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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.

Willow Creek - Lower, AZ

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9 1 1
Guide 1 Triplog  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Clints Well
Rated
2.5
2.5 of 5 by 2
 
0
Statistics
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 12.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,554 feet
Elevation Gain -1,000 feet
Accumulated Gain 300 feet
Avg Time One Way 8 hrs
Kokopelli Seeds 13.5
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
9  2012-07-29 nonot
Author nonot
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 236
Photos 1,969
Trips 476 map ( 4,511 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Sep, Oct, Jun → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Summer to Early Winter
Sun  6:09am - 6:27pm
Official Route
 
0 Alternative
 
Water
Locust Bush HQ
by nonot

Likely In-Season!
Overview
Willow Creek from approximately 1 mile below Pius Farm Draw to East Clear Creek


Warning
Water will be a problem in summer and fall, possible in spring if the winter was dry.

Hike
Scramble down from the rim into the creekbed. Don't jump off cliffs, but otherwise there is no wrong way to do it.

The first few miles heading downstream are pretty easy - the elk trails are fantastic and stay on the sandy berms, occasionally crossing. After a few miles the locust bush gets thicker and the elk trails get worse. I observed several elk trails depart for the rim. The creek is bone dry in summer. Stick to the sides of the creek and avoid the locust gauntlet in the creek bed as best you can. Overgrown elk trails can be found on one side or the other for the most part.

The poor trail conditions persist, but as you approach the East Fork of Willow, the creek walls begin to weave back and forth. The high walls of the canyon consist mostly of broken down Coconino. The overgrowth is unrelenting and your will to continue may be weakened, but push on after realizing few visit this area and the lack of human evidence is why you are here in the first place!

There are some good elk trails as you approach Cabin Draw, and the forest is thicker there and the best elk trails are on the opposite side, so I didn't observe exactly where the draw came in. I was hoping to see a cabin, but I was behind schedule and didn't stop to investigate. After Cabin Draw, there are a few more sharp bends in the canyon and then it straightens out, with about 2 miles of locust bush to go using some sparse elk paths that are almost nonexistant. Approaching East Clear Creek I finally got on a good bench on the left, found an old moonshiner camp, and headed for the cool waters.

Reaching ECC, I found it was bone dry, victim of the water diversion efforts. What a tragedy! Of concern to the hiker - replenishing your water supply will be urgently on your mind. Be aware, there is none within 1.3 miles upstream in ECC.

Highlights of the trip will be sighting elk. I observed quite a number of these incredible beasts, and found about a dozen shed antlers.

Water Sources
There were a few nasty pools observed in Willow Creek, but water is quite a concern here in summer. East Clear Creek is sometimes bone dry, due to the diversion system so that more people can water their lawns. Absolutely atrocious, before they diverted the water this area was a paradise! Carry way more than you think you need. A poor source is better than none at all. Consider going after a good rain, you may find a few tinajas, and get a quart or two at a time.

Camping
Camping throughout the creek on high banks. No established sites were found, please avoid making a mess and protect this pristine environment. Leave no trace besides your footprints.

Check out the Official Route and Triplog.

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

2012-07-29 nonot

    One-Way Notice
    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.
    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 Review
    Willow Creek - Lower
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Willow Creek was much like Leonard Canyon, so it wasn't a surprise that the canyon wasn't that great. I knew it would be dry when I crossed at Wiggins bridge. I was hoping for more water, but it wasn't meant to be. Lots of elk and elk sign though.

    I didn't pick the best route down to the creek from the rim. However, I'm not sure there *is* a best route.

    The first few miles were great, after that it got a bit sloggy and my spirit waned. The locust was much more prevalent in Willow than Leonard.

    I was shocked when I hit ECC, how could they cause it to go dry?!?! I wanted to cry, but didn't - first, because I was more angry than sad, and second - because I couldn't waste the water. Luckily it had rained for part of the afternoon (and continued to drizzle as I stood there) and I hoped I'd find water in pockets in ECC. After about 1.4 miles of walking upstream, I decided it wasn't in the cards that I'd find any water in a pocket in ECC. Luckily shortly after I found a few tinajas. A half liter here, another half liter. My concern over water gradually faded. As it goes, right after finding the last tinaja which topped me off, I found a big pocket in ECC.

    Found a great campsite and set up during a brief lapse in the weather. It started up again while I was making dinner and I huddled in the tent listening to the rain come down. It probably stopped raining sometime during the night but was raining again when I woke up at 6 AM. I got up again about 8, but napped until 9 waiting for things to dry out.

    Went upstream (or should I say - up dry sandy wash :( ) in ECC to Wilkens Canyon. After a short jaunt up Wilkens it seemed like it would turn into a real thrash, so I took an elk trail up. I ended up doing some moves that elk can't do, but I continued to find elk sign, so they must bypass along a longer route. Got up top and hiked through the junipers. Was quite peaceful, and I spooked another big elk.

    Saw a dozen shed antlers and half that many elk. Physical punishment dished out by the canyon wasn't too bad, locust bush is a lightweight compared to catclaw.

    Permit $$
    None


    Directions
    Map Drive
    or
    Road
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    From Payson, head east on highway 260. Go north onto the Rim Rd 300 (a little after after passing Two-Sixy TH.) Turn north onto Wallace Rd (a little after passing the rd to Chevelon Lake.) After passing the ranch, turn left onto Middle Ridge Rd. Turn left at the 4 way intersection onto Wiggins Crossing Rd. Take Wiggins Crossing Rd over the bridge at the crossing and up the other side. A car can easily make it this far, after this it gets a little rough for a car. Continue west on Wiggins Crossing to FR 62 Turn right (north) onto FR62. Go along until you decide you want to park. FR62 is somewhat rough for a car in several places, a rental could make it though. High clearance makes it easy. 4WD is not needed.
    page created by nonot on Jul 29 2012 7:41 pm
    1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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