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Coal Creek Lower Canyon, AZ

Guide 4 Triplogs  1 Active Topic
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,660 feet
Elevation Gain -80 feet
Accumulated Gain 130 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 2.85
Interest Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
14  2008-09-11 PrestonSands
15  2008-05-15 PrestonSands
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 169
Routes 148
Photos 5,617
Trips 1,516 map ( 7,711 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, Nov → Any
Seasons   ALL
Sun  5:27am - 7:19pm
Official Route
0 Alternative

Carboniferous crusade
by PrestonSands

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Overview: This description is of a short hike down lower Coal Creek canyon, which runs along the Arizona-New Mexico border in the Big Lue Mountains. Specifically, this hike is along the lower portion of the creek, north of state highway 78, near Coal Creek Campground. The hike follows an ATV trail along Coal Creek/s seasonal watercourse to a small park among tall ponderosa pines.

Lower Coal Creek is a conveniently located hike for those camping at Coal Creek Campground or merely passing through the area. Mileage listed in the statistics is for a hike from Coal Creek Campground to the end of the ATV trail and back. It is also possible to continue further down Coal Creek Canyon for a longer hike.

Camping: Camping is available at Coal Creek Campground, where this hike begins, and at the end of the trail. Scattered pools of water may be found along Coal Creek during the spring or during monsoon season, where bedrock forces it to the surface, but Coal Creek appears to be dry most of the year.

Hike: Along highway 78, one-tenth of a mile west of Coal Creek Campground, an unmarked dirt road heads north from the highway (33.10426, -109.06369) into an open camping area. Follow this road northwest through a little valley, along the route of Coal Creek.

One-third of a mile from Coal Creek Campground, the valley narrows into a canyon, and the road (now a jeep trail) passes through a barbed wire gate (33.10666, -109.06571) into a grassy, open forest of pine and juniper.

A short distance past the gate is a side road splitting off to the right that goes uphill. Stay left, in the canyon bottom. The jeep trail soon crosses over to the west bank of Coal Creek and immediately deteriorates into a narrow ATV trail. There are several more creek crossings as the route travels down the meandering canyon.

At about the one-mile point, the canyon makes a sharp turn to the south, and the trail terminates in a small, grassy park, shaded on the edges by tall ponderosa pines. There is a little flat along the creek at this point, perfect for camping.

If you choose to hike further down the canyon, Coal Creek cuts an ever-deepening channel into the basaltic bedrock, and water-loving species such as ash and grapevine appear. Coal Creek eventually empties into the San Francisco River, many miles down the canyon. Canyoneering skills may be required in some places.

Otherwise, 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.

2008-05-18 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.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Safford, head east on Highway 70/191. 10 miles from Safford, the highway splits, turn left onto Highway 191 and follow it for another 23.75 miles to a (4-way) highway junction known as "3-Way" (old drive-in movie theater and store). Go straight at the intersection. You are now on Arizona highway 78. Follow Highway 78 for approximately 18.5 miles, to Coal Creek Campground on the left, at milepost 173.5. There is parking available at the Campground. The hike begins on an unmarked dirt road that leaves from the north side of Highway 78, 0.1 miles west of Coal Creek Campground (see hike description)
    page created by PrestonSands on May 17 2008 11:36 pm
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