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Chevelon Canyon - North of Lake, AZ

194 38 4
Guide 38 Triplogs  4 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Heber
3.5 of 5 by 15
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance One Way 9.13 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,160 feet
Elevation Gain 762 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,196 feet
Avg Time One Way 1-2 days
Kokopelli Seeds 13.12
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
11  2017-09-02 topohiker
13  2017-08-13
Chevelon Lake #611
13  2016-07-26
Chevelon Creek - Lower Reservoir
6  2016-04-06 The_N
14  2015-06-05
Chevelon Canyon Backpacking
12  2015-06-05
Chevelon Canyon Backpacking
16  2014-08-30
Chevelon Lake #611
5  2011-06-06 Carioca43
Page 1,  2,  3
Author AZHikr4444
author avatar Guides 7
Routes 0
Photos 632
Trips 83 map ( 529 miles )
Age 48 Male Gender
Location Cave Creek, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep → 7 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:07am - 6:27pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Wild Canyon Exploration
by AZHikr4444

Likely In-Season!
Overview: This 1-2 day backpack appears in the second edition of Grubbs and Aitchison's Hiking Arizona. The book states it is an "8.4 mile hike upstream to Chevelon Canyon Lake", and mentions the "easy" route passing through "beaver ponds, swimming holes and grassy campsites". My friend Richard and I hiked the canyon the week before the 4th of July, and while we found many "easy" sections and quite a few wonderful campsites, TONS of beaver dams and some absolutely great swimming holes, we also found incredible tangles of willow, wild roses and other such brush, sheer cliff faces that were necessary to scale, disappearing trails and confusing game routes through swamps along skinny fingers of the winding creek, sections that required some intense boulder hopping, and many tests of our resolve and our increasing vocabulary of curse words.

Hike: The first 3-4 miles of the hike, from Chevelon Crossing Campground south to Durfee Crossing, is the most enjoyable. Begin by parking at the campground and follow the old jeep road south. Cross the creek immediately, and look for the trail as it winds along the south/east side of the creek. There are numerous great camping places right here, less than .5 miles from the campground. Soon the creek winds slightly west. Along here you will see the trail follow the contour of the terrain, heading west- although the trail also continues toward the creek. Beware! Take the west trail- the other heads straight into some cliffs, with great views of the canyon, but you must climb these cliffs and come down the other side in order to continue. How do we know this? Yep. Because we climbed them. If you are on the trail you will notice this spur is blocked by a low rock wall.

As the trail continues it becomes somewhat difficult to follow because of the riparian nature of the area and the many tree falls and brush. Soon the trail leaves the creek bottom and heads into some beautiful meadows with great camping spots along a very wide (at least 30-50 feet) section of the creek. Red ants have built their homes right in some of the camping areas so be careful if/when you bed down. The trail here is wide and easily discernible. Enjoy, because after Durfee Crossing, this will be the exception.

As the creek begins to wind back south, the trail stays on the east side all the way to Durfee Crossing. Keep an eye out for a picnic table made of logs off to your left, along a jeep road which heads up over the hill. While the trail seems to continue on closely following the creek, it's easier to head up the jeep road, follow it back south where it connects with the trail. Also soon the trail will cliff out at a sheer rock face about 10 feet above the water. Perhaps the trail continues above the cliff. We didn't think so, and besides, it's much more fun to cross here on this one foot ledge, fingers grasping the rock for dear life.

About a mile after Durfee Crossing, power lines cross high overhead above the creek. Here the going becomes increasingly difficult. The trail will disappear altogether, reappear as game trails winding along the creek bed, become like a mirage on the other side of the creek, flat and easily seen, and then disappear again after monumental efforts to reach it. Expect some great bushwhacking adventures through brambles of willow and New Mexican Locust, along with the ever present poison ivy, of course. We discovered the rule- stay high! If the trails seems to be easily followed (and there is occasional rock cairns), and then disappears into the creek bed, backtrack and go up above the creek and the trail can sometimes be retrieved. Perhaps a mile and a half past the power lines, the creek begins to wind slightly westward, here you should stay on the east side of the creek, as the trail is flat and easy. Soon after the turn, however, the trail will fade away, and it becomes necessary to cross. Cross the creek and climb the ridge, and the trail will follow the ridge over a very sandy straight drop-off until it levels onto a flat slickrock area. Here you will find an old grave marked with a wooden cross, and further south, an old homesite. This is a very beautiful area of the canyon. There is a large cairn made of flat sandstone around here, almost like a bench.

The trail continues, becoming more and more difficult to follow, and the hiking slows to a crawl. After 9 hours of hiking the canyon, we finally found some scattered campsites on the west side of the creek, and plopped down on a sandy beach, ate our dinner and slept the sleep of the dead. But not before a nice dip in the cold Chevelon waters. It was a beautiful and peaceful night. Richard's lasting impression of this camp was the complete and implacable silence, an almost eerie absence of sound even close to the water. Snuggled in my bag in my hollowed sand bed, I slept perhaps the best night in many a moon, despite my tired bones and aching shoulders.

Sad to say we never made it to the Dam. Although we were only about a mile and a half away, we determined that we could not enjoyably continue at the present rate of speed, and decided to turn back and use our last full day for more slow and lasting pleasures other than bushwhacking, cussing, and blasting through large rodent homes. Knowing what the look for in the trail, the return to Durfee Crossing was much more enjoyable. We hiked a good 4 hours, past the Crossing, to Red Ant Meadows, found a good campsite and spend the rest of the day sunning ourselves in the meadow, swimming, and generally relaxing. There are literally millions of crawdads in Chevelon Creek- all after your toes so watch out! One old battle scarred one-clawed warrior challenged me numerous times to some toe wrestling, but alas, the Creek was his and I was in no mood for conflict. I opted to instead bury them in the sand and see visions in the clouds above the canyon.

The hike out was easy and relaxing, following the well established trail. There are some great camping areas, and even this close to Chevelon Crossing Campground there are great swimming holes.

We estimated the mileage to be about 15-16 miles roundtrip. I would consider the trip from Chevelon Crossing to Durfee Crossing to be a moderate hike with some occasional route finding, however- south of Durfee Crossing expect a much more difficult journey, with route finding skills a definite necessity.

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2005-07-12 AZHikr4444

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    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
    Chevelon Canyon - North of Lake
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Chevelon Creek - Lower Reservoir
    This is an amazing little reservoir, visited by few. It's at the lower end of Chevelon Canyon, close to its juncture with the Little Colorado River. A few miles east of East Clear Creek reservoir, it's somewhat similar. Not as deep, however. Chevelon Canyon itself is 40 miles long, but this reservoir is only about 4 miles long or so, but due to log jams, you can't easily kayak the whole thing.

    We kayaked upstream first until we reached the first log jam. Although spry people with light boats can portage it, we elected not to. I'm told there are three log jams. A good flood could knock them loose, I suppose. They occur because the canyon is narrow, and the logs washing downstream in floods get stuck, and more come down the next year and get stuck. So it would have to be a truly big flood to unjam them.

    Then we turned around and kayaked downstream to the dam, which is little more than a low cement wall. It appears there is more creek beyond, and we talked about going further sometime, but it probably doesn't go very far.

    We looked for petroglyphs, since the Rock Art Ranch is just upstream. I went there yesterday (will post). Anyway, we didn't see any 'glyphs.

    It's an interesting area.
    Chevelon Canyon - North of Lake
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Working on Backpacking Merit badge with my Scout Troop 838 out of Queen Creek. I felt this would be a good 2 day trip for the boys. And I had done this before with my sons' Varsity Team several years ago.

    Water was much higher this time. Last time I was able to cross without getting feet wet. This time no chance. I even famously posted that I didn't need water shoes that I had carried the whole way. Wish I had them this time. Brush was much higher and trail more difficult to find past Durfee crossing. Crossing just below the dam was waist deep

    2 adults 7 kids fun relaxing trip we stopped about 3 pm to camp at Durfee. Kids caught crawdads and loved playing in the boat back downstream.
    Chevelon Canyon - North of Lake
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Chevelon Canyon Backpacking
    We had a little rain to deal with, Outdoor Lover bailed because the roads had gotten somewhat muddy and probably because she had a lot more driving through crappy weather than us. The first day was a little rough, packing through the rain and only finding a good campsite a half hour before twilight.

    The worst part of this entire hike is miles 1-2, which is the mile before Durfee Crossing. After this the hiking through the canyon is spectacular, and a great trail exists (if you can find it) for pretty much the entire canyon all the way to the lake. Previously established campsites exist all along the way if you can find them. At times a good trail exists on both sides of the creek, so you do have some options. You will get your shoes wet crossing the creek a few times, but with a good route you can fly through pretty much untouched.

    We saw many crushed boats and canoes, and not much wildlife. We did find a few petroglyph sites and wasted time looking for a few more. A bear seemed interested in our campsite on Friday night but did not seem to return afterwards. The creek was full of water, except right at the very start of the trail where it mysteriously goes dry right where the trail crosses (and it immediately reappears less than a hundred yards downstream.)

    The rain abated early Saturday afternoon and from there on it was clear skies.

    On the way back, to avoid the bad bushwhacking section, we first looked on the opposite side of the river for a trail, but realizing there wasn't any, went up the Durfee trail and walked the road back to Chevelon Crossing. I would highly recommend this Durfee trail access point to anyone looking for a painless way to access the creek, you are pretty much guaranteed a bushless journey.
    Chevelon Canyon - North of Lake
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This hike was to check out the Chevelon Canyon dam and the Chevelon creek . I started out just north of Deer lake by FR169 / FR180.

    I went up FR169 to FR169B. Along FR169B, there’s an unnamed road that goes to an overlook of Circle Bar Draw. I climb a little down the canyon to get better pictures.
    Then I headed over to the dam. From the dam, I went down the spillway to the Chevelon Creek. There was a big pool of water, but no running water. I went up the creek and the water dried up right away.
    After a bit I ran into a ATV trail. The ATV trail followed the creek, then it climbed out on the East side of it. It was a slow moving climb in the heat. The ATV trail looped around to a south and hugged the eastern side of the lake.
    I followed the trail until it started to pull away from the lake. I was looking for a perfect lunch spot so I started to bushwhack to the rim. I dropped down to my comfort level and found a great spot opposite of the Circle Bar Draw. The awesome lunch spot is at: N34 30.380 W110 49.095

    After lunch I headed back and found a couple of other view spots. On the way back down to the creek, I came across 12~14 backpackers heading in for the night. I was surprised to see anyone in this remote spot.
    I took the ATV trail all the way back to the dam and saw a truck drive up the closed road. I was curious how the truck was going to get out (or how it come in!) Right before the locked gate was a couple of pull outs for camping spots.
    From the camping spot, there was a road to the camp grounds. So much for the locked gate!

    I took FR169T out to FR169. FR169T is more scenic than FR169.

    The temps were perfect till 2PM, then it got very warm until 5PM. It was very chilly after the sun dropped. The quarter moon provided enough light for the hike out until it dropped behind the tree line.

    I agree with Chumley that the eastern side of Chevelon canyon lake is nicer than the western. I like the views from top of the canyon than from the dam.
    Chevelon Canyon - North of Lake
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I'm still not fully recovered from the pulled leg muscle so Mike & I decided to do an easy hike. We parked at the Rim TH by FR300 & SR260. We headed down the 235 Road Trail to Chevron Canyon. We took a break at the Canyon and then headed back. Then we took lunch at the Willow Lake trail intersection.
    We started heading down to Willow Lake and it started to rain so we put on the rain gear. Then it started to pour and our boots got soaked. We turned around and by the time we got to the Sardine intersection, the rain started to lighten up. We took the Sardine trail to the lake and returned to the truck. By the time we got to the truck, the sun came out, so we did a bonus 20 minutes on the General Crook trail to dry up.
    Chevelon Canyon - North of Lake
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Out backpacking with Team 6290. We had 9 14-15 year olds and 5 adults. GREAT "Easy" riparian trip. Had planned to be backpacking on East Baldy with basecamp at Big Lake today but the Wallow Fire changed those plans. So with Christopher Creek as new basecamp. We decided on this trip. This trip is slightly more difficult than Fossil Springs. (Trade elevation gain/loss for route finding) Yes there is some route finding but that is to be expected in a riparian area. The trick is figuring out where to cross and if you have to go back a few hundred feet for an easier crossing spot. Kind of a rule to cross to the soft side of the creek bend as opposed to the cliff side and you will do well.

    Did run into a recent burn out maybe 2.5 - 3 miles north of the dam. Fire crews were still hanging out at the campground but we didn't see any hotspots and no crew in the canyon. I understand the lake was closed Thursday - Monday.

    Found a great spot to camp immediately past the power lines. That was kind of weird. The kids did great and we had a great time. The reward was resting at the lake soaking our feet in the cool water. The kids that brought fishing tackle all caught fish. After a cool down we headed up the hill to our waiting car drop.

    Total Trip time 23 hrs with 14 hour overnight stop and 2 hr stop at the lake
    Chevelon Canyon - North of Lake
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Took the trip this weekend. We started at the Chevelon Crossing campground and headed for the creek. We made it to Durfree Crossing the first day and set up camp. The trail is fairly easy to get off of as we found ourselves many times. So after a late start and passing a good looking campsite about 2 miles back we were happy to find the camp at Durfree. We spent the next day scouting out some areas further down the creek, but the increasing fresh signs of bears forced us to turn back. We decided to keep our camp at Durfree and explore that area some more. Hiked up a ridgeline behind our camp to get some nice views from the top of the canyon. Headed out the next morning, getting lost again even after marking the trail on the way in. The weather was absolutely perfect, nice and cool at night. It was a great trip. :D
    Chevelon Canyon - North of Lake
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Not the traditional Chevelon Crossing trail head, but explored from the Territorial Road (McLaws Road on some maps) bridge spanning the canyon near the confluence with the Little Colorado River. Should note that Chevelon Canyon is 40+ miles long, so I'm sure there are plenty of other interesting sections to explore. Did this after visiting Rock Art Ranch...
    Chevelon Canyon - North of Lake
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrating optionrated 1
    After reading the descriptions posted thusfar, I knew I was really only interested in hiking from Chevelon Crossing to Durfee Crossing, but I figured a nice 4 mile roundtrip along a mountain creek would be a pleasant respite from the Valley heat.

    I was wrong. After driving 2.5 hrs from the valley, hoping to enjoy a pleasant stroll in the pines along a creek, I was disappointed to learn that I would be hiking in an exposed canyon with virtually no shade.

    The trail was either an uncomfortable hike in hot sand (my dog had a tough time burning his pads on the sand) or an equally uncomfortable hike along river rocks in and along the dry Chevelon Creek.

    And that's where there was a trail. I had a tough time finding the trail several times, as it crossed the creekbed three times ... all but one of which was nearly impossible to find.

    After about a mile hiking upstream finally the creek was full of water. It was deep and clear and made for a refreshing swim. There was water in the creek all the way from the "ant meadow" to Durfee Crossing. This part of the hike was much more pleasant but still featured some difficult to follow spots.

    Along the entire trip, I had to make numerous attempts to find the trail ... there are plenty of wildlife trails, but nowhere on this hike was there ever an official trail sign of any kind. There were a few places where cairns marked the way, but more often than not, a cairn appeared where there was no problem finding the trail, but when the trail became faint, there were no cairns to be found.

    The good thing is that it is a canyon, and getting lost is impossible unless you climb out of the canyon. But I for one prefer to hike on a halfway-well-maintained trail. And next time I head up to the rim for a hike, I'll stick to the pines and soft footing of any of a number of other more pleasant hikes than this one.

    GPS track on my computer map shows 1.9 miles each way. I logged 2.7 on the way out (lots of lost trail backtracking) and got to Durfee Crossing in a bit over an hour. On the return to the trailhead, I logged 2.0 miles and was back in about 40 minutes.
    Chevelon Canyon - North of Lake
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This is a great place to go swimming! I agree with everything the previous guy wrote. I led a two night backpack there in August of 2004 for the Southern Arizona Hiking Club, mostly people from Tucson--about 10 of us. We had a lot of fun swimming in the various "holes" but did not go all the way to Chevelon Dam as we got side-tracked by all the swimming. Plus we had two or three people who just could not negotiate the rough terrain very well, and slowed the rest of us down quite a bit. As it was August, we had quite a bit of rain, including a terrific thunderstorm which started at about 8:30 p.m. on the second night. It was scary, but fantastic as well. I hear the Forest Service has this area on a list for possible wilderness designation. I don't think this designation would help the area very much. It would just bring a lot more people in there, although might keep the ATVers out of this one side canyon that gives access.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To hike
    From the Valley head up to Payson on AZ87- turn right at 260 (Mcdonalds) and drive past Christopher Creek to the Woods Canyon Lake Turnoff. This is Rim Road 300. Follow 300 and the signs, then take FS169 which spurs off of 300. Continue on 169, past the FS119, past the 169B spur (which will take you to the Chevelon Lake Dam), and on to FS504. Turn right on 504 for 2 miles to the Chevelon Crossing Campground. There are vault toilets right in the campground where you can dispose of the Mcdonalds breakfast you ate in Payson before you hit the trail. : )
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