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White Box & Hanging Gardens of WCC, AZ

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Guide 77 Triplogs  4 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Camp Verde > Camp Verde
4.9 of 5 by 24
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,840 feet
Elevation Gain -540 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4-6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.3
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Perennial Creek
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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2  2019-08-19 toddak
8  2018-08-18 Peter_Medal
18  2018-06-07
West Clear Creek - White Box to BullPen
8  2017-08-26 The_N
16  2017-08-25 HandsomeRob
15  2016-08-19 Peter_Medal
42  2016-07-23 survivordude
22  2016-07-09 Tsd906
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 8
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,261 map ( 21,471 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Jul, Aug → 10 AM
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Gems in the heart of WCC
by joebartels

Perhaps a dozen 20~100 yard swims mixed in with a little rock hopping. On route you pass through the White Box Narrows to "the" gem of West Clear Creek, the Hanging Gardens. Locals have called the garden Cache Hole for 70+ years according to cabemonroe. This canyon is best experienced when it's hot outside!

Being prepared will enhance your experience. The latest and greatest in amphibian footwear is probably the way to go. Personally I just wear teva sandals like all other hikes. An inner tube makes travel much more enjoyable. A dry bag will keep your camera, wallet and other sensitive gear dry. Trekking poles would be a burden so leave them behind.

This moderate canyon jaunt starts at the end of FR142B. Albeit bumpy it is accessible via a non 4x4 high clearance vehicle. Bear in mind... in heavy rains even a 4x4 may render you abandoned. Looking out you have Buckhorn Mountain on the horizon. Slightly to the left is a cairn marking the route down. First you transverse a layer of basalt that protects the edge of the canyon. The route is well cairned. Just watch your step as it is steep on loose ground. In 15-25 minutes you'll be near the creek in an inviting environment.

When entering the creek be sure it's clearly cairned or flagged in some manner or you might forget where to exit on the return. Now in the canyon head left downstream. You won't get far before you'll need to get your feet wet. The next pool is more or less a swim. The third encounter (as of this writing) leads you into the White Box. This is the elusive wall-to-wall coconino sculpted narrows of WCC. The name is a misnomer as coconino is light shade of orange. A cheap floaty tube is my preferred mode of transportation in this canyon. Take your time and remember to look up on your journey. Logs are wedged in the walls midway through the box.

Exiting the White Box you will encounter approximately (I did not count) ten swims on route to the Hanging Gardens. Most of the swims are shorter and some are shallow. None feature the wall-to-wall narrows but some have a wall on one side. All are unique and a pleasure to experience!

After 1.5 miles of pool hopping you come to the Hanging Gardens immediately after Meadow Canyon enters the scene. It's fun to swim or tube under the overhang and check out the spring in back.

The preferred return is a backtrack of the route in. You can climb out of the canyon via the east ridge of Meadow Canyon. It's steep at bottom and top with a very sparsely cairned route.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2009-06-01 joebartels
    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 of 41 deeper Triplog Reviews
    White Box & Hanging Gardens of WCC
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    With the summer heat, staying so busy, and the back issues, I haven't been out hiking for 2 months and this was a great jump back in! Took 2 of the kids, Gabby Dog, and my buddy Jamaal down to the Hanging Gardens for a few days. This is my 6th time to this part of WCC and am always glad to share it with anyone brave enough to make the trip.
    Got rained on pretty good Friday night so the roads were very muddy and I wasn't taking any chances on that god-forsaken 142A, so we parked a few miles down the road. Started down the hill early Saturday morning and that AZ sun was already burning it up. That first splash of water is so refreshing! When we got to the creek we actually ran into a few guys I used to work with; Small world!! They had planned to camp at the gardens, also, but were extremely under prepared and never even made it there. Down inside that canyon is another world altogether. It is hard to believe this place exists in Arizona. Jamaal was in awe the entire time. It is so amazing how green and alive it is compared to the surrounding desert. The views were breathtaking as usual, the swimming sections were fun as usual, the underwater rocks were slippery as usual, and everyone fell and got banged up several times.. as usual. Between the last big swimmer and the gardens there is a TON of poison ivy. All of us wore long socks and knew exactly which plants to avoid, and as of this writing - NO ITCHING!! A lot of the beaches we used to fish for crawdads were all overgrown, however some awesome person had left a trap so we baited it up and were able to have one of the famous crawdad dinners that WCC and I are known for. The kids and dog had a great time swimming in the pool and waterfalls at the gardens. Hammock camped at the gardens for the night. Waking up next to that waterfall and in that lush environment is such a great feeling to have, I could have stayed there for a week, but alas, we still have bills to pay in the real world. Saw my first rattlesnake in the wild! Saw a lot of squirrels, a lot of lizards, and a lot of different cool looking birds. Came back out Sunday afternoon/evening avoiding the sun. Fortunately we able to hitch a ride back to the truck by some fellow hikers and soon to be HAZ'ers!
    During the two days we saw 25 people in this part of the canyon. 25!! Maybe due to the restrictions at Fossil Creek or maybe its just becoming more well known, but this trip has become quite popular and this concerns me for a lot of reasons. There was a lot of trash in the canyon. Some lady got stuck in the mud while on the 'road'. There were several people who were not prepared physically or gear-wise and did not belong down there. But who am I to judge? I brought 2 of my kids and a dog along.. Overall had a great trip! It was nice to get back into nature and share such an amazing place with my kiddos and good friend.

    Tips for the hike:

    Have a good truck with a lot of clearance, dont chance that 'road'.
    Skip the sandals and wear durable shoes with a good sole.
    Know what poison ivy looks like. Wear pants or long socks and avoid it!
    Dont bring the kitchen sink.
    Be in shape and know how to swim.
    Dry bag your stuff. Floating your pack on a tube never works out.
    Plan your hike out for later in the day after the sun is setting to avoid the roasting while hiking up the hill.
    White Box & Hanging Gardens of WCC
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    Myself and two friends drove to the edge of the canyon Friday Night. FR 142 hasn't gotten any smoother since the last time I was here, but I think that's a good thing! ;) We car camped then headed down into the canyon bright and early hoping to get to the camp site at the gardens first. :scared: We passed a group of 3-4 camped near the power lines, then a couple camped at canyon edge and another vehicle was parked at canyon edge too, so we were thinking our chances at the Gardens camp site were slim.

    We entered the canyon and proceeded down, eventually passing 3 younger fellows who said it was their first time in the canyon and had ventured down about halfway to the hanging gardens at night. I assumed after busting their behinds on the slippery rocks multiple times, they called it a night and camped on the huge flat boulder in the middle of the creek bed about halfway between the White box and the Gardens. I asked if they knew of any other folks ahead of us, which they said no, so we pushed on to claim our hammock spots.

    As we neared the Hanging Gardens about 100 yards upstream we began hearing what we thought were campers building rock sofas at the camp site. Sounded like large flat rocks being stacked on top of each other and echoed through the canyon. I was a little disappointed at the thought someone had beat us there until I cleared some brush and I saw movement across the steam (Camp site side of the creek). Two large Big Horn Sheep had been butting heads making the sound. Literally we were about 40 feet away from them across the water. I managed to get some video before they turned and climbed up a very steep portion of the canyon wall. Amazing sight!!!

    Anyway, we arrived and had the camp site to ourselves for about an hour+ until several families and groups of college kids arrived to enjoy the area. Nice rope swing with a harness set up, and some rock jumping too. Everyone left around 4ish pm and we had the place to ourselves for the night. Amazing night in the canyon with a slight breeze and the sounds of the Hanging Gardens waterfall. Heaven on Earth!!! :y:

    Packed up in the morning and headed back upstream. That first swimmer of the voice raised an octave or two! :o Rest of the way out was beautiful. As we were about to drive away a group of hikers hitched a ride from us back to the power lines where they were parked. Despite FR142 being so rough, there sure was a lot of traffic at the WB&HG this weekend. Very special spot!

    Not sure if this will work, but here's a link to the video of the Bighorn. ... SMF0
    White Box & Hanging Gardens of WCC
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Alright this was a very impromptu trip with a couple friends who have never even been to Camp Verde.
    I asked if they wanted to see something cool? They said yes and we were off.

    Friday night it rained most of the night and into the morning giving us a late start and making for a lot of mud.
    We came in on the forest road and started making our way in. Managed to get stuck in the mud twice and pull two trees out of the road that had falling during the night. Was really happy I brought my big chain.

    Finally made it back into the top of the canyon and started making our way down.
    the mud continued and made for the slickest decent I have ever done. We all fell a couple times and were dirty.

    By the time we got down to the canyon floor and to the creek everyone was pumped and ready to go.
    I had an impromptu safety meeting about swimming with a backpack and clothes on and everyone agreed they were good to go........ That ended up being short lived.

    Apparently men while in the company of other men have a hard time saying "hey, I'm not the best swimmer" by the time we made it to the longer swims one of the party was sucking wind and struggling to stay above water.
    I ended up swimming back and taking his backpack and shoes from him so he could swim back.
    Finally swallowing his pride he admitted he was not a great swimmer and we turned around to head back as a group falling short of the gardens.

    We proceeded to hike back up canyon and climb our way out.
    I want to do this trip again and make it in to the gardens, but all in all everyone was safe and now I think I opened the eyes of some new people to the beauty that this state makes you work for if you want to experience it.
    White Box & Hanging Gardens of WCC
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    We didn't park at the typical end of the road because I screwed up and thought that the dotted line on my gps indicated a trail, instead of a 4x4 road. So we got some extra exercise in. This was a fun trip thru the White Box and Hanging Gardens. This was my third time to the area and it still is an amazing experience!!! I was very excited to show the guys one of the most beautiful places in Arizona! We used our wetsuits and dry bags to help us keep afloat. At the Hanging Gardens we met some canyoneers who had just done Meadow. airkewled had met a couple of the ladies the weekend before. I was excited to get to meet more female canyoneers! We offered to give them a ride back to the cars. That way before we knew they had a group of 12! Anyways, we still gave them all a ride back to their cars. airkewled's Tacoma handled the load of 15 people plus packs quite nicely.

    We had Tucson tamales and veggies that night for dinner and it was excellent!
    White Box & Hanging Gardens of WCC
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    Barrett goes on an Adventure.... :y:

    He wanted to do this Last Year, but we just couldn't get the Logistics together...This Trip was in Danger of not Happening a few Days before, as another Tropical Storm was Headed our Way. Checked the Weather again on Sunday and decided to Go for it, praying that for a Change, the Weathermen had it Right...They did and it was Perfect..a few Sprinkles on the Drive out and that was it! :app: Really desired to hit this around this Time on the Calendar, as I wanted to try to Catch the Columbines at their Finest...That Strategy worked too.... :D

    Last Time I did this, I managed to Cram everything in a 40 Liter Pack, but this Time, I was taking the Bivy and decided to Tempt Fate and took my Good Camera as well as the Waterproof One...Last Time, all I had was the old Crummy Non-Waterproof Point and Shoot...I had a Feeling I would be taking a lot more Photos this Time...I was Right.... :sweat: And I ended up taking my Backpacking 70 Liter Pack and it worked just Fine, although the Size and Weight took a little getting used to for the 1st Hour.

    It was Fun watching Barrett enjoy seeing this for the First Time. Was Bummed that his Packing Configuration didn't work out as well as Hoped and I know it made the Trip much Harder for him...I felt a little Helpless about what to do to Help him though. But he Persevered and did really Well...I think I finally found a "Hike" where I could Match his Pace though.... :lol:

    We made great Time to the Gardens and had lots of Down Time there, which was Different than the Last Time I was here...The Last Time I was here, it was a First Time doing anything like this too and we were pretty Slow, didn't Camp at the Gardens and had limited Time there. So this was a Nice Bonus this Time around. And Barrett really likes Building Furniture...Having a Backrest on my "Chair" was Heaven... :y: Didn't quite get the "Golden Hour" I was hoping for as the Clouds coming in got in the Way that Last Hour. But it was still a Gorgeous Setting and we did have a little Color with the Clouds at Sunset. By the Time Darkness hit, I was too exhausted from lack of Sleep the Night before, to stay up and Watch Barrett play with some Light Painting. He had Fun and they turned out Well... :app:

    Got up before the Sun hit, although it wouldn't have mattered, it was Overcast and stayed that way all Day...Wasn't looking forward to getting in the Water so Early, but after the First Gasp, it was ok.... :sweat: Just didn't have the Sun to warm things up getting done with a Swim, but it was nice to not have the Sun for the Hike back up too...Made Good Time going back to the Vehicle as well. Good Time was made in both Directions by staying out of the Immediate Creek when Possible...This was probably a Mistake however, as the Poison Ivy was thick in Spots and apparently the Long Grass had Chiggers.... :o I think Barrett and I are both Paying for this Trip in different Ways... :sk: I was prepared for the Gnats this Time around, but the Chiggers totally Blindsided me.... :( I thought I reacted badly to Gnat Bites...I think I'd rather have the Gnats... :o

    On the Drive in, I had Barrett go past the 142 Turnoff and take 144 to 149 and then 142 back to 142A. When Brian and I did this, 142 off of 260 was Terrible most of the Way and I wanted to see what 142 looked like coming from the other Direction...We went back out on 142 to the Highway...Given a Choice, I think coming in on 144, 149, 142 was the better Choice...Still some Rough Spots on 142, but not as bad, although like Barrett said, with Heavy Rains, it may not be the Better Choice...a lot more Mud that Route, but no big "Steps" and Boulders....I think, even though it's longer Mileage Wise, it was actually Shorter Time Wise...Lunch in Camp Verde and back to the Barns...

    Another Great Trip into West Clear Creek...Paradise Found once again and with Good Company! Glad you got to finally see it Barrett and Thanks so Much for the Invite and doing all that Driving! :app:

    Columbines going Strong...Indian Paintbrush starting up on the Rim. Other Small Wildflowers starting pretty well in the Meadows on the Rim as well....
    White Box & Hanging Gardens of WCC
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    Having been on my bucket list for some time, I jumped at the chance to do this with someone more experienced than myself in both canyoneering and photography. Pam arrived 5 am sharp and we headed up, taking a combination of forest roads in that she thought would be smoother than the 142's. After coming out on the HAZ roads, I would say it was smoother but more likely to be a problem after heavy rains. I was in 4 low much of the time, aired down to 20 psi, and still spent a fair amount of time in first gear.
    We arrived and headed down, finding the water to be a decent 59 degrees, and hit the first pool. Pam's pack was large enough for all her gear, while I had my small pack and a separate dry bag that I dragged behind while I swam backward with my pack on. After the second pool, I checked my dry bag and found it was leaking. ](*,)
    I spent about 30 minutes drying gear and blowing up my innertube, deciding to float my stuff and deal with the hassle of getting the tube through the brush between swims.
    The White Box arrived and things went to the next level. Sheer walls rose on either side, the water deep and the other end out of sight. Swimming maybe 200 yards with hiking boots on, pushing the tube ahead and then catching up, added a dash of primal fear to the feast before my eyes. When I reached the other side, I was simultaneously relieved to put my feet on the bottom, and a little bummed not having had more time to enjoy the scenery.
    From there I think we had 7 more swims, with boulder hopping and poison ivy avoidance in between (I've never seen so much in my life). When the Hanging Gardens finally came into view, we both couldn't wipe the grins from our faces. The afternoon sun was hitting the lush green growth, the sound of waterfalling surrounded us, and Columbines both in abundance and full bloom. :y:
    For the next 8 hours we were kids in a candy store, wandering from one photo op to the next, floating under the canopy, setting up camp, improving the Rockaloungers, eating dinner, and then a second low-light photography session, ending with LED's, black lights, and kicking back in the loungers. :GB:
    We didn't build a fire, enjoying the night around us, and got to bed early and up by 5 or so. After a few morning pics, we hit the return and were in the water by 7. On the way out I took the time to unpack my camera between swims (the pictures in the photoset are reversed and show morning light). With air temp at 70, and no sun, I ended up shivering through the last few scrambles, but soon we were back at the exit. The hike out was short and steep, and the drive out a relief when it was over. Pam generously picked up the tab at the Verde Diner, where she enjoyed a whompin' omelet, and I scarfed a Reuben. A perfect ending to a great trip. Great company, great scenery, great adventure.
    It's been 4 days since we returned, and despite wearing long sleeves, and even long pants and gloves the entire way out, meticulous washing throughout the trip, and what seemed like utmost caution, I have poison ivy. :tt:
    It was worth it.
    White Box & Hanging Gardens of WCC
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    My wife and I took another couple to white box/HGs, our plan was to drop in at Cash tank, leisurely meander to the hanging gardens, camp over night and go back the next day. That was the plan...the 142 fire road was bad, so this was very slow going, often requiring me to get out and guide the driver to avoid undercarriage damage on rocks. We finally made it to the rim, or close enough (Parked about halfway between the powerlines and the rim). At the top, the weather was great, spotty clouds, sunny and warm. Weather websites said zero percent rain...1 hour after dropping in the canyon and finishing the White box swim, the thunder clouds attacked and the canyon was suddenly dark, very dark. We turned back and within minutes the downpour and lightning was intense. Getting back out and up the wall was tricky and very slippery but we made it. The drive (Crawl) back out the fire roads was very slippery and muddy. A fun adventure, but disappointing and a good reminder how quickly the weather can change. The rope swing area in the white box was clogged with logs and debris.
    White Box & Hanging Gardens of WCC
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    We took a wrong turn and ended up hiking in more than we wanted to. We did not explore as much of the canyon because of the hike to and fro and the water was much higher than expected. I'm pretty sure the 500 yard swim, almost put a member of our party into hypothermia. Good thing we had flotation devices. On the swim out we noticed that one of the rocks was a bloated ex-deer. We dubbed her "Bloatie". This was not amusing to my brother-in-law. I think if we try this again my 2-wheel drive truck will make the drive just fine.
    White Box & Hanging Gardens of WCC
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    The original plan was to drive the ugly dirt road as far as we could, and then spend the rest of the day fooling around in the water. Well...the Earthiest's brand new Outback was foiled at the first big rock section a few hundred yards in, so the overland hike plan came into the works. Rather than hike the road, we thought we would just cross-country to try and make a straight line approach. We got a bit off line hiking up, so we probably killed any mileage savings we would have had over the road. We did make it to the decent and had a good time in the White Box area, although we had to cut our trip short with the long hike back to the car looming. We will have to save the Hanging Gardens for another trip! My feet held up pretty well considering I was in my sandals the whole time. I made the mistake of wearing my swimsuit (I thought we were going to be leisurely playing in the creek the whole day), I wish I had that choice back. I was OK for the hike, but the undercarriage was definitely a bit sore the next day...picked up a new Flash 45 pack at the REI sale, love the new pack! Great capacity and support for just a bit over 2 pounds. We saw a large herd of cattle on our hike back to the car, some big 1000+ pound monsters. We only saw one bull, and he was not feeling aggressive, so no worries. I hope to get more creek time in on our next trip, but fun day none the less.
    White Box & Hanging Gardens of WCC
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    A group of 5 started our journey at 7am, driving up to Rim Country. I hoped to make it all the way to the trailhead in the Tahoe, but pulled up short once again. This 142A road is just brutal. Caused some damage to one of the running boards on the way in. Although I got closer than last time, the road beat me again. We stopped about one mile short. At the speed we were going, it just didn't seem to make sense to punish the vehicle like this. Could walk just as fast.

    We walked to extra mile to the trailhead and began our descent. The descent was sketchier than some in my group had hoped for, but we all made it down in one piece. We inflated our floats and started pool hopping. After the 7th pool, a few of my friends started to look a little worn out. We all continued on, and found ourselves at the hanging gardens about 4 hours after we had started.

    This is when we realized how much longer our day was going to be. Our plans of getting back into the valley before dark? Forget about it. We made our way back and reached the truck at 6pm. Battled the rough road for another hour. Running boards took a couple more hits, but survived. Those things seem to just get in the way. Better the running boards, than ripping out something mechanical. I would rather hit the big rocks with my tires than risk ripping a hole in the oil pan or something else.

    By 7:20 we arrived at hwy 87. We pulled over to take a breather and celebrate conquering the dirt road. I walked around the front of the truck, looked at the front passenger tire. FLAT! Thank goodness I had just replaced the stolen spare tire a month earlier. With a little help from my friends, we changed the tire and were back on the road 20 minutes later.

    We stopped for a bite to eat in Payson and didn't get home until 10:30pm. Long day. White Box/Hanging Gardens is an exceptional location, but be prepared to pay the price of admission. One running board, one tire, a wet gps unit (hope it recovers), a lost pair of sunglasses, and a few cuts and bruises amongst the group.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To canyon trip
    From the intersection of SR87 & US260 north of Strawberry AZ. Head west on US260 6.8 miles to FR142. Turn right and follow FR142 2.2 miles to FR142A. Turn left onto FR142A and follow 1.7 miles to FR142B. Turn left onto FR142J(maybe B) and follow 2.05 miles to the end overlooking WCC.
    page created by joebartels on May 31 2009 7:16 pm
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