for free!
This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Willow Valley, AZ

Guide 42 Triplogs  1 Topic
  4.5 of 5 
no permit
409 42 1
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
View 1
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 6.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,700 feet
Elevation Gain -740 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,600 feet
Avg Time One Way 6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11.83
Interest Off-Trail Hiking & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
Will recalculate on button tap!
5  2021-09-21 MountainMatt
15  2021-06-10 LJW
11  2020-06-20
Willow Valley
18  2017-08-13 adv_trev
4  2017-07-22
Flatrock Tank Trail
19  2017-06-17 chumley
6  2017-06-17 MountainMatt
14  2016-07-09
Tramway Maxwell Loop
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author J&SHike
author avatar Guides 5
Routes 0
Photos 71
Trips 4 map ( 69 miles )
Age 48 Male Gender
Location Prescott, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Radar Map
Expand Map
Preferred May, Jun, Jul, Aug → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  5:30am - 7:34pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 2017 Snake Ridge Fire15.3k
🔥 2014 Pothole Fire2.2k
🔥 2002 Tram3.9 mi*
🔥 1996 Pot Fire5.8k
🔥 View (All) - over Official Route 🔥
*perimeter length in miles

High elevation canyon
by J&SHike

Likely In-Season!
Willow Valley sits at an elevation of 6700'. With its narrows, mandatory swims, boulder hopping, scrambling, and some route-finding, this is an excellent place for people to get a taste of canyoneering in a great day hike.

My buddy and I did this hike on Labor Day. Neither of us had been here before, so we set out early to try and find the canyon. Follow the directions given below. Park your car at the tank (which will be on your right) or park as we did under the big ponderosa on the other side of the road opposite the tank.

To start the hike and the small bit of route finding, head towards the tank. You can walk around the tank opposite the road, and you'll find a cowboy gate where the fence goes up and over some large rocks. If you look, you can find it easily. Close the gate once through and pick your way down the canyon. There is no well-defined trail here, so route-find your way down the canyon. A hint: Follow the bottom of the canyon; don't try and go on the slopes. The New Mexico Locust bush is razor-sharp and prominent on the slopes; it's less in the canyon bottom itself. Just above the confluence with Willow Valley is a 10-ft cliff that you must either down climb or go around and get cut up in the Locust bush. If you look to the left, you can easily downclimb this (and I'm no climber either).

Once in Willow Valley, it's a short way before you come to three to four swims, the first two you can climb around, which are described in Williams' book "Canyoneering Arizona" as 5.1 climbs. So just swim for it. It's deep water in all of the pools. The first pool is an easy swim and a flat rock to start your swim off of too. The second pool is a little trickier; you scramble down onto the wet rock and go right in. The third pool is a mandatory swim. This one is tricky. Once you scramble down, it gets real narrow, and the rock sort of goes straight down into the water. There is a ledge you can slide over and onto and start from there or just go feet first into the water. We decided on the ledge. You scramble over a rock and slide down onto the ledge, which is slick and underwater. If you fall to your right, you fall into a 5-foot pool. If you fall to your left (which is the swimming path), then you fall into deep water, so be careful; it's only about 4 feet wide for about 10 feet or so. The last pool Williams' book said it was a wade, but it was way deeper than any wade. We found a way around this one on creek right up a rock slope, over, and kind of spider man your way around a narrow ledge then jump from there onto the beach.

After the swims, which were cold water, you boulder hop and bushwack your way downstream. It widens up a bit, and flowing water starts. A trail starts to form here and there as well. Campsites appear on both sides of the creek after a while, and of course, stupid people trash. For heaven's sake, people, if you don't want to eat your bagel, crackers, or banana, take it with you; don't leave it for the animals as someone did down here. It makes the animals less scared of you and more apt to go through your pack at night. Yeah, and there are bears and mountain lions around here too...

You'll finally come to the origin of West Clear Creek. It's easy to recognize as another stream (Clover Creek) joins Willow Valley forming West Clear Creek. It's a wide-open area with cobblestones everywhere. About a half-mile more, you come to the Maxwell Trail #37. It's not marked, so pay attention, and the trail will be on creek right going up and away just before the canyon makes a sharp left. The Maxwell trail is 0.6 miles up to the trailhead, and your shuttle vehicle, if you left one, or mountain bike or road walking (3 miles) back to your car at the start of the hike.

This is a great hike to get your feet wet literally and figuratively to see if you are up to canyoneering. Just make sure it's not going to rain, especially in the narrow parts. It rained on us with a thunderstorm in the afternoon and lasted the whole way home. Not cool when lightning bolts and heavy rains are all around you. Outside temperatures should be around 85 to 95 degrees due to the cold waters you'll be swimming in or wading in. It was 86 degrees when we went, and I would have preferred 90 degrees or so. Have fun, pick up after yourselves and those "other" non-appreciating people of the canyon. We saw no one on this entire hike, just what they left behind, no trash up in the narrows down until the campsites appeared.

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 canyon trip to support this local community.

2003-09-13 J&SHike
  • description related image description 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 $$

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To canyon trip
Take Hwy 260 East out of Camp Verde and drive until you come to Hwy 87 go left or Northbound. Right around the area of Clints Well and the Happy Jack information center, you'll see a sign for Forest Hwy 3. Turn left (if going northbound on Hwy 87)onto Forest Hwy 3. In about ten miles or so you'll turn left onto FR 81, this is not easy to see but it's not hard either unless you're going eighty miles an hour. It's a major forest road.

After driving on FR 81 for 3.1 miles veer left onto FR 81E and drive another 3.8 miles to the junction of FR693, stay left, and in another 0.5 miles, you'll come to the Maxwell Tank road and the Maxwell Trail road. If you want to leave a shuttle vehicle (a mountain bike is good for this one) bear right onto the Maxwell Trail road and leave your vehicle or mountain bike after 1.5 miles at the canyon rim and trailhead. If not, bear left onto Maxwell Tank road and drive 0.9 miles, and bear left, Maxwell Tank is another 0.4 miles.
90+° 8am - 6pm kills

end of page marker