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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.

Tramway Trail #32, AZ

no permit
531 55 2
Guide 55 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Clints Well W
4.7 of 5 by 23
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1 mile
Trailhead Elevation 6,700 feet
Elevation Gain -750 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4.75
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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15  2019-07-27
Tramway - Maxwell - Willow
15  2019-07-27
Tramway - Maxwell - Willow - Pie
12  2019-05-14 GeeEss
22  2019-05-10
Tramway Maxwell Loop
10  2016-07-24 sbkelley
14  2016-07-09
Tramway Maxwell Loop
4  2015-08-15
Tramway Maxwell Loop
12  2015-08-15
Maxwell-Tramway Loop
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author dabreeze
author avatar Guides 1
Routes 0
Photos 35
Trips 3 map ( 44 miles )
Age 65 Male Gender
Location Sedona, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Sep, Oct → 7 AM
Seasons   Early Spring to Early Winter
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
7 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Lush creek biosphere
by dabreeze

Likely In-Season!
At the head of the Tramway Trail, one stands atop the Mogollon Rim some 700' above the deep & sinuous curves of West Clear Creek. The extremely steep descent to the creek below covers less than a mile over a for-the-most-part well-designed trail that alternates between switchbacks and some class 4, fall line scrambling; novice hikers beware: with a heavy pack this could be a very difficult & dangerous trail. Those with overnight gear might be better served by accessing this easternmost portion of West Clear Creek via the Maxwell Trail about a mile upstream. Maxwell has approximately the same elevation change, but over roughly twice the distance... a much gentler incline, far easier on the knees and probably less tumble-inducing!!

As with most of the access trails to this rugged watershed, the last couple of miles on the unmaintained jeep trails take forever. While not necessarily requiring 4x4, the second half of FR 81E and the last mile over FR 693 are nonetheless an extremely slow crawl over basalt bedrock, off-camber rutted & narrow jeep trails in which high clearance is mandatory. Any SUV will make it but count on almost a half hour to go less than two miles!!

That said, the route is well signed and quite obvious. FR 81 heads west off of Lake Mary Road approximately 7 miles north of the intersection of LM Road & Hwy 87. FR 81 branches into FR 81E at a clearly-marked Y. At the Y intersection of FR 81E & FR 693 head right on 693. It's clearly signed as the access to the Tramway Trail; continuing on FR 81E will take you to the Mawell Trailhead, also clearly marked. Easy to find; even easier with a Conconino National Forest map. Once down the trail, you'll find a lush Mogollon Rim creek biosphere. The perennial watercourse alternates between shallow, rock-strewn stretches of running creek & large, often deep, still pools 50-200 yds. across. While there's no way to avoid getting your footwear wet (thus one would be well advised to bring river shoes and stash your hiking boots for the day's (or days') journey (s) up and down this wild, remote and exceptionally beautiful canyon), one can find faint trails that skirt all the large, deep pools that at first glance might suggest a mandatory cool dip. In May & beyond, water temperatures are perfect; my feet were wet & comfortable all day (quite a change from a month ago when the temps were painfully cold & numbing).

Pools are filled with crawdads and small trout; I would surmise that this season's floods may have flushed many of the larger fish out. That's only a guess but I didn't see any edible-sized fish the entire day.

In search of photographs, I ventured a mile upstream to the bottom of the Maxwell Trail & another mile and a half downstream to where a charming little spring joins the creek from the south side, under a huge canyon wall of Coconino sandstone covered with lush green flora. All in all, hiking time averaged around 2 mph but my main interest wasn't covering distance as much as discovering the light & angles. Throughout, the steep-walled canyon alternates between Kaibob limestone & Coconino sandstone. Anything but the mid-day hours throws huge portions of the canyon into deep shadow, making for contrasty & challenging photography. The creek twists and turns so a compass is useful for keeping track.

While there is certainly evidence of this season's flooding (smallish debris piles; many large deadfall ponderosa pines angled downward from the rocks above), this portion of West Clear Creek seems to have suffered far less of the damage so evident further downstream (Trail 17 near Bull Pen Ranch) and in the other popular Mogollon Rim creeks (Oak, Wet Beaver, Sycamore, Secret Canyon) in this area.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2005-06-02 dabreeze

    Coconino FS Details
    The trail is one of the only two maintained routes into the upper end of West Clear Creek from the north side. It is a steep trail, affording views of the creek from the rim. The trail lies within the West Clear Creek Wilderness and is closed to the use of motorized and mechanized transport (including bicycles). The trail is not suitable for horse traffic.

    The Tramway Trail starts at the south side of the parking area. Portions of West Clear Creek may be seen from the trail as the creek winds its way through the sinuous canyon. Good views of the various rock strata that make up the steep-walled canyon of West Clear Creek are afforded in the upper stretch of the trail. The rocks exposed near the rim are predominantly limestone laid down when the area was covered by a shallow sea. Once in the canyon, the rock type changes to sandstone, the result of deposition as sediment in an ancient ocean and by eolian (windblown) deposition. Look for the cross-bedding apparent in many of the cliff faces from this eolian deposition. Due to the southerly exposure of the trail, vegetation found on this side of the canyon consists of more heat-tolerant species such as yucca, agave, and shrub oak. Near the bottom of the canyon, these heat-tolerant plants are replaced by more typical upper riparian vegetation of Douglas-Fir, white fir, pine, oak, and ash. Growing along the creek are wild sunflowers, cattails, locust, wild grape, willows, and box elder. The trail ends at the creek but by bushwhacking it is possible to access areas downstream and upstream, including the Maxwell Trail #37.

    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 19 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Tramway Trail #32
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This was a whole new area to explore for us and really different from our usual destinations. Tough drive in after so much precip these last few months, but the trail, while not easy, provides a wonderful way down along a steep slope and treacherous terrain. And it's impossible to not be absolutely gobsmacked by the scenery. Lots of water at the bottom, which has been subjected to some very impressive, recent flooding. I am guessing there used to be some manner of trail near the creek, not so much any more. Still, even with the high water level, it was possible to cross the creek in a couple spots while managing to stay high and dry. The petroglyph site is about as impressive as any we had seen, the sheer quantity of glyphs here is staggering. Good times!
    Tramway Trail #32
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Looking for a short day trip to cool off in the clear water of WCC we decided on the Tramway Maxwell Loop. Knowing this was an ideal summer hike for pups, I decided to dognap Cup and Blanco and give them a little exercise in the woods.

    Turned out to be a great day. The WCC portion of the trail was more overgrown than I remember with less of a developed route to follow. Especially upstream of Maxwell. But once we reached Willow, there was a surprisingly good use trail most of the way. I actually found this area of canyon to be much more scenic and interesting than the upper WCC part. I'll have to come back and try the loop from farther up that hits the cold swimmers.

    There was a lot of algae on the rocks and underwater footing was as slippery as I can ever remember it being. And Willow has a ton of poison ivy. Rumor has it 9L is currently working on his 14th application of Tecnu since arriving home! :)
    Tramway Trail #32
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Maxwell-Tramway Loop
    I don't repeat loops very often. This is the third time I've done this one. It's a drop dead gorgeous area.

    With the threatening rain, I parked about a bit farther this time. These roads get real slick when wet.

    Surprise of the day, was seeing nobody in the canyon.

    Temps ranged from 75 to 85, with the 75 being when we finished. The humidity in West Clear Creek was brutal.

    Like Arnold... I'll be back.
    Tramway Trail #32
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    For quite some time now, Clairebear has been pushing for us to all visit her namesake--West Claire Creek. And now I know why! What a special place!

    The roads getting back there are pretty rutted due to the snow a couple of weeks ago, so that made for an entertaining drive in. Claire was quite calm the one time that FOTGs kayak decided it wanted to pass us on the right. :o

    We considered doing a shuttle, but with all the people and dogs it was going to be a challenge to fit in one vehicle. In retrospect, the road to the Tramway trail is so bad in many places that it's probably faster to just hike it!

    Had a good time and somehow ended up with over 10 miles on the day. A pleasant surprise was the cloud cover which hid the sun most of the day, including on our hike out which was much appreciated. I'll have to come back here with somebody who actually knows how to fish. ;)

    HAZ Tracks Note: In the canyon where our Garmins had several instances of jumping around and adding all kinds of unnecessary mileage, HAZ Tracks stayed remarkably accurate, with only slight jumps when the signal was lost due to obstructions. Whatever the algorithm to prevent those stray points is, it works exponentially better than whatever Garmin does.
    Tramway Trail #32
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Met up with the group for a fun hike in West Clear Creek. I've hiked this area before via the Point Trail. This was my first time on these trails and it was quite the adventure.

    We left Tempe around 7am and made our way north with two vehicles. The drive took a fair amount of time but wasn't two bad. We turned off Lake Mary Rd and followed some forest roads back for WCC. We parked at the top of the loop of the official route. We would start and end our time hiking on the road.

    The first two miles flew by as we breezed down the forest road. Before long we hit the Maxwell Trail and started our descent down. The trail is steep but in good condition overall. Once at the creek we headed downstream and had to get our feet wet. The going was very chill and enjoyable. I saw several patches of poison ivy and tried to avoid it. I cleaned up with Tecnu so we'll see if I catch any.

    We headed downstream and passed the Tramway Trail. We continued down and made our way to the Point Trail where we checked out the weeping wall and then started the return. The going was very easy and everyone was having a lot of fun especially the dogs! We hit the Tramway Trail and then climbed up the route. There are a few steep sections with some step like rocks to climb up. Lots of fun! Once back on the rim we followed the road back to the cars and then made the return to Phoenix.

    This was another really fun hike with a great group. West Clear Creek is such a treat when the temps hit three digits in Phoenix. The trek in the creek is so much fun and the dogs had a wonderful time! Thanks to Chumley and Lee for driving and thanks to Kyle just because!
    Tramway Trail #32
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    2nd Time is a Charm...Last Summer Ken and I tried to do this Canyon, but with several Snafus in the Morning, we finally deemed it too late to start...Fate must have been smiling down on us the whole time, as within 20 minutes of our Decision, the Skies opened up and dumped at least 2" of Rain and Hail on the Area....

    It was time to try for this one again.... :D Ken and Mike picked me up Saturday Morning in Ken's Brand New, Shiny Clean, Jeep Rubicon...It wouldn't stay that way long...It was time to see what that Puppy could do! :DANCE: :sweat: Glad we had it, I don't think I would even have attempted driving to the Tramway TH in my Escape, even if it was Dry...Pretty Rough Stuff... :o

    I don't know why more people haven't done this Canyon...It was a Sweet little Canyon and the Approach is one of the smoothest and fastest I've ever done...We were in Avocado in no time and looking at the first Rappel shortly after...You can bypass the 1st and 2nd Rappels, but why? The 2nd Rappel especially was really sweet...Avocado is known as a "Dry" Canyon compared to others in WCC, but we still expected to get a little Wet, as there was normally a Chest Deep Wader at the bottom of the 2nd Rappel...Just another indication of how Dry of a Year we've had, as that Bowl was Bone Dry...As Ken said, we never got our Feet Wet until we hit WCC....Judging from the Rains that came after we were done though, I would say that that Canyon is no longer THAT Dry... :sweat:

    We hit WCC and took a Break...I tried to fix some Hot Spots on my Left Foot, (@!#$%&!!! Boots) but it wasn't to be and we pressed on soon after...WCC was beautiful as always with Cool, Clear Water and Wildflowers starting to come out in Full Force...With that said, the Creek can also be beautifully brutal when you are trying to get somewhere and there's not much Trail...The First 1 1/2 Miles had very little Trail to follow, so the Slipping, Sliding, Falling and intense Bushwacking commenced...It took us right at 2 hours to get to the Point Trail... :sweat: But from there, WCC relented and we had good Trail almost the whole way to the Tramway Turnoff with just a few Creek/Bushwacking Adventures...We did that Section in less than half the Time...

    At the Junction with Tramway, one of my Knees was feeling a bit stiff, so I told the Guys, (who were really smelling the Beer right about then) to go on up and I'd get there in a bit...I took a Break, imbibed in some Advil and an Oxygen Stick and recharged the Legs a little bit...And then it was time for the Climb out...I actually prefer these Steep, straight up Trails, to ones that meander on up forever...A little more Taxing, but it's over quicker as well... :sweat: As I climbed, I was really starting to smell Smoke and when I got some Elevation, I noticed that the WCC below me was getting very Hazy...Apparently there was a Fire somewhere to the West of us...I wasn't too worried as it had been Raining on us on and off through WCC and it was really threatening to unload now...I topped out, and had just enough time to get out of my Wet Clothes before the Skies really opened up...Ken had a lot of fun on the Drive out... :D

    Just another Great Canyon with Great Company in an area that I love...Pretty hard to beat a Day like that... 8)
    Tramway Trail #32
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Avocado canyon goes for about .8 miles of decent elk trail, not bad at all. Then you reach the technical section lasting about 0.1 miles. I found a 12 ft, followed by a 25 ft. These two can probably be bypassed on right. After this I got to a portion where there was no apparent anchor, so I bypassed a drop of perhaps 50 ft. After climbing around I did the next rap of 40 ft, followed shortly after by the final rap of 133 ft. Then another 0.1 miles of bushwhacking to reach WCC. The canyon was entirely dry so I was grateful to be able to dunk and cool off in the cool waters. The hiking up WCC isn't too bad in this section as there is enough traffic to maintain a trail in most sections. Encountered some backpackers near Bear, and another group near the awesome spring in WCC just upstream from Sundance I've never seen before. Some climbers scaling a nice dihedral a little up-creek of them. Seemed pretty relaxed and uncrowded considering the summer heat. It began to thunder but no rain ever materialized. I hung out awhile not wanting to leave before I headed up Tramway, trying to figure out why I can never find the cable at the bottom, but it definitely still runs down from the top. Now I think I can say I've completed all of WCC from Maxwell tank all the way down to the Avocado outlet.

    WCC is an awesome paradise during the hot AZ summers.
    Tramway Trail #32
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Took my son Ben and his friend Ben out for a couple of hikes. He requested nothing too long because he had to be back in the Valley at a reasonable hour, something with water.

    Tramway/Maxwell Fit the bill for the first one in the Sampler Platter.

    We had to park a little short of the loop start because of the muddy road conditions. Found out later from a camper that they'd received 3 hours worth of heavy rain the night before. This made the road walk to the rim, slick with mud laden shoes. I opted to go down the Tramway and up Maxwell.

    The views from up top, as always, were outstanding! Once you get down to the creek you are in another world. Jungle like. The route between Tramway and Maxwell disappears every now and then. Because of all the rain the night before, the Creek was up and the jungle vegetation was dripping wet. I gave up trying to keep dry after about 1/10th of a mile.

    Passed only one occupied campsite, which is unusual for this area. Made our way up Maxwell and the road walk back to the Truck. With thunder crackling all around, we got rained on a bit on the walk back.

    I need to come back when I can spend more time exploring at the bottom. With the rain coming in and the muddy roads, it was not in the cards today.

    Love this area
    Tramway Trail #32
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    What started out as a disappointing morning, redeemed itself with this trail...but it was a bit of a journey getting there...

    We headed out early in hopes of doing the first two peaks of Four Peaks. We were ready for the "big hike." But... We were surprised when we saw the yellow gate blocking the road. We started to go through. After all the gate wasn't locked! :-$ But upon closer look the sign (which was partially covered) clearly said 'this portion of Tonto National Forest is closed.' I thought, 'This is probably not a good idea,' backed up and closed the gate.

    Not to be twarted, we drove further... past the turn off for Mt Ord. CLOSED. Then the lower TH for Ord. CLOSED. Oh I know, how about the rim country?! :y: So, yes we drove further up through Payson all the way to Christopher Creek... Let's do See Canyon Trail... but yes you guessed it. Yellow tape... CLOSED. It seems the whole of Tonto National Forest was closed. :doh: (The notice said "portions".) WE began wonder, What portions? ](*,) the only trail available was the asfault path along the rim and goes across to Wood Canyon Lake.

    Now this is not a bad walk but we really wanted something more rigorous than that.... (Bit of a let down from Four Peaks! :o )

    But then came the news that Coconino National Forest was open. So I remembered this trail down into a beautiful canyon... It was a drive but we could do it. The hike isn't that long...

    Several years ago I remembered driving down this bumpy dirt road that got worse and worse, and seemed to go on forever, the large rocks eventually made it impassable for my old Dodge Caravan. So I parked and walked about a mile to the trailhead... Then all of a sudden when I didn't expect it, a beautiful rugged canyon revealed itself with a cool river down below.

    Well I was glad we could do it again. This time in a Highlander which manuvered beauifully (but yes very s l o w l y), :GB: all the way to the trailhead.

    It's a short beautiful hike, that's a bumpy challenge to get there but it's worth it! Steep trail with lots of flowers, birds, green trees, beautiful color in the rocks, more water than last time... I am glad I could come back. It was a long day with a lot of miles on the SUV but at least we got to do a hike! :y:
    Tramway Trail #32
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This one has been on my "Wish List" for some time now. I don't have a clue what took me so long to do it.

    The 1.7 mile road walk, from the intersection where is splits to go to Maxwell (FR 81E) and Tramway (FR693) is a good warm up for the climb down. We opted to start on the Tramway trail.

    It is quite the site to walk the relatively flat FR 693 and to have it end in what appears to be a straight down 800' drop. The views from up here are awe inspiring. It was quite steep and loose in spots going down, but not too bad. I got to hear the story of Joe's last experience on this trail on the way down. The creek at the bottom was quite a site. It was very lush and quiet down there (Other than my hiking partner). We passed up 3 groups camping on the way over to the Maxwell trail area. None of them were serving breakfast anymore. :(

    We pushed past the Maxwell turn a bit to try and get into Willow Canyon. I went to go through a mandatory 30yd wade up to my waist and lost the feeling of everything below the waist :o . We decided it best to not go and further and found a nice spot for lunch.

    The hike up Maxwell was a lot less steep than the Tramway trail.

    This is not a mileage buster hike, but there are a lot of great areas down in that canyon to explore. It's still on my list for further exploration.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    Location: Southeast of Flagstaff on roads that are either paved or graveled and suitable for passenger cars in most weather.

    Access: From Happy Jack Ranger Station, follow Forest Highway 3 (Lake Mary Road) south 7.5 miles to Forest Road (FR) 81. Go right (west) on FR 81 approximately 4 miles to the junction of FR 81 and FR 81E. Go left on FR 81E and go approximately 4 miles to FR 693. Take FR 693. Once on FR693 drive 1.2 miles to a fork in the road. (It’s marked FR 9392N and someone has painted a T under the number) Turn left at that fork and drive less than a half-mile to the trailhead. High clearance vehicles are recommended and the road may not be passable during wet weather.

    From Clints Well (junction of State Route 87 and the FH-3) drive north on FH-3 approximately 7 miles to FR 81. Turn left (west) and proceed as above.

    dabreeze writes:
    From Camp Verde: east on Hwy 260, north on Hwy 87, left on Lake Mary Road, north seven miles to FR 81.
    From Payson: north on Hwy. 87, left on Lake Mary Road, follow directions above.
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