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Coon Creek - Lower Canyon Trail, AZ

no permit
76 7 1
Guide 7 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Globe > Roosevelt Salt
3.5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.05 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,671 feet
Elevation Gain -424 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.17
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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10  2018-12-15
Coon Creek Adventure
36  2016-04-09
Ruins Near NF-203a and Cook Creek
5  2011-11-27 JoelHazelton
13  2011-11-24 Jonnybackpack
25  2011-10-24
Coon Creek - Lower Ruins
24  2011-09-24 CannondaleKid
4  2009-06-13 JoelHazelton
30  2005-12-29 Randal_Schulhaus
Author Randal_Schulhauser
author avatar Guides 71
Routes 98
Photos 9,967
Trips 1,009 map ( 9,248 miles )
Age 59 Male Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Mar, Feb, Jan → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:11am - 6:22pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Bleached Human Skulls
by Randal_Schulhauser

As I'm about to log my 100th hike on HikeArizona.COM, thought I'd write up a new trail description to commemorate the occasion. This hike was originally titled; "Coon Creek - Lower Ruins", however, since we were thwarted in our attempt to actually locate any ruins, we are temporarily going with the title; "Coon Creek - Lower Canyon Trail".

When I wrote the hike description for "Coon Creek Ruins" I received an email alerting me to the presence of additional ruins along Coon Creek. One set of ruins was described as "near the road and Coon Creek with barely discernable features" and the other as "overlooking Coon Creek at the Salt River, it is a hilltop (ridge top) site". Starting with these clues I began to research these ruins to confirm their existence and find more precise location.

A literature search and topographic map search proved futile. An internet search did yield references to Indian ruins at Coon Creek published by Salt River rafters! An April 6, 1992 logged account indicated; "The last morning, we climbed to the defensive, terraced Indian ruin at Coon Creek and returned to camp through the small narrows". Another rafting tour indicates that on Day 4 at 1:00pm; "Coon Creek is our destination for the afternoon, which offers a small shady stream and a unique geologic formation, the Devil's Post Pile. This is an example of basaltic columnar jointing, which even has another set of Indian ruins at the very tip. There may be time to hike up to this tremendous view of the valley, or cool off in the shade under the trees!" There is even an interesting tale of lost gold at Coon Creek as first published in the January 1977 edition of Lost Treasure Magazine. Check out for the "Missing Gold Ledge of the Sierra Anchas". This summarizes the 1870's tale of Private Sanders from Fort Apache AZ upon a failed scouting mission; took a more direct route to the fort. Striking Coon Creek, he turned down it, knowing that all southward running canyons would eventually empty into the Salt River. After traveling along the creek bottom for nearly 10 miles, he came to a waterfall over a steep drop. Private Sanders soon found; the source of the gold - a fantastically rich section of the quartz ledge, eight inches wide by 3 yards long that was nearly half gold! Sanders completed his remaining 24 months of enlistment before returning to Coon Creek. No more was heard about Sanders until shortly after the turn of the century when two cowboys were hazing some cattle down out of the Sierra Anchas. They were pushing the cattle down Coon Creek when one of the cowboys saw a gleaming white object half buried in the sand. Dismounting, he found that the white object was a bleached human skull. He scouted around and found the rest of the skeleton, then about four feet further on he found a second skeleton. Nearby were the charred ruins of a cabin. Deciding that the decent thing to do would be to bury the two skeletons, the cowboys began to dig a grave within the area outlined by the charred walls of the burned-down cabin. Turning over a good sized hunk of quartz, one of the cowboys picked it up, rubbed it clean revealing a strip of gold nearly an inch wide with the name "SANDERS" neatly lettered into the gold.

Armed with these factoids, our group of intrepid hikers met early one morning at a local Starbucks and headed off to the Sierra Anchas determined to locate ruins and several gold nuggets. At the trailhead parking, take note of the overhead high voltage transmission lines. These will prove to be useful landmarks to judge distance, location, and time during your hike. Also look for sawn branches to help locate the faint horse trail that zigzags across Coon Creek multiple times as it meanders down to the Salt River. TIP OF THE DAY - When passage is doubtful, stay to the east side of Coon Creek. Following this tip allowed us on multiple occasions to relocate sawn branches marking the faint horse trail. There are numerous game trails to lead you off-course!

The trail heads south from the parking area into a lush riparian setting marked by tall cottonwood trees and small gurgling waterfalls. This will rapidly transition into a typical Sonoran desert setting marked by some monster Saguaro cacti. As we emerged from the cottonwood grove, we accidentally followed a game trail that contoured up the west side slope (remember the TIP OF THE DAY). This did offer an excellent view of the Coon Creek valley with the Salt River Wilderness visible in the distance.

Undeterred, we tracked down the slope and located bushes with sawn branches marking our faint horse trail. We soon came upon the first of many zones where Coon Creek is contained by a natural form of concrete - most unusual...

Our horse trail continues to track within the Coon Creek valley as the terrain alternates from open natural concrete to tangled cottonwood groves. As you get closer to the Salt River, Coon Creek will begin to "box-up" forming a canyon. Some rock climbing skill and agility is required to avoid getting wet.

As you emerge from the narrows of Coon Creek Canyon, you are greeted with a sweeping view of the Salt River. Also found what appeared to be a beaver lodge at the confluence. There was multiple evidence that beavers were in the area!

A search to the east and west side of Coon Creek at the Salt River did not yield any Indian ruins where we thought were likely locations. Think we found the feature referred to as the "Devil's Post Pile" in one of the river rafting accounts. Also found some faint rock art on the east side when I climbed up the scree to the cliff face. With the time now 3:00pm we decided to end the search for the ruins and head back to the vehicles parked at the trail head.

Randal II
The "Coon Creek - Lower Canyon Trail" is a combination overgrown horse trail-bushwhack-boulder hop hiking in a unique wilderness location full of archeological significance and legends of lost gold. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has actually visited the ruins near the confluence of Coon Creek with the Salt River. With more exact directions (GPS co-ordinates?), our hiking group has vowed to return and produce photographic evidence. I would also appreciated hearing from anyone who knows more about Saunders cabin ruins and legends of lost Coon Creek gold. I will update the trail description and title accordingly... Enjoy!

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2005-12-31 Randal_Schulhauser
    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
    Coon Creek - Lower Canyon Trail
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    We hiked Lower Coon Creek a month ago with the intention of visiting some ruins but between vague directions and some bad terrain, we never reached them... in fact we never even saw where they were. So, with a day off, Tracey out of town and my Samurai on stands waiting parts I thought I'd give this one another shot. (Yeah, Tracey wanted to see the ruins, but she wasn't too enthused after what we went through last trip so she didn't mind I did this one solo)

    This time I had more detailed information, and with a first-hand look the terrain last trip, I marked out a track with only 7 way points of the general direction I planned to take. Rather than follow the creek most of the way and then climb, I climbed up to a ridge and continued relatively parallel to the creek but well above it. The going much easier and by following a game trail every time I found one going the general direction I was taking I made much better time, at least when I was moving... taking pictures is where much of the time was lost.

    While on the approach I took photos of the hilltop where I knew the ruins to be but not until I was quite close could I actually make out a few stacked rock walls. Once at the ruins I looked back down on Coon Creek and realized we hadn't seen the ruins from there because we had been in the midst of trees and thick vegetation. For the return trip I planned on dropping down in a NNW direction picking the easiest route to hit the creek and follow it back.

    But first I wanted to figure out how the rafters who visited the ruins back in 1992 saw them in the first place, and what route they may have taken. So I continued south below the ruins until reaching a point where it was possible to climb up, but I doubted rafters would have attempted it here. I climbed back up to the ruins and scanned the area for a more likely route up. I tried the first area where there wasn't a steep drop and found although still steep, it was passable, although coming up wouldn't be very easy. Once I got to the bottom, now the problem was fighting through all the very dense brush between the base of the mountain and the shoreline of the Salt River. It's the same type of brush that stopped us last month. But being solo and with more determination I stuck with it and between clipping brush, hacking branches off and just plain bulling my way through I finally broke through to the water's edge. Looking back up toward the ruins it didn't seem the best angle to make them out well so I continued east along the shore until it curved enough to have a better view. But by that time, the only way to make them out would have been with binoculars, or full zoom on the camera.

    Ok, now it was time to head back. Knowing how dense the brush was along the river and how much farther it would be to follow the river back to Coon Creek, it didn't take a moment to choose climbing back up. I scanned the shoreline looking for the area where the brush appeared thinnest again once again let nothing stop me from breaking through. I made it through relatively quickly but at the cost of the skin on my forearms. (I was lavish with the aloe lotion upon my return and already today they look much better.) In general each branch of the brush was thinner than Manzanita, but there was more of it and at times it was hard to breath due to all the powdery dust that came off when contacting each piece of brush. My throat feels pretty harsh from it a day later.

    Once I broke through the brush I scanned for a wash to begin my climb back up. I was a little east of where I came down and found by continuing up and sticking to the largest wash the going was reasonably easy. Only the last few hundred feet took some very careful foot placement to keep from sliding backwards. Now back on the ridge I headed for a "gateway" break in the fence and from there headed NNW down toward the creek until I reached it. But I realized right away I'd make better time getting just a little ways above the creek and again followed game trails, most of them being javelina trails. I passed through a few javelina dens along the way and while I saw and heard none, the heavy musky odor made it clear they spent plenty of time here. From there I cruised back to the TH with my mission accomplished.

    I posted mostly ruin photos on HAZ, the full set will be on my web site:
    Coon Creek - Lower Canyon Trail
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    Original plan was Hell's Hole in the Salome Wilderness but with all the 2-day backpack triplogs we figured it was more than we cared to deal with this hike. So Friday night we looked at alternatives and settled on either Cooper Forks cliff dwellings or possibly Devil's Chasm since Tracey hadn't been there. Thankfully I had one other shorter option as a backup because once we passed through the dense smoke in the Globe area from a fire on Madera Peak (west peak of the Pinals) and then saw the massive smoke plume across the sky toward the east from the Tanner fire in the Sierra Ancha we figured it would be smoky near any of those ruins so decided against them. (And as it turned out the Young Highway was closed so we would not have been able to get into the Salome Wilderness at all.)

    Instead we opted for a shorter hike down Lower Coon Creek. We wasted a ton of time on the hike to the Salt River by trying to stay dry, numerous times heading some distance from the creek through cats-claw, cholla, buckthorn, and miscellaneous other brush to stay that way. Once we got to the Salt River we were met by dark brown water and the brush along the bank was thick as can be so we tried climbing up to avoid it. But Tracey wasn't too enthused by the steep terrain or the large boulder-field so we cut it short and headed back.

    On the return trip we decided the quickest and easiest course was to just get wet and stay in the creek as much as possible, leaving it only when there was too much debris to get through. Since we were both wearing Tevas that worked out quite well.

    Too many photos to choose the best from to post here so at the moment all 70 photos are here:
    (Included are photos taken from the Redmond Flat and Horseshoe Bend areas on the south side of the Upper Salt River later in the day)
    Coon Creek - Lower Canyon Trail
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    With (from left to right) Gina, Chris, Shawn, Nancy, John, Clark, and Mike. Randal hiding behind lens. Gina, John and Clark checking out ants.

    Trip out to the Sierra Anchas on John's birthday. Lots of us breaking in new Christmas equipment. Although our objective of locating the Indian Ruins was not achieved, did find a small hunk of white quartz with yellow streaks. Can indent the yellow streaks with my keys -- hmmmmmm?

    Day ended with a fantastic sunset in constant view as we drove out FR203.

    Appreciate hearing from anyone with precise information on locating the ruins (GPS co-ordinates?).

    Permit $$

    Map Drive

    To hike
    From Phoenix: Take Hwy 60 (Superstition Freeway) east 75 miles to Globe/Miami. Turn left (northwest) onto Hwy 188 (GPS coordinates 33o 24.976'N, 110o 49.711'W) and drive 16 miles to intersection with Hwy 288 (GPS coordinates 33o 33.936'N, 110o 56.782'W). Take Hwy 288 towards Young. In about 4 miles you will cross the Salt River Bridge (GPS coordinates 33o 37.187'N, 110o 55.299'W). Travel another 2 1/2 miles until you reach FR203, also known as Cherry Creek Road (GPS coordinates 33o 38.570'N, 110o 57.085'W). Follow FR203 for about 8.6 miles until you cross Coon Creek (typically this is the 1st water crossing on FR203) at GPS coordinates 33o 41.263'N, 110o 50.655'W. As you cross the creek, FR203 will continue to your left (north) and a double-track path will appear immediately to your right (south). Take this double-track path into a campsite area and use for your trailhead parking.

    My GPS noted 119 miles traveled from my home in Ahwatukee to the Coon Creek/FR203 trail head parking. Travel time was just over 2 hours. GPS coordinates for trailhead are 33o 41.253'N, 110o 50.621'W.
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