Last traveled South Fork 7 years ago with a HAZ group of six. We went up South Fork and down Gold Ridge. It was a mess going up and a highway coming down.
Hit Deer Creek first so we could adjust as needed. It has received a lot of maintenance since the nightmare triplogs surfaced after the Willow Fire of 2004. I'd imagine any avid Arizona hiker would enjoy this trail. Alaskan & Colorado wanderlusts will yawn but this is pretty impressive 45 minutes from Fountain Hills. Our record Feb temps had the creek roaring like a river a good month earlier than typical.
The top half of South Fork was a mess in 2009 and it's arguably worse now. Trail or no trail, Deer Creek has a more majestic feel and towering views. Several vehicles upon arrival and more leaving. Some were hunters. We only passed one group lounging nearing the creek in South Fork.