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East Clear Creek - Dry Lake Loop
6 Photosets

mini location map2021-06-12
22 by photographer avatarJohn10s
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East Clear Creek - Dry Lake LoopPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jun 12 2021
Hiking13.80 Miles 1,125 AEG
Hiking13.80 Miles   7 Hrs   53 Mns   2.50 mph
1,125 ft AEG   2 Hrs   22 Mns Break
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
We planned to hike on the northern side of Flagstaff today, but the Slate Fire forced us to change plans, so we looked for another high elevation option to avoid the heat and came across the recently added guide for East Clear Creek and decided to give that a try. We parked along FR 612 near Dry Lake, which looked murky but had quite a bit of water. We hiked the loop portion of the hike clockwise to Jones Crossing, and there were a few ATVs on the roads and several parked vehicles and tents set up for camping near the crossing.

We left the official route at Jones Crossing and followed the creek bed to the north. It was very easy hiking, with lots of green foliage in the creek bed, but only a occasional pools of water, and the impact of the Coldwater Fire was more visible in that area. We looped back to the south through a drainage and reconnected with the forest roads near McCarty ridge. Around Thicket Tank, we saw a herd of 10-12 elk up ahead through the trees, but they kept their distance. The tank had a little water, but it was very muddy and full of algae, with lots of elk tracks in the mud.

Near the intersection with FR 141, our planned route called for us to leave the road and drop down into East Clear Creek near there, but the canyon walls were very steep. We decided to follow a game trail along the east side of the canyon and kept looking for a good spot to get down into the creek, but we continued to cliff out on a few different attempts to get down. Based on the topo map, it looked like the canyon had a flatter slope further ahead, and we found an easy spot to drop down into the creek about a third of a mile before the cave.

As we approached the cave, we caught up with a group of horseback riders we'd seen down in the creek bed earlier while we were still up above. The cave was a nice feature that exceeded expectations--based on the other trip logs and and pictures, I was expecting little more than a wide crack in the canyon wall, but the cave was large enough to climb around and explore. The entranced extended back and opened up to the right, and then back to the left, where it narrowed too much to continue any farther. The temperature in the cave was at least 15° cooler than the outside air, and we could feel the cool air pouring out as soon as we walked up.

[ youtube video ]

We spent quite a bit of time exploring there before we continued following East Clear Creek. That part of the loop was by far the most scenic and enjoyable of the day, with larger pools of water, more greenery, and beautiful rock outcroppings along the canyon walls. We followed a drainage and looped back along the forest roads to Dry Lake. With minimal water and fire damage along the northern part of the loop, that part of the hike was fairly unremarkable, but the cave and the southern portion of the loop really made it a fun day exploring a new place.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Dry Lake 26-50% full 26-50% full
Decent water depth, but very brown, murky water

dry Ronnys Tank Dry Dry
water report recorded in the field on our app Route Scout

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Thicket Tank 1-25% full 1-25% full
water report recorded in the field on our app Route Scout

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