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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.

Upper Sheep Creek Loop, AZ

no permit
33 4 0
Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson W
4 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 17.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,565 feet
Elevation Gain 2,720 feet
Accumulated Gain 4,450 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 12-16 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 39.65
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
10  2018-10-21
20  2011-05-07 The_Eagle
13  2011-05-07 joebartels
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,261 map ( 21,471 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Sep, May, Jun, Oct → Early
Seasons   Spring to Late Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Southern Mazzie Heartland
by joebartels

Likely In-Season!
2.8mi on the Mazatzal Divide Trail #23. 5.4mi down upper Sheep Creek. 3.9mi east on Sheep Trail #88. 4.7mi NE on Thicket Spring Trail #95. 0.6mi east back to the trailhead on the Mazatzal Divide Trail #23. 11.2 miles are in the Mazatzal Wilderness. Study this map.

Potentially dangerous based on your skill level and weather. Do not attempt this without proficient map orientation skills. Look for trailhead forecasted temps no greater than 85 degrees. Down climbing one undercut dryfall is required on the official route. Backtracking midway may be worse than continuing.

Bruce(the Eagle) and I completed this route at an enjoyable 14hr pace. Head out on the Mazzie Divide Trail. You'll pass into the Mazzie Wilderness just after 1.8mi. Continue to 2.8mi where a low saddle is on your left. Here is where you go off-trail. Climb a short 80ft up to the saddle.

Into the Abyss
The fun starts. The terrain for the next 1-1.5mi of this loop is the most challenging to negotiate, yet nothing terrible. Head down (east,SE is okay) to the ravine that makes up upper Sheep Creek as depicted on topographical map. We merged in just under the 5,800 contour line but anywhere above 5,600 is fine.

Upper Creek
Follow the creek best you can down to a waterfall at 4,900ft about 4.7mi from the trailhead. Along the way you will pass a trophy Arizona Cypress not to be missed. The waterfall will stop you dead in your tracks with a drop off around a 100ft. It wouldn't be worth carrying the rope to rappel since there aren't any other rappels on this long route. Instead head west up through a low brushy ridge maybe 80yards to a tributary that is negotiable on foot.

This is the thickest brush of the hike. Plow through, make it happen and get on with the show. The descent is over quick and you will be going through boulders and tree trunks. Before you know it the waterfall is to your right. As it was merely a trickle I didn't even realize it until Bruce pointed it out.

Mid Creek
For the mile after the waterfall things begin to ease up. You will see occasional short game trails. Don't get your hopes up. They all peter out quick and rest assure there are no freeways out here in the middle of nowhere.

Lower Creek
From about the 4,350ft contour down to 3,900ft, a 2.3mi stretch, I felt like I was in heaven. The creek is easy going as you head down to the spot of a now absent cabin. On our trip after a relatively dry winter the creek was still surfacing off and on. We took full advantage of the situation and dunked our hats and shirts repeatedly. To your right(north) are rolling hills that are virtually bare. On your left(south) you witness the forest adapting to the lower elevation. This was among my most memorable moments ever. I seriously doubt others will experience the exact conditions and feelings.

Turn Home
After checking out the old cabin area it's time to head home. Finding Sheep Creek Trail #88 may be a challenge. Large cairns kept us in check. Unfortunately the foxtails in this area depleted my joyous attitude into cursing. Come prepared with proper footwear and the enchanting views will leave you with a positive experience.

#88 gets progressively better turning into a true trail. Then it's a matter of following #95 & #23 back to the trailhead.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. It would be insane to attempt this entire hike without prior experience hiking.

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

2011-05-08 joebartels
    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
    Upper Sheep Creek Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Thanks to Bruce for helping make this loop a reality. It's been on my mind for sometime now and I was losing sleep. I've wanted to check the entire upper Sheep Creek drainage for any possible clues of gpsjoe for sometime. Unfortunately nothing observed other than to mark the drainage off as checked.

    21.1 lb of water and food burned on this hike
    Upper Sheep Creek Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Out Searching for GPS Joe.

    See posted Route.
    Starting at 7:30am, we began our adventure.
    We went counter-clockwise taking the Mazatzal Divide trail up to the Saddle where we dropped into the Upper Sheep Creek drainage. It was an hour and 15 minutes, to get to this point.

    From here the fun starts. Dropping into Sheep Creek, we turned into VaporTeva and VaporEagle
    making our way down the many drops, we boulder hopped through the thick vegetation. The whole area is quite beautiful with water running all the way down to, and past the Sheep Cabin area.

    We finally got to a point were we could no longer follow the drainage because of a sheer 100' waterfall drop. So it was time to scramble up, around, and down to get back in the drainage.

    Just past this area, we decided to take lunch. To get to this point from where we turned off from the safety of the Mazy trail was, 3hr 39 minutes and 2 miles in distance.

    It was at this point, that I noticed that my SPOT was no longer attached to my pack. ](*,) All that was left was the back of the sleeve and the clip that I had it double secured with! Dam thick vegetation!!! Another Electronic offering to the God's up here. We thought about going back to look for it, but not knowing exactly where it was ripped off, would have been needle in the haystack stuff. On the bright side, I pay for the tracking feature and it currently sits about .1 mile 13 minutes hike time, from where we took lunch.

    If anybody plans on going up there in the near future, please PM me and I'll send you the location

    At our lunch location, we knew we were running a lot longer than we had planned, but still made the decision to push on hoping to get to an actual trail and make up some time.

    The water in sheep creek all the way down was a godsend. We soaked our shirts and hats numerous times to cool off. We got to Sheep Cabin (No Cabin) hoping to pick up a trail. There was a faint trail off and on loaded with Teva Joe's favorite, foxtail. We did make better time going back, but still pulled into the Trailhead at 9:30pm, 14 hours after we started, tired, cranky, thirsty, and hungry.

    I had a card on my window from Donnie at Superstion Search and Rescue, wondering if we'd had any luck. I thought maybe he was looking for us.

    Bottom line, not a single clue on this day.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To Peeley Trailhead
    SR87 east to signed turnoff for Sycamore Creek about .5mi north of mile post 222. Turn left across divided highway and follow paved road to dirt road on right at 1.2mi. Cross the cattleguard and go 1.2mi to the fork of FR25 and FR201. Veer right and follow FR201 (Mt.Peeley Summit Rd.)to its end @10mi total from hwy).

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) - 71.3mi 1 hour 48 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) - 169mi 3 hours 19 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) - 152mi 3 hours 17 mins
    page created by joebartels on May 08 2011 4:03 pm
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