Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Pinto Creek Canyon is a diverse perennial segment of lower Pinto Creek. Truly an overlooked desert gem with much to offer and minimal challenge. This is a relaxing non-technical creek hike with lush riparian vegetation, crystal clear water, numerous small fish, and a gorgeous closing finale box canyon that must be seen in person to appreciate.
I need to start out with a disclaimer... Completing this hike without getting your feet wet is not an option. Plan on wearing some type of closed-toe sandal or an enclosed water shoe. The hike as posted starts out where FR242 crosses Pinto Creek. The first half-mile of this hike is heavily shaded by a thick beautiful canopy of tall cottonwood trees with some isolated sycamore. Following the creek is the only realistic way through the lush vegetation. Don't fight the terrain. Just get in the creek and start walking. The average depth is typically ankle deep. Considering that you will need to walk in the creek itself, it's best to do this hike during the late spring or early summer when the air temps warm up and the cold spring runoff is completely over. Even on a hot day, it will seem amazingly cool and pleasant along the creek during the morning hours.
It's hard to believe that this is a low desert hike. This place is an oasis! Everything about this destination is so peaceful and relaxing. The sound of a gentle stream and a nice breeze blowing through the cottonwoods is so soothing. The creek is full of minnows and sunfish. As you continue further downstream, the evidence of what's to come will be more and more evident. After the first half-mile, the canyon begins to slowly close up and gets progressively deeper and narrower. Within one mile, the creek drops into a stunning deep box canyon with sheer granite walls and jagged outcroppings. I was becoming concerned that there would be some challenging obstacles in the lower canyon due to the severity of the terrain. To my surprise, the creek maintained its gentle progression between the towering canyon walls with nothing but soft sand and a few random boulders. The lower box segment was completely shaded until about 11:00 AM. So many deep canyons have an ominous heavy feel with loud pounding water. This canyon was the complete opposite. It's so peaceful... I found myself a nice spot in the soft cool sand and took the best nap I've ever had in my life while listening to the sounds of playful birds and water. Simply gorgeous! Beyond the lower box segment, Pinto Creek opens up considerably as it heads down towards Roosevelt Lake. This is a good place to turn around. Perennial flow typically ends shortly downstream.
If you're looking for an adrenalin charged canyon with challenging obstacles, this is not your trip. Pinto Creek Canyon is a gentle giant. If you're looking for a peaceful short hike with gorgeous scenery and lots of time to soak in the experience, you have found it. I highly recommend reaching the lower box segment before late morning while it's still heavily shaded. The shade from the towering cliffs truly makes the trip and is a welcome retreat from the desert heat. If your experience is anything like mine, you will not want to leave. Pinto Creek Canyon is a unique special destination. Enjoy!
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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.