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Two Crested Saguaros
This one-way hike starts at the Cave Creek TH, and the distances shown are from the trailhead. The hike ends at Spur Cross TH in Cave Creek. 12.5 miles in length.
Cave Creek Trail #4 climbs a short distance from the trailhead and passes by the Seven Springs Campground. At .62 miles, the trail crosses Forest Road 24B and continues. Road 24B continues West to the Ashdale Administrative Site for the Forest Service.
After crossing 24B, the hike continues, and at 0.80 miles is the junction to Cottonwood Trail 247. The trail passes through some wooded and shady areas. There are excellent campsites along the way. At mile 1.57 is a great campsite. The Ashdale Administrative Site is behind a fence on your right, and Cave Creek is on your left.
At 1.83, you pass through a green metal gate and make your first of many rock-hoping creek crossings at 1.87 miles. Depending upon the amount of water in the creek, rock hopping is easy. It would be much more challenging after significant rain or flooding. Don't attempt crossing after a big storm.
At 1.95 is another grassy campsite. At 2.07 miles, you can see one of at least two rare crested Saguaro cactus on this hike. (GPS location on the trail to view the cactus is 33.58022, -111.53281. The elevation is 3247. Stop on the trail and look North across the creek. The cactus is about 200 feet across the canyon on the side hill. Another view of the "fan" of the crested cactus can be seen at 2.25 miles looking back to the NE.
The easy to follow but rocky trail climbs the side hill to provide good views of the creek and canyon below. At 2.75 miles, the trail descends back to the creek, and at 2.92, you cross the creek again. This is some of the most beautiful areas of the hike. There are many places in the creek to cool off if it is hot.
The second crested Saguaro on this hike is (3.03 miles) right after the creek crossing. GPS 33.58009, -111.53966. Elevation 3150.
Cross the creek again at 3.94 miles. GPS 33.58106, -111.54771. At 4.18 miles is the junction to Skunk Creek Trail 246. Stay right for trail #4.
At 4.32 miles, you pass a stone foundation of an old cabin on the right, immediately off the trail. Some of the trail in this area is washed out and hard to follow. Just stay near the creek.
At 5.10 miles, you cross the creek again and pick up the trail on the south side of the creek. At 5.44, you pass through a wire gate. Look to your right (West) to see another stone foundation of a cabin about 75 yards off the trail.
At 6.31 miles (elevation 3200), you will see a sign for hikers heading in the opposite direction reading Skunk Tank Trail #246-2 miles.
At 7.81 miles (elevation 2955), look down in the valley to see a walled canyon next to the creek. After you climb in and out of Chalk Canyon, home to many Javelina, you come to a ridge, and at 9.55 miles, you will see a sign (heading the opposite direction) reading Cave Creek TH-9.5 miles. This may be the only place on the hike to receive cell phone service. I stop here and send text messages.
After a long descent, you meet the junction to Cottonwood trail #247 at 10.4 miles. At 10.5 miles, you reach Cave Creek once again and signage for the Skull Mesa TH. GPS 33.54769, -111.566825.
Many of the hiking guide books consider this the end of the hike, but you are still two miles from the Spur Cross TH parking lot. Years ago, 4WD motor traffic was allowed to this TH, but it is now only for non-motorized traffic.
There are four more creek crossings to go in the next 2 miles to the TH.
Cross the creek and continue on the well-marked trail. Cross the creek again at 10.6 miles and 10.8 miles. You leave the Tonto National Forest and enter Maricopa County Parks at 11.4 miles. Cross the creek again for the last time at 11.5 and make a steep climb on the 4WD road, which is the Spur Cross trail.
At 12.5 miles from the Cave Creek TH, you reach the Spur Cross TH. The parking lot is 200 feet beyond. TH GPS 33.53251, -111.57062. Elevation 2331
This is a challenging hike in scorching weather. Carry enough water and treat any water taken from the creek before drinking. The GPS showed a total ascent of 1450 feet during the 12.5 miles, so it can be a hard hike for some. Please use caution. If you want to do a shorter hike, a great turn around place would be at the second crested Saguaro at 3.03 miles from Cave Creek TH and even less if you park on 24B.
Fees: According to the Tonto National Forest Web site, there is no fee to use the Cave Creek TH. You must pay a fee if you use the Seven Springs Campground. The TH parking is a separate parking lot a short distance from the Seven Springs campground. There is a fee to use the Spur Cross TH. Pay via a self-service box at TH.
Alternate TH is on Forest Road 24B, which is 0.62 miles from the Cave Creek trailhead. This is a good parking alternative if you want to cut the length a little. GPS 33.57911, -111.52014 Elevation 3354.
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.