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Cottonwood Creek, AZ

no permit
95 12 0
Guide 12 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Mesa NE
3.3 of 5 by 4
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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 Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
15  2017-01-28 topohiker
15  2016-04-16
Rolling Hills to Lake
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 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,261 map ( 21,471 miles )
Age 49 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  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Even Flow
by joebartels

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

Overview: This is an off-trail out-n-back hike through the tail end of Cottonwood Creek. Area covered is from just over a 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.

Note: 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 run off from the west side of the Four Peaks. It starts way back up past Mud Spring before wrapping around the Wata Ridges.

Hike: The hike is simple, head down stream 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 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. Definitely 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.

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

2004-03-27 joebartels
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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 Triplog Review
Cottonwood Creek
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Bob told me I needed to expand my horizons and learn new traits from experienced individuals. I had no idea what he was talking about but said let's do it. Got pretty lucky and finally got to meet the legend Mazatzal Kokopelli!

We headed back to Sheep Mtn just two weeks after round one. This time via Cottonwood Creek then up Cane Spring Canyon(CSC) passing the Hidden Water oasis.

8:13am - Richard stopped when the road got smooth due to lame advice and off we went
8:51am - after 1.66mi and dropping 150ft we turned into CSC
8:58am - we were greeted by the magical mid Dec Autumn Foliage of the Hidden Water oasis
9:10am - the dreaded duck, twist and scratch bushwhack was over, it wasn't too bad either
9:12am - Bob added Tina Turner to his "list" of neighbors and said he bagged groceries for Ike once. Another nod and smile moment...
10:20am - 3.02mi we headed out of CSC and up to a ridge that would deliver us to Sheep Mtn. Amy said it was steep. I slipped down about ten feet mid way up to put the sausage grinder effect onto my right shin, declaring this as an official "fun" hike. Sometime I plan in haste drawing routes that look quick. Admittingly, it was a snowman nail bitter.
10:36am - After a 520ft (almost half a Squaw) ascent in 0.16mi we arrived at a saddle. We thought it was windy in the canyon. On the saddle Gale forced us to believe it was a hurricane.
10:52am - After a breather we were on our way again. You know how Bob always waits for the team to regroup before moving on... Bob who?
12:01pm - after a 900ft brute force climb we centered out on Sheep Mtn. Amy and I took a catclaw rock scramble straight up. This was not as enjoyable as my route two weeks ago but it panned out.
12:39pm - we headed over to 3567 to check Richard and Amy into the official peak log
12:48pm - after logging in we decided to hit up 3397 and headed over. Richard started down to the sandstone ledges to meet us up on the return
1:12pm - 3397 ended up being among the easiest stroll out of CSC. The views down into the Salt River are stunning. It was so windy though it was difficult to enjoy. The views atop Skeleton Cave are better too.
2:02pm - I picked a horrible route back. It really slowed Amy and me down but we got in some good girl talk as Juliachaos calls it, wait a minute...
2:40pm - somehow we didn't take the short cut back and proceeded to head down to CSC in nearly the same steep spot
3:00pm - back on solid ground. The wind finally started to die off and the hike out was Chamber of Commerce
4:30pm - back at Hidden Water I took the man route while everyone else opted for the girl scout route. I should'a known I'm more of a girl scout and kinna paid the price dearly too. Mid way through I went to leap off a four foot drop. It was all good in theory. However a vine trapped my feet so there was no lifting off the launch pad. Instead I face planted like the wile e coyote. Aside from full body trauma I felt pretty lucky to be in one piece and not visually bleeding anywhere. It did zap the energy out of me a little.
5:32pm - the adventure came to a close

Traits gleaned: Richard taught me to smoke or you never get breaks with Bob. Kat tried to teach me this last year but I didn't catch on. Amy taught me to consume alcohol in large quantities fast after hikes with Bob to blur (think she meant ease, but it was difficult to understand with her slur) pain.

Thanks everyone, I had a great time!

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
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