The Mountain is Alive
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.