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Cottonwood Spring Loop - Cave Creek, AZ

Guide 34 Triplogs  1 Active Topic
  3.8 of 5 
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 9.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,352 feet
Elevation Gain 900 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,900 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18.9
Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Seasonal Creek & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
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13  2019-02-13 LosDosSloFolks
25  2018-03-17
Skull Mesa Ruins
13  2018-03-02 kingsnake
10  2018-01-20
Cottonwood Spring Loop Plus
13  2018-01-20
Cottonwood Spring Loop Plus
5  2018-01-07 BiFrost
12  2016-02-13
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek Loop
8  2015-03-07
Cottonwood Elephant Loop
Page 1,  2,  3
Author gpsjoe
author avatar Guides 16
Routes 123
Photos 2,810
Trips 140 map ( 1,516 miles )
Age 78 Male Gender
Location Mesa, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 9 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  5:17am - 7:42pm
Official Route
8 Alternative

A neat stroll in the desert !!
by gpsjoe

2018 Notice
The 247A portion of this hike is now signed closed on the Spur Cross side. The trail is still in good shape and appears currently used. To be legal, you will need to hike to the Tonto Forest boundary then over.
If you can read a map, you will see it's a slight adjustment. If you can not figure it out, then this hike is not currently for you.

The Spur Cross and neighboring Cave Creek trail systems offer great hiking in mountainous terrain featuring some creeks and streams and all the varieties of low desert vegetation you can imagine. The trails are reasonably close to home for those in the Phoenix metro area. Winter and maybe late fall and early spring are the preferred seasons for hiking this area. It is just too hot at other times.

The Cottonwood Spring Loop is a moderate 9.4 miles consisting of 2 miles of out and back hiking plus 7.4 miles of an actual loop. We hiked the dirt roads (Spur Cross trail) 1.25 miles to the signed Forest Service boundary from the Spur Cross trailhead. Then continue straight for another mile, crossing Cave creek several times to the signed Skull Mesa trailhead. Continue 500 feet, then turn right onto the signed Cottonwood trail 247 and hike 3.1 miles (0.5 miles past the intersection of Cottonwood and Skull Mesa trails) to Cottonwood Spring. There we turn right onto the unsigned unofficial trail 247A and hike it 2.9 miles to the Spur Cross trail, which we hike a mile back to the parking lot. I include some pictures at Cottonwood Spring that should help in identifying trail 247A. I found 247A by accident when I made a mistake on a previous hike of the Skull Mesa -Cottonwood Creek Loop. But here is how you might use this route to create options for making that loop.

Using 247A in the Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek Loop
Standard Route - 17.8 miles with 10 miles out and back plus a 7.8-mile true loop.

Option 1 fewest miles - At one mile from the parking lot, use Unofficial Trail 247A out and back. This results in 7.8 miles of out and back hiking plus a 7.8-mile true loop. Total miles is 15.6

Option 2 Maximum true loop - Hike standard route 5 miles to the intersection of Skull Mesa and Cottonwood trails, then hike the entire Skull Mesa trail and turn right on the Cottonwood trail and take it to Unofficial Trail 247A (at the Cottonwood Spring with the post with 247 on it). Take 247A back to your car. This has only 2 miles of out and back and 14.2 miles of a true loop for a total of 16.2 miles. This is my personal favorite.

In his two trip reports, Al_HikesAZ mentions the tricky navigation on the Skull Mesa trail between the Cottonwood and Quien Sabe trails, and I will confirm that and urge the use of a GPS with the track file loaded for this piece of about 2 miles in length.

There are GPS track files posted for the Cottonwood Spring Loop (includes 247A), the original Skull Mesa & Cottonwood Creek Loop, Option1, Option 2, and separately for the mostly unknown trail 247A as well. For a moderate hike, do the 9.4 mile Cottonwood Spring loop (AEG about 1,900 feet). For a strenuous hike, I recommend the 16.2-mile Option 2 (AEG about 3,500 feet plus) but be aware of difficult navigation in the section mentioned above. You can compare all four loops in this graphic.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2010-02-01 gpsjoe
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    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.

Permit $$
Spur Cross Conservation Area $3 per person

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To Spur Cross Trailhead
I-17 North & Exit 233, which is SR-74 the Carefree Highway. Head east on Carefree Highway 9.9 miles to Cave Creek Road. Head North on Cave Creek Road 2.6 miles to Spur Cross Ranch Road. The road jogs a bit here but you go 4.0 miles to the parking lot.

It is a well-graded dirt road. As it nears the parking area, the road leads past a large green house, through a tall gatepost and past a corral. There is a large signed parking area. Along the road about 75 yards northeast of the parking area, there is a self-pay station and a small informational kiosk with rudimentary maps. Pay the fee and carry the stub with you.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 35.8 mi - about 57 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 144 mi - about 2 hours 26 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 133 mi - about 2 hours 10 mins
page created by gpsjoe on Feb 01 2010 3:08 pm
90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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