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Oak Spring Canyon - Tonto Basin, AZ

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drive
no permit
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112 6 0
Guide 6 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson S
Rated
4.3
4.3 of 5 by 3
 
7
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Statistics
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 3.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,484 feet
Elevation Gain 1,035 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,265 feet
Avg Time One Way 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 8.02
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall, Seasonal Creek & Perennial Creek
Backpack No
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
15  2016-12-27 chumley
4  2013-11-30 ssk44
22  2012-09-07 chumley
36  2011-02-12 Vaporman
18  2010-05-01 skatchkins
17  2010-02-05 ssk44
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Radar
Expand Map
Preferred   Feb, Mar, Apr, May → Early
Seasons   Winter to Late Spring
Sun  7:01am - 5:20pm
Route
 
1 Linked
 
Water
Nearby Area Water
Sierra Ancha 4x4 Loop
3.4 mi away
120.0 mi
8,000 ft
Camp Reno
Camp Reno
3.6 mi away
2.3 mi
224 ft
Park Trail #66
Park Trail #66
3.7 mi away
3.9 mi
2,467 ft
Park Creek Falls
Park Creek Falls
3.7 mi away
6.0 mi
2,716 ft
Parallel Play Canyon
3.7 mi away
6.0 mi
2,400 ft
Tonto Creek - The Box
Tonto Creek - The Box
4.3 mi away
2.0 mi
70 ft
Mount Ord - Oak Spring Ridge
Mount Ord - Oak Spring Ridge
4.7 mi away
1.6 mi
-120 ft
Mount Ord from Slate Creek TH
Mount Ord from Slate Creek TH
5.4 mi away
15.5 mi
4,108 ft
Little Mount Ord
Little Mount Ord
5.5 mi away
4.0 mi
800 ft
Cypress Peak 5952 - Mazatzal
6.7 mi away
3.5 mi
1,200 ft
[ View More! ]
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Water World!
by ssk44

Warning: Oak Spring Canyon is a very rugged and steep canyoneering route. The canyon segment of this hike climbs 540 vertical feet in 1 mile. This hike involves extensive scrambling with frequent hand use. Staying dry is only possible during light to moderate flow. DO NOT ENTER OAK SPRING CANYON DURING HEAVY RUNOFF OR DURING MONSOON SEASON!!


Overview: Oak Spring Canyon is a stunningly rugged and narrow canyon, located in the backdrop of Mount Ord. The route involves numerous short waterfalls and ends at a powerful 90-foot (+/-) cascade waterfall pouring through a deep and narrow slot in the upper canyon. The upper waterfall is truly amazing. The beauty and power of this waterfall must be experienced in person to appreciate. The upper segments of this canyon are fed a steady flow of slow winter runoff from the north slopes of Mount Ord creating a beautiful seasonal stream that typically runs clean clear water from mid winter through early spring. This hike is all about timing for optimal effect. Go too soon after a heavy storm and the canyon will be a dangerous raging tyrant. Wait too long and the upper waterfall won't be nearly as dramatic. The optimal time is roughly three weeks following a snowstorm to allow the heavy runoff time to calm down. Hit it right and your trip will be an experience that won't soon be forgotten.

Hike: The hike stats as posted within the description are one-way from the designated trailhead to the upper waterfall. The designated trailhead for this description is for moderate clearance two-wheel drive vehicles and involves hiking along the 4x4 route of FR598. Individuals with capable stock four-wheel drive vehicles can drive to the access point for Oak Spring Canyon (Lat. 33 Degrees/55'/26.46"/N & Long. 111 Degrees/21'/14.05"/W). Hiking to the canyon access point involves 2.5 miles and 550 vertical feet. Do not take any left turns along FR598. After approximately 2.5 miles along FR598, you will see an obvious right turn heading north. Follow this roadbed for a short distance to a small parking area at a fence line.

Let the games begin! From the parking area, cross the fence and follow that fence line for a short distance northwest and then down into an oak tree filled feeder drainage. Hike down the feeder drainage into Oak Spring Canyon. I am going to give you fair warning right now that this canyon will kick your %## before you're done. Reaching the upper waterfall and back is a full body workout. The initial segment leading to the narrow upper canyon is easy and involves nothing more than boulder hopping and creek dodging. Things change quickly once you start hiking the upper gorge. The farther up you go, the bigger and more numerous the waterfalls become. They just keep coming! It is truly impossible to describe just how deep and gnarly this canyon really is. Photos just don't do it. One segment along the way up follows the edge of a sheer granite wall of over 100 feet in height. The flood stage waterline in places was 15 feet. Noticing flood debris jammed in the upper branches of large sycamore trees sent chills down my spine. I was frankly amazed that this canyon was doable. I kept waiting for the monster obstacle with no bypass. It never came. Every waterfall and pour-over had a manageable bypass.

The main event! Roughly one mile up Oak Spring Canyon is a grotto like area surrounded by ominous towering buttes. This is the location of the cascade waterfall. My jaw hit the ground as I reached this area. Amazing! The elevation drop and topography on my maps hinted that this spot would have a big waterfall, but I never imagined it would be so spectacular in person. For anyone interested in hiking beyond this point, there is a definite bypass heading up the left side of the canyon. It looks nasty, but it will work. The bypass climbs 260 vertical feet up a steep boulder strewn notch. I have to admit, it would be cool to hike around the upper buttes to the top of the waterfall. That would be wild! See maps for further clarification of route described in text.

Summary: Oak Spring Canyon is an unforgettable hidden treasure that very few people ever visit. Truly special... I have been admiring this canyon from a distance for many years. It was finally time to make it a reality. Oak Spring Canyon delivers from start to finish. Count on having it all to yourself if you go. Enjoy!

ssk44
  • guide related image guide related image guide related image
    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 $$
None


Directions
Map Drive
or
Road
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To canyon trip
From Mesa, take Highway 87 to Highway 188. Drive along Highway 188 for approximately 10.3 miles to FR598, which is located just after a major drainage. Go through the gate and drive for approximately 3 tenths of a mile to the designated trailhead located at a turnoff (TH Lat. 33 Degrees/55'/01.77"/N & Long. 111 Degrees/19'/08.18"/W). Reaching the posted trailhead requires moderate clearance two-wheel drive. Cars are not recommended. Park at the gate near the highway if you drive a low clearance car.
page created by ssk44 on Feb 06 2010 12:43 pm
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