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Call of the Canyon Wren
The existing described hikes for Red Creek take one from the Red's intersection with FR-18 east to the Verde River. This is a great hike and is also used by 4x4 enthusiasts to see how much damage they can do to their rigs. Just teasing, but it is a challenging ride. The hike along the Red to the Verde is a fantastic hike like most hikes through Arizona riparian areas. However, hiking upstream from FR-18, while shorter, packs a punch. There is a tremendous amount of geology on display. The canyon floor is luxurious in growth. Wildlife is abundant and often seen scurrying away. And you get to hear the Canyon Wrens sing along a large part of the hike. I've yet to listen to a single Canyon Wren along the lower hike to the Verde.
You are a minimum of 2.5 hours from the nearest doctor or emergency room. This hike requires some minor rock scrambling. There are critters here. And in the large alcove along the northern side of the Creek is a large permanent colony of bees.
This hike can be started from either end. The description here is from FR18 westward to FR16A. You might want to park your vehicle at the top of Red's canyon. The drive down is not overly technical but would be a challenge for lower clearance and two-wheel drive vehicles.
Once down into the creek bottom, head west. You will pass several great car camping sites. Beyond these sites, there are only intermittent signs of a trail. Just pick your way. Bringing shoes, you don't mind getting wet would be a great idea. Sometimes walking in the creek is the best way forward.
After 15 or so minutes, you will find a gloriously noisy set of little waterfalls where the creek washes over some granite. Go up and south for the best way around. Not far beyond the falls, you will see a small hanging garden along a wall of sandstone on the south side of the creek. The seeps and shade here keep the ferns very healthy. Just west of the ferns is a volcanic pour-over. Some time in this area's history, a small amount of lava flowed along what was likely a small wash feeding into Red Creek and creating a floor in the wash. It is just a little of the exciting geology on display along this hike.
Just a bit later, you will need to go up and over another rock outcropping with some more minor falls. Not much later, look north as the canyon floor widens, and you will see a large cave, or more precisely, an alcove. The ceiling is more than a hundred feet above the floor, littered with huge boulders that have calved off from above. The best entry is from the west side. However, this is the home of the beehive mentioned above. You can see it about 20 feet above ground level, set back into the rock wall about 40 feet before you get to the alcove. From experience, I can tell you that you don't need to see the alcove that bad if the bees are swarming around. In cooler temps, you are likely fine. You've been warned!
Several hundred feet west of the alcove and on the south canyon wall are several smaller elevated alcoves accessible with minimum scrambling. They make great shelters, and there is evidence of camps and fires in them. At the time of this description, one holds a small memorial to a lady who liked this area. These alcoves are very smooth and were formed largely by water erosion and some limited additional calving.
Beyond the small alcoves, the creek wanders through an area of dense vegetation. There is a long list of animals who call this area home, so keep your eyes open.
Eventually, you will enter a very narrow section of the Canyon, and the creek will turn 90 degrees to the north. FR16A is just over a half-mile up the stream, and this area is easily traveled.
Red Creek usually is spring-fed and very clear. Runoff occurs after rains, and flash floods are common after heavy rains. The spring water you will typically find in the creek should be filtered or boiled but is quite tasty.
Good camp spots exist on either end of this hike, and there are countless backpacking camp opportunities along the creek. Your first sound when you awake at one of those might be a Canyon Wren calling for you to begin enjoying another day on Red Creek. There are worse ways to wake up.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.