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Little Cherry Creek Trail, AZ

Guide 3 Triplogs  0 Topics
  3.5 of 5 
no permit
43 3 0
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 12.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,279 feet
Elevation Gain 570 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,115 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 28.18
 Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Seasonal Creek & Perennial Creek
 Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
13  2014-01-28 lanewinblade
10  2011-07-23 Outlander
20  2009-01-03 ssk44
author avatar Guides 20
Routes 12
Photos 2,331
Trips 294 map ( 835 miles )
Age 48 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Associated Areas
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Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred Oct, Apr, May, Sep → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  5:23am - 7:19pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 Salome 20056.4 mi*
🔥 2005 Salome6.3 mi*
🔥 View (All) - over Official Route 🔥
*perimeter length in miles

The Greenbacks Grand Tour
by ssk44

   Likely In-Season!
2022 Update
Route update as of 2022. The initial route segment bypassing the northeast boundaries of the Conway Ranch as described is no longer valid. Original property fencing along the northeast property line does not match actual surveyed property boundaries. The current property residents are enforcing the true surveyed property boundaries and are no longer allowing access as described within this guide. Accessing the Little Cherry Creek Trail requires off-trail bypassing of the northeast Conway Ranch based on the attached Gila County Assessor Map. Do not enter areas posted as private property. Rejoin hike as described at Mark 004 (Lat 33/52/11.20/N & Long 111/7/24.21/W).

Little Cherry Creek is located in a remote region of the Sierra Ancha Mountains, within the Tonto National Forest. The route starts out near the Conway ranch in the Greenback Valley area and heads to the southeast along the base of the Greenback Peak. The route ends on a secluded ridge on the edge of the northern reaches of the Salome Wilderness, overlooking Salome Creek with incredible views. This route was once an old jeep trail that has since eroded into primarily a hiking and horseback corridor. Old rugged roadbeds like this make excellent hiking routes for accessing isolated remote areas.

This route is very remote and completely deserted most seasons of the year, with the only exception being the month of October. There are deer hunts throughout October, and this area is very popular. October is the only month that I would advise not choosing to come here unless you want to run into hunters and quads. Outside of October, count on having it all to yourself.

For this hike, I went with a good friend and fellow HAZ member, Fred K., and his amazing Australian Shepard Nicki that join me on many of my trips. The hike, as posted, starts out at a small corral on the north side of FR236A. It is important that you do not enter the private property of Conway ranch, and all gates that access their land are well marked for this reason. The initial segment of this hike heads to the southeast through Greenback Valley, skirting the boundaries of the private land. You will begin the hike by going through a small damaged gate at the backside of a fenced area directly across from where you have parked. From this point, you will be walking along a narrow open area in the brush that follows a sand drainage. Within a short period of time, the narrow side drainage will enter a larger sand wash Mark 002 (Lat. 33 degrees/52'/42.85"/N & Long. 111 degress/7'/53.41"/W). Follow this main sand wash to the southeast until you reach an easily recognized narrow jeep trail exiting to the left side Mark 003 (Lat. 33 degrees/52'/38.45"/N & Long. 111 degrees/7'/48.76"W). This jeep trail is the route you will be hiking on for the remainder of the trip. The narrow jeep trail that you are walking on will climb up onto a ridge and then drop into Greenback Creek. The route will follow the creek for a way and then climb a hill that will take you out of the lower valley area. You will come across a faint fork heading to the south ("Mark 004", Lat. 33 degrees/52'/11.20"/N & Long. 111 degrees/7'/24.21"/W). At this fork, you will continue on directly east up a set of steep switchbacks climbing onto an open mesa. Once on the mesa, you will be at a three-way intersection where you will continue on now to the southeast into the beginning of Little Cherry Creek Mark 005 (Lat. 33 degrees/52'/12.83"/N & Long. 111 degrees/6'/59.86"/W). The route heading into the creek drainage is fainter than the ones that remain on the mesa due to lack of use. Once you're off the mesa, the original roadbed heading to the southeast will be easy to follow.

This is where the main segment of the hike begins. The route is easy to follow, and basic compass and topo map reading skills will keep you on track for the remainder of the trip. Along the route, you will come across two springs, with the first being Tin House and the second being Cherry Creek. Both of these springs have historically had good flow and will usually run above ground along the main creek drainages during most seasons of the year. The trail stays on the hills above Little Cherry Creek most of the way, with many up-and-down sections providing lovely views along the hike. Fall colors can be very nice near the spring areas and along many segments of the canyons along the route. Just before you reach Cherry Creek Spring, you will cross a saddle. At this saddle, there will be a turn heading up onto a large mesa that is not shown on any maps Mark 006 (Lat. 33 degrees/51'/20.82"/N & Long. 111 degrees/5'/46.47"/W). You will want to continue on the trail heading down from the saddle towards the spring. The drainage heading south from the spring is Big Cherry Creek, which eventually intersects Salome Creek. From Cherry Creek Spring, the trail will again climb up onto another saddle and end towards the bottom of a creek drainage just south of the saddle Mark 008 (Lat. 33 degrees/51'/12.53"/N & Long. 111 degrees/5'/20.63"/W). The remaining segment from the saddle goes through a small meadow and is faint due to grass overgrowth. You're almost there with only one short and manageable bushwhack climb to go. From the bottom of the creek where the two drainages meet, as shown on topo maps, climb straight up to the top of the ridgeline overlooking Salome Creek. This ridgeline is the boundary of the Salome Wilderness. Just a short distance west from where you have climbed up from the bottom is an amazingly steep and jagged rock bluff that you have to walk out to while you are there Mark 009 (Lat. 33 degrees/51'/1.67"/N & Long. 111 degrees/5'/32.37"/W). Once on the ridgeline, you can hike southwest out to a rocky point overlooking Big Cherry Creek or northeast towards the eastern slopes of Greenback Peak. See maps for locations of GPS waypoints described in the text.

Well, there you have it. Little Cherry Creek Trail is basically the grand tour of the Greenback Peak and Greenback Valley area with a great closing finale ridgeline overlooking an extremely remote area of the Salome Wilderness. This area is referred to by many as "The Greenbacks". The entire route offers great views from start to finish, with many points of interest along the way to explore. For those truly desiring remote solitude, it doesn't get much better than this. The surrounding mountains and canyons are vastly rugged with beautiful and jagged red rock cliffs. Hiking this decaying roadbed is a unique and manageable way to access a seldom visited, very special area. You won't be disappointed.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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.

2009-01-03 ssk44
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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.

 Permit $$

High Clearance possible when dry

To hike
From Mesa take Highway 87 towards Payson. Turn on Highway 188 and drive to Punkin Center. In Punkin Center, you will be turning directly after the "Punkin Center Bar & Grill", which has a large orange pumpkin on one side of the roof that's visible from Highway 188. From there take FR71 approximately twelve miles to Greenback Valley/Conway Ranch. Do not enter the private property of Conway ranch! Before FR71 enters the ranch site, turn left on FR236A. Follow FR236A for approximately one mile around the private property on the north side to an old small wooden corral that is on the left side of the road and park. On the south side of the road from the corral, you will see a broken gate that accesses a narrow sand drainage heading through the brush. Do not go through any gates with "No Trespassing" signs.

(Special Note) The Conway family is friendly and has zero issues with people traveling around the boundaries of their ranch as long no one enters the well-marked back property gates and does not damage any personal property. Heeding this warning will ensure many years of privileged access to a large remote area.

(Special Note) From Punkin Center, FR71 crosses Tonto Creek before heading to the trailhead. The crossing at Tonto Creek is gravel only and can be dangerous to cross for long periods of time following heavy storms and periodically throughout the spring during heavy snow runoff. It is advisable to check the CFS stream flow the day prior to your trip to ensure that you won't be driving all the way over there for nothing. Typically, any number higher than 200 CFS is not advisable without four-wheel drive. When in doubt, wait five to ten minutes for one of the locals to cross so you can see how difficult it is. Google "USGS Real-Time Water Data". Select "Tonto Creek Above Gun Creek, Near Roosevelt, AZ" from the "Statewide Stream Flow Table" for current CFS.
page created by ssk44 on Jan 03 2009 12:32 pm
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