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Ellison Creek Cascades, AZ

Guide 50 Triplogs  1 Topic
  3.8 of 5 
261 50 1
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1.75 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,150 feet
Elevation Gain 95 feet
Accumulated Gain 323 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.37
 Interest Off-Trail Hiking & Perennial Creek
 Backpack Possible & Connecting
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7  2022-08-28 LindaAnn
13  2022-07-03
Water Wheel Falls Hike
12  2020-06-06 adv_trev
4  2017-04-14 kelraen
25  2016-09-30 cabel
15  2016-08-14 cw50must
4  2016-07-17 arizona_water
6  2016-04-11 MountainMatt
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author avatar Guides 264
Routes 836
Photos 13,558
Trips 5,474 map ( 27,660 miles )
Age 53 Male Gender
Associated Areas
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Payson Region
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred May, Jun, Jul, Sep → 11 AM
Seasons   Spring to Summer
Sun  5:13am - 7:34pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimeteracres
🔥 WATER WHEEL 20095.2 mi*

Payson's hidden oasis
by joebartels

   Likely In-Season!
2012 Notice
Access has changed from text below, this hike now starts at Second Water Crossing.

Jesse W. Ellison was a rancher and also a colonel of the Civil War. Ellison was known to herd cattle in the area giving the creek its name. Interesting to mention Ellison's daughter Duette married George W.P. Hunt. Hunt was Arizona's first governor and is entombed at Papago Park along with the Ellison's.

Ellison Creek Cascades is one of Arizona's favorite swimming holes. Personally, it's my favorite. There is no official trail, but rest assured, this area gets used. From Cold Springs Camp Grounds, continue walking past the gate on FR420. Pine covered rolling hills make the views going down the old jeep track. Sure would be nice to live here.

At a quarter-mile, the road levels for a short distance and then begins to climb. Keep an eye over your right shoulder. You should be able to hear the cascading water of Ellison Falls. You need to find one of the several trails of use down to the swimming hole. If you come to a fence with a substantial private property sign, you missed the scramble down to the creek. Backtrack about a hundred or more yards and go on down. Be careful as it's steep.

Unfortunately, the area is trashed, holding par with other Payson recreation sites. The lure is obvious. Ellison Creek cascades down from the private property above. It's close to the valley and easy to access. The water is usually crystal clear, barring a recent rain. Even in a dry year like this has been, it's reliable. Be forewarned it's packed with beer-guzzling party-goers on hot weekends. Go during the week, and it's a lost oasis awaiting your arrival.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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

2000-06-02 joebartels
  • ellisonmap.gif
    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 $$
Special Use

$8.00, pay in drop boxes.

FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
From the 260 / 87 intersection in Payson, go north on 87 a couple of miles to the Houston Mesa turnoff on the right. Follow 8.2 miles to FR420, which is just after 'Second Crossing.' Turn right onto FR420 (at the message board) and follow short 0.2 miles to unmarked Cold Spring Camp Grounds. The trail is the continuation of FR420 past the campgrounds at the gate.

2012-09-24 Outdoor Lover writes: FR 420 is now permanently barricaded at Houston Mesa Road, with a "No Parking" sign at the Barricade. To access FR420, you now park at the "2nd Crossing" Day Use area on the Left. Cross the Road to a small trail going up the Hill, just north of the crossing. This Trail will continue to go up and intersect with FR420, where you will take a Right to proceed down to Ellison Creek Cascades.
 90+° 8am - 6pm kills

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