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Pinal Creek Canyon, AZ

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130 6 0
Guide 6 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Globe > Roosevelt Salt
Rated
4.5
4.5 of 5 by 4
 
6
Statistics
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 9 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,480 feet
Elevation Gain 1,095 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,000 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 19
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Perennial Waterfall & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
25  2019-03-01 Oregon_Hiker
39  2019-03-01
PinalCrkCyn-ShuteSprCrk2ProspectorCAVE
Grasshopper
28  2017-04-08
Salt River at Shute Springs Creek
topohiker
20  2010-03-14 Vaporman
24  2009-04-04 ssk44
33  2009-04-04 Grasshopper
Author ssk44
author avatar Guides 19
Routes 12
Photos 2,250
Trips 274 map ( 830 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Apr, Oct → Early
Seasons   Late Summer to Early Summer
Sun  6:08am - 6:27pm
Route
 
3 Alternative
 
Water
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Inner Beauty
by ssk44

Overview
Pinal Creek Canyon is a remote backcountry destination, located in the Salt River Canyon Wilderness within the Tonto National Forest. The topo map name for this area is "Salt River Peak". The Salt River Canyon Wilderness covers about 32,000 acres of wild and remote, rugged desert landscape that rarely sees any visitors. If you appreciate solitude and have a true love for backcountry adventure, this hike will likely satisfy your appetite. Along this hike you will be treated to a broad mix of low desert vegetation, lush riparian areas, rugged geology, and diverse wildlife. This area typically receives consistent rain levels throughout the year contributing to rich and healthy flora.


Warning
It is very important for anyone considering this hike to know that the Pinal Creek Canyon segment of this trip involves heavy bushwhacking, constant boulder hopping and required wading through one stretch of the creek. This hike is not for the easily frustrated. If you're a backcountry junky like me, with an unquenchable thirst for adventure, you will be right at home. Now that the disclaimer has been handled, lets get to the fun stuff!!

Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund
Pinal Creek WQARF

Hike
The hike as posted starts out near the end of FR223. You will find a parking area at the bottom of a hill, within a small valley. From the parking area, walk up a short hill along a jeep road heading to the north and then follow that road down to Shute Springs. From the spring you will go through a rusty metal gate to the east and follow a fairly obvious pack trail to the bottom of Shute Springs Creek ("Mark 1", Lat. 33 degrees/35'/46.53"/N & Long. 110 degrees/52'/39.72"/W). There is a cairn at the bottom of the trail that is important to note for your return route. The pack trail heading back up to Shute Springs is difficult to see from the sand wash.

The sand wash that you are standing in is the route that you will be following down to Pinal Creek Canyon. Just a short way down from the pack trail you will come across the riparian area of Lower Shute Springs at the intersect point of a steep, extremely rugged canyon that heads back up towards the trailhead (Lat. 33 degrees/35'/55.83"/N & 110 degrees/53'/00.93"/W). It is possible to hike up this canyon back to the trailhead, but I can't emphasize enough that it is a very nasty route. Dont say that I didn't warn you. To walk through this riparian area you will want to stay on the left side. Initially you will be crossing a mountain of huge boulders that have been violently pushed down the canyon mentioned above. Just beyond the boulder segment you will be walking along a solid rock shelf that follows the edge of the trees just above the water. Once you're through the riparian area, things get much easier.

For the next 1.75 miles you will be continuing along the sand wash of Shute Springs Creek. Along this segment you will find very interesting rock formations and bluffs. After roughly 1.75 miles of easy walking you will now come up to a obvious and significant sand wash on your right that intersects the route that you are following ("Mark 2" Lat. 33 degrees/36'/19.43"/N & Long. 110 degrees/54'/03.97"/W). This location is where you will now head west out of the Shute Springs Creek sand wash to access Pinal Creek Canyon. From here you will climb up and over a moderate hill to the start of a game trail ("Mark 3" Lat. 33 degrees/36'/19.94"/N & Long. 110 degrees/54'/16.94"/W) that drops down a steep draw into the bottom of Pinal Creek ("Mark 4" 33 degrees/36'/22.22"/N & Long. 110 degrees/54'/23.45"/W). Take very good mental note of the canyon and overall landscape. Besides the route that I have described, there are no other ways in or out of the canyon.

If your reaction is anything like mine, your jaw will drop to ground when you see the view of what's to come. Before me was a stunning hidden riparian canyon with steep and sheer cliffs on both sides. The segment of Pinal Creek that I explored is a protected one-mile stretch of lush vegetation that is somewhat opened up, when compared to the narrow gorge that is above and below the location. It's hard to believe that this is the same Pinal Creek that only four miles up-stream is nothing more than a broad dry sand wash within the Globe city limits.

Now for the messy part. If more than two people beside myself have explored this canyon in the last twenty years, I would be surprised. The route up the canyon, besides being riddled with large boulders was a jungle of tangled old-growth vegetation and flood swept timbers. I was constantly swinging my wood walking staff in front of me to beat open a path through all of the dead branches and limbs along the canyon bottom. If things weren't bad enough, to my shocked amazement there were beavers along the creek that had dropped many large diameter trees, making navigation of the canyon bottom even worse than it already was. Beavers in the desert? Where is this place again?! For the next messy part, shortly up the canyon you will come across a mandatory wading segment with sheer rock faces on both sides. There's no way around it, however the water at its deepest part was only about thirty inches. After coming this far, I was not about to turn around just when things were getting good.

While working my way up the canyon I could not help but be impressed with the severity and height of the intricate cliffs and ledges that towered above the canyon bottom. The creek was a beautiful emerald green color with nice small waterfalls along the route. After about one mile, you will come across a wide area in the canyon just after an obvious bend that is a good turn around point (Lat. 33 degrees/35'/49.54"/N & Long. 110 degrees/54'/45.17"/W). See maps for locations of waypoints described in the text.

Summary
Hiking into Pinal Creek Canyon is truly an adventure. The feeling of remote isolation and solitude is unmistakable. Just driving to this remote area is an experience in itself. I have a great personal love for the Salt River Canyon Wilderness. This is a special location that very few people have experienced. The hike is very diverse and has something to offer from start to finish. If you're looking for a unique backcountry hike, you have found it. Count on having it all to yourself if you go.

Check out the Triplogs.

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.

2009-04-06 ssk44
  • guide related image guide related image guide related image
    guide related
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
Pinal Creek Canyon
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Thanks to sk44 for posting this trail writeup and putting this canyon on my radar! Though I just have my car right now, so I had to get a little creative on the approach . ;) I decided to park alongside AZ288 due west fo Klondike Mt and hike up to the saddle just to the south of that peak. From there I dropped down towards Pinal Creek Canyon with a few route options in front of me... Right canyon, left canyon, far right or far left. :-k I first choose left canyon and ended up leaving a couple fixed ropes in place at a 40-50ft drop & 20ft drop. I could have done a longer bushwhacking bypass around these drops, but this was an exploratory trip and I wanted to see how this canyon played out. It eventually ended with a 120-150ft drop :o down to Pinal Creek and with the 200ft rope back in the car, I figured I'd try one of the other options. I had a decent vantage point from that dropoff to scout the other options out and could see that the right canyon wasn't much better with another big drop. I ascended back up the two ropes and headed south to hit up the far right option. I lucked out and was able to find a not-too-insane spot to scramble down with using any ropes. I was originally planning on do this as an out & back, but now that I was able to get down w/o leaving any gear behind I was thinking I'd try to loop it back via the bridge & AZ288. While hiking downstream, I was now able to scout out the far left option and feel that would have been my best way down. ;) The hike downstream was fairly pleasant with nothing too difficult to deal with and some nice scenery to soak in and before I knew it I was at the Salt River. The AZ288 bridge was only a half mile away, but walking alongside the bank was not an option with the river right up against a huge 200-300ft cliff. Plan C was to just throw on my shorty wetsuit still in my pack and float down the frigid river, but I figured I'd try plan B first and climb up Klondike Butte up and over the cliff. After I got above the cliff, I was able to scout an easy way down to another side canyon and lucked out and found an old trail that led straight to the bridge. :y: From there it was a super easy road walk back to my parking spot, esp since hardly anyone uses this 'highway to nowhere'. :lol:
Pinal Creek Canyon
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
I have never been one to shy away from a remote and challenging backcountry "bushwhack" hike when there was promise of new adventure with some grand payoffs.

On our last hike together in late January, Eric(ssk44) invited me to tag along to another special area of his in the remote Salt River Canyon Wilderness just north of Globe, AZ. For a number of months Eric had been analyzing arial views and maps of a certain area of Pinal Creek Canyon for a completely "off trail" hiking adventure that had high promise for delivering and it did!

I do believe the best way for me to share my trip log adventure to this very special area is to just simply restate Eric's new hike description OVERVIEW and SUMMARY paragraphs which pretty much confirm my story too:

"Overview: Pinal Creek Canyon is a remote backcountry destination, located in the Salt River Canyon Wilderness within the Tonto National Forest. The topo map name for this area is "Salt River Peak". The Salt River Canyon Wilderness covers about 32,000 acres of wild and remote, rugged desert landscape that rarely sees any visitors. If you appreciate solitude and have a true love for backcountry adventure, this hike will likely satisfy your appetite. Along this hike you will be treated to a broad mix of low desert vegetation, lush riparian areas, rugged geology, and diverse wildlife. This area typically receives consistent rain levels throughout the year contributing to rich and healthy flora.

Summary: Hiking into Pinal Creek Canyon is truly an adventure. The feeling of remote isolation and solitude is unmistakable. Just driving to this remote area is an experience in itself. I have a great personal love for the Salt River Canyon Wilderness. This is a special location that very few people have experienced. The hike is very diverse and has something to offer from start to finish. If you're looking for a unique backcountry hike, you have found it. Count on having it all to yourself if you go."

We have both done our best to document this excellent backcountry destination with our two pic sets(with detailed captions) and we also posted against this new HAZ hike description associated maps with both driving and hiking GPS Routes and all "key" GPS waypoints are noted in Eric's hike description. Like stated above, "If you're looking for a unique backcountry hike, you have found it."
Pinal Creek Canyon
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
I really do love the Salt River Canyon Wilderness. My preferred area is everything from Pinal Creek to Horseshoe Bend. So far I have logged over fifty miles of hiking in this area and I still have three locations that I want to explore. For me, this was a very special hike that I have been looking forward to since last fall. I have been patiently waiting for the riparian vegetation to come in. The timing was perfect. Although the hike is only listed at about nine miles total in length, it really feels more like about eleven before you're done. Between the rugged bushwhack boulder hopping and the steep uphill sand wash hiking back up to the trailhead, I definitely felt like I had done something. Seeing the evidence of beaver activity was crazy. I have never known of beavers to set up residence in a low desert area. Were did they come from? It must have been a long and interesting journey.

For this trip I joined up with Hank (Grasshopper) again. I am frankly surprised that he didn't want to kill me before we finally made it out of there. He is a real trooper! To my amazement he actually wants to go hiking with me again. Hank shares my passion for remote backcountry adventure.

8)

Permit $$
None


Directions
Map Drive
or
Road
High Clearance possible when dry

To hike
From Mesa Arizona take Highway US 60 to Miami. Turn left at Highway 188 to Roosevelt Lake. Travel 4.5 miles north. The first 4.5 miles of highway 188 have two northbound lanes and two southbound lanes. Stay in the right lane while traveling north. The right lane ends at Wheatfields Road, which is where you will be exiting. Travel northwest on Wheatfields Road while paralleling highway 188 for 1.7 miles through a residential area. At 1.7 miles there is an abandoned slump-block building. Turn right at the slump-block building onto Hicks Road, which will soon go over a bridge crossing Pinal Creek. Pinal Creek is a wide sand wash. Once across the bridge, travel northwest on Hicks Road paralleling Pinal Creek for 2.3 miles to FR219 (Lat. 33 degrees/31'/24.10"/N & Long. 110 degrees/51'/45.60"/W). Just before reaching FR219 you will drive past a large well kept horse ranch on your left. At the beginning of FR219 there is a gate with a "Private Land Access Sign-In Book". FR219 is in a large sand wash. You will be driving through private land for about one mile. The private land ends at a cattle guard in the sand wash. Drive northeast on FR219 from the gate for approximately 5.5 miles to FR223. The sign will say "Shute Springs". Drive northwest on FR223 for approximately 2.5 miles. At that point you will reach a fork where FR223 turns southwest to Shute Springs. The road than continues going straight is FR644. Do not take FR644. From the fork, continue driving on FR223 for approximately 3.0 miles to the trailhead.
page created by ssk44 on Apr 06 2009 2:32 pm
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