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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Christopher Creek Gorge, AZ

no permit
368 86 3
Guide 86 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson N
4 of 5 by 25
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 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1 mile
Trailhead Elevation 5,690 feet
Elevation Gain -200 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1-3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 2
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Perennial Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
15  2019-07-21 GrottoGirl
6  2018-05-21 cactuscat
4  2018-05-04 MountainMatt
1  2018-02-11 skatchkins
4  2018-01-13 MountainMatt
5  2017-07-21 MountainMatt
1  2017-05-27 ssk44
15  2016-09-04 GrottoGirl
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,812
Trips 4,252 map ( 21,403 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Jul, Sep → 9 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:08am - 6:30pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
by joebartels

Likely In-Season!
Access has changed since this 2001 description. The highway is now divided and closer to the canyon. A hikers adventure will range between 1 to 2.5 miles depending on where you park and desire to explore in the creek. Check the overview map in directions.

Christopher Creek Gorge is a popular summer weekend playground. The photos included were taken the day after a rain. Therefore the water is muddy and doesn't appear to be so inviting. Clearer pools can be enjoyed if it hasn't rained in a week.

From the trailhead a sign forewarns. "Warning this trail stops at top of Box Canyon. If you choose to enter the canyon exercise extreme caution, when wet the rocks are slippery."

Just into the hike the trail appears to fork. You want to take the right side trail that heads more south and away from the road. Soon you pass under electrical wires. Ponderosa pines surround you and the trail zig zags through the forest. The trail at times is hard to find. This area has been trampled by heavy use and large groups. You will enjoy the thick classic forest along this section, though it might be a bit spooky at night. Manzanita brush which I love is thick in places. A rocky section of trail is encounter. The going is fairly easy and the grade is a gentle descent. Several camp fire rings are passed along the way. A clearing is reached and trails appear to scatter in every direction. Keep heading South-Southwest. Across the clearing the trail picks up again in the trees. Last I had visited the area there was a sign marking this as the end of trail #298 with the same warning note. The sign was leaning against a tree so it's very likely it could move. You will start to go up a slight slope, the trail is rocky and narrow. The edge of the canyon is reached quickly from the clearing area.

Yelling and screaming can be heard as you approach the canyon. Once you have reached the canyon it's best to keep following the trail hugging the edge down to the creek. Adventurous individuals head right down. Perhaps an occasional few rappel the sheer walls. Upon reaching the creek you will need to cross the waters. Follow the other side a short distance (west with the water flow) for easiest access into the canyon. From here it's up to you. Most make it past about two cascades with good size pools. Be careful on the rocks as the creek bottom is slippery. Enjoy your adventure!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2001-09-25 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 14 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Christopher Creek Gorge
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Took Saturday off from Canyons, but then on Sunday a few people picked this one and invited me to go...I really liked this one the first time I did it a couple of years ago, even though this is the Canyon that I took my "Tumble" on...I was determined to do it right this time... :sweat:

    Although I wasn't the most Experienced Canyoneer on this Trip, I was the only one that had done this one before, so I led the Approach and Exit. We Exited in a slightly different Spot than I did before, but I knew this way was doable and with some Route Finding Help from another HAZer in the Group, we popped out on top perfectly... :)

    The Trip went very well, although since I did it earlier this Year, the Water was a lot colder... :sweat: Although we left Camp to completely Blue Skies and No Clouds, by the time we dropped in the Canyon, the Sun was gone behind quite a few Clouds...We only briefly saw the Sun once the rest of the Day and by the time we were Exiting, it was actually threatening to Rain on us...We all had Full Wetsuits on or we would have been very Cold on this Day...

    We only had one Snafu on the actual Canyon Trip and that was when we were Hiking up the Slope on the Exit. The other Gal that was with us stepped on a loose rock, lost her Balance and fell into a Prickly Pear... :o :sk: Luckily, she had a Long-sleeved Fleece on and that saved her somewhat, although it was going to be quite the Project when she got home...We took a Time-Out for about 20 Minutes and de-spined her...Amazingly, with Tweezers and Duct Tape, we got it all out of her Right Arm...Her Shirt and Pack took the Brunt of it luckily...

    We got back to the Vehicles and decided to have a late Lunch of Mexican Food in Payson before going our Separate Ways...After Lunch, 1 other Vehicle was heading back South on the Beeline. One of the Guys had dropped his Vehicle off at Jake's Corner on the way up, so he was riding with the Fellow HAZer...I left just a few minutes before them and hadn't gotten 3 Miles out of Payson when I got to a DPS Roadblock...They had shut down the Southbound Beeline for some reason and were turning everyone around... :sk: I knew I could still get home, but the other Guys were pretty much going to have to wait it out, since they had the other Vehicle to pick up. I ended up going home through Camp Verde so instead of a 1 Hour Drive, it turned into almost 3 Hours... :roll:

    But, I was home and totally ecstatic with how the Day and the long Weekend went...Good Times, Great Canyons and Awesome People...And the Canyoneering Addiction Continues... :D

    I will be adding a Note to this Description as there was a small Change in the Parking for this Trip....

    Cactus Blooming still and the Claret Cups were starting to Bloom nicely...
    Christopher Creek Gorge
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Quite the Trip! Scenic Driving in the Rain, a little disappointment, followed by some "Mudding", a little "Break" in the middle of FR144, another Scenic Drive, some Technical Canyoneering in a very cool Gorge, followed by an "oops" moment just before the Exit, followed by a great Dinner with good friends that was almost interrupted by a Bar Brawl, followed by another Scenic Drive home...LOL! Does it get any better than that???? :sl: :y:

    Ok, where to start...The Plan...Shamrock Canyon in WCC...Unfortunately, I didn't pay close enough attention to a recent Triplog and Photoset, or else the Original Plan would have been scrapped and there would have been a Plan B before we ever left the Driveway... ](*,) Got up in the wee hours to serious Lightning all around...Figured I would get a Phone call but it never came, so I left, picked up Scott and met up with Ken and Mike in the NW Valley...It was dark and rainy still...

    Mike drove us all up, through the Rain, to Camp Verde, while we debated whether we were nuts for even thinking that this Trip was even going to be feasible with the Weather...(Ken stayed eternally optimistic... :lol: )The Rim from Camp Verde actually looked better, so we continued up and onto the Forest Roads...Our first clue, that something wasn't quite right, should have been that everyone was Camped almost literally, on the Road, on FR144 and FR142. We started seeing barricades at every turnoff...We got to our Turnoff on FR142F and there was another one...Apparently the Lightning-caused Egypt Fire was now being managed as a "Controlled Burn" and most of the WCC area is now closed... viewtopic.php?f=5&t=7861&start=0

    Came up with Plan B and we were off again...Mike likes to play in the Mud with his Truck, so we rolled down the Forest Roads hitting all the Mud Puddles... :D Ken started goading him from the back seat and Mike decided to "show" him and went out of his way to hit another big puddle...Except, it was deep and mainly Water, which promptly got into his Air Intake, shutting down the Truck.... :sl: It was kind of Ironic, as it almost turned into a Deja Vu moment for a couple of us in the Vehicle...Uh huh...Boys will be Boys... :sl: So we took an unscheduled Break until it dried out, and then we were off again... :D

    After another Scenic Drive, we arrived at the start for the Gorge...Went up, then down into Christopher Creek...Scott had never been here, so we went upstream to a cool Pool with a Water Slide and let him play for a few minutes, then got down to the Trek downstream....What a Beautiful Area!!! It may not be a Slot Canyon, but man, it was great!!! The Pink Granite was incredible with Waterfalls galore...The Water wasn't clear unfortunately, but I expected that, with the Monsoon Season...It really didn't take away from the Beauty of the area though!!! The Rappels were great too! Got to do a "Free" Rappel for the first time, even though it was only about 7 feet of "Free"...Doing much better on awkward starts, thanks to a great Team and Coaching...I was really happy with how I did on this day! Too bad my Scrambling ended up sucking... :sl:

    Took a Break after the last Rappel, just before the Exit out. Dropped Gear and I almost took off my Helmet too...Leaving it on turned out to be my smartest move all day... :sweat: After the Break, did a bit more Scrambling on the Slick Rock towards the Exit...Was walking on a Ridge of Slick Rock and came to the end, where the others had gone down...They were about 20 yards ahead, across a "Jump"...I said something about the Jump they just did, and something about their long leg advantage in getting off this Ridge...It was a smooth, somewhat steep "slide" of Slick Rock, about 7 feet long, to get to the bottom...And then I pulled a Dumb Blonde move...Instead of turning around and walking down it backwards with my grippy Boots, I elected to slide down it on my butt, not taking into account that I don't have C4 Rubber on my A**, and my A** was wet...I took that Slide about 10 MPH faster than I intended and when my foot hit a small rock Outcrop at the bottom, it stopped, but the rest of me did not... :sweat: I can honestly say, that this is the first "Tumble" I have ever taken...I have fallen on my A**, my Knees, and my Face, but I have never "Tumbled"... :o :sweat: And I made sure it was a good one...The Guys said I did a Cartwheel. (Woohoo, my first ever while Hiking! :sweat: ) And I wasn't just Tumbling, I was tumbling down a Slick Rock Slope towards a Crevice, with no hope of stopping. And the Crevice was of unknown depth at that moment...It all happened very very fast....My one thought as I approached the Lip of the Crevice? "S***, this is probably gonna hurt"... :sl: I tumbled about 20 feet and landed in the Crevice sideways, with my Body and Head bringing me to an abrupt stop when they hit the opposite wall...Turns out, the Crevice had "shallowed out" at that end, and I only dropped a little over a foot... :sweat: The Helmet, that I had almost taken off at the Break 10 minutes earlier, did it's job and with the exception of banging my Kneecap pretty hard on the Rock, I was fine, with a huge Spike of adrenalin coursing through...The Guys, after seeing the first "Cartwheel", had jumped back over the Gap, and were there in seconds... :thanx: After laying there for a minute or two waiting for the initial Pain from the Knee Slam to go away, I slowly got up and shortly thereafter, we continued on our way...The "Jump" wasn't happening, but with the assistance of all three of the Guys, I got across...My Confidence kind of took a Dump from that point on, but the Guys were awesome and assisted whenever I reached a tentative Spot...Their patience was above Phenomenal!!! I just can't say enough good things about this Team! : app : :budrose: :kf: :worthy:

    And then, with some more Hiking, we were up and out...Stopped in Payson for Dinner and almost had a Bar Brawl start within 10 feet of our Table...Luckily, it didn't come to Blows, and abated, while we continued to Laugh the Day away...Went home via 87 and then all the way back across town to the NW side where everybody's Vehicles were located.... :sweat:

    Photos and Video: Thankfully, my Camera is none the worse for wear in spite of my mishap, which is actually amazing...It's in a small padded case that I keep clipped to my front shoulder strap, so I know it hit the Ground several times... :sweat: Here's a quickie video of Scott enjoying the small Waterslide...It's a small one, but fun, I did it last time I was there....

    In spite of the Initial Disappointment of not being able to do Shamrock, and the slightly "scary" moment where I pretended I was a Gymnast, we had a great day! Full of Laughs, Fun, and seeing some great Country! The Clouds broke shortly after we started Rappelling, and it turned out to be a gorgeous Day! Special Thanks to Ken for the Invite, and to Mike for all of that Driving... :sweat: And a HUGE Thanks to all of them for their camaraderie, coaching, patience, assistance, and concern...I am blessed to have such Friends! : app : : app : : app :
    Christopher Creek Gorge
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    After a day of being in my least favorite area,(a cave) I had an afternoon to get out and enjoy seeing the sunlight and get wet. A few weeks ago I came to this spot with Pam and saw what it was going to take to get through this creek. My buddy Mike and his cousin Rich were up for it so we headed on up Sunday morning, stopped in Payson for some last minute items and found our parking area where the road construction is still going on.

    It was sunny and warm when we started after 10am so I couldn't wait to get in the water. We made our way down canyon and then headed upstream to a section I knew we would be unable to get up. But this short section of going upstream provided us with some great swimming pools and my water slide I enjoyed a few weeks ago. The water was perfect, not too cold and felt great the entire day.

    Once we started down canyon it was quickly we came upon our first rappel. I saw an anchor above and to the side of the 20 foot waterfall but we decided not to use that one. We also saw an anchor built around a small short tree the diameter of my arm which made me shake my head. I went over to it and shook the tree and it seemed to move a little so I broke that anchor down and decided to build a retrievable anchor around the big tree directly above the waterfall so we could rappel down the falls. Once we all got down we pulled the rope, we pulled the anchor and left no trace there. A few giant swim holes awaited us from here and we enjoyed every swim we did. The 45ft rappel into the giant pool was pretty sweet and Rich got to do his first overhang rappel on this one. Once he got down he let out a good yell of excitement and you could sense the nervousness around him. He's still learning but doing well and much better on rope than his first time out. We avoided one of the rappels by jumping 8 feet into a giant pool and then did the final rappel down another waterfall with a tricky start. I got to hang out under the falls which was pretty awesome and provide a belay for Rich and Mike on this one. Only bad thing was I finally lost my first pair of sunglasses in a canyon. They provided me with a great 4 years of service, worth every cent of the $20 I spent on them.

    We continued down the canyon, saw another waterfall with an anchor up top but could see how easy it was to just walk right down the rock to get down so I broke down this anchor as well and left the canyon pretty clean this day. We finally ran into our first person of the day swimming in a pool at our exit canyon. I was surprised we didn't see anyone else this day but really didn't complain about it.

    On the hike out of the canyon I came across a 4'x 4' piece of styrofoam on the side and asked Mike and Rich if they wanted to help me carry this out. They did not so I took it upon myself to get it on out. We were closer to the top so I just held it above my head and gave my arms a workout as I hike on out with it. The construction site at the top of the canyon was the most likely place this came from and once we got to it I spotted her sister piece on the other side of the fence and put the piece I carried on out with it. I hope it doesn't blow back down the canyon after all that but if so i'll be back I suppose.

    Good day and good short technical canyon to cool off in during the summer, might be another yearly canyon for me to do along with the Jug now.
    Christopher Creek Gorge
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After hitting Ellison Cascades, it was still early in the day, so we opted to hit this and check it out...

    Found the TH after a bit of driving. The Mile Posts are missing right now because of Construction, so I had to find one out of the Construction Zone, so I knew where to turn in. Got parked and Ken's really good Route Finding skills kicked into gear and we were on our way... :D

    Got to the edge of the Canyon and skirted it until Ken found a couple of Cairns and we headed down a very steep Trail...At Ellison Creek, I had worn a brand new pair of Water Shoes and absolutely hated the traction I was getting with them on wet Rock, so I switched them out for the old running shoes that I had been wearing as Water Shoes...Problem is, they have virtually no Tread left, so they weren't any better and going down that Trail was really problematic for me...Ken was very patient however, and we got down without incident...Found some great Swimming Holes right off the bat, and the Water was much warmer than Ellison Creek and the East Verde had been, earlier in the day...Didn't take me long to take the full plunge, as it was getting pretty warm... :D

    We went both directions once we were down, but got stopped pretty quickly by a Waterfall going downstream, so spent most of our time going upstream...Really nice area!!! Came to a Waterfall just in time to see some Canyoneers setting up to rappel down it, so we took a break and watched while Ken explained some of what they were doing, and why they were doing it...I've been wanting to get into Canyoneering for awhile so it was cool to watch, as I've never seen it in person before.... :)

    After awhile, and basically running out of Creek that we could do non-technically, it was time to head back up and out...Made good time going out, got back to the Escape, and called it a day...

    Didn't take hardly any Photos, as I was either trying to keep my footing, or swimming, with the Camera stowed safely away in the Drybag in the Buttpack...Too big of a pain trying to get it out just to take a shot or two, so I just didn't bother...Will have to work on a different method for keeping it dry, but more accessible...Either that, or just bite the Bullet and get a Waterproof one for Trips like these...We'll see... ;)

    It was an awesome day with great company!!! It was nice to finally meet you Ken and thanks for joining me!!! It was a good time!! : app :

    The Agave Blooms are really starting to open up now....
    Christopher Creek Gorge
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    After getting done with our Ellison Creek hike Pam asked if I wanted to check out Christopher Creek. Of course I was up for it so off we went, she had the directions, I had no idea where we where going so we were all good in my book. With all the construction still going on in this area on the highway we ended up missing the "exact" spot to park and get on the trail, if the trail still exists that is. We parked near what we figured was mile marker 271 as the markers are removed from 268 to 272 where all this road work is going on.
    We knew where we wanted to go and took off, we found a road along the powerlines, found an old fainted trail, found some cairns, and saw the line where you can tell people make their way down. It was steep and loose in several sections so we took our time getting down, we could hear the water running from up top and hoped it was going to be warmer water than where we just were so we could go swimming. Once we got down we headed down canyon and the water felt a bit warmer but still cool. We came quickly upon a section where a 20 foot waterfall was and I knew we couldn't down climb this safely and needed to rappel. With no gear today we decided to head on up canyon and see what it was like.
    We found some pretty nice areas and an awesome pool with a waterslide and log diving board. Pam quickly dove in and the swimming was on. I did my perfected move of walking in backwards and letting my pack keep me afloat and swam backwards. We went up some water stairs and came to another good size pool where I could see a rappel station up top and then some canyoneers made their appearance up at the top of this section. We took a break and decided to watch this group rappel this short waterfall section where I also told Pam what they were doing and what was going on with the rappel as she will hopefully soon be on rope herself. The group got down and swam on over to us where we said hello and wished them a safe trip on down the canyon. We went on over to the waterfall and wall to check it out. A tricky climb that could have been done but what was the point. We decided to go back to our bigger pool and then call it a day and head back up. The hike on up wasn't nearly as bad as coming down, and we were both almost dry by the time we got back up as the warm sun was on us the entire time.

    Thanks for driving and showing me these areas Pam. More fun in the water this summer for sure.
    Christopher Creek Gorge
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Woohoo! My first real canyoneering trip and first ever rappel!

    We did 4 rappels total (I skipped one and downclimbed/jumped it), two easy downclimbs (the first was about 20-22 ft and the second about 10-12 ft) and swam about six pools. The water was shockingly cold and I really wished I'd brought a wetsuit. All the pools we swam were unavoidable and at least 6 feet deep or more. The hardest part was that all the rappels ended in deep pools and the water was so cold, otherwise it was a lot of fun.

    The first rappel was about 35-40 feet. Once I got to the bottom, while floating, I un-clipped the rope and mistakenly un-clipped the descending device as well. It then slipped out of my hand and sank to the water's murky depths. So for the other two rappels I had to borrow someone else's descender. This was challenging because I had to remove it, without losing it, and tie it to the end of the rope so it could be retrieved by the others above. The problem was doing this while also trying to stay afloat and shivering uncontrollably.

    So if anyone finds a descender down the creek somewhere, enjoy it! Apparently this is called "canyon booty".

    Thanks Dana, Anthony, Joe, Jenny, Kyle, and Zeke!
    Christopher Creek Gorge
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I didn't think too much of this canyon when I first did it a few summers ago but now that I'm a bit more experienced with slippery rocks, I really enjoyed this short and sweet canyon! :y: When I first hit the canyon there was a ROTC group practicing rappelling off of the cliff while I geared up and dropped into the muddy creek. The rock was SO slippery in the beginning and the water was too muddy to see thru it so I preferred to stick to the creek and wade thru it whenever possible... ;) After many pools and small down climbs, I eventually reached the first rappel down a 15ft falls and avoided a tricky downclimb. A little further down canyon and you reach the 35ft falls with a solid anchor up on left side for a 45ft rappel into a huge swimmer which had me wondering if my 100ft rope would be enough. :o A little further down, my rappel #3 was thru a 20ft waterfall into another swimmer with loads of slippery creek to navigate thru a cool section of the narrows. :D Rappel #4 was a 40-footer on the left side of a slick 30ft falls into an even sweeter box canyon. Quite a few pools to wade thru in the box but it ends all too quickly with the final sweet rappel #5 being a 15ft drop behind the falls. :y: There's still some creek to navigate before the exit canyon, so I left the gear on a bit longer as I played in the final section of slippery canyon. I was getting a tad chilly by the end and thankfully was able to change in the sun before it dropped behind the ridge. The exit was as nasty as ever but at least it's short... :sweat:
    Christopher Creek Gorge
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Went out to see the gorge. Well worth the trip! Wish I had had time to go swimming out here, what a beautiful place.

    Even though it's a short hike, it's easy to get turned around. There was a fairly large field of manzanita bushes that have been cleared out, and the trail in that area is pretty much gone. We just trusted our instincts and the direction the GPS was telling us the creek should be, and we found it. We made it down there OK, but got turned around coming back in the area where the trail disappears.
    Christopher Creek Gorge
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Wow what a great canyon, rapped all the waterfalls. The last one is amazing where you get to go behind it.

    This is not the best canyon to bring inexperienced, all the raps are in the flow of the water and many of the starts are difficult. The rock has to be the slipperiest in AZ.

    Note: according to the new ACA rating system, this canyon would probably be C1, the easiest class C.
    Christopher Creek Gorge
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Went camping and decided to take a hike since we were only a couple miles from the trailhead. What a wonderful hike! It was a little too cold to go jumping in since it had snowed just a couple days before. :D

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From Payson take 260 East for about 19 miles.

    Option 1 - Gap between guard rails
    Parking is on the south side of 260 which is 0.25 miles after/east of milepost 271
    Note: one group reported a boulder from the side terrain fell just missing their bumper

    Option 2 - Dirt road to maintenance yard
    Turn right onto dirt road 0.15 miles before/west of milepost 271

    Map Overview
    - flag is milemarker 271
    - gap between rails may or may not be legal, you can see cars on satellite but obey signage

    2+ mi range whistle
    blow it hard
    help comment issue

    end of page marker