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Up Copper Camp Creek and Beyond!
A remote trail in a remote area of the Mazatzal Wilderness that climbs along Copper Camp Creek shoots up Squaw Flat and ends at Sheep Creek Trail. Can be used with nearby trails and/or off-trail options to make for solid backpacking loops (see Loop I or Loop II as examples).
A short section in the east was damaged from the Sunflower Fire of '12. Trail sees little usage and is washed out/overgrown in sections.
There are some mine tailings near east end of Copper Camp Creek (off-trail), and some ranching remains along the way.
Reaching the western trailhead is difficult. Even if one could get a vehicle across the Verde River, either by getting special permission to drive over Horseshoe Dam (good luck with that) or by fording the river from 161, 477 is overgrown and washed out in several locations. The most obvious option of walking under the Horseshoe Dam spillway and using 479/477 to get to the trailhead adds around 7.5 miles of hiking before even touching the trail.
The trailhead itself is foreboding. A single wilderness sign sits next to a horse gate overgrown by prickly pear, with no trail sign or obvious path leading into the wilderness. Pick a way around the cactus and head northeast through the cholla, connecting the few cairns for 0.2 miles until the tread shows up and bends east/southeast, heading down the side of a grassy hill. At 0.7 miles, the path heads down a drainage into Sheep Creek and is mostly washed out along the descent.
Turn north and follow Sheep Creek upstream, tracking the cairns as they show up and picking the path of least resistance. There is plenty of growth here with the dependable water. Within a few hundred yards, Copper Camp Creek will show up to the right - take this and look for a tread on the northern bank. The trail quickly crosses over to the southern bank at 1.5 miles and will climb up and around a few rock spurs. It then drops down to the creek, jumps back and forth, then moves to the northern bank at 2.3 miles. After another climb above the rocky creek bottom, it drops down to the loading corral area around 2.9 miles.
East of the corral, the path sticks close to the creek, only swinging significantly up the north bank near 3.2 miles to dance through some catclaw, and then crossing the 'main' creek branch and following a southern tributary to 4.2 miles. Then the climb up to Squaw Peak begins, slowly up a ridge between tributaries at first, then steepening quite a bit. Plenty of cairns show up along this climb, which is helpful through the grassy hills. Some great views can be found as the elevation breaks above the ridges around Copper Camp Creek.
Cresting onto Squaw Flat occurs at 6.2 miles and includes an immediate change of vegetation. Junipers take over, the short trees providing some minor shade, and the brush is low and not intrusive. The trail is mostly easy, well-worn in the soft rock up here, and easy to follow without the few cairns, though a few small drainages confuse things along the way. Sheep Mountain towers to the northeast and the closer Saddle Mountain to the southeast.
Deadfall becomes a problem around 7.2 miles. The trail crosses a few rocky washes, which are the source for McFarland Canyon, and a combination of the taller pines and Sunflower Fire make this a difficult area to get through. Gnarly brush also springs up to obscure the tread and claw at hikers. Stay on the trail as long as possible, first crossing the rocky washes, walking along the southern edge of a growing canyon, then dropping down a shallow ridgeline into the floor of upper McFarland, then deal with the obstacle course of dead trees within the rocky floor until the Sheep Creek Trail junction shows up.
Several sections of Copper Camp Creek had flowing water. The main one appears to be at the Sheep/Copper Camp Creek confluence, with another good one near the loading corral. A smaller and more questionable one was located near 3.5 miles. There was a seep near the Sheep Creek/Copper Camp Trail junction within upper McFarland.
A few spots along Copper Camp Creek, though everything was overgrown and didn't appear to see recent usage.
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.
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.