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Fish Creek Canyon - Upper Bridge, AZ

no permit
992 93 4
Guide 93 Triplogs  4 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions NW
4.2 of 5 by 32
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 6.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,230 feet
Elevation Gain 545 feet
Accumulated Gain 950 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3-6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11.05
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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7  2019-01-21 pixelfrog
18  2018-12-02 adilling
14  2018-03-02 KBKB
1  2017-12-04 ssk44
6  2016-12-10 Digital_Sherpa
8  2015-11-14
Tortilla-Fish Mesa - Fish Creek Canyon Loop
30  2015-11-14
Fish Creek Ridge - Fish Creek Canyon Loop
1  2015-04-13 adamand
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Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,261 map ( 21,471 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
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Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → 9 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:22pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
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Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
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Jedi Certification Course
by joebartels

The term "Upper Bridge" is referring to the popular starting point at Fish Creek Bridge on SR88. You'd need four topographical maps to fully appreciate the entire canyon. Horse Dam Mesa, Pinyon Mountain, Weavers Needle & Iron Mountain to be exact. A full trek of Fish Creek from the lower Salt River end to it's boxed-in origin near Windy Saddle is a hearty 16 miles!

Here we take on an easily accessible and scenic section of the canyon. Please note, that's easily accessible not easily traveled. Trail data given here is for a scramble going south to Lost Dutchman Canyon and back. This is to the point where Fish Creek Canyon abruptly veers due east.

Parking near the bridge on beautiful weekends may prove impossible. A weekday venture should thin out the crowds. Getting into the canyon can be a task your first time out. The key is to follow the west side to an alcove before heading down. It should go without saying but stay out of this canyon if rain is remotely possible. There's ten miles of canyon before this point. A severe flash flood is very probable in the area.

From the bridge you'll pass over broken beer bottles, graffiti and quite possibly a crowd of partygoers. The good news being it's over after the first bend in the canyon. The first quarter mile stretch up canyon is rather easy. No trail exist but you'll figure it out (don't climb the sheer canyon I've never explored the canyon bottom when the creek is flowing. I suppose it's possible to slosh through. Personally I wouldn't put forth that much effort for this canyon. It's interesting, just not quite up to spectacular par.

The real fun or hell depending on how you interpret it comes into play soon. Huge boulders encourage you to turn around. Your goal is to figure out the best route through each series of obstacles. I believe I made the wrong choice each and every time. =) This meant countless backtracking. There are simply too many trouble sections to offer much advice. I suppose you could conquer a few in various ways. You will need to take off your pack a couple times to make a squeeze here and there.

Like I said the canyon is interesting but there isn't a spectacular destination point in my opinion. The turn around point is really arbitrary. Just go in a couple hours and turn around. It's approximately twice as fast going out because you know the obstacles. I was surprised to see sections of trail further in with recent use.

While in the canyon notice some of the interesting rocks. You'd swear some came out of a cement mixer! Some of the boulders or slabs looked like they were loaded with geodes. I doubt that's the case but they have pockets with an edge that appears to be a cracked open geode. Also, one of the west sheer walls has an interesting, yet very inaccessible, alcove up high.

The book "Hiker's Guide to the Superstition Wilderness" has a ten-mile loop variation outlined on page 222. Read up on it. I would recommend making it a shuttle hike skipping the walk down SR88. That might be unpleasant and dusty for most. I do encourage walking the section of FS213 for non 4x4 users. It's a very scenic road. You won't be disappointed.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2002-02-25 joebartels
    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 28 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Fish Creek Canyon - Upper Bridge
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    Four of us hiked a bit of Fish Creek Canyon on Friday morning. I think we made it about a mile up canyon before being turned back by bees.

    It wasn't clear to us whether we were hearing buzzing from a nearby hive or if there were simply bees in some flowering trees. A hive could be seriously dangerous, but bees looking for pollen in trees, not so much. In any case, we decided to turn back.

    Even so, the part we hiked was both scenic and fun. It ended up being warmer than any of us expected; we definitely came over-dressed.

    We were able to do it without getting our feet too wet. The part we did seemed like 1A to me, though I can see how it might be 1B or possibly even C if there's more water.
    Fish Creek Canyon - Upper Bridge
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    Fish Creek Ridge - Fish Creek Canyon Loop
    I'd always wanted to hit up the Fish Creek area. We though we might be a little early for some color, but the Temps were gonna be perfect.

    We were the first to park at the Fish Creek Bridge area and headed up the Apache Trail towards our turn off, across from the Comfort Station. We hit up the Fliver mark and made our way across Ridge. We had things we wanted to get to and travel across the top was slower than anticipated, so after 2.5 miles of travel we hit up FR213 to make up some time..

    Next past the old ranch area, we found our way to the old cairned route of Fish Creek via Lost Dutch. This trail is still there, but easy to loose if you don't pay attention. Down in Fish Creek, the first goal here was to find the Fish Creek Cave. [ photo ] Without knowing it's location, you'll walk right past it.

    We had some lunch outside the cave and started the trip back down Fish Creek.

    Smaller rocks turn into bigger rocks turn into boulders, turn into houses. You pick up more and more pools of water and the the superstitions turn into a jungle in spots. I kept getting mad at the scenery as I'd already taken way too many photos.

    The last 1.5 miles is the slowest and demands you have to pick the correct route up, over, under, through boulder mazes. Joe called it a Ninja training ground and that pretty much sums this portion up.

    What a special area and fun time.
    Fish Creek Canyon - Upper Bridge
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    Tortilla-Fish Mesa - Fish Creek Canyon Loop
    Tortilla-Fish Mesa offers exceptional views. I'll link it in the spirit of The Eagle and 9L... however we only covered a quarter mile of the access. The jellybean and I tackled this monster six years ago. What I recall was a never ending obstacle course and flat out amazement she hiked with me again.

    When I greeted Bruce this morning a deep raspy Jabba the Hut replied hello. Off trail and head/chest colds do not mix but I admired his determination!

    From the Fish Creek bridge the hike up SR88 is easier than anticipated. We headed off trail...

    This was Bruce's pick and I'd hiked it before so all was good. Not. Had I simply read my previous triplogs and looked at the map this may have gone better. Bruce's cold didn't put him into the groove for this adventure and our pace was not working so we aborted to FR213 to bypass the ridge. Which we hoped would net enough time to add in Owen's boy scout cave.

    FR213 is a highway so we had time to hit the alcove/cave. Bruce was amazed a seventy year old dragged jlp and I to the cave. I was amazed that while our hike worked with gps and cairns how easily Owen knew the route. If you miss a cairn it gets ugly quick.

    Fish Creek sprinkled in Autumn foliage is a treat. Our route became much easier than anticipated too. In 2009 Janelle and I dodged and skirted miles of water whereas today the entire upper end was dry.

    Only three small groups of hikers in the half mile near the bridge. Absolutely perfect temps throughout the day.
    Fish Creek Canyon - Upper Bridge
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    Fish Creek Upper Bridge Loop
    Claire read about a loop in some Supes book, and I'd never done Fish Creek, so I did a quick glance at some tracks on HAZ, and it looked reasonable, so we headed out.

    The creek/canyon is beautiful, but very slow going for the first 2 miles or so. As it opens up a bit, the pace increases. We filtered some water where the hike leaves the creek, in anticipation for the long, warm hike back around and down to the bridge.

    Plenty of cairns going up the hill make it pretty easy to follow, but the spring grasses make it tough in some spots. A steady eye is necessary for those without a GPS-track to follow (like me).

    Once back on FS213, you wonder how somebody in a Jeep can't get out there :whistle: . It's an easy and relatively flat hike back to the 88. The hike down Fish Creek Hill is great too, save for the dust from the occasional passing car. It was late enough in the day that traffic was light. I helped push a truck out of a ditch. Walking down FCH is also nicer than driving because you can stop and look over the edge more. There are no fewer than 8 vehicles that met their demise on this stretch of road, left to rust on the hillside hundreds of feet below. And at least one boat.

    The gem of this hike is the first couple of miles of creek, but the rest of the loop makes it a solid hiking day.
    Fish Creek Canyon - Upper Bridge
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    At 7:30pm on February 8, 2014, 8 of the surviving members of Pajama Gam Scram I ( ) and 15.5 noobs departed in their pajam bottoms for an fully undisclosed to them location. On their person, they carried a backpack full of snacks and drinks, a sleeping bag, flashlight, and their board/card game of choice. After a long trusting drive they arrived at their destination at the 1923 one lane bridge over Fish Creek and then hiked in the dark up to large cave overlooking the canyon and the creek below. Inhibitions were released, and they channeled their inner fundom, playing games long into the night. Also, bacon.

    After seeing a ringtail come close into camp, I sprinkled chips next to and on my sleeping brother-in-law and a few of us were delighted to wake several times to the cat crunching on them there while he slept hard.

    Some stayed for the hike upstream in the morning.
    Fish Creek Canyon - Upper Bridge
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    Pam laid out a plan for a backpack trip. I was not able to join her due to family obligations and work stuff. I agreed to meet her on the last day in Fish Creek Canyon then shuttle her back to her vehicle at the Tortilla Trailhead.

    Monday had some really bad weather as we all know so I was a little concerned about Pam and how her trip was going. Pam is a survivor so I had no doubt she was making the best of the situation but the little voice in your head that says be prepared was speaking.

    My original plan was to get up early and be at the bridge by 730 or so but due to a tragic event I involved myself in the night before I did not get to bed till very late. I got up on Tuesday made a stop picked up a nice cold Mountain Dew for Pam when we got to the Jeep. I had already packed a frozen Gatorade as I figured after what might have happened over the previous day it would be a welcome treat when we met up in Fish Creek Canyon.

    I arrived at the bridge around 10am. Assessed the water level in the creek below and it was full bank to bank and I estimated about 10 feet deep. Not a good sign for what I knew I was going to encounter up the creek. I packed up called Hank from the Jeep and let him know I was heading in and what the conditions would be like and that I would be in touch with him around 230 pm.

    After backtracking several times due to high water, cliffing out or dense vegetation I made it in about 2 miles in just under 2 hours and 30 min. I hit a point where I said it was time to take a break make a few audible calls for Pam and then head back to the bridge and check in with Hank again to see if Pam called from Rogers.

    I made my way back to the Jeep loaded my gear and was going to hitch a ride from someone heading in the Tortilla direction to move Pam's car here in case she made it out this way while I was riding over to Rogers.

    I was looking at the cars descending to the bridge and I saw Ford Escape. I was hey that looks like Pam. Wow it is Pam. We talked she gave me the cliff note version of the trip and we decided hot food at the Canyon Lake Marina Restaurant was a good idea and headed there for lunch. Pam recounted the trip to me and we enjoyed a good meal.

    Happy Pam was safe I departed the Marina and headed home. The hike was nice and challenging but the reward at the end was even better.
    Fish Creek Canyon - Upper Bridge
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    Dustin's welcome back to Arizona hike. It was slow going in as I was taking copious pictures of the strong creek flow and lingering fall colors, as well as having to figure out the route. We probably could've gone further in as the return went much quicker than expected. We just saw the tip of the iceberg for this canyon, so I can't wait to come back for more!
    Fish Creek Canyon - Upper Bridge
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    We started the hike at the end of FR213 at the JF trail #106 and made the easy trek down to Fish Creek. From the creek we made a left and continued downstream (dry) for a short distance and then the real fun began. We encountered several areas in which we cliffed out and had to search for some "not so safe" alternative routes to continue our journey towards the bridge. The creek bed was very dry until we were approximately .3 miles from the end our journey in which there were large pools that required more "scouting" to navigate our way without swimming. This was a ton of fun but would not recommend this if you are not familiar with hiking in creek beds because this one can eat you up.
    Fish Creek Canyon - Upper Bridge
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    Well this is where it all started... the JF trail #106. WE opted to drive in on FR 213 to reduce the miles since we were unsure of how long this was going to take us to complete our trip. Our destination was to go down Fish Creek and exit at the bridge (shuttle). We made quick work getting down to the creek bed but sure enough, that was soon a thing of the past. The "scrambling, squeezing, crawling and walking on slick ledges" began. This is one of them hikes that is truly worth doing, even it's only once. As you get deep into the canyon you are literally looking up 1000 ft. sheer cliffs. It's really quite spectacular. At times you have to stop just to listen to the birds sing as you tend to fall out of reality and become overwhelmed in the majestic beauty this canyon has to offer. A very nice hike it was. :y:
    Fish Creek Canyon - Upper Bridge
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Did AZLOT69's fine GPS loop route - out FR213, drop into Fish, downcanyon to the bridge, hike back up the hill. If you like boulder hopping and waist-deep wading in clear, crisp water, now's the time to go. I had a shorty wetsuit and a dry bag and did a few swims, but they probably could have been avoided with some scrambling.

    I've never much cared for the Supes until this wet winter, but I'm starting to come around ;)

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From the junction of Idaho Road & SR-88 follow SR-88 25.4 miles to the Fish Creek Bridge. Parking is limited.
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