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Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness - GET #7
22 Photosets

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mini location map2020-11-30
10 by photographer avatarGrangerGuy
photographer avatar
Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness - GET #7Globe, AZ
Globe, AZ
Backpack avatar Nov 30 2020
Backpack23.00 Miles 600 AEG
Backpack23.00 Miles2 Days   1 Hour      
600 ft AEG23 LBS Pack
1st trip
Partners none no partners
The Road:
The initial crossing of Aravaipa was dry, and then the wet crossings started. After the first two wet stream crossings, I had to wait for a couple of coatimundi crossing the road. There were lots of maple leaves falling on the road; kind of like a mini-snowstorm with the gusty winds. Maybe a little past the main color at this point. I had five uneventful creek crossings up to the main parking lot and outhouse.

I decided to go ahead in the car past the main parking lot. It was very beautiful but definitely 4WD, not just high clearance from the main parking to the trailhead. As you approach Turkey Creek, there are some large, crudely painted signs pointing to Turkey Creek, 200 yards. There are two more crossings from there which absolutely are 4WD, especially for the return trip. The small trailhead parking at the wilderness boundary is just beyond those signs. It is not clear if parking is allowed near the crudely painted signs.

The Trail to the Cliff Dwelling:
My plan for the first day was to park at the Turkey Creek, East Wilderness Trailhead, then hike to the Indian Ruins/Cliff Dwelling on Turkey Creek, then return to the car and head down the creek. At 10:00 am, I left the Turkey Creek Trailhead.

Turkey Creek was dry. Interesting, this road was not blocked off. It is not actually in the wilderness. The road 5108 is allowed to be driven. This had not been obvious to me. You can drive all the way to the ruins and beyond with a 4WD vehicle. Nevertheless, this was a nice warmup. The road was dry and flat. But it was cool in the morning, and I was just wearing a T-shirt.

The Turkey Creek Road is really a beautiful place. Fall colors still going on the first week of December. Lots of yellow and brown, but no red to speak of. If one wanted to get an early start on the Aravaipa Canyon, one could drive up to one of the campsites along Turkey Creek and camp overnight, before heading to the trail. There are about 6 nice campsites along the road between Aravaipa and the ruins.

Near the cliff dwellings, there is what looks like an old cowboy camp, including a corral. Road 5108 bears left at 1.5 miles from Aravaipa, and there is a sign for the cliff dwellings to the right. There is a trail register and an interpretive sign. Just at the base of the trail to the ruins, there is another good campsite.

Having visited the very intact cliff dwelling, I headed back to the Aravaipa.

The 3 mi round trip to the cliff dwelling was a good checkout for my footwear solution. For Aravaipa, I wore Merrill Bare Access trail running shoes, which are very light and very porous. Inside of that, I wore neoprene wet suit socks, and inside that, a thin pair of merino wool hiking liners. Over the outside, I wore lightweight trail running gaiters. This combination worked extraordinarily well. It kept my feet warm. Although a tiny bit of grit got inside the shoe, I did not feel it through the neoprene sock. The merino wool prevented any possibility of rubbing and therefore blisters. The only flaw in the system was that the shoes get very stiff and hard to put on when stored overnight in the 30s. About 30 miles total, including shakedowns, was a little hard on the neoprene socks, but they were old and worn anyway. :)

The Aravaipa Trail from the East:
I left the trailhead at 11:20 AM. Right away is the first walk in the stream; just a quick crossing near the trailhead. This place is positively awesome. There is a pretty good path on the right-hand side of the creek.

The second crossing of the creek came 0.3 mi from the trailhead. I had an idea that I would mark the crossings with waypoints. I kept it up most of the first 5 miles, but would not do it for the rest of the trip. Just after the second crossing, I picked up another way-trail on the left side of the creek.

I encountered the first deer about 0.6 miles down the trail. At about 0.8 mi, there is an interesting crack in the rocks, filled with debris. A small person could slip through without a pack and avoid a crossing. Everyone else has to go into the water to get around.

I spooked three javelina, 2 adults and a baby. The baby went one direction, the adults went the other. They were really annoyed at me. I did not turn my back on them until I was well clear of them.

You can see some pretty cool hoodoo like structures on the cliff tops at about 0.9 miles.

In early December, the color just continued to get better downstream. It went from more brown near the trailhead to more green and yellow a mile down. It was definitely not past the prime color yet.

I had a sense I should look for the "best" line of travel down the canyon, but I don't think there is any one "best" route. I think there are many good routes. If you just follow your gut, following this route is pretty easy.

I realized that my GPS track was going to be very noisy and would have to be cleaned up, due to being in the canyon. As it turned out, the noise added almost 7 miles to my apparent distance. This has been removed in my posted track.

The lighting in early December was just perfect for photography. Even at high noon, the sun is pretty low, and the light is beautiful. Taken with the fall colors, this was a great opportunity for photography.

At 1.8 mi, I encountered 3 more deer standing in the stream. It was time to look for a place to rest and have some lunch. A little break, sitting in the sun, felt pretty good. Usually I don't wait this long to eat, but I was having a lot of fun.

The thing to remember about Aravaipa is that it is about the journey, not the destination. It is like a trail to nowhere, but it is absolutely gorgeous every step.

There was no water in Parsons Canyon. It looks like it would be a cool explore, but it was not on the agenda. With the perennial water in Aravaipa, I don't see why one would worry about water from side-streams.

There is a great camping spot at 2.6 miles.

At 3 mi, just short of Deer Creek, I marked a spot where there are 2 beers parked next to the trail. I was going to pick them up, empty them, and carry them out on the way out, but I forgot to look. Though the canyon is quite clean and free of litter and debris, it puzzles and disappoints me someone would leave something like this.

There is great camping at the confluence with Deer Creek. The intersection with Deer Creek is not at all what I expected. I expected a slot canyon, but it is very wide and flat, at least for some distance. There is another good camp spot at 3.2 miles, on the right hand side going downstream.

One great thing about traveling this in December. No bugs! No bugs!

I ran into my first person a little past Deer Creek. He was obviously a photographer with a good camera and tripod. For a mile or so, I had noted I was catching up with someone, by the footprints exiting the stream.

Just short of 5 miles, I lost the path for a bit, and the stream was pretty deep. Nevertheless, it seemed walking in the stream was the best plan for about 100 yards.

I startled some coatimundis, actually we startled each other. They have an interesting high-pitched squeak. They were gone in a flash.

Very near the outlet of Booger Canyon, the trail crosses right to left. Near the outlet of Booger Canyon, on the other side of the creek, there is a really nice campsite. It is not overused. There was a white-tailed deer running across my path in the area. I walked a little beyond, and then decided to go back to the campsite I saw. Judging from the map, it looked like it would be prettier there than in the Horse Canyon area. This decision would cost me the ability to get to the west wilderness boundary the next day, though, since the plan for day 2 was to hike down to the west boundary, and back to this location.

Day 2, Aravaipa:
I started out about 8:20 AM. Before leaving, I cleaned up the campsite a little, picking up debris left by previous campers, then headed for the west boundary. I saw 3 deer right away.

As you leave the Booger Canyon area, the terrain begins to change from broad canyon, meadow and forest to narrower canyon. There are lots of different trails, very braided. You don't have to worry about getting lost, but sometimes the path you are on disappears and you have to hunt for another.

I passed Horse Canyon on the opposite side of the creek. Looks beautiful, though. There is a campsite here, across from Horse Canyon. Not as nice as the one I found at Booger Canyon. The campsites are very heavily used. The tent sites are down to the dirt. Glad I did not stay here the first night. This is obviously a popular place to stay for people coming in from the west. And yet, a little further down, another really sandy camp site.

A little further down, just past the bend in the creek going downstream, there is an awesome campsite on the north bank under an overhanging cliff. It is sandy, but would be rain protected. Only thing is, I would not want to be anywhere in this canyon if rain was forecast.

At 8.3 miles from the east end, the canyon begins to open up. The stream turns south and opens up to the 11 am late fall sun. For the first time on day 2, I got to feel some warmth from the sun.

At 8.6 miles, I stopped to take some pictures of a pretty little rapid. One of the very few on this sedate creek. In the lower part of the river, it seems easier to just walk in the water. The side trails are overgrown; the water is pretty easy.

All of a sudden, it felt like I was getting to the end of the wilderness. The canyon began widening out and the walls began to get shorter. There is a concrete wall here. At 12:00, I had to turn around to get back to my camp before it got too late. From a practical standpoint, I had left the wilderness, although not from a legal standpoint. Judging from the map later, I was about 600 trail yards from the boundary when I turned around.

On my return upstream, I came across an unnamed waterfall from the south side. It is dry, but there is all this white stuff, on the surface, making it look like there is water. I had to cross, so I did not get any closer to the dry waterfall. The rest of the hike back to my camp I did not make any further notes, as I was focused on getting back.

Day 3, Aravaipa:
8:08 am, I headed out. My feet were freezing as I left camp. My watch said it got to freezing, but there was no ice to be seen anywhere. Nevertheless, my shoes were so cold, they were stiff. I could not tie them, and barely could get them on. Once I made a few crossings, the shoes were soft, and I could tighten and tie them, and they were toasty the rest of the way.

As the sun got higher, I had to stop to change from my stocking cap to my booney hat and put on my sunglasses. Even though I was a little cold, the sun was my enemy. I could not see where I was going.

Just to keep warm, I was going pretty much non-stop for 2.5 hours. I decided to stop and take a break. I found a nice log in the sun and stopped to eat a little lunch and rest. As I finished, I looked at my map to see how far I had to go after my snack. Haha, turns out I was just about 0.2 mi from the car.
Autumn - Color Foliage
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Substantial
The best fall colors are in the eastern half of the canyon, and seemed to peak near Deer Creek.
HAZ Member
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