register help

Tonto Creek - The Box, AZ

no permit
107 9 0
Guide 9 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson S
4 of 5 by 2
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
clicktap icons for details
Distance One Way 2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,516 feet
Elevation Gain 70 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 2.23
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Perennial Creek
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
13  2017-05-13 skatchkins
8  2017-04-09
Lower Gun Creek
7  2016-11-23 arizona_water
21  2013-06-14
Tonto Creek
6  2013-05-04 skatchkins
10  2010-09-30 sventre
9  2010-08-04 ssk44
21  2010-05-20 snakemarks
Page 1,  2
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Apr, May, Jun
Sun  6:08am - 6:32pm
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby

Author Full Detail Guide
Two-mile long narrow segment of Tonto Creek, AKA "The Box". This segment is a popular class 4-5 whitewater kayaking run during heavy runoff.

Check out the Triplogs.

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

  • guide related image guide related image
    guide related
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
Tonto Creek - The Box
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
I was able to leave early from work on Wednesday. I picked up a friend in Tempe and we arrived at FR1390 around 1:00pm. This road is in decent condition. I would recommend mid-clearance and 4WD isn't really necessary, although it would certainly help coming out of the small, yet steep, washes. Originally, I had planned to take FR1553 to access the canyon, but I was reading conflicting reports on the road conditions (and Tonto Creek access) and wanted to make the most of the remaining daylight, so I just decided to stick with a quick, easy drive.

From the gaging station, we went about a mile and a half up Tonto Creek. Most of this part of the Tonto Box is beautiful and creates a sense of excitement as you get closer and closer to the narrows. However, the dense brush and thorny-riparian plant species made for slow and painful travel along the banks. Last week's .75inch of rainfall had not affected the flow too much, but it did create highly turbid and silty water. During our hike, the Creek was running at 9 CFS, yet we couldn't see anything in the water while crossing the creek. This made walking in the creek much more difficult than I expected. One moment I would see a boulder breaching the water line and step near it expecting shallower water. The next moment I would suddenly be up to my thighs in a muddy hole. This led us to stick with walking on the banks as much as possible.

We would've been able to travel much faster just walking up the creek, rather than attempting to bushwhack through cattails and walls of thorny plants. Of course, there is no trail, so you just have to pick a line and do your best to get through. The bushwhacking is worth it though! The further you go up the canyon, the more evident it becomes that this area gets very little human use. There are many points in the canyon where the banks cliff out, creating mandatory creek crossings, but they are never more than knee-deep.

The sun was getting low and the water, while not freezing, was cold enough to convince us to turn around once we reached the first narrows section. Upon returning to the gaging station and the wash/delta of Gun Creek, we attempted to see if we could find some pools of water in the Gun Creek channel. We went about a half mile up the wash before it is densely overgrown. I got to a an impassible point where it did not appear possible to walk further in the channel. Maybe if I had more daylight and time...and motivation, I would've just rerouted up and over he canyon wall. I was kind of disappointed to not see ANY signs of water in Gun Creek. But I didn't expected to be flowing, either. Interesting area though.

I would definitely come back here in mid-late January when some of the riparian vegetation has died down. I love Tonto Creek any the Box is an amazing place. The bushwhacking is tough, but worth it. And it's off the beaten path so you are likely to have the whole place to yourself!
Tonto Creek - The Box
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
The Box - Upper

I didn't have any work today so I thought it would be sweet to head up to Tonto Creek for the day. "The Box" is basically everything from Pittsburg Tonto Mine to Gun Creek at the bottom. I've wanted to check out the upper canyon segment since my last visit. The best way to reach the upper end of this hike is by utilizing FR1553, which is just southeast of Jakes Corner. FR1553 is a primitive road that requires high-clearance two-wheel drive.

I pulled up the stream flow prior to heading out. In this narrow canyon I would say that 10-40 CFS is perfect with 70-80 being the upper limit. It was 70 CFS today. What I didn't consider was the CHOCOLATE MUDDY WATER! Lame! The flow on Tonto Creek has been steadily coming down from the heavy rain over the weekend and unfortunately the color hasn't cleared up yet. Crossing back and forth is tough enough with high flow. Add chocolate water and it ends up like reading braille. You can't see anything! It was dangerous to say the least. I crossed three times over a short distance and concluded that it was time to head back. The canyon kept getting progressively narrower. There's supposedly a nice 8-10 foot narrow pour-over down there somewhere that I really wanted to see. Maybe next time...

In order to salvage the morning, I headed back up to the mine for some exploration. This location was an early 1900's gold mining operation. I suspect that in it's day, it was fairly impressive. The area has remnants of multiple structures, broadly scattered heavy equipment, two primary shafts, and an old cable system to transport equipment and material across the canyon. I personally really enjoyed poking around the mine, however unless you really like this stuff, I highly recommend doing this hike from the posted trailhead at the bottom. It's more enjoyable overall and you can turn back whenever you want.

Eric (ssk44)
Tonto Creek - The Box
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
The Box - Lower

I have wanted to visit this off-the-radar destination for over two years. I am so glad that I finally did it. It far exceeded my expectations. Great swimming hike!

Permit $$

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To canyon trip
The location is just above the Gun Creek confluence. Access is south of Jakes Corner off Highway 188, via FR1390. For current stream flow conditions see USGS station, Tonto Creek Above Gun Creek #09499000.
page created by ssk44 on May 05 2010 4:13 pm
3 pack - loud whistle
safety first
help comment issue

end of page marker