Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Beautiful intro to canyoneering
This is a beautiful canyon to explore for those that are a little adventurous and not afraid to get more than a little wet. I've wanted to try some canyoneering, but wasn't totally committed to something needing ropes or swim fins. This hike exactly fit the bill. You can decide how far up the canyon you want to go and can do this as an out-and-back, or even a one-way if you drop a car at the Maxwell or Tramway trailheads to the north-east. We hiked from Point trailhead to the petro glyph wall local right between the Maxwell and Tramway trails. We dawdled a lot and explored a lot. It took us exactly 6 hours start-to-finish.
West Clear Creek is located on top of the Mogollon Rim. The east end of West Clear Creek is a 700ft deep sandstone walled canyon with near vertical walls throughout. This is one of the few trailheads allowing access to this area from the south side. A few miles further up the canyon to the east are the more popular Maxwell and Tramway trailheads accessible from the north rim of this canyon.
The trails on this hike are not always obvious. You will sometimes need to do some bolder-hopping, bushwhacking, and often have to cross the creek; sometimes in waist deep water. As the water flow varies, you may have slightly different experiences. But in any case, plan to get wet. Pack your bag with the intention that you will probably slip and fall in. Two of the four in our party did just that. Make sure all your stuff is water tight. The rocks in the creek are very slimy. Trek poles were a great help in providing additional stability while crossing the creek.
Hike: Starting at the trailhead at N34 32.747 W111 26.018 you immediately drop down into the canyon on a rather steep trail. There is no real climbing involved, but you will need your hands in many places. The trail down enters the canyon bottom at N34 32.873 W111 26.201. We went entirely up canyon, but just a little ways down canyon from where the trail enters the canyon is a really cool weeping wall that is worth checking out if you have time.
From the trail's entry point proceed up the canyon to the east. You will almost immediately need to get wet. In some places there may be ways to scamper up a canyon wall and avoid getting wet, but in several places it is impossible to avoid. You might as well embrace it. Additionally, it many places it is probably safer to wade through the water than climb around on cliffs.
As you proceed up the canyon you will find a cool side canyon to your left about .3 miles from the start at the bottom of the canyon. It's worth exploring and doesn't go back too far. Another .5 miles or so you will pass a spring flowing into the canyon from the south wall. It has good flow and appears to be coming straight out of the ground.
About 2 miles further up the canyon on the north wall you will pass another side canyon. Immediately after this on the main canyon wall there are a bunch of interesting petro glyphs. Some of these are obviously fake, but the majority of them are the real deal. The glyphs are at N34 33.367 W111 24.972.
The Maxwell trail meets the canyon bottom about another .5 miles up from the glyphs. I understand that you can continue up this canyon for several more miles. We ended our hike at this point and turned around and went back the way we came.
The ascent back up the canyon again was steep and challenging. Again you will want your hands free to hang on and assist in climbing over large rocks, trees, and ledges.
Personally I think this canyon is every bit as beautiful as the West Fork of Oak Creek. It has very diverse flora, with vines everywhere, cattails, maple, oak, pine, fir, etc. It doesn't get much greener than this in Arizona. I've been told that there is a lot of poison ivy in this area. While I saw things that possibly could be poison ivy, none of us got into any.
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.