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The Best Hikes in West Clear Creek Wilderness

414 Triplog Reviews in the West Clear Creek Wilderness
Most recent of 175 deeper Triplog Reviews
2.77 mi • 1,253 ft aeg
Calloway Trail is a trip. Literally and figuratively. This triplog deals mainly with Tom's Creek Rd (FR# 142). This is a bad road. If you want a laugh read the trail description on All Trails. I would never recommend that site other than for the entertainment value and the follies of stupid humankind (sorry not sorry). Nonetheless the 'reviews' also deal with the road as primary subject matter.

At the end of the day I may be the stupid one because I made it to the trailhead.

The bad starts right off the pavement at Hwy 260. If the first 200 feet feel 'rough', please turn around. Ironically, at 142B things actually chill out some. Previous triplogs have noted that this is where the road gets bad. 142B is tight and a bit muddy in spots, but nothing like it's big brother 142.

I think the highlight of the road is the area where the road crosses Meadow Canyon. This is a pretty technical stretch with 2' rock ledges and fairly challenging boulders. I scraped my frame twice going down and once (barely) coming back up and out. My recommendation is to stop and spot a route, if possible having a passenger offer some out of truck spotting help. I didn't have that luxury today. There are a few stretches of this road that demand this treatment.

The trail itself is the easiest route into and out of WCC other than from Bullpen, that I have experienced. I went upstream for poos and giggles. Pretty rough with the swims the only real respite from slip sliding away in the creek. I made the mistake of trying overland travel closer to the canyon walls a few times. Ouch!! Really tight NM Locust, Raspberry and Poison Ivy with willow in the less painful spots.

I doubt there are 20 people that see this upstream from Calloway portion of the canyon in a year. I may be wrong, but I saw zero evidence of humans past the fire ring at the bottom of the trail.

I didn't make it to Wilbur like I had hoped but there was a nasty cell that started rumbling in just past my turn around time. The rain caught me for the entirety of my trip back up Calloway, ending about 100' from my truck. Drive out was worse than in with the little bit of mud the rain added.

I saw one jeep on FR 142. We each flashed a Cheshire grin as we passed. No one else all day.

I broke a sideview mirror on my way out and my legs and arms are shredded, but I will be back soon to explore on a day when afternoon storms aren't in the forecast.
12.8 mi • 2,164 ft aeg
Wanted to explore a different part of WCC and decided to check out the Calloway trail. We drove in from Toms Creek Road off the 260. The truck we were in didn’t have 4WD so we only made it a mile or so down the road before deciding to just park and walk the rest of the way. It was a short hike to the campsite anyway so was nice to get the extra miles in. Once we got down into the canyon we went left/west and found a spot to camp about 50 yards down or so. Luckily no one was there because we hiked another ~2 miles downstream (without our packs) and only saw one tiny little campsite. The water was nice and refreshing, we walked in it most of the way. Only one spot was kind of deep, about waist high. The campsite was great! Hike back out was a good challenge, that trail getting to the top of the canyon is steep! Great little weekend overnight though.
3 mi • 1,807 ft aeg
I did this hike starting from the lower end at the Bullpen parking area on Forest Road 215. This meant I was hiking uphill at the beginning of my hike and downhill at the end.

There are two starting paths. The Coconino National Forest website as well as the Friends of the Forest map that they hand out at the visitor center suggest you start by hiking east on West Clear Creek trail. After going 1/2 mile you turn left on an unmarked social trail that goes up the hill and connects to the Blodgett Basin trail. I do not recommend this approach. West Clear Creek trail is a wide, gravel road at this point, so this is fairly boring and the turning point can be difficult to find if you don't have a GPS. The social trail can be difficult to follow. I don't know why they describe this route; maybe it is an old route.

The official Blodgett Basin trail starts near the parking lot at the end of the road, about 150 feet west of the vault toilet. There is a sign at the trailhead; you can't miss it if you know to look for it. It heads up the hill immediately; you do not walk near the creek and water. This route is a narrow hiking trail rather than an old road, with fewer people.

The trail climbs a couple of hundred feet, then goes up and down as it travels east paralleling the creek for about 0.5 miles with nice views of the creek area. At the 0.5 mile mark it meets with the social trail from West Clear Creek trail and turns northeast and heads up the hill. You climb steadily for about 1800' over 3 miles, with increasingly great views. The trail is quite rocky and steadily uphill but there are no steps or serious climbing.

If you follow this official trail route the trail is clear and obvious, and no route-finding is required. There are a few cairns along the way, but mostly just follow the worn footpath.

It's an out-and-back hike. The return trip is nice because you are facing downhill and can appreciate the good views.

My GPS showed 3.2 miles one way, 6.4 miles RT.

The drive down FR 215 to the trailhead is rough and a high clearance vehicle is recommended (though you could probably make it, slowly, in a regular car). You don't need a permit to park here. In the off-season you can park at the end of the road. During busy periods parking may be more difficult due to people coming to spend time in the creek. There is a swimming hole down (east) West Clear Creek trail which will attract visitors on hot summer days.

You can also do this trail from the top down, starting on FR 214. That road is in better shape and you can usually drive it in a non-high-clearance vehicle.

I did this hike in February, and saw no one on the trail, nor was anyone else parked in the parking lot at either the bottom or top of the trail. A nice visitor-less hike to do during the pandemic!
23.5 mi • 700 ft aeg
This is my first log so apologies if I'm missing something. I selected Calloway trail but this is for a section hike from Calloway to Bull Pen from June 29- July 1. If it hasn't been mentioned already, the flooding that occurred earlier this year has dramatically changed a lot of the "trail" that was in existence. In some sections, rock from small gravel to large boulders has covered the previously easily hiked areas, and now requires plenty of boulder hopping or switching to slippery creek wading. It's challenging to say the least and frustrating AF at it's worst. While the landscape has changed, I won't say the beauty has diminished in WCCW. I love this area!
Some quick notes about well known spots. Hanging Gardens, while still intact, had been pretty well scrubbed of the hanging ferns that leant to it's verdant beauty. There was already evidence of new growth, so that's encouraging. The rope swings and other familiar logs have all been washed out. Tons of gravel has been left behind on the "beach" area which may or may not be to one's liking. Might make it a bit easier to set up some comfy spots to sit right at the water. Indian Maiden Falls remains most intact with the exception of a few trees down on the north side of the falls.
Trip highlights included seeing 3 rams on the way down to HG, right after the last curve right and just before the feature. I have never seen them down there before and never up close like that ever in my life. Quite thrilling.
Salida Gulch Trail #95 - Bradshaw ...
Salida Gulch Trail #95 - Bradshaw Mountains - Prescott Arizona
We had not done anything too far upstream of the HG put in before, so finding some beautiful spots for swimming and potentially great campsites was a plus.
My plan is hit up Clover Creek and hike all the way down to Calloway to sorta "complete" a thru hike. Eventually I'll add Willow Creek to close out hiking every spot I'm capable of in the canyon. It was a grueling but highly rewarding adventure!
4.66 mi • 262 ft aeg
A great way to cap off a pleasant four day weekend on the way home.

Downright warm and sunny at the start with an 81° degree trail temp but once the sun ducked down and I hit the first crossing the atmosphere was much more enjoyable.

Didn't feel like getting my feet wet and and the color upstream was not up to par with down below.
So from the past 10 or so fall color trips the trend has been that the upper canyon is never quite as rich and healthy as the colors a few miles downstream when the general area is supposed to be "in season", just something I've observed firsthand this year.

Passed by a HAZ subie on my way to Lower Bullpen and left a note but didn't get one in return, so whoever you are don't be shy!

A dramatic sunset did not occur but the evening light and strong colors made up for it.

Lower Bullpen is rocking right now and will be for the next week or so.
Still lots of green in some spots as well.
8.2 mi • 2,741 ft aeg
With temps so warm, I dusted off the sandals and decided to make one last trip to WCC for some late season fishing. I expected to see more people out, but just a hunter on the hike in. Past the 3rd crossing about 20 minutes, I found a familiar campsite empty, but it had a warm fire still, as did two other sites I passed. This spot faces the creek looking north, so the sun never shined through the remaining leaves until after lunch. Caught a few fish in the usual spots and kept one for dinner. Warm temps prevailed and I slept comfortably next to my fire.
Only saw 1 group of 4 people at the first crossing on the way out. Made it back to the truck by noon.
8.2 mi • 0 ft aeg
Just another splendid relaxing trip into lower WCC. Only 1 vehicle at the trailhead Saturday morning. Camped at an old reliable spot between the 3rd and 4th crossing, a good spot for windy days. After setup, hiked on up to the 4th crossing, nobody there. Hiked back down to the 3rd crossing to fish a bit, nobody there. I didn't see anyone until I hiked out Sunday afternoon. Full moon and warm night was great. Caught trout for dinner. I've heard that last weekend was a zoo, and I did find adequate trash to validate that. Also, there was a little trail after the 3rd crossing that leads you down to the big swimming hole and camp area, someone has made an attempt to conceal it with tree branches and debris. It actually looks more obvious... Also, there was a campsite just before the 3rd crossing which has been demolished. I was just here 3 weeks ago and folks were camped there. Now you can't even see where the fire pit was. Some shenanigans going on. Passed some hangers on the way out.
15.3 mi • 2,741 ft aeg
Made a quick trip into WCC for some fall trout fishing. Bull Pen had 8 vehicles at 7 am. The road in is really wash-boarded but otherwise no big obstacles. Passed a few folks camped just past the 1st crossing and a few more at the 3rd. Found swimmers at the 4th crossing and continued on. About 40 minutes later I found the faint trail that drops down to the creek. People were camped right there. Continued upstream a half mile to the next spot which was empty and kept going. About another half mile up was another spot I found in April I wanted to test out. Caught a few small fish for dinner and settled in. Two people hiked through on their way upstream and then ended up camping downstream from me at the other good spot. It got rather breezy at night and remained so until the next morning. Saw plenty of day hikers on the way back, including "nude dude" who was hiking by the first crossing :o Kind of a busy trail on a Sunday for that sort of thing, and there were kids out too...
6.03 mi • 968 ft aeg
Marilyn, Bob, and I hiked the Tramway Maxwell Loop on Sunday. This was our first time on this loop, so we didn't know exactly what to expect.

We did the "official" route. I downloaded the route onto my watch - it proved to be more useful than I expected for picking the correct forks on the road leading to the top of the Tramway Trail. As I recall, going left was correct at each fork that we encountered.

After hiking The Point Trail several weeks ago, I was expecting the Tramway Trail to be equally steep. I was pleasantly surprised. It has a lot of switchbacks and was less steep than I expected. The trail is in good condition, though we did encounter some encroaching foliage near the bottom.

West Clear Creek turned out to be deeper than I expected. While much of the wading was knee or waist deep, I encountered some sections which were quite a lot deeper. There were a few sections where I had to swim a few strokes. I was happy that the dry bags in my pack added a bit of buoyancy. It briefly rained while we were in the creek, but we didn't observe any change in the water level.

The Maxwell Trail is also in good condition. We saw several places where fallen trees had been cut to make it easier to get through. Near the top, it appeared to me that the trail had been rerouted at some point in the past to avoid some other deadfall.

It rained again briefly as we hiked back to our vehicle on forest service road 81E.
11.8 mi • 2,120 ft aeg
Backpacked West Clear Creek with a small group 7/1/2017-7/2/2017. Started from the Bullpen trailhead parking lot with the intent of camping at the plateau on the south side of the creek. The drive in was largely uneventful and the section of dirt road could be managed with an ordinary passenger car.

The Bullpen was fairly crowded with lots of people set up to swim and sunbathe for the day. There were 5 water crossings with the majority being in between mile 1 and 2 of the trail, a short enough section to hike in water shoes or sandals and not repeatedly switch out footwear. The crossings were not deep, most were calf to knee high but choosing a less than ideal crossing point could easily result in waist deep water. The rocks were algae covered and very slippery, a few members of the party cooled off the hard way by slipping and falling in (in some cases repeatedly).

Going along a few good camping spots were identified, see linked maps for exact locations. Water available from the creek was clear and quite tasty, water filters were used for purification without issue. The party stopped twice to refill water bottles on the way in and once on the way back. It was quite hot this time of year and the ~50 F water was a refreshing way to cool off. From mile 2 onward the route is effectively a desert hike.

Some notable difficulties were experienced along the way.

The forest service map that was used for navigation no longer appears to be up to date with regard to the trail routing. There is a 1-1/4 mile section which was previously routed on the north side of the creek but now runs on the south side. It is possible that the old trail still exists, we spotted a cairn marking a side trail in this area, but it is no longer the "obvious" route. The "new" trail is well established but if you were planning on navigating or replenishing water bottles by the number of water crossings another method may be required as the new route cuts out 2 creek crossings.

The intended camping destination ended up not being as accessible as hoped. Rather than being a flat area with easy access to the creek it ended up being a completely inaccessible area with ~40' walls on either side of the creek. After exploring the area and seeing the falls in the distance at sunset, probably not maiden falls but rather a smaller set downstream, we headed back to the creek crossing near mile 4 to set up camp.

A ~30' section of the trail about 5-1/2 miles in had been completely obliterated by a landslide and was initially impassable with gravel and sand at a 45 degree angle. An impromptu trail repair was made using a trowel, feet, and an inadequate lifeline of paracord. The timing of the repair was opportune as we encountered another group coming from the other direction just as we were finishing up. The stability of the 6" wide path was much improved by the foot traffic and we did not feel the need to use the lifeline on the way back. There were a few spots where trees had recently come down across the trail, these were not overly difficult to go around but some bushwhacking was required.

There was a fire ban in effect during our trip so a camping stove was used instead. The weather was warm even at night and suitable for hammocks. The large number of rocks and trees at this camping spot gave more opportunities hang a hammock than than there were flat spots to pitch a tent. One member of the party tried their luck at fly fishing but was not successful. There were a lot of crayfish in the creek so an opportunity may have been missed there. The water just downstream of the crossing was deep enough for swimming which was a great way to cool off after the long hot hike. The ants were quite well trained in this area, as soon as we started setting up camp they came out looking for food but were only a minor nuisance. Mosquitoes were not an issue for us at this campsite.

Our hike out was enjoyable though just as hot as the hike in. We saw more hikers on the way back than we encountered on the previous day. Aside from the the one previously mentioned group, we had the trail to ourselves once we got past the Bullpen on the way in. In hindsight going at a cooler time of the year or following the watercourse in wet suits may have been a better way to go.

All in all it was a great hike with some excellent photo opportunities and a great adventure feel to it.

Link to downloadable topographical maps:

Link to hike video:
[ youtube video ]

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