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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Sawmill Canyon - San Carlos, AZ

35 8 1
Guide 8 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Globe > Globe NE
4 of 5 by 3
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,274 feet
Elevation Gain 400 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 7
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
6  2016-10-19
SRC- Upper Gorge
6  2014-11-18
Salt River Canyon
2  2012-06-16
Salt River Canyon - Upper Gorge
4  2006-07-20 Hoffmaster
12  2006-06-29 Vaporman
10  2006-05-01 Lizard
9  2005-08-24 margotr
Author Vaporman
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 4
Photos 8,687
Trips 931 map ( 6,409 miles )
Age 40 Male Gender
Location SLC, Utah
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Reservation Fort Apache
Preferred   May, Jun, Jul, Sep → 9 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  6:06am - 6:26pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Named place Nearby
Take a step back in time
by Vaporman

Likely In-Season!
Sawmill Canyon is best described as a non-technical canyoneering route. There is only a trail from the parking lot to the river, after that you cross the river you follow the canyon upstream as far you like. Swimming is required if you want to fully enjoy this canyon, so plan accordingly. Also make sure you pick up a San Carlos Indian Reservation recreational permit before you start hiking.

Pick up the faint trail from the parking area towards the old trail switch backing down towards the Salt River. The trail cuts out just above the river, so find the best line down to the river. Before wading/swimming across the river, look upstream a bit and locate the canyon that drains in the river. As you swim across aim for the rocks that jut out just upstream from the canyon. Otherwise you'll do like me and exit the river at the muddy bank and sink in 6 inches with every step.

As you ascend the canyon you'll be trying to avoid the vegetation most of the way. I managed by following a faint canyoneer trail or sticking to the watercourse whenever possible. When I first entered the canyon, I noticed that it wasn't flowing and the first few pools were stagnant and murky, but don't let that detour you from venturing further up. You'll soon hit a series of (dry) falls on the left and a taller one on the right. You avoid these by climbing the rocks in the middle. There's a large pool on the left side below the upper falls that I recommend swimming and diving into. When it's not flowing, you can also climb up the falls at the end of the pool. Soon after the falls, you'll hit a narrows section that you want to avoid by climbing the rocks on the left. The narrows are very slippery and smooth and the pools are mossy and murky. Not to mention that at the end of the narrows are some large choke stones that prevent you from climbing out.

After avoiding these two main obstacles, the rest of the canyon is fairly straightforward. I'd recommend going about 2 miles up canyon before turning back. At this point the canyon starts to open up and isn't quite as scenic. But up until this point you'll see impressive cliffs lining the canyon, many caves imbedded in the walls, large pools of water filled with underwater plants, and many dried up pools leaving a white residue on the creek boulders. When I came thru there were 2 mandatory and 3 optional swimmers that I thoroughly enjoyed. At first, wading thru the water plants was kind of eerie, but you get used to it after a few times. The last pool was very deep and took you thru this long hallway that ended just before the canyon opened up. This is a great place to have lunch and soak the canyon in. Enjoy!

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2006-07-07 Vaporman
    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
    Sawmill Canyon - San Carlos
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Mike and I started our hike at a pullout about 3 miles after the US60 crosses the Salt River (heading north). We picked up the old jeep road that switchbacks down the side of the canyon. About 100 ft above the river, the jeep road makes a switchback to the right and peters out, but there is a trail that continues straight. We took this trail and ended up on the bank of the Salt River staring directly across at the mouth of Sawmill Canyon. We hiked a short ways up river so that I could take some pics of the outstanding rapids located there. It was really hot so we headed back down river and threw ourselves in. The current was just strong enough to require steady swimming to keep from being swept too far down river.
    The opposite bank, at the mouth of the canyon, was very, very muddy. After crawling through the thigh deep mud we were in the mouth of Sawmill Canyon. At first, the canyon didn't seem impressive. We walked a few hundred yards before we came to a small pool filled with bluegills. We rinsed our socks and shoes here to keep the mud and silt from rubbing our feet raw. A few more yards around a bend was a spectacular emerald pool deep enough for jumping. The pool is surrounded on 3 sides by shear cliffs. The far end of the pool would be a 20 ft waterfall had it been flowing. Fortunately it has plenty of holds and climbing up it was rather easy. We continued on through this section of narrows, swimming and wading through a series of clear pools. We didn't bother to search for ways to bypass any of the pools since it was hot.
    After a bit, the canyon started to open up a bit. We stopped at a shady spot on some slickrock to eat some lunch. Then we returned the way we came. I stopped at the emerald pool to sample a few different jumps at varying heights. Definitely fun! :)
    Surprisingly, Mike and I picked up quite a bit of trash in this canyon. :x Water bottles, Doritos bags, Cheetos bags and various other garbage. We can't imagine who could possibly leave trash in such a beautiful place and be able to live with themselves afterward. Besides, who brings Doritos and Cheetos on a hike anyway?
    We plan on exploring this area more extensively in the near future. The terrain was some of the best that I have hiked in Arizona so far. The worst thing about this hike is the $20 fee the San Carlos Apaches charge for the permit. That's probably why I haven't seen a write up on Cibecue in a while. Ridiculous! :?:

    Permit $$
    • Some areas are closed to access from Labor Day to April 1st, read about it in the link provided below.
    • Permits, closures and regulations at White Mountain Apache Tribe < Cibecue, Black River, Salt River, etc.
    Sunrise Park Resort

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From the Phoenix area, head east on US60 to Globe. Just before the US60/77 junction, stop by the Express Stop on the left and pick up a San Carlos permit. Get back on US60 and turn left to continue on US60 north for about 40 miles to the Salt River Bridge. There are a few good lookout spots along the way as you descend and ascend the Salt River Canyon. There's also a rest area by the bridge that has restrooms and it's a good place to check the Salt River's water level. Drive another 3 miles after the bridge to one of those lookout spots on the right side of the road. Get out and look upriver to locate the trail switch backing towards the river.
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