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Rock Creek Canyon - Mazatzals, AZ

no permit
126 9 0
Guide 9 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson W
4.6 of 5 by 5
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Distance Round Trip 6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,812 feet
Elevation Gain 2,500 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 18.5
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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6  2019-01-16 MountainMatt
6  2013-04-20 nonot
4  2013-04-20 toddak
40  2013-03-16 azmike
7  2013-02-02 azflyguy
63  2012-01-22 Vaporman
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, Nov, Mar, Apr
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby

Overview: Super sweet technical canyon with funky slanted geology thru two sets of narrows with 8-10 rappels up to 180ft. Hike up the Rock Creek trail to the 6200ft level and drop down the waterfall alongside the trail. Once done with the canyon, a quarter mile from the last rappel look for a route up the northern bank that contours at 4500ft until it hits the ridge and follow the ridge a half mile and take one of the northern side ridges to reconnect with the Rock Creek trail and the TH nearby,

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2018-07-14 HAZ_Hikebot
    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
    Rock Creek Canyon - Mazatzals
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    We camped Friday night at the trail head along Center Creek. Saturday morning at 8:00 we headed up the trail alongside Center Creek before veering off on the trail away from the creek and the long climb to the top of Rock Creek Canyon. We were on a good trail for almost the entire hike up the mountain until the last 0.25 mile or so. The fire had resulted in lots of erosion so the trail would disappear, but there were cairns to guide you to the top.

    The weekend prior, there was a big storm that moved through the area. It dumped a lot of snow in the Mazatzals. It even snowed in parts of Phoenix. After the storm blew through, the temperatures rose into the 80's by mid-week, which resulted in a lot of snow melt in the mountains and a very strong water flow in the Rock Creek Canyon.

    We did 8 rappels, all down waterfalls. We all wore 3mm wet suits which worked out perfectly. Temperatures were in the 70's with no clouds in the sky. The upper sections of the canyon get a lot of sun so it made for a warm day.

    The 180 ft. waterfall rappel which is the third to last was exceptional. I had been in Rock Creek 6 weeks earlier and the water wasn't flowing as much as it was this day. The last two rappels are into pools of very cold water. These last two pools don't get much sun and are definitely the coldest in the canyon.

    After the last rappel, the canyon opens up and we hike maybe 0.25 mile down the creek bed to a point where we started climbing out on the left. It was marked with ribbons on a tree. Just about 1/2 way up, there is a faint trail you can follow well below the ridge line . It will disppear and reappear often, but look for the colored ribbons on the trees. We hiked far enough on the trail that you can see Center Creek and the cars below to the left. It was a great day to be in the canyon.
    Rock Creek Canyon - Mazatzals
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Wow! What an amazing canyon! The approach was super gnarly, we lost the trail several times and had plenty of crazy uphill bush-whacking to contend with. We were all stoked to finally make it to the drop-in point and begin our traverse down the waterfall-wonderland of Rock Creek. The geologic formation of the canyon is like nothing I have ever seen before; the angle of the rocks was so slanted in some spots that it was almost disorienting. The rappels were all gorgeous, green and mossy and definitely not what one would expect to see in the middle of the desert. No swimmers, only two waist-deep cold pools that were unavoidable. We ended up doing 7 rappels, the 180' was my favorite - although we did pass some webbing and down-climbed around some other potential rappels.

    We knew we were out of the technical section when we began seeing the abandoned piping from the former pakalolo farm. The exit was just as rough as the approach, even with the gps route it was difficult to find the trail especially since it was dark by then. Ended up taking a mix of ridges, washes and creek beds back to camp. Ben found something that looked like 2 old burial sites while doing some scouting up on a ridge that was far from trail, very unlikely that many would ever encounter it -- I googled info on mazatzal burial sites but haven't turned anything up yet -- definitely curious as to what he found.

    All in all it was a fun and long day, the Mazzies definitely make for some rugged hiking and will put your route-finding skills to the test. The canyon was beautiful, the adventure was intense, it was an unforgettable trip with a great group of friends. :)

    P.S. I found a nice Kershaw knife along the trail; while I'm happy to keep it I have a feeling it may belong to a fellow HAZ'er. If it sounds familiar, let me know. :)
    Rock Creek Canyon - Mazatzals
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Easily the most amAZing & scenic technical canyon in the Mazzies that I know of!!! :y:

    Going in with just beta on the tallest drop, I wasn't expecting much... It was just the next major canyon north of Barnhardt. ;) That Rock Creek trail isn't the easiest to follow but it's def much better with all the tape & cairns along the way. Once at that first bypassible waterfalls, we geared up, slung the tree, and rapped down that 80ft double drop. Some rock hopping takes you quickly to the next drop of like 30ft. There was no webbing for this drop either so I suspect it was either removed or they found some way to down climb around... This was followed by a fair amount of rock hopping & down climbing thru slick red quartzite & bypassing a few pools before the canyon dropped very quickly. :o Now the rock layer had been at that funky 45* angle but it was VERY pronounced thru this steep technical section. Kinna trippy and sweet to descend the next technical section involving a steep 40ft down climb thru agave & some slick angled down climbing before hitting the next unique cascading falls rappel of about 120ft. We made sure to get back and to the right LUC to avoid sticking the block in the chockstones of that crack alongside that drop. This was quickly followed by a 40ft drop to a flat ledge with some trees where I slung another tree for yet another 40ft drop into a V-shaped hallway. After popping out of the hallway, you get the impression that the rappelling is done but just around the corner is another 50ft drop to a boulder pile. Most of these Mazzie canyons just have a small steep narrows with a handful of narrows, so we got comfortable in thinking the technical stuff was over as we proceeded to navigate thru loads more rock hopping & down climbing along the bubbling creek over greenish grey slickrock. ;) Well a little further down canyon and just around the corner were the canyon starting to narrow up a bit, we run smack-dab into a 180ft steeply cascading waterfall. :o We can see the end of the canyon in the distance but as the daylight is quickly slipping away it becomes apparent we'll be doing a fair amount of night hiking. :? So we make haste in safely getting down the BIG beautiful falls but two more flowing rappel are also encountered. The first is a double drop of about 50ft and the second is about 30ft. Below the lower narrows, we encountered a pot growing site that looked in fairly good shape that may have been recently used. I called it into the local sheriff and they informed me that it was raided in 2006 but this tubing looked much newer that 6 years old. :o After quickly looking that place over, we decide to push thru all the heavy boulder hopping & down climbing and take advantage of what day light we have left. :sweat: About an hour later when it got too dark to proceed w/o headlamps, we stopped and dropped all the technical gear & wetsuits & put on the headlamps. Another half hour or so in the dark got us thru the thick boulder section and into the flatter rocky section. Hmm, those growers had to be using an easier route then this... I'll have to come back and scout that northern ridge out. ;) Another half hour in the easier rocky section and we finally hit the Half Moon trail crossing the creek and not too far off from the road to the Rock Creek TH... Now I had made not exactly the wisest decision in starting from the more familiar Barnhardt TH and coming across the easy Half Moon trail since my beta on the road into Rock Creek TH was that it was quite the rough 4x4 road. So instead of just jumping the northern embankment to the nearby TH, we now had a few miles in the dark of trying to follow & find that sometimes faint Half Moon trail. :roll: It took some skill, playing with the iPhone & determination but we eventually rolled into the Barnhardt TH. :sweat:

    That ALL day experience and knowing others will most definitely be back to descend this canyon once they see our photos, I came back a couple weeks later to scout out the road and a quicker route from the lower narrows back to the TH. The road turned out to be in much better shape than I was told and remembered and I succeeded in finding a much quicker route to the lower Rock Creek falls. :y: It utilizes use trails along the ridge and most likely part of the route that the pot growers used... So about a quarter mile from the last rappel/waterfall, you'll rock hop downstream to the 4500ft elevation and look for markers indicating a use trail, the route contours along the northern slope at 4500ft until it reaches the top of the ridge east of 'peak' 4637, from there you follow the top of the ridge east to 'peak' 4204, and from there you'll again follow a use trail north down that side ridge to the rocky Center Creek below and pick up Rock Creek trail and briefly follow it east to the new trailhead/parking area along that FR442. Hope this helps future groups in making a much speedier exit hike from this amAZing canyon. :D

    I gave the canyon an R due to a many large slippery rappels and the funky geology makes for some awkward rappels & slippery exposed climbing/traversing. This canyon is best suited for experienced canyoneers...

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    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To canyon trip
    From Rye, take FR 414 to FR 442 to the new Rock Creek TH
    page created by Vaporman on Feb 09 2012 12:30 am
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