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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.

Bonita Creek, AZ

no permit
786 47 0
Guide 47 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Safford
4.2 of 5 by 9
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Distance One Way 3.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,172 feet
Interest Perennial Creek
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
21  2019-05-11 rwstorm
11  2017-12-27 cactuscat
14  2017-12-15 SkyIslander18
23  2017-12-10 SkyIslander18
11  2017-12-02 MountainMatt
45  2017-11-10
Gila Box RNCA
4  2017-10-11 cactuscat
15  2017-06-09
Gila Box RNCA
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Sep, Oct
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:03am - 6:22pm
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby

Likely In-Season!
On November 28, 1990, Congress created the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area (RNCA) in section 201 of the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act, Public Law 101-628.  As stated in the Act, the principle objective for establishing the RNCA was to "conserve, protect, and enhance" the riparian and associated values of the area.  Four perennial waterways - the Gila River, Bonita Creek, Eagle Creek, and San Francisco River - are the lifeblood of this remarkable place.  Not only does the RNCA hold one of the most significant riparian zones in the Southwest, it offers tremendous scientific, cultural, scenic, recreational, and other associated values.  It is one of only two Riparian National Conservation Areas in the Nation.

A 15 mile segment of Bonita Creek and 23 miles of the Gila River have been included in this special natural area designated by Congress.  Bonita Creek, popular for birding and picnicking, is lined with large cottonwoods, sycamores, and willows.zCliff dwellings, historic homesteads, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and over 200 species of birds make this cool year-round desert oasis worth the short drive from Safford.   The Gila River section, known as the Gila Box, is comprised of patchy mesquite woodlands, mature cottonwood trees, sandy beaches, and grand buff colored cliffs.

River floating (inflatable kayak, canoe, raft), fishing, wildlife viewing, backpacking, camping, interpretation, and hunting.

Inflatable kayak, canoe, and rafting enthusiasts take advantage of the variable water flow levels and enjoy an easy to moderate floating and camping adventure in the canyon. In the early summer, cat fishing is a popular activity. During the fall, backpackers occasionally hike the canyon when the river is low enough to cross safely.  A series of primitive roads provide access to various points throughout the area.  Backcountry  primitive camping opportunities are available at Bonita Creek and within the Gila River.  A homestead cabin, rock art, and cliff dwellings, show evidence of the occupation of this important perennial stream by earlier man.   Today, a portion of Bonita Creek supplies the town of Safford with its municipal water.

Bonita Creek and Gila River (West): From Safford travel approximately 5 miles east on U.S. Highway 70 to the town of Solomon and turn left onto Sanchez road.  From there travel north and cross bridge at the Gila River.  Then you will drive seven more miles until you reach a Bonita Creek and Gila Box RNCA BLM sign and turn left onto that dirt road.  Once on the dirt road continue travelling approximately 2.5 miles to the West entry sign of the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area.

Boat Take Out
Entry sign travel .5 miles to Dry Canyon parking area on the right side of the road.  Dry Canyon parking area can be used for overnight parking while on the river.

Gila River (East)
Take U.S. Highway 70 east of Safford for 10 miles then turn north on U.S. Highway 191.  Follow highway to milepost 160 (just 4 miles south of Clifton) and turn left onto the Black Hills Back Country Byway.  Follow this graded dirt road for 4 miles to the Old Safford Bridge at the Gila River.

Boat Put In
The best place to put in, is on the south side of the river west of the Old Safford Bridge.

For flow information you can visit USGS's website:

This depends on the activity you choose, summer temperatures can be extremely hot and some winter days in the low thirties.  Flash floods may occur in late summer, and winter.

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2018-07-14 HAZ_Hikebot

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    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 32 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Bonita Creek
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Decided to take advantage of today's overcast cooler forecast and get in a short morning Bonita trip. Drove in to Gila Box in the dark with my headlights spotting a grey fox, 2 deer & coati on the way to Bonita. Hiked down Pipeline Rd at sunrise and took it just to creek crossing #7 then back. Stopped at a favorite spot along the creek half way and set up a hammock camp for about an hour. A quick visit to the fish barrier and old ranch ruins was made before returning back to the start and heading out. No big wildlife spotted in the canyon today, but did come across lots of bear scat & tracks. Total overcast, a few sprinkles, humid but cool. Only suck of the morning was the mosquitoes.
    Bonita Creek/Canyon looked great ..... it always does!
    Gila River very low.
    Bonita Creek
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Pipeline Road section out-n-back.
    Sunrise start.
    Green, green, green throughout.
    Good flower showing for late April.
    Cactus are starting to bloom.
    The Ocotillo forest looked amazing.
    Bonita Creek looked great up and back.
    Hammock break for lunch & nap on the return.
    Extra credit miles to the end of the fish barrier road-n-back.
    Hiked out at 1pm to warm temps.
    Swim in the Gila River at Riverview before leaving Gila Box ..... Ahhhhh
    Bighorn sheep, bullfrogs, fish, heron, ducks, lizards, butterflies, vultures, hawks, birds I'll never know the names of, dragonflies, rock squirrels, coati & bear tracks were spotted today.
    Bonita Creek/Gila Box :DANCE:

    Bonita Creek
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    My first time ever in Gila Box at 48
    It was a lot like when I was 47 ..... Awesome :y:
    Completed the entire Cottonwood Trail and hit a little bit of everything else.
    Ocotillos are leafy green, a few yellow flower bouquets along the roads, cottonwoods are mostly filled in.
    The Mighty Gila was flowing good, Bonita Creek was gentle.
    Saw a coati and several bighorns, but all were far across the river ](*,)
    It was a good reward day!

    Also want to wish RW a Happy B-Day ... Pisces Rock Arizona!
    Bonita Creek
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    2nd trip out to Bonita in 5 days because ..... it's Bonita in December colors!

    Ready, set ..... go

    Arrived at Gila Box with the sunrise.
    Saw 3 deer while driving down Bonita road (rare).
    Took awhile for the sun to reach into the canyon = cold.
    Colors & creek looked great from the get.
    Hiked Pipeline road & back.
    13 creek crossings, only got my toes wet once.
    Creek is full of leaf litter as are the beaver pools.
    Coati scared me or did I scare it?
    New alcove art found, tip from a friend.
    R&R at the awesome in-canyon campground. Hammock, coffee with sweets & bushcraft.
    3 sheep just beyond the fish barrier high up on the return trip.
    Also ducks, rock squirrels, hawks, tiny fish & 4 2 legged uprights spotted this morning.

    All done and home by Noon.

    Bonita Creek
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Plan A was the middle section of the canyon from the Lee TH down to the end of Pipeline Rd.
    But oooh no Plan B instead! After arriving down at the Lee TH, I was surprised to see that for the first time in many years the beaver dam lakes were not wall to wall and the plan changed ..... we did the upper section up to the Red Knolls crossing (my first time up this section).
    We headed up and I was very excited to see this stretch, I knew of a secret location revealed to me by a BLM friend years ago. It was a challenge at times going up this area with the many creek crossings and bushwhacking that took some thought to stay dry. By the last mile it became almost impossible to stay out of the numerous creek channels and we switched over to water footwear. Cold creek water with wet feet brought us up to the Red Knolls crossing. We rested here a bit with cups of hot coffee & sweets before continuing on up and out of the canyon. The hike back to complete the lasso loop was the long haul that took us well into the darkness. Preston's truck never looked so good to me at the end! This one wore me out, but what a great new section of Bonita explored. Gila Box is just simply amazing to me and it is always an awesome good time exploring with Mr Sands!

    Bonita had good flow on this day.
    The foliage colors looked great, not quite peak yet, but close.
    We found the secret up high in a side canyon ..... it was old :DANCE:
    No big wildlife spotted today, but I did get a good pic of a Unicorn :)

    Thank You Preston for taking me, I do believe we will walk this road again one day!

    Bonita Creek
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Driving, Camping, Hiking, and Photographing in the Box... Tons of Wildlife and the Trees were just starting to turn. Got a Hat Trick of the Ring Tailers driving back to Camp the 2nd Night. It was Dark, of course... First a Raccoon running down the Road, then a Ring-tailed Cat crossing the Road and scaling a Vertical Cliff on the other Side, then a Lone Coatimundi.... Wouldn't see any of them while it was Light, but I spent several Hours watching a Herd of Bighorn Sheep with two Rams that were just starting to become Adversaries.... So Cool to watch those slight Interactions and the Leader's Angst about the Contender...

    Chad joined me for some of it and we finished Catching Up on Life and News until the wee hours of the Morning on my last Night.

    Photoset to come, probably next Year... :sweat:
    Bonita Creek
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    First a hike - Up Pipeline Road 1 mile then back down pass the fish barrier to the end.
    Second up a swim - Drove down to the end of Riverview Campground for a swim in the Gila. Light flow of only a foot of water allowed me to hike right up the middle of the river for a mile. Very fun, very refreshing water temps.
    Last up lunch - Stopped at Spring Canyon Picnic Area for a meal, then another swim in the Gila ... did Not wait 30 minutes.
    Warm sunny day - Beautiful summer scenery - Refreshing water - I shall return!
    Bonita Creek
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Just an outstanding day to be at Bonita Creek - and aside from one couple driving the pipeline road in a jeep, I seemed to be the only one out there to enjoy it.
    Waded into one gorgeous swimming hole up to my knees - will be ready for swimming soon!
    Not a lot of flowers, but plenty of water, greenery, birds, and a few coati's.
    Bonita Creek
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Well ..... it's March so I guess it's time to start looking for wildflowers?
    Was headed out to the Black Hills and made a split second decision at the turn sign to check out Gila Box instead which is much closer.
    Didn't expect a lot today, boy was I wrong!
    First the Gila river was running well above average, there were flowers everywhere on the drive in and along my hikes, Bonita Creek was flowing well and the whole area was much greener than expected ..... almost looked like summer up in there.
    Hiked 2 separate sections of Bonita, the wildlife platform, a wee bit of the Cottonwood trail & ended on Bull pass road back to my vehicle completing a loop.
    No coati or sheep spotted today, but I did see canyon ducks, butterflies, lizards, hawks, crows, fish & frogs.
    Bonita Creek
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Went about twice as far up Bonita today as I had before ... 3-4 miles, I think.
    Leaves are still pretty awesome, but I think the peak was last week.
    Way more vehicles and way, way more people in the canyon today - City of Safford trucks coming and going, and DOC/Ft Grant trucks. There were about 20 Fort Grant guys out working with chainsaws and stuff. I passed a group of them lounging on both sides of the road as I finished - a couple asked me if I had seen "any monkeys" and if I'd gotten pics. Pretty sure they are the same crew that worked at Roper for a few days last month. Good gig for them!
    Found myself in the midst of another group of coati's at one point - always a good time!
    Found some really nice pools and campsites for future reference.

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