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Cottonwood Creek, AZ

Guide 13 Triplogs  0 Topics
  3.3 of 5 
no permit
95 13 0
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 9.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,867 feet
Elevation Gain -336 feet
Accumulated Gain 404 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11.22
Interest Off-Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
15  2017-01-28 topohiker
15  2016-04-16
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2  2014-01-18 Woodsnative
15  2013-11-16 Woodsnative
8  2011-12-16
Sheep Mountain 3567 & 3397 - Salt River
3  2011-12-16
Sheep Mountain 3567 & 3397 - Salt River
6  2011-12-16
Sheep Mountain 3567 & 3397 - Salt River
14  2004-03-27 joebartels
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 253
Routes 841
Photos 12,826
Trips 5,229 map ( 26,536 miles )
Age 52 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred Feb, Jan, Dec, Mar → 7 AM
Seasons   Early Winter to Early Spring
Sun  5:33am - 7:31pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 2020 Bush Fire193.5k
🔥 1995 River Fire9.8k
🔥 View (All) - over Official Route 🔥

Even Flow
by joebartels

I'll save the high perk readers undo agony; move on this isn't for you.

This is an off-trail out-n-back hike through the tail end of Cottonwood Creek. The area covered is from just over half-mile south of Cottonwood Camp to Saguaro Lake/Salt River. This description starts about a half-mile down from the posted trailhead right before the road turns to true 4WD. Add 1 mile to your hike if starting at Cottonwood Camp.

I wouldn't recommend hiking this creek with heavy rainfall in the forecast. The large creek bed swath wasn't created by any trickles. No solid data here from gauges but I did notice debris around four feet high in the trees. If you're still not convinced whip out a topographical map. Cottonwood Creek is sixteen miles in length and receives nearly all the runoff from the west side of the Four Peaks. It starts way back up past Mud Spring before wrapping around the Wata Ridges.

The hike is simple, head downstream for 4.6 miles to the river/lake. Note the first few steps in the creek bed. It's similar to a gravel road, but it's up to a foot deep in sections. The going is sluggish and it's the entire length of this hike. On the bright side, there's zero bushwhacking involved along the way.

There wasn't much wildlife noted on my hike during the hottest part of the day. Hoped to catch a glimpse of a racer but that never happened. The bushes were loaded with bees. Several butterflies darted about and I did scare up a large group of quail.

On route, you can't help but notice this is major ATV country. I only encountered two groups of ATVs on the hike, both of which were very friendly. About two miles in the creek bed enters a 1.5 mile stretch of twisted canyon, I call the twist. There are some nice spots for lunch or a break. On the tail end of the twist are a couple of alcoves you might want to explore.

Past the twist, the creek bed widens again and the views become more distant. I'm still in disbelief ATVs make it through that section, but they do. There wasn't much litter encountered but I did notice several sections of oil or gas spills. It's only another mile to the river/lake. The water on this outing was a slime bubbling mossy marsh. Not something you'd enjoy cooling off in! Instead of a swim, climb up the right wall for better views.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2004-03-27 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.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To Cottonwood Camp Trailhead
    From Scottsdale follow Shea Blvd East to its terminus at SR87. Turn Left onto SR87. Follow SR87(this is the Beeline) to the Four Peaks Turnoff which is FR143. FR143 is well marked. Follow FR143 to FR 401. Hang a right onto FR401 and follow past Cottonwood Camp. Park anywhere, behind the corral is more concealed.

    Several of the hikes posted from this trailhead go south. You can continue 0.5 miles south to where FR401 ascends out of Cottonwood Creek up the side of a mountain. It's absolute 4WD beyond. You will know as it turns from sand to cobblestone sized rocks. Getting here is only doable in high clearance, dry conditions and it's slightly risky depending on current conditions.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 46.4 mi - about 1 hour 20 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 144 mi - about 2 hours 47 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 173 mi - about 3 hours 21 mins
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills

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