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Toms Creek Canyon to WCC, AZ

no permit
59 8 0
Guide 8 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Clints Well W
3.5 of 5 by 6
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 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 13 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,680 feet
Elevation Gain 1 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,000 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
4  2015-07-25
Pivot Rock Canyon
14  2014-09-21
Pivot Rock Canyon
52  2013-06-19 Bradshaws
54  2011-04-16
Willow Valley
7  2009-08-09 nonot
Author nonot
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 236
Photos 1,969
Trips 476 map ( 4,511 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Aug, Sep → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  6:14am - 6:21pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
West Clear Creek the hard way.
by nonot

Likely In-Season!
Overview: A trip down Toms Creek to Clover Creek and down Clover until you reach the confluence with Willow Valley and arrive in West Clear Creek.

Warning: This is a slightly challenging route and is entirely off trail. You don't want to be in this canyon in a flash flood, check the weather report carefully for any signs of rain before you go. It will be easier going downstream than going upstream. There were no particularly difficult obstacles when the canyon was ascended mostly dry in early August 2009.

Hike: From FR142, walk the rancher's road to your north. You may see cows in the area (cows are not particularly bright animals, so don't spook them). The dirt road lasts about 3/4 of a mile and is easy to follow. Eventually the road ends and the canyon begins. It is fairly pleasant at first, the water is shallow and cool, the trail is easy and obvious. You walk in a grassy little pockets for awhile.

Then, it gets harder. A few logs are strewn about and some boulders block the canyon from time to time. You will have to scramble around them. After a short bit of this, the easy canyoneering resumes and you are strolling along in the grass. An large open area is found to your right looking down canyon, where there is a wide expanse of flat ground and one or two campfire rings.

Continue going down the canyon. Unfortunately it gets tougher, much tougher. The rocks and logs get more numerous. The canyon gets a bit steeper. Bypass trails will help amongst the most difficult obstacles. Water appears infrequently. First you generally see scuzzy pools, and then further downstream it will be clear and flowing, and then it will disappear underground.

The canyon begins to twist and turn, the walls become higher and eventually you realize you cannot escape the canyon after you have gone two miles. The canyon bottom gets rocky and you are scrambling along boulders and ledges. Finally, the last 0.5 miles before you reach Clover Canyon, decent game trails appear, along with an old cow skeleton. Use these trails and enjoy finally getting out of the rock-hopping creekbed. It is about 3.5 miles to Clover Canyon.

At Clover Canyon the trail actually continues going upstream but don't follow it per this hike description. As soon as you reach the Clover Creek creekbed, turn left and rockhop/bushwhack another 3 miles downstream until you reach WCC.

Water sources: Good water was found throughout the first 3 miles of this canyon. Near Clover and in Clover was dry until you got very close to West Clear Creek.

Camping: The wide open field found about 1-1.5 miles in (you will know it when you get there, it's impossible to miss) and just upstream in Clover Creek where Toms and Clover meet are your only two real camping options until you reach WCC itself.

Note: It would be highly advisable to set out a shuttle and go out Maxwell trail. Doing this canyon in both directions is a bit masochistic.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2009-08-09 nonot
    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
    Toms Creek Canyon to WCC
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Did a figure-8 loop including Pivot Rock Canyon and Toms Creek, and then some off trail and old jeep trails. Hit two areas where we had to fight our way through the dense vegetation. Really neat area. Saw a few others at camp sites but had the trails and remote jeep trails to ourselves.
    Toms Creek Canyon to WCC
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Wanted to get out of te heat so headed up to the rim :y: I had planned to do a totally different hike but ended up going down Tom canyon at the last minute. Got to the trailhead at 7:30am it was beautiful, I had already seen a cow elk with a very small calf, a coyote with 2 small pups and only one other person :D It was going to be a good day. Most of the morning I was hiking in the shade and that kept it cool almost till I had to turn around. This trail, well there isn't an actual trail and for that matter there aren't a lot of game trails either :-k . This "canyon" was very cool! And very difficult! The cayon has running water and the ground is covered in flowers, mint and poison ivy :doh: . It started to get difficut at the 1 1/2 to 2 mile mark. The canyon is overgrown with vines, wild roses and the dreaded locust bush. To go much farther than I had gone I would recommend a mechete or brush knife. There are also lots and I mean LOTS of fallen trees to deal with. But with all that being said it was well worth the effort. I was at the 3 mile mark when I noticed that the water going down my back wasn't sweat :o my water bladder was leaking. I have no doubt that I could have drank the water in the stream but I'm not real fond of the smell [-( . So I truned around and headed back.
    Toms Creek Canyon to WCC
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I was looking for non-technical overnighter up on the rim to just getting away from it all and mid-April is usually when all the rim roads re-open so I figured I'd drive up and see how much snow was left and which roads I could access and was pleased to see no snow and the roads pretty much all re-opened. :y:

    I worked that Saturday morning, but I drove up that afternoon and got a few miles in on FR142 before parking and beelining across the rim towards middle Tom's Creek and dropped in via a steep side drainage. It'd been SO long since I'd been in WCC that I was quickly enchanted by even a hint of the sandstone goodness yet to come. :D Followed Tom's Creek downstream to its confluence with Clover Creek and continued on to the confluence with Willow Valley and the beginning of WCC and setup camp at a sweet campsite nearby. Nice, it only took 3 hours of scenic rock hopping to get here. :sweat: Heated up a Mountain House, rolled out my bag & pad, made a small fire, watched as the full moon lit up the canyon thru the clouds, and listened to the many canyon sounds. ;)

    Woke up early the next cool morning, did the morning rituals, and made an early trek up Willow Valley to the 'springs'. The morning stayed cool and the water was chilly, so I avoided the creek when possible and stuck to less scenic side trails. The deciduous trees and ferns and grass haven't all grown back yet with much evidence of some massive winter flows that rushed thru here, but Willow Valley was still just as amAZingly beautiful as she ever is. :D On the way up, I saw a handful of geese and even a few elk grazing down in the creek. Once at the springs, I chilled at took a lunch break & power nap before returning downstream and taking loads more photos in the better light. At the confluence & back at camp, I packed back up my full backpack and by then I'd decided I wasn't going to return the way I came in but instead continue down WCC and exit up 142E trail and walk 142 back to my car. :sweat: It's been a few years since I'd hiked straight thru this part of WCC so I was kinna surprised and how close every thing was together. :lol: Before I knew it I was passing the Maxwell trail, Tramway trail, the springs and Sundance Canyon already?!? :o I crossed the waist hike chilly creek to enter the Cathedral of lower Sundance Canyon as was treated with the lightly trickling 180ft falls and a 6th high ice/snow mound at the bottom. After checking that out, I continued around the corner and up the 142E trail and was pleased that I'd still have plenty of light for the LONG road walk back to my car. :sweat:

    WOW, West Clear Creek always has a way of blowing my mind every spring/early summer with it's amAZing beauty and I can't wait to start canyoneering here again. :y:
    Toms Creek Canyon to WCC
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Did from WCC to FR 142 with a full set of camping gear. Too hot to enjoy today. Plus, Clover is a bushwhack.

    Flushed out two huge bull elk on the way upstream in the morning.

    I think Toms Creek should be renamed "Elk Highway". There's enough elk droppings in the canyon to...well...I don't know how to complete that sentence.

    Of note, the 4-5 hours in the trip description is for each way. It would be impossible to do a round trip in that much time.
    Toms Creek Canyon to WCC
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Well I was looking for a way to access upper WCC this summer with just my car and then toddak posted this timely trail writeup. :bigth: I've done that Willow Valley a few times, but I always wondered what WCC's other drier fork would be like to hike. I left work around noon on Friday and drove north to the FR142/AZ87 junction and parked at that small parking lot just off of the highway to save some wear on my car and just hiked the half mile up the meadows and over the ridge to the TH. From there it's just as the writeup describes with an easy old road to hike at first as it snakes around, then a couple miles in it narrows up a bit with some small pools/rock hopping/log jams for a few miles, and then it dries up and gets easier again for another mile until it reaches Tom's Creek. It was around 7pm when I reached that confluence (took about 3.5 hours to hike thus far) and decided to take advantage of the good camping spots instead of pushing on to the WCC confluence. :zzz: After a pleasant night of camping, I packed up and continued on a couple more hours down the last few miles of Clover. That last stretch of hiking was only moderate with mostly dry boulder hopping, only a handful of logs to get around, and some pleasant strolls along the small creek. I found another great camping spot just at the end of Clover at the confluence with WCC and dropped my camping gear there to be my base camp for the weekend. With just my waterproofed gear for water hiking, I continued up that scenic Willow Springs a few miles to the 'springs' that the creek flows from and ate lunch and enjoyed the beautiful day in that amazing canyon. I took a short creekside nap before heading back and since it had warmed up nicely, I swam the few optional swimmers on the way downstream. :GB: I got to camp late in the afternoon and had some time to burn, so I checked out the bottom of that Shamrock Canyon nearby, gathered some firewood to make a fire, and read a few magazines better turning in for the night. If Saturday was my day to relax, then Sunday was definitely the day to get my butt kicked... :sweat: Sunday morning, I woke up early again with the sun and hit WCC downstream a few miles going past Maxwell, Tramway, a short into the echo chamber of Sundance Canyon, 142E trail, and then took a short sidetrip up the bottom of Bear Canyon before heading back upstream. I passed a good dozen good campsite in those few miles and about half of them were filled on this 'busy' weekend. On the way back, I also verified the locations of those 142E & Tramway trails by hiking up them briefly since I haven't hiked down them yet but wanted to make sure I knew where they were in case I needed to bail on them during future WCC trips. 8) I got back to my camp at the Clover/WCC/Willow Valley confluence around 1pm and loaded my camping gear up for the hike out up Clover. I was starting to drag those few miles up to the Tom's Creek confluence and decided to experiment with a potentially shorter more direct route up Tom's Creek and then bushwhack it up and over to FR142. I figured if Tom's Creek was technical I would have heard about it by now or read about it in Todd's book... :lol: I stuck to that windy creek about a mile before finding a bushy hikeable side canyon full of fallen trees that was heading in the direction I needed to hit that forrest road. It was a little steep, but I kept pushing up to the ridge, got a GPS lock, headed in the direction of my car, and shortly ran into that FR142 following it a couple miles to AZ87 and my car. :sweat: It ended up being about two miles shorter and saved me another two hours of tiring canyon hiking. Yet another great adventure into WCC for an amazing 2.5 day trip... :D

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To 142E Trailhead
    From Phx, take I-17 N to exit 287/HWY 260. Take 260 E and just before milepost 249, turn left/N onto FR 144. Take FR 144 1.8 miles and turn left onto FR 149. Follow FR 149 1.1 miles to a T junction with FR 142. Turn right onto FR 142 and follow it .8 mile to FR 142E on the left (there was a sign for 142D and on the other side of the same road was a rock painted with 142E). Stay straight on FR142 another 0.8 miles until it dips down and crosses Tom's Creek. There are parking options in this area off the road.

    2016-07 LindaAnn writes: The last 1/3 mile or so on 142E is the only rough part, maybe not great for low clearance, but easy enough to park there and walk a little extra to the trailhead.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 132 mi - about 2 hours 30 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 237 mi - about 3 hours 59 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 90.2 mi - about 1 hour 51 mins
    page created by nonot on Aug 09 2009 11:42 pm
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