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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Castle Creek Trail #239, AZ

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Guide 9 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Prescott > Black Canyon
2.5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 5.55 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,200 feet
Elevation Gain 3,137 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,339 feet
Avg Time One Way 3-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 16.68
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15  2019-04-23 joebartels
21  2018-02-10
Twin Peaks #240 - Castle Creek #239 Loop
30  2018-02-10
Twin Peaks #240 - Castle Creek #239 Loop
16  2018-02-10
Twin Peaks #240 - Castle Creek #239 Loop
12  2013-09-21 joebartels
27  2010-06-10 The_Eagle
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,825
Trips 4,256 map ( 21,429 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Sep, Oct, Aug
Sun  6:13am - 6:33pm
Official Route
5 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
it might make you cry
by joebartels

Likely In-Season!
A rarely used trail that travels from FR 684 to FR 697 where Senator Highway (FR 52) ends. It follows the Castle Creek drainage in the Castle Creek Wilderness.

Hundreds if not thousands admire this trail daily from Sunset Point Rest Stop on I-17.

A carsonite post marks the beginning of the trail. In late September it was quickly camouflaged by tall green grass. The course is questionable at times. Follow the cairns. They are easier to spot when the grass is low. A gps route loaded into a gps device will make it easier to follow if you know how to use the device.

According to topo "Castle Creek Cabin" is only a few paces north of the trailhead. Judging by satellite view all that remains is a corral or possibly a foundation.

At 1.35 mi you enter the Castle Creek Wilderness. There is a four post square sign(2013), (2018, new steel signs). Twin Peaks Trail #240 heads north. It was among the worst catclaw adventures of my life in 2010. It appeared no different 3 years later, perhaps worse if that is possible.

Our trail continues west another 4.7 miles to Senator Hwy. The lower portions are predominantly catclaw with low lying chaparral such as shrub live oak. It can be irritating at times. Remember to look up and around. The surrounding mountain views are impressive. From midway to the top look back to the east in the I-17 corridor. You can make out Black Mesa (near side) and Perry Mesa separated by a canyon which is the Agua Fria River.

Fauna is on display for those with a sharp eye. We spotted a ring-necked snake, one gopher snake, a mild neurotoxin gila monster, one or two large ear mule deer and even a Jerusalem cricket.

Aside from a quarter mile at the end in the pines this trail is exposed. There are a few dead to gnarly looking white oaks ( or similar ) midway up that provide nice shade for a break.

So far you have been traveling through what seems like rolling hills. Sporadic pines on a ridge will come into distant view. Due west is where you are going. At 3.75mi you cross the last creekbed which is the upper most tributary for Castle Creek. 3.75 mi to 5.2 mi is a series of switchbacks. Route finding becomes easier due to thicker vegetation.

The pines up top will be most welcome. Aside from shade and cooler temps the trail is open and wide. A loop with the Twin Peaks Trail is possible. The catclaw can be brutal.

Nice inviting areas around the upper trailhead. Personally I wouldn't be camping on this trail unless in a pinch. I didn't notice any well used spots.

Pools in Castle Creek after recent rains.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2013-09-23 joebartels

    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 Triplog Reviews
    Castle Creek Trail #239
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Twin Peaks #240 - Castle Creek #239 Loop
    Last did this loop in June of 2010. While the area and views are killer, so was the catclaw. Blood letting in earlier days was thought to cure ills. I wasn't sick, I vowed this to be a one and done.

    Turns out, I am sick, mentally (I know , no secret there). Joe suggested this late in the week and there had been rumors that some work had been done to the trail. My answer, lets give it a try....

    The sleepy Turtle Joined us with and we started up top, clockwise, at the Twin Peaks #240 intersection with Castle Creek #239. 1.6 miles and 450' of gain and we were at our high point for the day. Trail's still good.

    We start the drop to the lower intersection with Castle Creek #239. Through the 4.5 mile mark, there was evidence of trail work sometime in the last 8 years. It was cleared 8' wide in spots. The views are sweet. [ youtube video ]

    At the 4.5 mile marker, it looks like they gave up. This was the start of the catclaw in earnest. [ photo ] and the catclaw basically went on for the rest of the hike. At a break, I strapped on the gaiters. This saved my ankles and shins for the rest of the day, but my arms and especially thighs fertilized the catclaw with life giving blood.

    Joe and I both remembered the Castle Creek #240 trail "Not that bad". Should have said "Not as Bad". There was more catclaw than I remembered and the trail was only distinguished by cairn hunting. If you haven't seen one in awhile, you are off trail. The truck was a welcome sight

    I will need photographic evidence of trail clearing, before trying this one again.

    Castle Creek Trail #239
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Twin Peaks #240 - Castle Creek #239 Loop
    Twin Peaks Trail #240
    Upper 2 miles are fantastic. Thru mile 4 is decent trail with outstanding views. The bottom 4 miles is the current worst catclaw massacre search and find trail(cough) in Arizona I'm aware exists.

    Castle Creek Trail #239
    In 2010 & 2013 this trail was cleared just enough to make it enjoyable. Now it is a route finding hunt with lots of unpleasant catclaw and some shrub. Not a nightmare like #240, still too much pain for most. The upper most 0.25 mile is pure heaven with a great trail winding through tall skinny pines.

    Friends don't let friends hike these two trails. Yet alone suggest and pressure those working Friday night shifts with phrases like come on man, bros before pillows...gasp

    Twin Peaks was my second worst catclaw story for 8 years. Sandals through pre groomed [ Half Moon Trail #288 ] was the first. I was blind. Unprepared is not a parallel comparison. #240 wins the honors. I never want to experience it again... until the next time
    Castle Creek Trail #239
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    The Bradshaws seem to intrigue or sour hiking taste buds like ear wax on a cracker...

    Bruce - "Save Twin Peaks for me... I have a score to settle out there"... sicko!

    jj3 - mentioned boycotting I-17 using Payson for all northbound hikes moving forward

    jlp - this is great, I love it! Later gave up hiking and changed his mode to assisted momentum...

    Brian went in with a positive attitude. Now likely questions life, dirt roads and... oh come on, I think he'll appreciate it more in a couple days after a few Mountain Dews tickle his taste buds.

    0.0 mi - FR684 is a riot
    If the road to Cash Tank or Tortilla is your idea of 4x4 then this road is probably 8x8 for you. After 1.8 mi we parked and hiked the remaining 2.5 mi. A ledge was washed out and too narrow for anything other than skinny rides. Aside from the forest up top the road was the most relaxing part of the

    2.5 mi - Carsonite stake marks #239
    A nice trail that last about fifteen feet. After that put on the cairn goggles, get your high step in gear and march forward. 2 years ago Bruce and I found this trail ( #239 ) to be in very good shape and Twin Peaks ( #240 ) among the worst ever. Now the cats claw is beginning to swallow #239. We didn't get too ripped up, just a sincere annoyance. The added swaying grass on the other hand took it's toll. Albeit pretty it made route finding a mental pain and high stepping a physical pain. My upper thighs felt like a long bike ride after a layoff.

    3.9 mi - Castle Creek #239 / Twin Peaks #240 Junction
    After a few yards on to Twin Peaks I decided to abort based on three thoughts.
    - the deterioration of Castle Creek ( an assumed good trail ) in just two years
    - concern for Brian as the loop would put him into a considerably accelerated type of hike
    - the bottom easy part where Bruce and I followed cairns was no longer easy

    The hike switched to an out-n-back on Castle Creek Trail #239. With the exception of the short pine forest stroll up top the entire trail is borderline disaster. Taking away the high grass would make it better but you would still be dealing with route finding and cats claw. Most of which is below waist level unlike Twin Peaks.

    We took a couple breaks on the way up. Personally, I find the views outstanding. This won't go down as a favorite for Brian. While he swore it off for 5 years I think he netted a few valuable tips along the way.

    borderline moderate in areas, several lesser varieties
    Castle Creek Trail #239
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    The plan was to first, avoid the 34 mile drive from I-17, on the dirt road past Crown King and second, start the Hike at a lower elevation before the heat of the day. A 5 mile drive on FR 684 just prior to to the booming metropolis of Bumblebee seemed to be the ticket and would cut the off I-17 mileage to 9 miles. I'm not shy when it come to off road driving, but only having a 2WD Pathfinder, the final straw a half mile in, was a boulder crossing, then a stream, then an uphill through sand. Anybody taking this route to reach the eastern TH of the Castle Creek trail .... 4x4 IS A MUST.

    So back out and around we went, and 1:25 minutes later we were at our upper TH. The temps were great at 8:30 one top at around 65 degrees, but we knew this meant hiking up 3100 ft in the heat of the day once we reached the bottom. The Castle Creek trail was actually in not bad shape and I can recommend it. The toughest part was actually finding the Trail from the Trailhead. The views down towards the Sunset Rest area were real sweet and now I can say when I pass by there "I was up there".

    We did not make it to the lower TH that we planned on starting from, instead opting to just take the Twin Peaks Trail. In hindsight, this was a good choice, as it would have added 4 mile to our trip, and another 1000' in AEG. We really wanted to check for the waterfall that is just west of the Castle Creek Cabin on the TOPO maps. In talking to a horseman last week, he mentioned he'd seen the waterfall 10 years ago, but thought the Forest Service has since burned down the cabin.

    Now.... as far as the Twin Peaks trail goes, until/if they ever get back in there to clear cut the catsclaw, the only part of this trail I'd attempt, is from the upper trail heads to the area by the Twin Peaks. It's too bad because there are some great views up there, but you'll be so weak from busting through brush and blood loss that you just don't pumpkin care.

    Side note, and save this for future pranks.... Joe really, really, really, really does not like spiders and spider webs. I heard a scream so high pitched, that I thought I was hiking with a 12 year old girl. He spent more time picking out spider web, than I spent pulling out catsclaw needles!

    A memorable trip to say the least.

    PS the Catch Phraze of the day was, "I think I have a trail...Crap, we gotta go through that?"
    Castle Creek Trail #239
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I've pondered many times why no one has posted on these "near" Valley trails in the nearly 14 years HAZ has been online... The area of this triplog is what every rest stop visitor to Sunset Point ponders in awe, the eastern flank of the Bradshaw Mountain Range.

    The original plan was to loop up Castle Creek Trail & down Twin Peaks and check out a seventy foot waterfall off trail on the way back. Heading out to the lower trailhead we were pretty surprised to find out Castle Creek was flowing in June. Being so close to Phoenix and with such little rain in months this seemed wacky, maybe it's perennial? Anyhow there was no way we could get up enough speed to negotiate the terrain. Off to plan B... take the 27 mile road up and then 7 miles over to the upper trailhead.

    The long drive had us starting later yet the temps up top were a mere 63 degrees :)

    Castle Creek Trail heading down went pretty easy. For the most part it's pretty obvious with only a couple route finding issues. It appears to have been catclaw clipped a year or two ago. It's growing back but not horrible yet. The main issue we encountered was getting tangled in the dead clippings that were right on trail. Before that all started I opted to throw on pants. Whereas Senior Boyscout Bruce chose the shiny grail, the hot girl and a bag of fine grain sugar. Sorry, back on track... the views heading down were better than anticipated. You have a sweet view of Black Mesa and Perry Mesa. More of what you expect to see in Utah or northern Arizona, not central Arizona near the valley.

    The cool weather was tapering off as we neared the lower elevation junction for the Twin Peaks Trail. After the turn the cat's claw started encroaching more and cairns became the game. Then the cairns let up and the trail just turned to ravines filled with cat's claw. I've seen some pretty bad stuff on the Half Moon Trail. So while conveying that story was dealt a whole new nightmare. This stuff went on for... friggen miles. It was unreal. One section was over our heads. In total disbelieve there were cairns below under the cat's claw. So we hacked through that too.

    The going was grueling slow. The temps were undoubtedly hovering 90 yet breezes kept us in the game. Our energy levels dropped from the constant fighting for five foot sections of trail most would never deem possible. It was daunting in the middle of these huge cat's claw fields with no end in sight. Finally it let up around 5,400 feet to good old fashion bushwhacking.

    With the joy of survival on our side things looked on the up and up. Not for long. Soon we realized we had 2,400ft in gain and the little water left in our packs was depleting fast. With a good four to five breaks we finally put this one to rest. The long hours spent in the June sun and the relentless bush fighting really owned me today.

    Bruce stopped by the lake were we washed off our feet. Next he bought me one of the best burger and fries I've had in my life at the Bar in Crown King. (appetite may slightly alter my "best in life" rating but it was darn good!) A pretty swell guy I must admit. I made up the stuff about the grail and what not. However I couldn't make up the following, cause nobody would ever believe me. Bruce brought pants but was too stubborn to put them on until after the cat's claw. With a wounded hand from a fall and the rest of his non clothed body resembling a mistreated package of sausage I have to say... you're crazy man! Yet something must be wrong with me cause all I have to say at this point is, thanks for a great hike!

    Permit $$

    Prescott Forest
    Prescott National Forest Pass

    Only trailheads with six "amenities" have fees. Amenities are picnic tables, trash, toilet, parking, interpretive signing and security.

    Map Drive

    To hike
    Lower Trailhead
    Most likely 4x4
    From I-17 take Exit 248 for Bumble Bee / Crown King. This soon turns to the high clearance dirt road to Crown King. From I-17 follow 4.8 miles to FR 684 on the left. 684 is a 4x4 road, follow it 4.7 miles to the trailhead.
    GPS Route for lower drive

    Upper Trailhead
    From I-17 Exit 248 ( high clearance ) 36.6 mi. About 1 hour 55 mins
    1. Head northwest on Bumble Bee Rd 11.6 mi
    2. Continue onto Crown King Rd/Forest 259 Rd 0.5 mi
    3. Slight left to stay on Crown King Rd/Forest 259 Rd
    Continue to follow Forest 259 Rd 16.4 mi
    4. Continue straight onto S Senator Hwy 3.3 mi
    5. S Senator Hwy turns slightly left and becomes Horse Thief Rd
    Destination will be on the right 4.8 mi
    GPS Route for upper drive
    page created by HAZ_Hikebot on May 14 2010 11:28 am
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