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Coal Creek Lower Canyon, AZ

no permit
29 4 0
Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine S
3 of 5 by 1
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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
Avg Time Round Trip 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 2.85
Interest Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
14  2008-09-11 PrestonSands
15  2008-05-15 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   Apr, Oct, Mar, Nov → Any
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:02am - 6:19pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Carboniferous crusade
by PrestonSands

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 simply 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 N, 109.06369 W), 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 N, 109.06571 W), 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 trail 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 small 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 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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Coal Creek Lower Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I awoke to bright sunlight at my campsite near the Black Hills rockhounding area, tossed my sleeping bag into my truck and then started east on 191 for the New Mexico line to meet a botanist from Tucson at Coal Creek. We roamed Coal Creek, studying flowering specimens of an unusual cactus I had come across years ago. The willow patch had a small pool like always. Saw a few deer. After locating what we came for it was off to Black Jack for the second half of the day.
    Coal Creek Lower Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Deja-vu on trip #2:
    Skies were again dark over the Big Lue Mountains and rain was coming down as I drove up highway 78, but I had another great hike on the edge of Arizona. Coal Creek was flowing cool and strong, and summer wildflower season was in full gear. The temperature was perfect, the air fresh and moist with only occasional sprinkles. I went "Teva Joe" style, which worked out well for the numerous creek crossings. Today's wildlife: a squirrel. Today's wildflowers: every color in the rainbow. I love the Big Lue Mountains! :)
    Coal Creek Lower Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Skies were dark over the Big Lue Mountains and rain was coming down as I drove up highway 78. I had my doubts, but I decided to go for it. I ended up having a great hike and a beautiful "Mid-May Monsoon" experience. The temperature was perfect, the air fresh and moist with a light breeze, skies filled with ragged clouds, and only a light rain for 10 minutes or so. I didn't see anyone else, nor did I expect to in the Big Lues. :)
    This is a fine hike for anyone who enjoys solitude in open, rolling, ponderosa pine country.

    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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