

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Guide 37 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
2.9 of 5 by 14
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Difficulty 0.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 0.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,316 feet
Elevation Gain 6 feet
Accumulated Gain 6 feet
Avg Time One Way 5-10 minutes
Kokopelli Seeds 0.22
Backpack No
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15  2019-05-29 RowdyandMe
10  2019-01-25
Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon
15  2018-12-14
Limestone Trail #252 - Spur Cross
8  2018-11-04
Spur Cross Limestone Loop
12  2018-04-08
Metate Trail - Spur Cross
10  2018-01-20
Cottonwood Spring Loop Plus
13  2018-01-20
Cottonwood Spring Loop Plus
29  2017-11-21
Spur Cross Loop
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,825
Trips 4,259 map ( 21,438 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Jan, Dec, Mar → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:15am - 6:26pm
Official Route
9 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
by joebartels

This is a short spur of the Metate Trail that hugs Cave Creek.

This short spur is well signed on both sides mid-way into the Metate Trail. Surely it was designed to hug Cave Creek increasing the walk-along-views...

From either end it practically turns into a tunnel of flora. Wild cucumber takes over in the early spring covering everything in it's path. I'm not kidding either. It covers full mesquite trees, prickly pair patches and even makes a run on the saguaros. The density and height just seems impossible being on the fringe of the sonoran desert. I've seen some wild cucumber on hikes but this stuff puts the rest to shame.

If it wasn't so incredible you might complain that pretty much all creek views are blocked. There is a glimpse on occasion. Just not what you'd expect for a trail likely designed for creek views. The name of the trail suggest it was built to admire birds, perhaps Canyon Towhees.

Due to the shortness of this hike you might consider doing a couple laps! In season, you really don't want to miss out on the Metate Trail section it bypasses.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

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 16 deeper Triplog Reviews
Towhee Trail - Spur Cross
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Cottonwood Spring Loop Plus
247A is signed closed on the near end, which resides inside Spur Cross. The trail is in good shape and well used. To be legal simply hike 0.15 mi further on #4 to the forest boundary where off-designated-trail travel is legal. BTW proposed fee increases on Feb 21st might go live April 1st. If you support this forest buffer not keeping good trails open and charging you more... do absolutely nothing and you help seal the deal.

This wasn't the planned hike and I'm not a huge fan of this area. Which aside from despising the access stems heavily on wet hikes across Skull Mesa. Once again this desert dweller enters the area on a friggen rainy day... bah humbug

The mountain views along this moderate loop are fab. Due to our abbreviated plans Bruce suggested we head out a little further on #247. Passing a side canyon I through out a prayer we explore the narrow looking canyon. Boy howdy did we get lucky! An intriguing stretch flash rocked our peptides.

Then onwards to another Cottonwood Spring. Interesting 2 share the same name within a mile on the same 7.5 topo New River Mesa.

Bruce had the foresight to finish with Metate/Towhee. Which should be a given for every hike in the area. The area is as dry as I've seen. The wild cucumber that arches over Towhee is currently a dry brittle salad.
Towhee Trail - Spur Cross
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Cottonwood Spring Loop Plus
This was plan B for the day.
Some of my relatives had the first area closed because they needed some "Privacy" while making little Eagles.

So after some conversation, we headed over to Spur Cross and did this loop.

Temps dropped a bit during the hike and we got a steady drizzle starting around 9:15, but we never got the 30mph gusts that were forecast. This is an enjoyable loop on some new sections of trail for me. Cottonwood Spring (the southwestern most, there are 3 in the area) had plenty of water to filter from. There was some plastic pipe, a shovel and pitch fork in the area also.

We hopped into Cottonwood Creek (Dry) for some splorin'. There were a couple of interesting rocky areas. We decided to go up to the next Cottonwood Spring. There was no sign of a spring that we found, but we caught the Cottonwood #247 here to turn around.

Ran into a a couple of other hikers out there prior to hitting the Metate Trail to check out the Huge Saguaros.

Towhee Trail - Spur Cross
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Just a great day to be in Spur Cross. I made a wrong turn on this hike and well it may have added to it. Because of my wrong turn at the Spur Cross/Rondo springs marker I had extra time so with that I added a few more trails.
Those trails being Metate and Towhee trails. And really if not for that wrong turn I would have probably ever hike those two trails. So in away I am glad I made that wrong turn. They weather was perfect and we really hade the trails to our selves at least 90% of the time.
Just a really great day to be hiking out here.
Towhee 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?
Towhee 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.
Towhee Trail - Spur Cross
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Hiked up to the petroglyphs. Some friends from out of town want to do this hike next week. Just wanted to make sure the creek crossings were manageable for them. Lots of folks on the trails today. One group of three guys were totally lost. Got them headed back to the parking lot (hopefully).
Towhee Trail - Spur Cross
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Skull Mesa Loop
It's been far too long since I've hiked out of Spur Cross. Especially since I live so close to it. There was a 70% chance of rain on the day, and with rain for two days previous, Cave Creek was sure to be running decently.

7:30 in the morning, and we were the first vehicle in the lot. We kept our feet dry by rock hopping the 1st and 4th crossings and going off trail to bypass crossings 2,3 5 and 6. I'd forgotten how steep it was in sections of Cottonwood #247 trail, just to get to the steeper Skull Mesa #248 trail. It was a temperate 55 degrees, but I was wringing wet and glasses fogging up from all the humidity.

Once on top of Skull Mesa, we made our way on the Skull Mesa "Trail" to the east side. The western portion is cairned and easy to follow. The eastern portion, not much to follow there. Still the rain held off, but we had periods of fog on top, and then rising fog from below as we started down.
35 seconds of sheer excitement :next:
The top of the mesa was pretty muddy, our shoes picking up extra weight along the way.

On the Quien Sabe #250, we decided to take a short cut to Cave Creek #4 down a wash. There some sweet geology and flora along the way. On Cave Creek #4, we got our first sprinkles of the day. Not enough to to put on the coat or break out the chrome dome.

We cut off Cave Creek #4, down to the 6L ranch area, on a spur trail. I'd never been here or read too much about the area. This is a nice area the I need to come back and check out. We stumbled upon some Glymps and Metates and it looks like there much more to see here.

Getting back from here was easier, since we no longer had to try and keep our feet dry, we just walked on through all the creek crossings

The Metate Trail and Towhee Trail are always fun to hit when in the area. Some of the biggest Saguaros in the state, mixed with all sorts of greenery
Towhee Trail - Spur Cross
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Wow! What a great loop! I was thinking that today would be a good day to do a long loop close to home. Well, I think I underestimated the heat factor. It got wicked hot! Temps started at 72 and ended at 98. Humidity was oppressive! Burned through my 3 liter pack before returning to the trailhead, which I hardly ever run out before the end. Regardless, that 247 trail is awesome! Winding in and out and up and down and through gates and along gates. Faint at spots, rocky, washed out, and overgrown, it really feels like wilderness! Great views of Skull Mesa and New River Mesa all along the way. I can't wait for the temps to come down so I can return to do Skull Mesa!
Towhee Trail - Spur Cross
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Nice day to be out on the trails. Hadn't been to Spur Cross in a while, so we headed there today. Went north along the Metate and Towhee and rejoined the Spur Cross Trail before cutting west onto the Limestone. Lots of hikers along the lower stretches of trail, but didn't see a soul once we got onto the Limestone.

Haven't hiked the Limestone before, so it was new territory. The trail is rocky and we dodged some growth along the sides since we were wearing shorts. Limestone Spring had a slow drip into the full tank (bees and tadpoles galore). Page Spring had standing water, but it isn't much more than a seep right now. Enjoyed seeing Sugarloaf up close. One day, but not today.

Was tempting to head on up the Elephant, but had things to do today. Another time.
Towhee Trail - Spur Cross
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I liked Spur Cross Ranch so much when I was here a couple weeks ago that I brought my girlfriend back here today. Lots of cars in the parking lot when we got there, but we didn't see a whole lot of people on the trails.

Skipped the Elephant Mountain trail this time, and checked out the Metate and Towhee side of the park instead. The Metate and Towhee trails were nice strolls through a very lush area. The Tortuga Trail was especially muddy and slippery from the rain, and we nearly ate it a few times. We were hoping there were still some fall colors to be seen around the creek, and there were. There was a little more water in the creek this time from the rain the past couple days, but mostly just standing pools of water.

Walking back to our car we heard a large group of coyotes back down by the Spur Cross Trail that were very excited about something, and I got a good look at one of them. Wish we could have gotten a look at the whole group.

This park has become one of my favorite hikes, and I believe I'll be coming back often. :)

Still some nice fall colors along the creek.

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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