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Cove Canyon Trail, AZ

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Guide 8 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Safford
3 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.25 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,630 feet
Elevation Gain 870 feet
Accumulated Gain 924 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 8.87
Interest Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
15  2013-07-16 SkyIslander18
15  2011-08-10 SkyIslander18
11  2010-12-16 SkyIslander18
7  2008-11-12 PrestonSands
15  2008-04-23 PrestonSands
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Apr, Feb → Early
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:07am - 6:17pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Culture Nearby
set sail for the Cove
by PrestonSands

Overview: This hike up Cove Canyon follows an old jeep trail into the southern half of the Pinaleno Mountains (also known as the Greasewoods). Cove Spring, located in a high, hidden valley below bouldered peaks, is this hike's destination. This old trail does not have a name or number, yet it follows Cove Canyon, hence the name "Cove Canyon Trail". Whether day hiking or backpacking, Cove Canyon's scenic, hidden valley offers a secluded destination.

Hike: The hike begins on the south side of state highway 266, where an unmarked jeep trail meets the highway, at milepost 111.5 (trailhead gps coordinates: 32.55986 N, 109.78652 W). Proceed to follow this jeep trail, which heads west for a short distance, paralleling the highway. The jeep trail soon makes a sharp turn to the south to start climbing a grassy mountainside.

The half mile point finds the trail cresting a grassy saddle and entering oak-juniper woodland, scarred by a 2007 prescribed fire. The hike becomes decidedly steep at this point, as the jeep trail tackles a rocky ridge. The steeply inclined and deeply rutted road surface of decomposed granite seems to keep most vehicles from advancing beyond this stretch. Behind you, the grass and chaparral hills of the Stockton Wash area give way to the green mass of the Pinaleno range, and distant views of the San Simon Valley.

The trail reaches a high saddle at one and a quarter miles, near a large outcropping of milky white quartz. At this point you will cross through a green metal gate, and enter Cove Canyon's hidden valley.

One tenth of a mile past the gate, a side trail branches off to the left; stay right on the increasingly primitive jeep trail.

As the hike progresses through the valley, granite boulders and shady oaks increase in number. There are ample opportunities for primitive, dispersed camping throughout the area. The rough, boulder clad promontories of Kane Spring Mountain keep watch above, hemming the valley in on three sides.

As the trail continues west, it climbs over a low saddle, which offers a nice view out the mouth of the valley.

Now west of the saddle, in the western half of the hidden valley, the jeep trail deteriorates into a faint atv trail. At this point, which is about 1.9 miles from the trailhead, there is a large meadow to the right, behind an opening in a barbed wire fence.

A couple of hundred feet past the opening in the fence, the main trail bends to the left (32.55007 N, 109.80676 W), while a faint side trail goes straight ahead towards a creek bottom. Follow this side trail for a short distance. After crossing over a side creek, it will arrive at Cove Creek, where Cove Spring (32.54981 N, 109.80757 W) is located.

The Cove Spring area consists of a few ash trees, a small campsite, and a concrete water trough, which looks like it might hold water year round. The water should definitely be filtered and purified before drinking. Check with the Safford Ranger District Office for water availability.

Back at the side trail junction, the main trail heads south up a side drainage, and soon peters out among the trees.

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.

2008-04-27 PrestonSands
    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 Triplog Reviews
    Cove Canyon Trail
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    Got up with the sunrise to see the Pinalenos socked in and the valley under a thick overcast.
    Had the Greasewoods on my mind the night before, just hadn't picked a trail and decided to pick something on the drive in on Stockton Pass ..... I decided on the Cove.
    Got hiking up the jeep road at 6am and here are the facts -
    A tad chilly on the way up to the saddle.
    Most of the grasses are now in autumn color.
    My socks and shoes learned the hard way that it is now gaiter season.
    The entire trail looked overcast cool, the end meadow and corrals were beautiful.
    Cove Canyon wash was dry, but I followed it down anyways ..... glad I did, the rock formations down were scenic.
    Picked a fight with some barbed wire and lost ..... damn it!
    Encountered a baby toad, a cow & had several vulture/hawks above me ..... also witnessed the fastest snake ever cross the road on the drive out.
    Overcast to start and the fasted break up of clouds into almost clear sky I have ever seen.
    Cove Canyon was a good choice, I enjoyed my morning!
    Cove Canyon Trail
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    It's been over 2 years since I've hiked down into Cove Canyon's hidden valley.
    'Twas just as I had remembered it, a beautiful little bowl valley of granite boulders, shady oaks & winter grasses surrounded up high by scenic bouldered peaks. I liked it, as did my partners on their first trip into the cove!
    We took the old jeep trail down to Cove Creek then off-trailed up to a nice valley overlook before returning back the way we came. A good amount of flowing snow melt drainages were crossed and all of the water troughs by the meadow were full. Was happy to see that the Greasewood Mountains were still holding a decent amount of snow despite these last few warm days we've had ..... that was a bonus!

    Very good time spent in the Cove and with my visiting NM friends!
    Cove Canyon Trail
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    Woke up this morning to find the whole valley in a complete overcast and the upper 3rd of the Pinalenos socked in with thick clouds! It looked more like winter up there then summer, but not totally surprising due to the huge storm that moved in and dropped rain all night & early morning across Graham county. Anyways, I had planned on a high forest hike today, but that was not gonna happen so I hit up Grahams little brother to the south (Greasewoods) and hiked up into Cove Canyon.

    Arrived at the TH around 2pm to perfect 78deg temps and hiked in on the jeep trail. This was my first trip out in 2 years and I had forgotten just how scenic this hidden little cove valley is! I soon arrived at the trails end by the meadow to hear water running down the big wash from last nights rains. This area had some good flooding during the night which I followed down the canyon to many cool little light chocolate waterfalls! I then off-trailed across the valley hooking back up with the trail at the high saddle and took it back down to my truck.

    I was hoping for pines today, but Cove Canyon was a great one to hold me over until next week!
    Cove Canyon Trail
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    My 2nd trip into Cove Canyon. First visit was back in December under gloomy winter conditions so I put it on my summer "to-see" list. Headed up the steep jeep road to the saddle and then dropped down into the very green hidden valley below. Looks like the canyon has received a lot of rain recently as all the creeks & drainages were flowing with water, quite a surprise! Made my way down to the meadows & spring before following Cove creek down the canyon a little ways to a few small waterfalls. Sat and chatted with some of the cattle back at the meadows before hiking back out and was treated to a very nice sunset as I arrived back at my truck!
    Wildlife seen on this trip - 1 gopher snake, 7 deer (2 bucks), 3 javelina, 2 tarantulas & way too many cows to count.
    Cove Canyon Trail
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    Headed up this trail not really expecting much more than just a good exercise hike. First mile and a half up the steep jeep road was uneventful with some decent views and a few interesting rock formations. Made it up to the saddle, passed through the gate and from here the whole area opened up to some very nice mountain views all the way down to the stock tanks. Added another mile to this trail with a little off-trail exploring up onto some nice rock slab formations with killer views down into the canyon. Most of this trip was under overcast skies making photography a real challenge and it ended up raining on me 3 seperate times on the hike back. I ended up really liking this trail and will be back to explore more of the area when the weather is better!
    Cove Canyon Trail
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    Much better temps on this late afternoon trip. Drove a herd of cattle off the trail with mooing and my ogre-ish stature on the way up. Explored the Cove Spring area, looking for the source of the water, photographing the golden leaved ash trees, and wishing I had backpacked in. The Cove had a very welcoming feel today, and I hated to leave. It's a nice little hike.
    Cove Canyon Trail
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    After trying to hike this trail all winter, and an aborted attempt on April 9 due to cold rain, I was determined to hike to Cove Spring. As I approached the trailhead on this rather warm day, a roadside sign said "NO STOPPING: PRISONERS WORKING". I wasn't going to let that stop me! Besides, when is prison labor NOT used in Graham County? :lol: So off I went, hiking and searching for adventure. The sun showed no mercy, but a nice breeze did. The sound of chainsaws from the prisoners who were cutting trees by the highway floated up from far below, but that soon faded. The scenery on the way up to the high saddle was decent, but the views of the Pinalenos were outstanding. Once on top, I rounded the corner from the saddle into the hidden valley: "Whoa. This is cool!" :) I took a short break atop a boulder beneath a canopy of oaks, enjoying the breeze and the view of this cool little stronghold. I continued on across the valley, enjoying the attractive mix of emory oaks, junipers, grassy parks, boulders and peaks, and looking for the end of the trail. I found the end at a little over 2 miles, then backtracked a few hundred yards to find Cove Spring. I found the little spring under an ash tree, in the bottom of Cove Creek. Nearby was a concrete water trough, brimming with cool water and green algae. I decided this would make a fine place for a cool weather backpack sometime. For the return trip, I was thankful to have the sun on my back and not in my eyes. I arrived back at my truck, and was happy to not see any tickets on it or prisoners breaking into the cab :lol:
    It was an enjoyable little hike, and one I would do again.

    Permit $$

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

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Safford, head south on U.S. highway 191 for 17 miles to the junction with state highway 266. Turn west onto state highway 266, and follow it for 7.0 miles to milepost 111.5. There is a small dirt pull off spot on the left (south) side of the highway. The jeep trail that this hike follows starts behind the gate which is next to the pull off spot. (see hike description)
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