register help

Garfias Wash - Hells Canyon Wilderness, AZ

210 21 1
Guide 21 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NW
3.4 of 5 by 8
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Shuttle 9.7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,401 feet
Elevation Gain -694 feet
Accumulated Gain 191 feet
Avg Time Hiking 5.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.34
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
18  2019-01-19
Garfias - Horse Creek - Burro Flat Loop
17  2019-01-19
Garfias - Horse Creek - Burro Flat Loop
18  2019-01-19
Garfias - Horse Creek - Burro Flat Loop
19  2018-12-14 RowdyandMe
10  2017-12-23
Spring Valley - Garfias - Governors Peak Loop
18  2017-12-23
Spring Valley - Garfias - Governors Peak Loop
6  2017-01-20
Garfias-Hell-Gov Peak Loop
6  2016-12-04
Garfias-Hellgate Mountain Combo
Page 1,  2,  3
Author Al_HikesAZ
author avatar Guides 11
Routes 88
Photos 2,643
Trips 241 map ( 2,306 miles )
Age 87 Male Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Feb, Jan, Dec, Mar → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:34pm
Official Route
10 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
If you're going through Hell, keep on going.
by Al_HikesAZ

Garfias Wash flows from west to east through the middle of Hell's Canyon Wilderness into the northwest part of Lake Pleasant. This designated Wilderness is about 10,000 acres set in the rugged and scenic Hieroglyphic Mountains and managed by the BLM. The jewel of this hike is the section through the narrow Hell's Canyon. It's a beautiful riparian area with numerous interesting sections of rocks. This area is mostly volcanic rock from the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods with some granite and schist from the underlying Precambrian core. The BLM recently acquired a section of land from a private owner that basically completes this Wilderness. There is still a small section of private land that included part of Hell's Canyon. No signs were posted, but always be respectful of private property if posted.

Much of the Wilderness is surrounded by private property so access is limited to a few spots. This hike is probably best down as a shuttle hike. Otherwise you could simply hike the Hell's Canyon.

Park one shuttle just southwest of the bridge at the east end of Garfias Wash at Lake Pleasant. Just before the bridge is a road to the right leading to a Marina. You may need to head down to a kiosk at the Marina and pay a fee to Maricopa County to safely park a car at this trailhead. We weren't certain so we bought the daypass to be safe. Continue up Castle Hot Springs Road. About 13 miles north of Arizona Highway 74 you will reach the historic Castle Hot Spring Resort which is closed to the public. Continue on up Crater Canyon which is also private property. Bitter Creek crosses Castle Hot Springs Road about 7 miles beyond the Resort. Just past this point, head south on Cedar Basin Road. You will need 4WD for this stretch. About 2 miles south on Cedar Basin Road you will reach Garfias Wash and the parking area.

Just start following the wash. At about 2.5 miles you enter Hell's Canyon. It is narrow with steep walls and has lots of boulders. You can try to stay dry by scrambling around the walls, but footing can be loose on some of the walls so be careful. The easiest way is just to stick to the wash and figure that you will get your feet wet at some points. After about 2 miles, the canyon opens up and you are back in a wider wash. Continue down the winding wash for about 4 miles. The wash widens as it approaches Lake Pleasant. Depending on the water level in the Lake, you may need to head to the south or head to the northeast to the road and then walk south down the road back to your cars.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2009-02-24 Al_HikesAZ
    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
    Garfias Wash - Hells Canyon Wilderness
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Spring Valley - Garfias - Governors Peak Loop
    Pre dawn start with temps in the 30's and dead batteries in the head lamp. The cell phone sufficed for the first 20 minutes until daylight.

    We warmed up with the uphill on the Spring Valley Trail with the sun rising. This is a real nice trail to take with the sun rising over Lake Pleasant.

    Dropping into Garfias Wash, we seemed to loose about 10 degrees of temperature. This is an easy wash walk with interesting geology. Some may not like the need to empty the sand out of your shoes occasionally (like BoeJartels)

    We got to an area that we practiced Safety First and Joe waited, while I scoped out a bit farther towards Hell Canyon.

    Back to pick up Joe and headed up the unnamed side canyon we'd been in a few times before. I remembered there being one area of concern for our Safety First campaign. Slow and steady and we made our way up the 12' dry fall. Oops, forgot about the second one. The best we could do on this one, was safety second. With a bit of time and patience, 20'er negotiated.

    The climb to Governors Peak from our angle was steep but straightforward. Great views for lunch. First lunch I can remember where we could see the end of the hike and truck, some 3 miles away.

    Governors Peak 360
    [ youtube video ]

    Great day in Hell.

    No Burros sighted, we were brayed twice.

    Garfias Wash - Hells Canyon Wilderness
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Spring Valley - Garfias - Governors Peak Loop
    Here's a little loop Bruce wrote six years ago. That one ended on a sour note with a private property scolding. We hiked a bonafide legal version with Ben four years ago. This nearby gem felt like a good fit for a tight holiday schedule. If you enjoy moderately challenging off trail adventures & live near the Valley you might enjoy exploring.

    Spring Valley Trail
    The morning light through this desert jungle never disappoints. Per usual I asked myself why I've neglected more visits.

    Garfias Wash
    Under 3 miles in take a right off trail into Garfias. If it rubs you the wrong way turn back pdq because 5 miles of sand and gravel is looking to scold your feet. 6 miles in on a short out-n-back towards Horse Creek we found slow running water and a good twenty foot diameter pool capped with half inch thick ice. The first two hours of our hike were cold and it's been cold recently in the valley... still seemed unexpected.

    I took a break at the pool while Bruce scrambled up creek. Autumn auditioned technicolor magic on a willow and cottonwood. Along with a trickling creek and the warmth of the sun after a chilly start was a real treat.

    Unnamed Creek
    Not sure if this one is named. We take it NW out of Garfias to the SW side of Governors Peak. There are 2 areas to scramble. No biggie for most. It was just in my range with lots of help from Bruce. I get by fine and adapt on most things one handed. Crumbly rock scrambles without corrective-balance race nightmares through the mind at warp speed.

    Governors Peak
    The western approach is semi steep and semi loose. Nothing horrible, going up is less prone to accidents and a trail gets you down the South. We lunched with a curious bee Bruce dubbed George. Excellent internet kept lunch social.

    Great little adventure-hike near the valley with exotic terrain, a smorgasbord of cacti and a hint of water.

    Consumed 38 oz water

    2 days to Christmas, Autumn keeps on giving. Cottonwoods, Willows & Tamarisk looking nice
    Garfias Wash - Hells Canyon Wilderness
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Garfias-Hell-Gov Peak Loop
    After waiting like five hours for Ben to make an appearance and bless us with his presence we got underway.* Bruce and I did this loop two years ago. This time we managed to stay on public property. There are some very nice views, twists and peaks out in Hells Gate. Almost eerie that we didn't see another hiker. Just one camper sleeping in or out hunting.

    The best part about hiking with the eaglet is watching him grin ear to ear when I say things to the eagle he's probably wanted to say a few times :sl:

    * slight exaggeration

    Blue Dicks, Desert Anemone, Wild Heliotrope, Wiry Lotus and a few others I forget... sparse

    Poppies in medium patches.
    Garfias Wash - Hells Canyon Wilderness
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Garfias-Hell-Gov Peak Loop
    Variation of a hike we did almost 2 years ago. This one was legal, staying off the private property that was not marked in the direction we came from. My son Ben joined us this time.

    A chilly morning on the Spring Valley trail. We took this down to the Garfias Wash, which was even chillier in the shade.

    We added Hell Canyon and threw in a little loop around a mound in a wash. We had a cool little little 30' down climb in the wash. Hell Canyon is a pretty little area, and worth the side trip.

    From here it was back to an unnamed canyon to connect to an old trail. Next a steep climb to the top of Governors Peak. Vast 360 views from up here, including a view into the closed down Castle Hot Springs Resort

    Video ==>

    It was more or less all downhill from here back to the car.

    An enjoyable day. Temps got real warm (Relativly Speaking) in the early afternoon.

    Patches of poppies and others
    Garfias Wash - Hells Canyon Wilderness
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I entered the wash at the end of the Spring Valley TH and proceeded West for about 1.4 miles. Photo's don't do this place justice at all, as you go deeper into the canyon its just awesome the mountains are incredible.

    I couldn't stop walking, the anticipation was taking over, with every turn, there was a new view and the scenery was constantly changing. This is what draws me to Hell's Canyon, it's unlike anything I have ever experienced. I was literally the only person within miles, one could imagine what it was like for the indigenous natives living in the area. The quiet is deafening.

    It was nice thinking about the lack of human activity in this area. I was in a place that very few Phoenicians have ever experienced or seen, this is indeed, my happy place. :y:
    Garfias Wash - Hells Canyon Wilderness
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Hells Gate Lost Loop
    Living in far NW Phoenix, The Hells Canyon Wilderness is as close as it gets to getting away from the City for me.

    According to the BLM, there are 7 trails in this wilderness area. Spring Valley, Burro Flats, and Garfias Wash, I've heard of. Bell, Hellgate, Hermit, and Horse Creek, I have not. Starting at 4 different Trailheads.

    I was taking a crap shoot on this one, wanting to do a loop through the wilderness, seeing as much as possible, scouting for future trips. I traced a route starting at the Castle Creek TH, down the Spring Trail, to the Garfias Wash, West to an unnamed wash, north to a Pack Trail on the TOPO, and into Crater Canyon for the return.

    I really enjoyed this trek. The Spring Trail was in nice shape, and Garfias wash was an easy and interesting hike. In western Crater Canyon, we got to see the ruins of an old two story stone building and Little Hells Gate (Both later found to be on Private Property), and then had a wild time climbing on, around, and under large boulders on our way out traveling east.

    We got to one point in a slot canyon, that we pondered on for awhile. Do we go back and climb up and around... Or, swim in water, that more than likely had ice on it a week earlier. We protected the electronics, wallets, etc and made the 50yard swim. It took a good 15 minutes for my voice to return to normal.

    Turning out of Crater Canyon, into Castle Creek we shortly came upon what I thought to be the deserted, well manicured, Castle Hot Springs Resort. Waiting for us there was a slightly upset lady, informing us that we were on private property. Looking behind us. there were in fact 10 or so No Trespassing signs across the wash. Those were the only signs we saw all day. Joe posted this in his triplog, and I might as well post it here also, to keep others from potentially wandering onto Private Property like we did. ... 10159,1337

    It was a great day in the Hells Canyon Wilderness
    Garfias Wash - Hells Canyon Wilderness
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Hells Gate Lost Loop
    Bruce invited me to Hell so naturally I had to check it out. With good intentions and loaded GPS routes we headed in to do a moderate Wilderness loop. During our three hour tour the weather started getting rough and the tiny ship was lost. Due to canyon walls the GPS reception blows and we unknowingly ended up on private property. Not a fence nor a single sign to forewarn the honest neither. After the coldest swim in my life, must have been forty something we thought we were back on track. Only to be greeted by an angry property owner asking us if there was not enough signs to let us know we were on private property. I thought it was a joke until I looked directly behind me and saw a line of signs across the wash. Sheesh ameesha after a lecture we were spared our lives... I can understand the frustration. However we were carrying BLM government issued maps. I'd challenge any land owner or BLM agent to navigate with the issued maps.

    Otherwise a beautiful day and gorgeous country were apparently your only hopes of a glimpse are to be born a cow... c'est la vie! Just beware and stay within the red line.

    Wildflowers were tiny and difficult to see in the few areas where present.
    Garfias Wash - Hells Canyon Wilderness
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Thanks to Shawn Redfield for organizing & leading this hike. I had never hiked in this area so I was grateful for an opportunity with someone who knew the area. The day was beautiful. The group was great. I enjoyed meeting everyone and putting monikers, names & faces together. Very nice hike. I liked the area and I will be back to hike more hikes around here.

    Permit $$
    Information is listed below

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    Route to Garfias/Horse/Burro Trailheads

    Drive north from Phoenix on I-17 to Carefree Highway (exit 233). Go west on AZ Highway 74. Drive to the turnoff for Lake Pleasant at Castle Hot Springs Road(about 5.5 miles. Turn right and drive approximately 4 miles along Castle Hot Springs Road. Turn right to the Marina if a Maricopa County Regional Park Fee is required. Continue to the bridge over Garfias Wash as it enters Lake Pleasant. Park to the west just before the bridge to start the finishing end of the shuttle.
    page created by Al_HikesAZ on Feb 24 2009 7:55 pm
    $17 3L Hydration Bladder
    help comment issue

    end of page marker