register help

Brown's Cave, AZ

no permit
114 10 4
Guide 10 Triplogs  4 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Mesa NE
3.6 of 5 by 5
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 9.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,871 feet
Elevation Gain -1,358 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,115 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 20.18
Backpack Yes & Connecting
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
19  2015-04-25 topohiker
20  2008-12-07 Randal_Schulhaus
20  2008-12-07 nonot
19  2008-12-07 joebartels
8  2005-12-28 tkknc
28  2004-12-09 joebartels
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,825
Trips 4,259 map ( 21,438 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Mar, Nov, Apr, Feb → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:24pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Adventures of Fritzski Jones & Teva Joe
by joebartels

Overview: Full day drive and hike into seldom traveled wilderness. The drive is jerky 4x4. The hike is from Cane Spring Trailhead following Alder Trail #82 up and down to the location of Brown's Cave. Top notch route finding skills are necessary to follow the proper trail. Pants and long sleeves are recommended for the minor bush whacking. Return by the same route or explore other options.

Hike: Hip replacement marvel Fritzski Jones and I left Gilbert at 5:30am and headed out to the Cane Spring Trailhead. The drive in is a hearty 4x4 road that proves to be simply long as opposed to overwhelmingly technical. We arrived at the trailhead and started hiking at 7:50 am. Dr Jones mentioned he wanted to hike a nice good trail. Having hiked the first section I assured him this was a "very good trail".

The hike starts off on the old wide jeep road heading south and soon curves east. On route I watched the GPS carefully as I'd missed the proper turn on my first outting. With quick and accurate GPS it only took about twenty paces to realize we'd passed the turn which veers right at 0.7 miles. Once on the right route it petered out quickly. There is a faint old jeep road but it has almost fadded into history. The trail rises 757 feet to a saddle before descending 1358 feet down to Brown's Cave.

The views start to get good at the saddle.(1.75 miles) The trail shortly skirts a ridge then drops 713 feet down a ridge to Long Canyon. You can follow the actual trail but it isn't casual by any means. Sections of trail do surface off and on. There are cairns on occasion and GPS will keep you on target.

Once down in(2.45 miles) Long Canyon the trail is supposed to parallel Long Canyon on the east side. Which indeed it does... however, it's overgrown and difficult to follow. The creek bed of Long Canyon is a better choice. Keep an eye on the GPS and get out of the creek around 3.0 to 3.1 miles and pick up the faint trail east. The Tonto Forest Service describes this trail (Alder Trail #82) as "MOST Difficult" capital letters and all. Keep in mind it's equally to more route finding than physical. What concerns me most is those that ponder ideas of making the 30 some mile loop of the peaks in a day thinking it's a nice worn trail all the way. It's just a scarry thought of fast pacing it in twenty miles and then have the trail peter out! Those thoughts aside I find the area very intriguing and worth the effort being prepared.

Trying to get Fritzski out of Long Canyon proved slightly tougher than prying a kid off the glass front of a candy store. Long Canyon is mighty inviting! Heading out of Long Canyon it's a slight jaunt through a matrix maze of cacti to get back on Alder Trail #82. Just a hop and skip over to the 3.55 mile mark comes Adams Camp. The camp sits on the east of a small tributary to Long Canyon. It appears there's a spring but I don't know how reliable it would be in the summer. The camp is interesting with large rock corral walls. Barb wire galore and scrap metal is scattered about. Considering the trail in is so faint this place puts the Oh! back in old!

The trail now becomes more visible in sections and cairns are more plentiful. About a half mile past Adams Camp (4.1 miles) brings you to the paint puddles which is undoubtably left over from the painting of the cliffs. Another half mile in (4.6 miles) brings you to Alder Canyon. The creek looks impassable at first glance but proves negotiable with some persistant effort. If you're lucky you might spot a prickly pair cactus growing high up in a big tree. This seems to be the prime crossing spot. The creek itself isn't a concern just the vegetation.

Once across the creek you will pass through a makeshift gate made of welded orange fence post. Which seemed sturdy so leave the touch up welder at home. The trail appears to head straight into the brush. Rusty and I scouted the area out. Basically you have to drop to a push-up stance and drag your toes to get low enough and through the vegetation. We made it to an opening with nice grassy ground cover. Then scrambled up the slopes and skirted the butte for a short distance. Rusty convinced me this was leading nowhere so we delicately dropped back down to the creek.

Hooking back up with Fritzski we headed down stream on the east bank. It didn't take long for Dr Jones to decipher what we believe is the location of Brown's Cave at 4.8 miles (of course I walked right by it). The area appears to have been fenced off long ago as there's downed wire in a crescent pattern around the area. If this is the location the cave/mine likely went down at an angle from ground level. A heavy axle of sorts leaves me thinking some serious mining took place. Which may be from a cart or mining machinery. Of course as I'm leaving Dr Jones finds an intriguing matrix on a ceiling overhang.

The return is simply backtracking to Cane Spring Trailhead. We did venture down Alder Canyon a bit before returning.

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 hike to support this local community.

2004-12-11 joebartels
  • Map
    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.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Brown's Cave
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Fan and I went from the Cottonwood TH to Browns Cave.

Lower Soldier Trail
It took a minute to figure the start of the trail, but once we did there was cairns to lead you all the way to FR401.
Along the way to the Cane's spring TH, we stopped at the shack.

Alder Creek Trail
The trail started out as an old road and was very easy to follow. When the trail hit the Long canyon, we stayed in the canyon
until the trail pulled away. Then we bushwhacked over the trail. There been some recent trail maintenance until you hit the
Crabtree cabin. It took us a couple of minutes to figure out how to get to the cabin. There was a sign-in board at the cabin.
Fan & I were the first people to represent HAZ. There was quite a bit of Crabtree relatives visiting the cabin.
The route finding was a little more challenging past the cabin.

The Jungle aka "Brown Cave"
We lost the trail as we approached the descent into Alder Creek. We found two stone walls leading down to the creek.
Then we had to fight the jungle to get to the Creek. When got the creek Fan was done. The plan was to
go to the Cave then have lunch at the river /lake. Fan didn't want the fight anymore jungle, so I went on alone.

Beyond the jungle
I pushed through the jungle and walked right past Brown's Cave and continued on down the creek. For a stretch the water went underground.
I made to the 10 foot waterfall then stopped. The sky clouded up and the wind started to blow.
It looked like the 20% chance of rain was going to hit. I didn't have any Jedi masters to talk me into
climb down and up the waterfalls, so I turned around.

The trip back
The temps dropped fast as we headed back. This time we took the trail instead of going in Long creek.
The trail was easy to follow and mostly free of vegetation. As we started to climb out, the rain started.
It poured pretty hard for about 10 minutes, then it backed off. It rained for the last 4 hours of the hike.
We made it to the shed at Cane's Spring in time to put on the headlamps. We took FR401 all the way back to the Jeep.
Along the we saw an abandoned quad-runner. As we approached the Jeep the rain started to dump on us.

The road out
I was concerned about driving out with 4+ hours of rain. The road was slick but I didn't have any major issues getting out.
The Jeep did fishtailed in a couple of spots.

](*,) Items that are MIA in the Jungle ](*,)
- HAZ-tracks android phone (good thing it was only $29.99)
- gators
- GPS Lithium ION rechargeable battery

This is a cool area to explorer. The terrain is slow moving and you should have a GPS route to get to alder creek.
I had long pants with gators and the a couple of Foxtails still managed to get in my socks!

I want to go back to take Long canyon to the river.
Brown's Cave
rating optionrating optionrating optionrating optionrated 1
Got recruited for this trip and couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet a few HAZ'ers in person, especially Joe (who for some reason requested being called Pappa Bartels from here on out). It turned out only being three instead of around 15 but that's cool since I generally just don't like people.
The trip fell on a friend's birthday weekend so I had been out the night before at the Saguaro coves with my Jeep guys. At about 1:30am I drove out and headed over to the 4 Peaks turn off and towards Cottonwood Camp. I parked above and sleeping bagged it under the stars until the meeting time of 4:30.
When PB and Steve got there we rolled on down into the wash and began the tedious 401 4wd trek. The air down helped, as did the early morning darkness that blanketed the view of the fall if tires should find themselves misplaced. After an hour plus of what can be only described as riding a roller coaster equipped with square wheels while dragging an anchor though the dead of night, we arrived at the trailhead.
Headlamps and backpacks went on and we began hiking the well visible trail. Ironically, by the time the sun came up, the trail had disappeared. Cleaning up the language a bit, PB said, "Only pansies hike in a straight line," so we played find the 60yr old cairn until I lost over a hundred bucks to Steve and we finally made it into Long Canyon.
The rock hopping was fun in the canyon and the wall structures and hollows were cool. Being the avid holeophile (for lack of a worse word) that I am, I tried s'ploring the extracurricular canyon areas along the way. None of the little "caves" offered much, but one ridge climb actually produced a small ruin area. A couple deteriorated walls and some names carved in plaster was all to be found.
Shortly after the discovery, we hiked out and over to Adam's Camp. It looked like the guy did have a nice little set up. Whoever his visitors had been in the past, it seemed the custom was to remove their shoes (possible after being hatcheted to death) and leave Peach Schnapps and Vodka. I won't say that Joe's not funny when he's drunk, but you get the picture.
After that it was more "route finding" until Alder Canyon. We did find some interesting smoothed over rock structures rising from the ground but Steve and PB couldn't agree on whether the spot should be called Petite Tetons, or Nippalopolis and I didn't want to play tie breaker.
Alder Canyon was actually quite pretty. After lunch at Brown's Let's-blow-it-up-because-it's-way-too-accessible-and-easy-to-find-and-thus-dangerous-Cave, we rock hopped under a few still changing leaves down the still flowing stream. We came upon a neat 25ish foot water fall and hiked down below it. While there was a pretty large hollow beneath it, wading over and under didn't yield anything other than a nice up close look at the cascade and hypothermia. We reached the lake a short time later, touched the water, explored the cove, then turned it around for the trip out.
Route finding was easier and faster on the way out but I still ended up feeding the thorns just as much with my short sleeves. Yes I could've unrolled my sleeves but screw-em right? Plus PB said there'd be a manhood showing back at the vehicle and I was really hoping I had interpreted that right.
Everything was cool until we got to the 700ft incline out of LC and my flatland knees did what they always do. I could usually still see Steve but of course "you know who" just had to make it a race.
Finally catching up to Steve, we made it back to the vehicle and met Hank and Randall who had most likely been by my calculations (and by the beautiful handmade sweater PB was now wearing), chatting with PB for somewhere in excess of an hour. After we got introduced and caught up, we piled back in the Xterra and drove out. Judging by the rock shelves, the now visible road/sky boundaries, and the bobblehead in the backseat, the road was tougher going up and out, but we made ok time to the pavement. Wendy's at Fountain Hills was celebrated by all.

Sincerely thanks again Joe and Steve, I had a good time and my arms, truck paint, and your pictures prove it to those who merely watch instead of doing.
Brown's Cave
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Headed out at 6:20 with Michael and Steve into the seldom traveled southern portion of the Four Peaks Wilderness. The morning weather was warmer than expected. Unfortunately I left my hiking pants in Tyler's 4runner last winter and we haven't crossed paths yet. The next quick option was my thermal pants for sub freezing off trail travel. This proved exhausting. I couldn't move freely as the crotch is cut low to allow them to be worn over jeans and such. Not to mention I felt like an easy bake oven on simmer with no vents. The good news being they plowed through catclaw effortlessly!

The sunrise flirted with our imagination before the light quickly turned to mortuary mode for the remainder of the hike. We did the posted hike to Brown's Cave. On route Michael found a ruin like Preston finds pottery. Instead of "you're stepping on it", it's "your starring at it". It was almost embarrassing as I've passed them twice in the past. He actually discovered them checking out a fold in the sandstone. It wasn't until the return trip we realized you can clearly see them from the trail. However they're only in view for about ten steps when you're concentrating on the rocks in the creek.

Next we headed down Alder Creek to the beach at Apache Lake in the Painted Cliffs. This is an interesting canyon with a slow running creek. The highlight of the trip was an unexpected 20 foot (give or take) waterfall in a gnarly sculptured section of the creek.

At first glance I didn't think I could make the climb down. My initial decision was heavily biased on the fact a rope was present. Going on Michael's logic "commit or quit" I took a stab at it. It turned out to be rather easy and definitely worth seeing from below. Next it was down to the beach where the desert kisses the lake. Hopes of looping back through Long Canyon where pretty much abandoned at the waterfall. So we headed back on charted territory. I still think it's possible in a short December light day but will probably never attempt the loop. An out-n-back down Long Canyon seems to be the safest option.

Autumn didn't seem as progressed as my previous trip 4 years ago on Dec 11th.

On the return we found a note from Hank that he and Randal had headed back to the trailhead. I wasn't aware Randal was on this trip. I've yet to have had the opportunity to meet the great Schulhauser. After missing the man by an hour or so two years ago I decided I better jump on the opportunity. Once we hit the base of the ridge I ripped off the shackle thermal wear and kicked it into wallygear. Back at the trailhead Hank and Randal were waiting patiently. Discovering the waterfall and meeting the great Schulhauser made this bleak overcast trip one to remember. Thanks to Michael Rock Andretti Jr and "Thoughtful Hank" for making this one possible, it's very much appreciated!
Brown's Cave
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Not quite to Brown's Cave via FR401 and Alder Trail #82

Received an email from Grasshopper (Hank) late last week indicating he had an open seat on a HAZ outing to Brown's Cave;

Grasshopper's (Hank) Plan
Here is my plan for Sunday: I will arrive the Cane Springs TH at ~10am (you guys should have been hiking for ~3hrs by then). I will plan to hike down your route (the Adler TR#82) to end my hike at the old Adams Camp for a late lunch stop, then head back up the Adler TR to its intersection with Long Canyon where I will stop here to await your group arrival. IF I am not at this intersection when you arrive, don't wait there for me. IF you guys or I are running late arriving at this Adler TR/Long Canyon intersection, my plan will be to depart A/R so as to arrive back at the Cane Springs TH before dark.

Your loop hike should make for some great memories/pics and trip logs and then the fun 4x4 out to top off the night!

Hank's always a privilege to hike with and a cool guy to boot, so we arranged to meet at the Wendy's near Shea and Hwy 87 early Sunday morning and we were off...

This was a 4WD trek and hike "Into the Wild" - an area totally unknown to me except for some comments from some off-roading friends that FR401 can be "pretty wicked".

Hank and I arrived at the abandoned ranch near the Cane Spring TH 10-ish parking beside Skatchkin's (Mike) and set off to locate the group led by Joe Bartels. With a 3 hour head start, where (if???) our paths would cross would be more of a matter of chance rather than an inevitability.

We were armed with Hank's GPS route downloaded from the HAZ Brown's Cave hike description. This proved invaluable as the trail disappeared into a tangle of cat's claw after Seven-Tenth's Junction. We startled a good sized buck in the un-named canyon before the Saddle. We got off trail and climbed up to the "false saddle" before we realized our target was the next saddle to the north. No problem - treated to some impressive views of the Four Peaks Wilderness from this vantage point...

A quick scurry over to the proper Saddle and we were beginning the descent of the ridgeline into Long Canyon. This ridgeline showed evidence of a major burn some years age.

When we entered Long Canyon, boulder hopping was the name of the game. The terrain within the canyon reminded me of White Canyon - lot's of water sculpted limestone. Located a series of mini-caves (we dubbed them Brown's Mini-Caves) before we came to the Adam's Camp/Long Canyon junction. This was marked with a Watermelon Gatoraid just a Hank expected...

As the 1 o'clock hour approached, we agreed this was our turnaround time and headed back to the Cane Spring TH. Made great time and explored the abandoned ranch waiting for the early trekkers to return.

Soon heard a strange galloping sound and started to explore the source expecting to see another large buck come bounding through the bushes - nope, it was Joe Bartels speeding back to the TH just to say hello.

Believe it or not this was the first time Joe and I have met face-to-face. Good to finally meet Joe along with nonot (Steve) and skatchkins (Mike). Kicking myself for not taking that group shot back at the trailhead. Oh well, next time...
Brown's Cave
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
This very remote, pristine, and seldom hiked area of the Four Peaks Wilderness is a pretty special place!

Now having been exposed to this area twice, first on 11/12/08 for a scouting trip/hike to check-out the serious 4x4 FR401 road conditions for the timing required to access the Cane Springs TH, and my second visit this day on 12/7 for the planned HAZ group hike to Brown's Cave and beyond. It was clear to me after the 11/12 scouting trip that to hike any significant miles exploring this area in December as a day hike was going to take a very early start with a planned long day. Since I am not good with early starts for the 12/7 HAZ planned 4:30am meeting time, Randal S. and I decided to meet at Shea/Hwy 87 at 6:45am for the slow 3.0hr drive in my Jeep to the Cane Springs TH. Our plan was to hike the Brown's Cave Trail(Adler TR#82) to the old Adams Camp location 3.5mls in for some exploring and a lunch turn around spot, then head back to the intersection of Adler TR/Long Canyon(3.2mls in) to await the earlier HAZ Group (Nonot,skatchkins,& Joe B.) arrival from Apache Lake, coming up Long Canyon.

Joe's group had started the hike in at ~6:30am, 3.5hrs ahead of Randal and me. Joe had recommended anyone hiking this seldom used trail to download his GPS Track. A very good thing that I decided to do it too, because if I had not done so, Randal and I would probably still be roaming the countryside out there! :) Of the recent hikes I have done since June'08 owning a GPS, this is the only one that I actually needed to "hand-hold" the unit for navigation for almost the entire hike both going in and coming back out. With some roaming off trail, some great pic opportunities, and a nice buck(Randal has the pics!), by 12:30pm we reached the exit point in Long Canyon where the Adler TR takes off to the Adams Camp. We were concerned about the few daylight hours left and our known need to navigate back to the TH. We knew that we did not want to be caught out here after dark, so we decided to give ourselves a couple extra safety hours of hiking and postpone our intended plan to hike to the old Adams Camp. We departed our Long Canyon stopping point at 1pm and arrive back at the Cane Springs TH at 3:10pm with enough time to explore the old Cane Springs ranch site with a large tin-wood floor shed, and numerous cattle corrals. We looked for signs of a windmill, but only found an in-ground water pipe leading into the dense brushy areas with not enough time to explore more. Joe and group arrived back safely around 3:45pm after having hiked all the way down and back Adler Creek/Canyon to Apache Lake. We all discussed the days' adventures and then headed-out for our rough-slow 4x4 drive back.. Another fun and amAZing day! :D
Brown's Cave
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
This was a "3 in 1" hiking day to a very remote and seldom visited section of the Four Peaks Wilderness:
+1.. a serious 4x4 trip going in and even more so coming out;
+1.. a trip to the ZOO;
+1.. a special hiking experience in this mystery section of the Four Peaks Wild;

Regarding our 4x4 drive in and out, there will be more discussions on this topic via the present & active HAZ forum thread for the upcoming Brown's Cave hike on 12/7. I think that Joe will soon add some additional comments regarding the 12/7 trip requirements but just let me now say that for our ride today in my highly modified Jeep with a 7" lift, 35x12.50 BFG All Terrains aired down to 15psi, and fully-locked diffs front and back with 488x1 diff. gearing- for the last 6.2ml section of FR401 to Cane Springs TH it took us 2.5 hrs to 4x4 in and took ~3.0hrs to 4x4 out and this amount of time was for just one very capable vehicle having no problems come up and not with a group of various vehicles going in and coming out. Just out of curiosity I checked the Tonto NF Recreation Page write-up for the Cane Springs TH, and it says "A 4WD vehicle is required to reach this trailhead, but travel is not recommended for any type of vehicle" :lol:

I knew we were in a very remote and seldom visited area of the wilderness to hike when the day was done and we could recount the number of varied wildlife we encounted on our 6+ hour hike & drive. We saw two cardinals, 3 deer, numerous bunnies, 1 snake, 2-3 foxes, and a family of ~12 javalina(the BIG daddy almost took-out Joe, but I saved him, but Joe won't ever admit it!) [-( ..

I am sure glad that Joe knew where we were and where to lead us on this mostly off-trail hike as I was totally at awe in this pristine and remote area of Four Peaks. It truly was worth the effort to get here and to be able to experience such a lovely, seldom unexplored place only 30 miles away from the Phoenix area. We started hiking in on the Adler TR#82(the same trail for the hike to Brown's Cave), but there are also two other trails in the immediate area of Cane Springs TH- the Cane Springs TR#77 and the Lower Soldier TR#84. Much more to explore here and Browns Cave hike to look forward to on Dec 7th!

Permit $$

Map Drive
Strictly 4x4

To Cane 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. Continue to where FR401 ascends out of Cottonwood Creek up the side of mountain. Here on it's strictly 4x4. It starts out low key for the first couple miles then turns... fun! It's 6 miles to Cane Spring Trailhead. The 4x4 section alone takes 1 to 1.5 hours.

Keep in mind albeit near the valley this is about 5 hours round trip depending on variables.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 52.0 mi, 1 hour 37 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 150 mi, 3 hours 7 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 179 mi, 3 hours 38 mins In current traffic: 3 hours 38 mins I-17 S
help comment issue

end of page marker