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Canyon Creek - Tonto NF, AZ

no permit
405 32 3
Guide 32 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Show Low W
3.4 of 5 by 14
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,545 feet
Elevation Gain -250 feet
Accumulated Gain 250 feet
Avg Time One Way 2.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.83
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
5  2019-07-28 Falke
22  2018-10-09
Fall Break in the Canyon Creek
10  2018-09-28
Canyon Creek / Mule Creek
13  2017-11-03 TheNaviG8R
25  2017-10-14 TheNaviG8R
9  2017-10-10 topohiker
14  2017-09-16 Steph_and_Blake
13  2017-09-09
Canyon Creek / Mule Creek / Naegolin Disc
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author te_wa
author avatar Guides 3
Routes 0
Photos 977
Trips 294 map ( 3,048 miles )
Age 48 Male Gender
Location 221b Baker St.
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Jun, Sep → 9 AM
Seasons   Early Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:08am - 6:27pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Culture Nearby
Fly fishers gold mine
by te_wa

Likely In-Season!

Ambush at the Perkins Store

. . . . . . On the twenty-second day of September in 1887, Sheriff William Mulvenon of Yavapai County Arizona, along with a posse sprinkled with Tewksbury sympathizers set about the total destruction of the remaining Grahams and Blevins. As John Graham and Charlie Blevins approached the unfinished Perkins store, Mulvenon stepped out to demand their surrender. In Pleasant Valley at that time, he was lucky they didn't shoot him on sight. Instead, they turned their horses to get out of range of the perceived threat. Within seconds a hail of bullets sent their way by the posse, hidden behind half built walls, ended both their lives. John's brother, Tom Graham, escaped to Phoenix only to lose his life half a decade later at the hands of Ed Tewksbury.

. . . . . . This is only a small part of the amazing saga of the Pleasant Valley War. In all, fifteen cattlemen and at least three sheep men were slain over the five years the battles ensued.

There is much history of this area as there is with most of the Mogollon Rim country. In recent years, the Rodeo-Chediski fire may have been the topic of discussion in these parts, and the devastation is seen almost immediatly from the trailhead. It is, however a worthy sight, to gain perspective and respect for our fragile environment.

This hike starts from the East end of a campground at 6545 feet. It winds its way along a normally dry runoff about 1/4 mile to the creek/canyon bottom. The "canyon" is very shallow and bordered by rolling hills with a typical Rim country riparian environ. (If you come here to fish, you have many sections of the creek at this point that will offer bait friendly waters, otherwise around the 1 mile mark and just past the OW bridge you can only catch and release with artificial lures). Heading downstream from the canyon bottom you will head south-east for 1/4 mile to a barbed fence, continue along a fishermans trail that skirts a large meadow on the right. It doesnt stay in the shade after noon, but beats bush wacking the creek. I actually found that since the going was pretty slow near the water that I could both see more from the meadow's ledge, and make better time to my destination, the hike's end at the Fort Apache Reservation. Just past the OW bridge a dirt road is an easy way to get deeper into the canyon. I took it. There are many open grass filled meadows along this 5 mile hike that temt one to kick off the boots, hide under a hat and catch some zzz's. At first sight, you start to see the evidence of the fire that ravaged the canyon in 2001. Because of the fires, erosion allowed scouring floods to impact the creek. A year later-for instance, what was once a living riparian habitat now has less canopy of trees providing less shade and allowing the water temps to climb higher than the once thriving Brown Trout population can handle. It is said by the US Forest service and AZ Game and Fish that the brown trout numbers are down TEN-fold compared to 1999. Hopefully with the efforts of AZGF the creek can be restored to a Blue Ribbon destination. At any rate, there are rainbow trout in the creek and boy are they plentiful! Upstream at the hatchery which produces some 300,000 catchable fish a year several of these 5-6 inch trout escape and make their way downstream.

I noted that at mile 2.5 the road from OW bridge starts climbing upwards so that is when I left for the stream bed once again and finished the next 2 miles crossing the creek, taking pictures and scouting campsites. This hike generally follows very easy to negotiate creekbed and meadow, and at mile 3.75 it finally changes personality by entering into a basalt cliff canyon that zigzags its way for the next 1.25 miles. This is where the fun starts, so plan on getting your feet wet! I hopped and jumped over slippery creekbed for over an hour when my GPS stated I'd gone 5 miles. Well, I did not see any evidence of an Indian Reservation boundary, no fence or signs. I decided to not risk going further so turned around and headed back a mile and a half until I exited the deep slabbed red rock canyon to a proper campsite on creek left. What a night... cool breeze, clear sky, total relaxation.

In late October you can expect freezing temps, my water bottle had a crust of ice in it. My 32* down bag was barely enough... Take caution also to falling tree snags, loose footing in the creek and hang your food bag.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2006-10-22 te_wa

    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
    Canyon Creek - Tonto NF
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    This is a very easy backpack trip. Maybe perfect if you’ve got kids and want to find something for a first time backpacking trip? At first the hike follows canyon creek through some beautiful meadows. The next part is basically a hike along a very well maintained, and well travelled dirt road. Canyon Creek seems to be primarily frequented by fly-fishermen most of whom were surprised to see actual backpackers. Once the road curves up and west stick alongside the creek. From here its all beautiful and its really what makes this trip worth it. The night was perfect, day was a bit hot, but there are plenty of opportunities to dip in the creek for a nice cool-off. :)
    Canyon Creek - Tonto NF
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Now that the Ankle is Healed up and the Toes fixed so I can wear Shoes again, I've been busy trying to get back in Shape...After losing a little Weight, hitting the Gym, getting quite a bit of Hiking in and some Canyoneering too, it was time to think about Backpacking once more. It's been about 3 Years since I've been and I want to get back into it...

    This one has been on my List for a long Time, and it seemed to be a Perfect Fit to get started... Steve mentioned he hadn't been out with a Pack in awhile, so I invited him along... :)

    The first Day, going in, I was pretty rough around the Edges. We decided to try to keep our Feet Dry going in, and between trying to do that, adjusting to the Pack Weight, and not being totally prepared to keep my Camera dry if I slipped, I was having a hard Time through the first few Creek Crossings. It didn't help that my Confidence is just up from Basement Level after being pretty much off with Injury for over the last Year... But, I had the Foresight to bring Hiking Poles. (A Lesson learned from a Backpack with Alex, when I had to use his for Crutches a few Years ago, due to an IT Band Issue) After I broke out the Poles and figured out a way to Protect the Camera if I went in, I was doing much better, although I just felt a bit Rough and Discombobulated that First Day. Ended up getting my Feet Wet anyway just before we settled in on a Location for Camp... :sweat:

    Found a nice Spot to Camp next to the Creek and Steve got a small Fire going, and I was able to get my Shoes mostly Dry... Got up the next Morning and Explored Down the Creek some more... There had to have been a Thousand Butterflies around the Water and the Flowers. Most of them were Blues, but there were several other Species as well, just not in the same Numbers... The Blues were in Clusters near Water, Mud and even on the Flowers... If you stepped anywhere near a Cluster, you were immediately Enveloped in Blue as they all took Flight... Between the Water, the Wildflowers and the Wildlife, my Camera stayed extremely busy for the 3 Days. It didn't help that the Area was all New to me either... Steve was a Saint about it, but I probably wouldn't have been Offended if he had Bitch Slapped me a few Times to snap me out of Tibber Mode... :lol:

    After a couple of Hours, I decided to Stop in a small Meadow as I wanted to go into Full On Tibber Mode for a while. Steve decided to keep going for a ways and we set a Meet-Up Time to be back at the Meadow for the Return to Camp. After Steve got back from what I will describe as a "glad I didn't go any farther trip", we headed back to Camp, gradually getting there, as I kept running the Camera... Once back in Camp, we decided to take a Swim and although the Water felt great, there were some Blood Thirsty Suckers in that Pool, much to our Surprise... After Stripping down even more and picking a ton of tiny Leeches off of ourselves and each other, we settled back in at Camp with another nice Fire... Not quite the HAZfest Standard Fire, but it was Perfect for getting the Clothes dry...

    Got up the next Morning, packed up, and started Heading for the Escape. As we got closer, the people started to be Noticeable, so we decided to take a different Route on the other side of the Creek. That worked out extremely well and we avoided most of the Masses where the Creek was more Accessible. Back to the Vehicle and a late Lunch in Payson before heading to the Barn...

    Perfect Choice for a Rusty Backpacker with Confidence Issues. Got things Ironed Out, figured out what to do different next Time and even though there wasn't always a Trail of some kind or another, it was an Easy Trip all around... Thanks for joining me Steve! :y:

    I did a Short Video of some the Blue Butterflies along the Water, so here you go.... [ youtube video ]

    The Poison Ivy is starting to turn...

    All kinds of different Wildflowers going right now...
    Canyon Creek - Tonto NF
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Relaxing Memorial Day weekend overnighter. Such an easy hike and so few people, even on a popular weekend. About a half mile from camp, while I was setting up photos and Kristen was reading, Cholla started barking like crazy and took off downstream. We quickly noticed a black bear and her cub standing on a ledge 20 feet above the creek, about 100 feet away. Fortunately Cholla only went to the edge of the creek to yell at the bears to go away. Once they turned around and left (which took a concerning 5+ seconds before they reacted) she retreated back to us. Needless to say, all of our smellables got hung far away from camp that evening. Canyon Creek is beautiful through the grassy meadows near the campgrounds, but is even better downstream once it enters the canyon.
    Canyon Creek - Tonto NF
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Added quite a bit to this one, decided to do a little cross country, so pulled off at airplane flat and set off. We got distracted by a small run off and followed that for 2 miles before finally giving in to the fact that we were going the wrong way. climbed the ridge and saw our creek and road. It was kind of a nice side trek, that's where we saw about 50 elk in three different herds, and got properly introduced to the local thorns :? . After that it was smooth sailing, hit the road for about 3 and a half more miles, crossed the creek at a sketchy log jam and made camp. Followed the proper way back to the cars. Still a bit cold up there. We still saw a lot of snow and standing water on top of the rim. But the road is in good enough shape we made it in a prius ;) .
    Canyon Creek - Tonto NF
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Arrived Friday night @ the Airplane Flat Campground around 9pm and talked with the caretaker, Russell, for a bit. There were very few people at the campground. Awesome night camping under the stars and listening to all the birds and owls that night.

    Saturday morning, got up and made some oatmeal and packed up the gear and strapped on my boots. Found the start of the trail @ the east end of the campground without any problems at all. Soon we found ourselves @ the creek and began exploring. Definitely not a clearly defined trail anywhere around there. After bush-wacking and cutting ourselves up we made it to the meadow on the West side of the creek and arrived @ the bridge. From here we stuck to the road until we thought it was easy hiking along the creek again. Wrong. Definitely should have stayed on the road until it definitely goes uphill. After many hours of slow going down the creek we stopped for lunch and watched all the people road hunt and arrive to fly fish.

    After resting for most of the afternoon and cooling off in the creek we hiked down another 1/4 of a mile and found a nice little spot in a meadow on the east side of the creek. Made camp and gathered some wood just before it started to sprinkle. Got in the tent and called it an early night, no fire.

    Lots of garter snakes around the creek. I'm not a snake kinda guy so it was a bit uncomfortable.

    Had a great time taking my girlfriend on her first backpacking trip but definitely wasn't was I was expecting. Great views and awesome colors with all of the meadows full of flowers. No clearing defined trail made this a difficult adventure and I didn't care for all of the other people around. Over all it was a good trip, just not what I was expecting.
    Canyon Creek - Tonto NF
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    its been a couple of years, so i went back and brought a couple of friends to show them the area. there were some lunker trout in the deeper pools and I only caught 2 little 5 inchers. The camping was superb tho, and the scenery made up for the slow fishing. (we fished south of the OW bridge with fly rods)
    this place has some of the greenest scenery ive seen in a while. lots of constant but light rain for the evening and on into the night. perfect for testing my new tarp!

    pics in the gallery
    Canyon Creek - Tonto NF
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    We camped at Upper Canyon Creek campground. Great days to be in Payson area. We got a little bit of rain and the temperature dropped to 60F. The creek was beautiful and we followed it into the canyon. After 5.2 I did not figure where the border with the Indian reservation is so I turned back. There is a lot of fish in the creek and we limited out in less then 20 minutes.
    Canyon Creek - Tonto NF
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Great trip, though a little tough on Becca (3 years) after awhile. She loved the gorgeous spots along the creek, and climbing over fallen trees. Butterflies were everywhere and she wanted to "Ketchum". Beautiful flowers everywhere. We were excited to see a Kaibab squirrel on the way to the creek, and the same one on the way back. We turned around a little after the barbwire. We sustained a few cuts from heavy brush along the creek, but it was worth it. Several mushrooms were also noted. Later we headed up to the fish hatchery by car, its a definite worthwile stop!
    Canyon Creek - Tonto NF
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    took a leisurely time noting all the important aspects of this new hike and wrote down all I needed and then... lost my journal. I made a "new hike" for this one and had a good time doing so. this creek starts at the base of the RIM and flows south into the Salt River. you can hike a total of 5 miles one way.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Payson head east on Hwy. 260 for 34 miles to the Young Rd. (young-heber hwy) Go south for exactly 3 miles to forest rd. 33 and turn left. Drive east on this well graded dirt road for 4.5 miles to Airplane Flat campground. At the east end of the camp, you see a fence followed by a path leading into the canyon. Very easy to find, however after a good snow you will need 4x4 to access this area.
    $17 3L Hydration Bladder
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