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Pacheta Falls, AZ

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Guide 24 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine SW
4.4 of 5 by 9
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,300 feet
Elevation Gain -120 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.1
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Perennial Waterfall & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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13  2019-07-06 OdinWiski
7  2019-07-05 chumley
26  2017-07-15 SkyIslandHiker
15  2017-05-06 Tortoise_Hiker
12  2016-04-04 Stoic
21  2015-10-02
Pacheta Camping
60  2015-04-05
Pinetop AZ and Area - April 2015
40  2014-06-24
Pacheta Falls the Hard Way
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,261 map ( 21,471 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Associated Areas
list map done
Fort Apache Reservation
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Reservation Fort Apache
Preferred   Jun, Jul, Aug → 8 AM
Seasons   Early Summer to Summer
Sun  6:06am - 6:15pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
The Mountain is Alive
by joebartels

Situated in the grand White Mountains, this Apache jewel is a relaxing summertime treat. This isn't an Arizona teal-water original such as Havasu or Cibecue. You won't find crowds nor the trash they tend to leave. It's barely a hike, a short hike or whatever you want it to be. It's slightly teasing yet very pleasing to say the least.

The approach is a day trip in itself. If you're looking for anything in the "quick category" (coming from the valley) this isn't for you. If you tend to stop, jump out and explore things that look cool you'll be in hog heaven. You could spend the entire summer exploring the creeks alone.

Anybody living in Arizona has certainly heard of the Salt River. The Salt River is formed at the confluence of the White and Black Rivers, elevation 4200ft. About 80 miles up the Black River, Pacheta Creek is a 19 mile tributary dropping from 9,800ft to 6,470ft. The creek spans from the upper south slope of Mount Baldy down to the Black River. Pacheta Falls are 16.6 miles down from the top or 2.4 miles up from the confluence. They drop off 0.15 miles past the Ess Creek confluence.

Easy Approach
The falls can be approached almost directly with a tiny tenth of a mile downhill hike. This requires a short muddy 4x4 approach during the rainy season. I'm not sure if it's negotiable in a car when dry as it would be extremely rutted.

Practical Approach
A better approach to include more of a hike would be to start where the creek crosses the road upstream at Y40. This is a 1.25 mile creek side hike with a couple low water crossings, plan on getting your feet wet. No 4x4 is necessary for this approach.

Desired Approach
We had hoped to approach the falls from downstream and look the beast in the eyes. This appears to be about a 1.25~1.5 mile hike from the end of Rattlesnake Point down Milk Creek then back up Pacheta. As storms rolled-in in full force I decided to spare my camera and took an easier approach with a short span of the rim.

The falls rumble cascading down the jagged boulder etched cliff. The width of these falls is incredible by Arizona standards considering this is a tributary creek as opposed to a full fledged river. The surrounding terrain is story book laced all the way. The tree lined slopes are healthy and draped in netted moss. The canyon is steep and twists away.

Please Note
Swimming is prohibited in all reservation waters. The "Easy" and "Desired" approaches come off Rattlesnake Point which is closed from Labor day through Memorial Day. A Special Use: Black/Salt River permit is required. It's rather pricey, currently $15 per-adult per-day as of August 2007 ($30 2018 & likely never going down). It does/did include camping the evening of the permit and you are permitted to recreate in the non special use areas too.

On our return it rained. This wasn't the typical wind induced theatrical show dancing across the desert floor most experience during monsoon season. This was thunder that could rip canyons on gentle mountain slopes upon contact. That was followed by pouring rain coming straight down without the slightest breeze. Water droplets resembled small balloons. An hour later and the entire forest was still draining water from every pore. The country roads held firm throughout. This was truly an enjoyable summertime journey.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2007-08-05 joebartels
    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
    Pacheta Falls
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Pinetop AZ and Area - April 2015
    Pinetop AZ and Area - April 2015

    197 miles, 3hrs 45min per Google Maps

    Bob Mohle's country getaway cottage on the outskirts of Pinetop AZ was offered up as an excuse to burn off some forfeitable vacation time. With some backdrop interest in the local history surrounding lumbering/lumberingu railroads, we headed out to the White Mountains with seven basic clues;
    Clue #1, Apache Railway :next: azmemory.azlibrary. ... d/34
    Clue #2, Apache Railway :next: ... lway
    Clue #3, Apache Railway 2004 :next: ... html
    Clue #4, Southwest Lumbering Industries logging train, circa 1910 at Standard AZ in the White Mountains :next: azmemory.azlibrary. ... c/14
    Clue #5, White Mountain Scenic Railroad (7 page brochure) :next: archive.library.nau ... 1967
    Clue #6, White Mountain Scenic Railroad locomotives :next: ... .htm
    Clue #7, Maverick AZ ghost town :next: ... ashx

    Day 1 - Sunday April 5th, 2015
    FitBit totals = 7.64 miles, 770 AEG (77 floors)

    On the road by 3pm after Easter brunch with the family. Arrived at Bob's Pinetop cottage about 7-ish and enjoyed some crisp country air with temperatures expected to drop into the hi 30's later that evening...

    Day 2 - Monday April 6th, 2015
    FitBit totals = 6.97 miles, 410 AEG (41 floors)

    Up at dawn with a loose plan to visit Kinishba Ruins, Fort Apache Historic Park :next: ... .htm , Pacheta Lake, Pacheta Falls, and scout out remnants of the logging railway that ran between McNary and the ghost town of Maverick. Flat tire on our way out from Pacheta Falls to Maverick put an end to the exploration (made it back to Pinetop to see NCAA final game tipoff).
    Apache Railway that ran from Holbrook to McNary to Maverick :next: azmemory.azlibrary. ... d/34 NOTE: ran as a tourist train during 1960's and 1970's until fire in 1980 (1976 in some references) at the McNary Lumber Mill combined with changes in tribal lumbering policy led to its closure. Ran under brand of White Mountain Scenic Railway.
    Maverick ghost town :next: ... html
    McNary lumber history :next: https://fhsarchives ... lls/
    Finish the day with some "Hollywood History" by watching Walter Hill's "GERONIMO - An American Legend" with Wes Studi, Jason Patric, Gene Hackman, Matt Damon, and Robert Duvall :next: ... 004/.
    Our visit to Fort Apache and seeing General Crook's cabin made me think that movie would be a great bookend to our day...
    Later that night, I find the best historic reference for the Apache Railway, an article from the January 1963 Arizona Highways entitled "First Caboose to Maverick" :next: islandpondrailroad. ... .htm

    Day 3 - Tuesday April 7th, 2015
    FitBit totals = 9.60 miles, 790 AEG (79 floors)

    Up at dawn and after a hearty breakfast, headed over to Greens Peak - Four Knolls area to take in the stellar panoramic views (despite hurricane-like winds). Explored Sunrise Ski Resort area to see if tram to top of mountain was open (everything closed to public). Off to explore the headwaters of the Little Colorado and the Mount Baldy Loop. When we parked at the West Baldy Trail #95 TH, I heard a distinct hissing sound - Another flat tire!
    Fortunately I was able to limp back to Pinetop where Rex @ Future Tire ( ) took care of us. Today's flat was caused by a roofing nail and a simple plug-n-patch repair to the Goodyear Wrangler P275/65R18. Monday's flat was a rock puncture and not repairable. Disappointed with Ford's off-road package tires (these weren't my first off-road flat tires), I let Rex sell me a Cooper Tire Trailcutter AT2 that we mounted as my spare for now as I contemplate what to replace my other 4 tires with (anyone have experience with Cooper Tire Trailcutter AT2's???). A special "shoutout to Louis Weaver (Bob's handyman in Pinetop) who met us as we limped into town just in case we needed a ride
    Lugs are 21mm, stock tire wrench lugs 7/8", yet have specialty 21mm wrench in truck
    (Shouldn't the 7/8" lugs on truck all be 21mm to fit wrench?)
    Back on the road after lunch at Red Devil Pizza :next: (Randy and CJ took care of us during lunch) and headed over to Porter Mountain and
    Ice Cave Trail #608 :next: [ description ]

    Day 4 - Wednesday April 8th, 2015
    FitBit totals = 5.11 miles, 150 AEG (15 floors)

    On the road home with a stop at the Salt River Canyon...

    29.32 miles, 2120 AEG
    85 images on iPhone 5S
    87 images on Canon 6D
    9 images on Canon 7D
    12 images on Canon Rebel XT

    1. Kinishba Ruins :next: [ description ]
    2. Fort Apache Historic Park :next: [ description ]
    3. Pacheta Lake :next: [ description ]
    4. Pacheta Falls :next: [ description ]
    5. Maverick Ghost Town :next: [ description ]
    6. Railroad Grade Trail :next: [ description ]
    7. Greens Peak :next: [ description ]
    8. Four Knolls :next: [ description ]
    9. Candy Mountain Trail :next: [ description ]
    10. Sunrise Park :next: [ description ]
    11. West Baldy Trail #95 :next: [ description ]
    12. Ice Cave Trail #608 :next: [ description ]
    13. Salt River Canyon - AZ60 Crossing :next: [ description ]
    14. Upper Salt River :next: [ description ]

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    Pacheta Falls
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After researching waterfalls and seeing this gem I had to go see it, being as I live not to far away in show low. I could not believe this waterfall was so close to the places I have been to so many times, Reservation lake, big lake, Mt. Baldy, etc. The drive in was great. My wife and I saw a Mexican grey wolf about halfway into the trip. She has never seen a wolf before, so it was exciting. We saw lots of wildlife such as deer, elk, turkey, and a little chipmunk that seemed to pose for us.

    We arrived at the start of the hike and made our way down to the edge of the canyon. WOW, what a sight! With the view of the beautiful creek at the bottom, we made our way closer to the falls. You could hear them roaring and it was one of the best waterfalls I have ever seen in Arizona. I did not have the time to make my way down to the bottom to get that awesome picture I wanted so bad! I will be back. We sat by the falls and enjoyed the sight. I then snapped a quick photo with poor lighting :( I will be back soon to get to the bottom of the creek.

    What a great trip for us!
    Pacheta Falls
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    White Mountain Apache I.R. - Pacheta Lake & Falls

    The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly...

    • Hi 75, Lo 50 while the Valley forecast was 110
    • Joe's GPS track is an absolute MUST to save you from frustration
    • Total calm at night with only the occasional sound of birds and animals - amazing given the small city population we had a Pacheta Lake!
    • Unbelievably fresh mountain air
    • Finally got a chance to do some fly-fishing in Arizona
    • WMAR bans all 2, 3, 4 wheel ATV's, motorcycles, and modified golf carts
    • Pacheta Falls is as spectacular as everyone says!

    • Arrived at Pacheta Lake only to discover 5 groups of campers - is there a camp site for us?
    • At least 2 other groups of campers arrived at the lake after sundown and they seemed to be shut-out from finding a suitable site...
    • Pacheta Lake hyped as incredible fisherman's lake - everybody we talked to was skunked...
    • No monster elk, but plenty of slow elk (aka cows)
    • Permits - $15 per day and nobody really seems to know what kind of permit you need for Pacheta Lake

    • Set up camp at Pacheta Lake and finally sat back in our camp chairs with a beverage to enjoy the view and the sounds of the outdoors only to hear a generator start up (a freakin' generator out in the wilderness - give me a break!)

    A 480 mile roundtrip weekender to much hyped Pacheta Lake and Pacheta Falls that included a side trip to Kinishba Ruins and Fort Apache. A summer camp in the White Mountains with a trek to Pacheta Falls has been in the "works" for sometime - "sometime" finally happened for us the weekend of 6/27 - 6/28

    Mike and I picked up our $15 special-use permits from the Sportsman's Warehouse midweek. A little confusion as to what the correct permitting requirements are. A phone call to the White River Tribal Headquarters indicated that the Black/Salt River Corridor Special-Use Permits should cover all outdoor activities for both Pacheta Lake and Pacheta Falls (NOTE: no definitive answer, only an indication that they "should cover"...). Four people for two days - $15 x 4 x 2 = $120. I'm not going to lament the cost, only the lack of clarity as to what you really need for permitting...

    Our group departed our Phoenix Starbuck's rendezvous location by 7am Saturday (needed to compensate for the Friday late night at the Clapton/Winwood concert), and we arrived at the Kinishba trail head at 10:30am giving us plenty of time to explore before we broke out the picnic lunch (Wraps by Ralph - most excellent!). After lunch, we made a quick stop at historic Fort Apache and then onto Indian Route Y55.

    Had some deer and wild turkey encounters along Y55, but none of the monster elk encounters some previous Pacheta trekkers have reported. After travelling about 50 miles from historic Fort Apache, we were surprised by some signage at a T-intersection indicating "Y55 Ends". Arrows pointing to Hurricane Lake, Reservation Lake, Tonto Lake, Maverick, but nothing indicating Pacheta Lake - did we miss a turn? We get out of the vehicles to investigate and discover a tangle of intersecting roads beyond the sign. We spot another sign indicating "Pacheta Lake". Back into the vehicles and off to Pacheta Lake!

    We soon catch our first glimpse of Pacheta Lake - YES! We spot some canoes on the lake and a couple of occupied camp sites. We circle down to the earthen dam noticing every camp site is occupied! We talk to a couple of the campers and they indicate that there should be some unoccupied sites at the north-east end of the lake away from the water.

    We find our spot and begin to set up camp. With the tents set up and our rain tarp placed up in the trees above the picnic table, we finally sit back in our camp chairs with a beverage to enjoy the view and the sounds of the outdoors. Suddenly a screaming portable generator starts up (a freakin' generator out in the wilderness - give me a break!) making it impossible to conduct any conversation. We look at each other with that look - we paid $15 a day to get away from the sounds of civilization and we've got this?

    We make our way down to the offending noise where the apologetic camper indicates that the generator will be going for 2 hours until his trailer battery is charged. Guess we won't have to dump that pound of sugar into the gas tank after all...

    In the meantime a gentle rain starts to fall. That rain tarp sure comes in handy. When the rain stops, so does the generator. We break out the fly rods and head down to the lake. Ralph gives us a lesson in the basics - 10 o'clock and 12 o'clock, less wrist, more arm, feel the rhythm - got it. I'm soon able to get that fly out about 30 feet from shore. Apache trout are jumping everywhere, some even lunging at my fly in mid-cast!

    Pacheta Lake is catch and release only - good thing we've got 4 New York Strip steaks waiting for the BBQ! As the sun sets, I pull the corn-on-the-cobs and mushrooms over to one side of the grill and get the steaks going. A fine selection of beers is sampled by all in final preparation for our camping feast. It's getting dark fast as I cut into a thick steak to check the grilling progress - thin red line - perfect, time to eat!

    There's total calm that night with only the occasional sound of birds and animals - amazing given the small city population we had a Pacheta Lake!

    Sunday morning Mike gets us going with our traditional eye-opener - Prickly Pear Vodka and orange juice. Grill up some bacon and chocolate chip pancakes and we're ready to find Pacheta Falls.

    I have Joe Bartel's GPS route loaded into my Magellan SportTrak making our trek to the falls a relative breeze. 4WD was really only needed for the last half mile before you reach the falls, otherwise everything is doable in my 2WD F-150.

    The falls - WOW!
    Pacheta Falls
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    4 humans & 3 dogs headed out to Pacheta Falls Saturday after camping at Pacheta Lake for the night before in the midst of monsoon rains. The drive to the falls was a puzzle as always, some directions from a lone local truck that showed up at just the right time got us to the access road with no further adventures. The boggy access road meant we hiked in along the road and were at falls in picture perfect weather. Usual oohs and ahhas, a few photos; we headed back to the our vehicles and returned to a leisurely evening at Pacheta lake to watch the evening thunderstorms build up. I managed to get a roaring campfire going which the rain finally managed to put out by midnight! It was cool to hang out by the warm fire with an umbrella with a slight drizzle. Guru & Suz refused to join me [-(. Our return trip on Sunday was beautiful watching the clouds lift out from the valleys.

    Wildlife: Squirrels, fishing bald eagle, Grey heron, #-4 elks, wild turkeys, ravens, cormorant, assorted waders
    Pacheta Falls
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This hike was awesome, it only took so long because the tangle mess of roads on the Indian Reservation. The views are awesome, it something I never expected to see in Arizona. The sheer rock cliffs and the green forest are something you don't want to pass up. I also saw lots of wildlife. This hike is truly worth the $15.00 and I would highly recommend it to anyone, this hike wasn't too bad and anyone could make it. Don't worry about taking a fishing pool, I didn't see one fish in the creek. Don't bother asking me for directions, I don't think I would be able to help you. Try to find a GPS route on the internet.
    Pacheta Falls
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I'd been lightly pondering this trip for some time. Dave was out here last week after briefly mentioning the area. So I decided to go look for myself and cure the curiosity. He was concerned we'd have trouble getting there as 273 is closed. With a completely different route plotted out I wasn't overly concerned. Rachelle jumped in and did most of the driving as I'm not a big fan of driving. That alone was reason enough to go!

    This was my first trip out deep into the reservation. Heading in I figured on extremely primitive roads such as to Cibecue or Grand Falls. If nothing else I was prepared for some serious trashola. It didn't turn out anything as I'd imagined. Thank goodness! The roads albeit an endless maze and despite the itty bitty signage didn't pose any serious issues. There are a few instances where trees are used as spray paint signage. At least it's all for instructional purposes and not just random graffiti. I'm happy to report I didn't see one house with a rusty fridge tied to the chimney. On the contrary the forest is hands down the healthiest I've seen in Arizona for such expanses. Talk about robust, this forest packs a punch. The tiny random meadows are rich in character. Moss dangles from limb to limb. Did I mention the creeks, rivers, lakes... sheeesh! Breath in, absorb, breath out.

    [Deep crisp voice over accenting syllables]Imagine a forest without countless trashed out party zones one after another, you've entered... [more pause]the twilight zone

    Armed with three Google map lists, a GPS loaded with waypoints, every map of the area I own, Dave's third grade cursive instructions that I swear included everything from Canada to the Florida Keys and an open mind we conquered the maze of roads with only two tiny hiccups. Once going the wrong way for about two miles we just felt it wasn't right and turned around on instinct. Another instance Google said to turn onto 55B. There was a sign but there wasn't really a road. Well there was the impression of a road from maybe ten to twenty years ago with tiny pine trees in the middle. We gave it a shot for a hundred yards or so then decided it'd be best to go with common sense and turn around. From this point we winged it and did pretty well. Only the final ~mile? was on an unmaintained road which was a serious mud bath. Almost disappointingly we found the destination and the puzzle was solved.

    With storms building I made a quick decision to abort plan A (an exploration hike down Milk Creek) and go to plan B (get in, get out). From where we parked you could actually hear the falls. Not wanting such a quick reward I headed away through the forest. Of course the rim is right there so we didn't go far. Any trace of the sound of the falls had diminished and I was surprised that they didn't come into view. After negotiating one small section the falls came into view. It was perfect, picture perfect. The masses obviously didn't come out this far even though it wasn't very far away at maybe a quarter mile max. Each outcrop closer showed more signs of human usage. Then a trail-of-use came into play leading you down to the main event. After playing around, three hundred photos and two hours later, most in a light sprinkle, we'd absorbed enough.

    Now what are the chances of having all this and passing one truck the entire time in the back country past Whiteriver on a SATURDAY and IN season for the hike. I'm not even kidding. One Ram truck from Colorado and that was it PERIOD! No atvs, no trucks carrying trailers loaded with atvs. No motorcycles or any muffler-less two cycle contraptions.

    Both options for our second destination didn't pan out. Coming back it was pouring so I passed up on the Kinishba option. Then coming down into the Salt River Canyon I passed on Cibecue as the water was chocolate rapids due to all the rains. Starving and almost a day without eating we were disappointed again as Preston's favorite bean hut was closed for two weeks! It didn't matter, I'd do it all again.
    Pacheta Falls
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Outstanding gem .... It was a great short trip with an extended adventure to locate it! I am glad I got to see/photograph the falls. This was an unexpected surprise at the end of a tranqil walk...going right over the edge in shimmering cascades that veil the rocks that are clothed in green! The mist lends a magical quality that is so hard to capture in a picture ...

    Not what I expected ..I was thinking I will be coming up to the falls from below or rather get to descend the canyon to get there easy way down since at this point the stream is canyon bound with some rather steep walls! :o I am sure there is a way down ...another story another time ...

    The journey to get here allowed us to enjoy some fine roads through pines and some wonderful lakes...we did get delayed and ended up at a camp site at Pacheta Lake that in daylight seemed to be on the boat ramp ? May be every site has their own ramp to the lake...

    The absolutely clear night with a million stars was a wonderway to refelect upon the beauty of falls. The gentle lapping at the waters edge ( we were camped may be 15 ft from lake edge at most!); the odd fish breaching water and slapping back on to the surface, the yipping coyotes and bugling elks .... the gentle sounds of a faraway guitar drifting over the lake added a magical quality to the night. Nature at her very best!

    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
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To hike
    The reservation roads are a mess. It would be like trying to describe noodles in a plate of spaghetti.
    help comment issue

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