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Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek Loop - 5 members in 19 triplogs have rated this an average 3 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Oct 23 2019
LJW
avatar

 Photos 672
 Triplogs 188

26 male
 Joined Jun 02 2019
 Phoenix, AZ
Quien Sabe PeakPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 23 2019
LJW
Hiking25.02 Miles 5,005 AEG
Hiking25.02 Miles   9 Hrs   39 Mns   2.98 mph
5,005 ft AEG   1 Hour   15 Mns Break
 
Route Scout GPS Route Recorded on Route Scout View
Seems most people add Quien Sabe from the CC4/Skunk Tank loop. That seems like the more enjoyable option compared to adding it to the Skull Mesa/Cottonwood Loop. I had thought it would only add a little mileage and elevation, but that was wrong. This one turned into an ordeal.

Decided that fall colors could wait, and that I would rather hike in the last of summer's residual heat down around Phoenix. Started around 6:15am. Was in the dark or shade until the Skull Mesa turn off. Trail to the top is good, but once on top the trail is harder to follow the closer to Quien Sabe it goes. Plenty of cairns but still easy to get off route. The eastern side of Skull Mesa was alive with wildflowers. The route down on the east side is lost the lower it goes. Pretty well eroded the whole time it's there.

Headed to the pass between Skunk Ridge and Quien Sabe because it looked like the least steep approach. Took off up hill and it was very easy going. Wildflowers were pretty extreme. Stained my boots a bright yellow. Impressive views on the peak, especially of the Mazatzals to the east.

Once off of the Quien Sabe Trail and back onto Skull Mesa, after a while the trail more or less disappeared. Much of the stretch between the Quien Sabe junction and Cottonwood is overgrown, very faint, or gone. Ended up spending a lot of time walking cross country in search of the route. Would not be comfortable doing this part without GPS. Once on the descent to Cottonwood the trail is pretty solid.

The more I do of the Cottonwood Trail the more I like it. Really enjoyable stretches in the creek with a lot of shade in the hottest part of the day. Ran out of water at Cottonwood Spring around the Skull Mesa junction. Last six miles were pretty arduous. Saw a baby rattlesnake in the last thirty yards of the Cottonwood Trail. Only people I saw all day were in the last mile.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial
Heavy on Skull Mesa, pretty extreme on Quien Sabe Peak


water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Cottonwood Spring Dripping Dripping
Small pools

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Dirt Trough Creek Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Puddles
1 archive
Mar 17 2018
Nightstalker
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 Routes 89
 Photos 5,790
 Triplogs 914

52 male
 Joined Apr 25 2011
 Goodyear, AZ
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 17 2018
Nightstalker
Hiking18.10 Miles 4,088 AEG
Hiking18.10 Miles   11 Hrs   21 Mns   2.04 mph
4,088 ft AEG   2 Hrs   29 Mns Break17 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Prepping for a Grand Canyon hike at the end of the month, I finally crossed this one off my list. I was joined today by harem regulars Carey and Pammy. We followed the Cottonwood Spring Loop counter-clockwise out to Skull Mesa. We encountered some campers near the Skull Mesa / Cottonwood intersection who were also destined for the ruins at the far end of the mesa. Once we got to the top of Skull Mesa, we mistakenly continued to follow trail #248 east until we realized we were going in the wrong direction. No big deal, we worked our way back to our desired route. Not much of any trail to follow across the top of Skull Mesa to get out to the ruins. We had a great time exploring the ruins and enjoying the views before making our way back to Cottonwood Trail. We followed Cottonwood Trail all the way back to Spur Cross and then returned to much desired parking lot. This was my longest duration, longest distance, and greatest AEG hike! Can't wait to beat it.
Culture
Culture
Balloon

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Cottonwood Spring Dripping Dripping
Water present

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Dirt Trough Creek Light flow Light flow
Slight running water and small pools
_____________________
Apr 23 2017
rcorfman
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 Guides 1
 Routes 115
 Photos 1,418
 Triplogs 981

60 male
 Joined Oct 17 2008
 Phoenix, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 23 2017
rcorfman
Hiking11.49 Miles 2,740 AEG
Hiking11.49 Miles   5 Hrs   21 Mns   2.50 mph
2,740 ft AEG      45 Mns Break10 LBS Pack
 
This was spur cross of the moment. I woke up at 5 and thought, I should hike to Skull Mesa today. It was a bit before 7 when I got on trail.

A couple just set up a tent and books and maps and such at the pay site. I was their first customer, paying the $3 fee in quarters (hey when I was getting ready to go I decided to get rid of several of the quarters I've been amassing).

It was mid 60s when I started; really nice hiking. There was plenty of water in Cave Creek, but it was always easy enough to rock hop across and keep my feet dry.

After the first climb on 247, I interrupted a javelina on its morning stroll. It continued walking up the trail for a bit before running off.

About 3.5 miles in, the trail crosses a wash with a good trickle of running water. There's an old cement trough there too, however there was no water in it. It's mostly filled with dirt now. There is no water source specified on HAZ for it (Added to HAZ as Dirt Trough Creek).

About 4.75 miles in, where 247 crosses a wash before the last push to the 248 junction, there's a nice crested saguaro above the left (NW) bank. Be sure to check it out.

I took 248 up to the top of Skull Mesa. One of these days I'll have to continue on 248 and make the loop back to 247 instead of just going up and back down. This trip was spur of the moment and I really wasn't wanting the extra distance with the pending heat later in the day.

It appears that 248 hasn't got much use this year. The grass is tall, especially on top of the mesa. It's nice and green too. I really love the views of Sugarloaf, Elephant Mountain, Black Mesa, New River Mesa from atop Skull Mesa. They never disappoint.

The temps were quite nice on the mesa and there was a nice breeze to keep it fresh. I could definitely feel it warming up as I descended back to the 248/247 junction. Once continuing on 247 a short distance, there's a really spectacular crested saguaro east of the trail and down some. Unfortunately, I started looking for it just after I passed it, so I missed it this trip.

This stretch of 247, from the junction back to Spur Cross doesn't get as much traffic and is somewhat overgrown, but still not difficult to follow. I thought I had my GPS tracks from my Feb 2016 trip but didn't and was able to follow the trail from memory just fine.

There was a good trickle of water where 247 crosses Cottonwood Creek. It's a bit above the spring. I'm glad I remembered to turn up where the trail crossed the creek otherwise I would have ended up back on Skull Mesa.

From the creek, the trail undulates up and down, mostly down, for several miles back to Spur Cross. Somewhere in there, I rounded a corner and was surprised to see a coyote carcass right in the middle of the trail. It seems like a strange place to die, though I have no idea how much of a choice the poor dog had.

I made it back to my truck a bit past noon and the temps were barely bearable at about 93.
Flora
Flora
Saguaro - Crested
Fauna
Fauna
Coyote Javelina
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
Several different cacti were blooming along with several plants. A lot more than I expected.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Cottonwood Spring Dripping Dripping
Didn't actually see the spring, however where 247 crosses the creek just above it had some flow and a small pool.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Dirt Trough Creek Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Nice trickle of water
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2 archives
Feb 13 2016
rcorfman
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 Guides 1
 Routes 115
 Photos 1,418
 Triplogs 981

60 male
 Joined Oct 17 2008
 Phoenix, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 13 2016
rcorfman
Hiking12.43 Miles 2,926 AEG
Hiking12.43 Miles   6 Hrs   27 Mns   2.27 mph
2,926 ft AEG      58 Mns Break12 LBS Pack
 
Partners none no partners
I parked at the Spur Cross parking area and got ready to start my hike. For some reason, I forgot to bring my hat so I slathered the sunscreen on my head where the hair is not so thick anymore.

It was a lazy morning so it was about 10 when I got on the trail. There were some hosts at the entry station where I paid the entrance fee. They were selling hats but I didn't have enough cash, so I just continued on hatless.

I did the clockwise tramp on the Cottonwood loop. There were several people out but they thinned out quickly once I crossed Cave Creek a couple of times.

As I neared the cutoff to Skull Mesa, I met two men coming the other way. They said they had already been up on the mesa and were heading to a wash and taking it back instead of the trail. They mentioned a route was probably on HAZ. I probably should have asked for their names. A short distance further, I passed three women who had also been up on the mesa.

I think allergies were bugging me because my left sinus was runny and my left eye was watering and hurting. It made it difficult to hike. On the way up to the mesa, I had to stop because I couldn't keep my eye open. I rested and ate and drank and cooled down. Getting the sweat to stop dripping in my eye really helped. From then on I hiked steady but easy so as to keep the sweating to a minimum.

Once on Skull Mesa, I went and found geocache, Explore the Wilderness 6 - Skull Mesa, then turned back and down the hill and back to the Cottonwood trail. My eye was bothering me a lot again, and when I came to Cottonwood Spring I stopped for a break. The stream was flowing lightly and I washed my face and ate and cooled off again before continuing. I had to stop one other time to tend to my eye before I made it back to my truck.

The eye problems were disappointing but I did enjoy the hike. The dessert is nice and green now and the hiking was good.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Cottonwood Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
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Dec 31 2015
Zort
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 Guides 1
 Routes 23
 Photos 94
 Triplogs 18

51 male
 Joined Aug 12 2004
 Phoenix, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 31 2015
Zort
Hiking15.69 Miles 3,843 AEG
Hiking15.69 Miles   4 Hrs   34 Mns   3.44 mph
3,843 ft AEG30 LBS Pack
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Deb and I wanted to continue our tradition of doing an overnighter for NYE, and we needed to stay close to home. We settled on Skull Mesa for some stars and city lights and, given time, some petroglyphs or ruins. As it happened we didn't do much sightseeing, but the trip was good fun with a rugged backcountry feel.

Cave Creek was pretty much dry, and the hike to the Skull Mesa TH was easy going. We took Trail 247 to Trail 248 for Skull Mesa, topped out on the mesa, and set up camp a couple tenths of a mile along the trail where junipers and a small ridge provided some warm west-facing rocks and a sheltered, leeward space just big enough for our little Copper Spur tent.

Views down onto the massive Phoenix metropolis were spectacular, and at midnight lots of small flashes of color indicated the New Year was being ushered in down there. We'll see if any of the long-exposure photos are worth sharing. After the distant spectacle subsided and the bourbon was gone we got back in bed for the night.

The chilly, breezy night. Our lightweight setup is best for Spring/Fall, and with temps below freezing up there we resorted to sleeping in our down jackets under the down quilt. We *love* the Nemo quilt for our GCNP Spring/Fall trips, because of how packable and lightweight it is, but it wasn't quite enough for high 20's/low 30's. No worry, donning a layer of clothes did the trick, and we slept fairly well.

And we slept fairly late, finally hitting the trail at nearly 10:30 a.m. Our plan was to do the clockwise loop over the mesa and return on Cottonwood TR. Had I realized the amount and nature of the remaining trail we would have started earlier. There was a solid 9-1/2 miles of fairly demanding trail between us and the Spur Cross parking lot. And there was a certain amount of route finding to be done to find the trail between Skull Mesa and Quien Sabe. Cairns are there, they're just not overly abundant or prominent. GPS is your friend!

At right about 4000' EL, TR 248 drops down toward Cottonwood Creek and TR 247. This descent is often quite steep and loose - not so much a trail as a bowling ball gutter. Most folks would find trekking poles very helpful here. Travel gets infinitely easier back on TR 247. Am I the only one who was strongly reminded of the ridgeline descent of La Milagrosa when heading down this section of 247 toward Cottonwood Creek?

Cottonwood Trail 247 is a nice mix of creek trail and then some grunting up and down small hills as it heads back toward Cave Creek and the Spur Cross TH. It took longer than intended, but we were back well before dark, and the temps were perfect for hiking. This is a highly recommended loop hike, that as others here noted would be a very long day. A lightweight gear setup made this a really great overnight trip!

I neglected bringing a cooler with post-hike beverages and snacks, so we headed into Cave Creek and had some tasty barbecue and beers at Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue. Cheers to 2016!
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Zort
http://instagram.com/zort_the_beholder
Jan 04 2014
BiFrost
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 Guides 4
 Routes 361
 Photos 7,786
 Triplogs 925

51 male
 Joined Nov 20 2012
 Phoenix, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 04 2014
BiFrost
Hiking16.30 Miles 3,890 AEG
Hiking16.30 Miles   8 Hrs   34 Mns   2.28 mph
3,890 ft AEG   1 Hour   25 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Partners partners
slowandsteady
Nice clockwise loop over Skull Mesa, past Cottonwood Spring and back out to Spur Cross TH. It was great weather with cool lunch break up on the high point of Skull Mesa just before it drops down. Cottonwood Spring had very light flow and if you had to filter would have been tough. There may have been more water but didn't look around very hard. Cool spot so we took another break there before heading to the TH. Only saw one other group of people all day who were heading to the ruins.
Culture
Culture
Cag Shot

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Cottonwood Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
There was nothing coming out of the pipe but light flow was in and around the spring area. Probably enough to filter if you really needed it.
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Mar 28 2013
JuanJaimeiii
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 Routes 567
 Photos 8,010
 Triplogs 1,718

53 male
 Joined Jan 30 2011
 Chandler, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 28 2013
JuanJaimeiii
Hiking17.00 Miles 4,260 AEG
Hiking17.00 Miles   5 Hrs   27 Mns   3.12 mph
4,260 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Partners none no partners
:D Did the Skull Mesa Cottonwood Loop today. Great hike! Unlike Picacho there are flowers everywhere! Also saw my first rattlesnake for the year. He coiled up and then he hissed at me. I took a photo and told him to move it! Funny thing, he did! :D

Up top and on back to the Cottonwood the Skull Mesa Trail is somewhat overgrown and hard to follow. Outside that no issues and a beautiful day for a hike.
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Dec 28 2010
topohiker
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 Guides 14
 Routes 113
 Photos 4,497
 Triplogs 2,111

male
 Joined Oct 29 2005
 Scottsdale, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 28 2010
topohiker
Hiking27.12 Miles 6,074 AEG
Hiking27.12 Miles   10 Hrs   30 Mns   2.58 mph
6,074 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I arrived at the TH at 7:45 and saw nonot's frost covered car parked there. My original plan was to hike the Bronco trail to the cottonwood, then go west to the cave creek trail and take that back to the cottonwood trail (at the CCC camp ground). Basically, a big loop. I downloaded GPSJoe's Skull Mesa loop route into my DeLorme just in case I missed the turn out of the creek on the Cottonwood trail. I had no problems following the Cottonwood trail. In fact, I followed it too good. I was about 10 miles into the hike and I started to see the Spur Cross TH in the distance. I check GPSJoe's route, and saw that I missed a turn off about a mile back. I was on a good, well-traveled trail. Shortly, I made it to the Spur Cross TH. My plan was to hike to the intersection of the Cottonwood/Cave Creek trails. I accidently turned on 247A. I hit the Spur cross trail and head to the Cave creek trail. I hit the Cave Creek / Cottonwood intersection and checked the map. I didn't have enough time to do my original route. I decided since I had the Skull Mesa loop route loaded up, I would hike that. Plus this would give me a chance to see where a missed the 247A / 247 split. I headed down the cottonwood trail and soon I reached the Skull Mesa intersection. I was a 1/2 mile from where I went 'off-track". I headed down and the spot where I took 247A was right by a corral / spring box. In fact it's easy to take the wrong trail. There a 247 sign and TWO cairns (mis)leading you down 247a. The actual 247 trail is obscured in this area. I headed back.

The Skull mesa trail on the west side is very steep and easy to follow. Once you get to the mesa, the trail gets hidden within the tail grass. There are cairns to point you along. Once you drop down from the mesa towards the Quien Sade trail, the trail becomes faint at best. I had to look at GPSJoes route every minute or two. Even when I was on the trail, I didn't see it. Unless you like roaming, I suggest you only do this section of the Skull mesa trail with GPSJoes route. The trail picks up when you cross a fence line. I made it to the Bronco trail by 5PM. I hoofed it back to the Jeep just as sky turned totally dark.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention the dead horse on the Bronco trail. It really stinks and looks pretty bad.
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"Everywhere is walking distance...If you have the time"
-Stephen Wright
Dec 28 2010
nonot
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 Guides 93
 Routes 236
 Photos 2,001
 Triplogs 477

male
 Joined Nov 18 2005
 Phoenix, AZ
Bronco Trail #245Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Backpack avatar Dec 28 2010
nonot
Backpack31.70 Miles 6,450 AEG
Backpack31.70 Miles3 Days         
6,450 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Dead horse on Bronco Trail, Dead cow on Cottonwood Trail.

Very little water out there right now. Almost aborted the trip due to lack of finding a good water source until fairly late the first day. Ultimately found 3 good sources in total the entire trip.

The indian fortress is great. The east half of the Skull Mesa trail is terrible. Cottonwood #247 is kinda boring without water or flowers. China wall was interesting. Jacks spring was in good shape. This area will likely be much nicer in the spring with both these missing factors.


Ran into a man who worked the ranches in the area at the end, he gave me a bunch of info about sites less seen. Will have to return someday!
Flora
Flora
Machaeranthera
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Isolated
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated

dry Cottonwood Spring Dry Dry
Found a flowing puddle that surfaces right where #247 drops into Cottonwood Wash. It disappears into the sand a foot later. Please note it was not found where this Cottonwood Springs is located. So I am marking this spring as dry. The only water at this location was stagnant and unfilterable.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Cottonwood Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Light trickle, a little silty and full of leaves.

dry Head of Cottonwood Spring Dry Dry
No water seen in the creek, perhaps I did not go up far enough...

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Jack Springs Gallon per minute Gallon per minute
Decent flow, heavy signs of cattle use in area though.
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Hike Arizona it is full of sharp, pointy, ankle-twisting, HAZmaster crushing ROCKS!!
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5 archives
Apr 11 2010
DarthStiller
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 Guides 25
 Routes 337
 Photos 7,091
 Triplogs 531

51 male
 Joined Jul 05 2006
 Mesa, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 11 2010
DarthStiller
Hiking18.00 Miles 3,500 AEG
Hiking18.00 Miles   9 Hrs      2.00 mph
3,500 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners partners
HAZ - Event
AndreyP
johnlp
I'm going with the official mileage listed for this hike, as my GPS had the usual desprepancies between the odometer and track mileage, and GPSJoe's mileage matches my odometer at 18 miles.

It was pretty windy and almost a little chilly at the start. That changed once we got moving. AndreyP was a little late as he said he might be, and John and I started without him. He caught with us within the first mile, however.

It got a bit warm on our away along Trail 247, but not too bad. After about 2 hours, we got to the junction with Trail 248. On top of Skull Mesa was very cool and breezy, which helped us after hoofing it up there. There were some very nice patches of high grass along 247 and 248 going up to Skull Mesa. Wildflowers were also abundant throughout the hike. We took lunch at about 11:30am and made our way back down to Trail 247. By the time we got back down there, my feet were beginning to get pretty sore from how rocky all the trails in this area are.

Cottonwood Creek is still running farther upstream (farther east) and there were a few nice little waterfalls that were probably a lot more spectacular last February after all the rains. At Cottonwood Spring, AndreyP took the unofficial Trail 247A back to the TH, which is about a mile or so shorter, and was gone once John and I made it back. John and I hoofed it back to Trail 4 and down thru the Spur Cross Conservation Area. During the crossing of Cave Creek, I deliberately walked thru the creek to cool my feet off a bit from the rocky trails.

This was a challenging hike, and was a bit of a slog at the end due to sore feet. It was still very nice to see some of the green left and wildflowers before the dry up. Views of the Supes, 4Peaks, Estrellas, Camelback, Piestewa, McDowells, Pinnacle Peak, etc, are visible at different portions of this hike. The temps didn't get too bad, but it was still warm enough for me to go thru 8.5 liters of water on this one, just shy of my record set during Soap Creek Canyon.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Extreme
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Apr 11 2010
johnlp
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 Guides 1
 Routes 9
 Photos 4,622
 Triplogs 3,723

63 male
 Joined Mar 16 2008
 chandler,az
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 11 2010
johnlp
Hiking18.00 Miles 3,500 AEG
Hiking18.00 Miles
3,500 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners partners
HAZ - Event
AndreyP
DarthStiller
Hiked with Stiller again and first time with AndreyP. The desert is still very green revealing a wide variety of wild flowers. Didn't see anybody else all day once we got away from Cave creek. A nice breeze made conditions cooler than anticipated. Not too uncomfortably warm even in the afternoon. Thanks Chris for organizing the event. Enjoyed hiking with AndreyP :)
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
_____________________
“Good people drink good beer.” Hunter S Thompson
Apr 11 2010
AndreyP
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 Guides 7
 Routes 98
 Triplogs 284

40 male
 Joined Feb 17 2010
 Moscow, RU
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 11 2010
AndreyP
Hiking16.10 Miles 4,080 AEG
Hiking16.10 Miles   8 Hrs   40 Mns   1.86 mph
4,080 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners partners
HAZ - Event
DarthStiller
johnlp
Thanks Chris and John for the company and special thanks Chris for setting up an event.

Cave Creek is low and can be crossed by boulder hopping keeping feet dry.
Trail 248 at the top of Mesa and all the way east from there is very faint and in some places with no cairns, so having a GPS receiver with a track loaded is highly recommended.
Trail 247A is easy to follow, some places dirt, some places loose gravel. Though it can be called a Cave Creek bypass because it doesn't require creek crossings and hence may be used in wet months, but there are several steep sections that may be mud slippery after rains.

Trail signs are noticed to be very inaccurate in distances, so hike details are as follows.

Time Mi Description
06:50 00.0 Spur Cross Conservation Area parking lot;
07:50 02.3 Spur Cross trailhead (for your confusion trail is marked with number 1533);
09:15 05.0 Trails 247-248 west junction (caution, the gate will close automatically);
10:00 06.0 entering Skull Mesa (resting till 10:20);
11:00 07.3 leaving Skull Mesa, begin descending;
11:25 07.9 Trails 248-250 junction (lunch break till 11:45);
12:40 09.8 Trails 247-248 east junction;
13:45 12.2 Cottonwood spring - trails 247-247A junction;
15:10 15.1 Spur Cross road;
15:30 16.1 Spur Cross Conservation Area parking lot.
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Mar 30 2010
The_Eagle
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 Guides 7
 Routes 799
 Photos 9,897
 Triplogs 1,392

64 male
 Joined Jan 20 2009
 Far NE Phoenix,
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 30 2010
The_Eagle
Hiking14.54 Miles 2,601 AEG
Hiking14.54 Miles   9 Hrs   57 Mns   1.46 mph
2,601 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Started at 9am from the Spur Cross TH. Went down the Metate trail instead of the FS48 for a more homey feel, to get more creek crossings, to view the huge Saguaros, and to get a view of the lizard on the rock. If I counted right, there are 7 creek crossings before getting to the Skull Mesa Trail head 2.25 Miles after leaving the Parking Lot.

The creek as of 3/30/2010 was lower and boulder hopping is not be a problem.

Trail 247 was in good shape and not too much of a workout. Saw a Crested Saguaro in this section of the trail. Through the gate and on 248 the climb begins. It starts out slow and gets to be a pretty good workout to the top of the Mesa.

Once on top we walked to the south end of the Mesa for some great views! It's 1:15 now and time for some shade and some lunch.

The walk north across the Mesa towards the Ruins was pretty easy except for one thing. There are many areas of grass that are close to knee high, that are real good at hiding small prickly pear cactus. I found a number of them (Feet, shins, and knees). When the Mesa starts to narrow you will reach a small mound before you get to the Ruins. The easier route here is around the mound, either side, no need to climb the hill.

The ruins were a bit of a buzz kill. Some rocks piled up maybe knee high, maybe 6 - 10 rooms in a few different locations. We saw some pottery shards but no glyps. We worked our way over to "The Fort". From what I can surmise, they are located on/by the northern most peak (just north of the ruins).

We went around the West side of the peak, and think we saw the remnants of "The Fort" but for lack of time and water supplies we decided to bushwhack the west side of the hill down to Route #4. If you decide to do this pick you route carefully. It's a little steep, slippery, and has numerous ways to help you let some blood. It was loosing 600ft of elevation in 9/10 of a mile and 53 minutes for us to get down. Please follow a previous hikers GPS route down. If they were able to post a route down, then they made it. Once on route #4, it's just a 5.7 mile march back to your car. All the elevation is gone..... just the march back.

We got back to the TH and enjoyed an icy cold adult beverage and high fived the great day in the wilderness!

I really enjoyed this hike. The views from on top of the mesa are spectacular!!!
Fauna
Fauna
Mallard Duck
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
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There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
Dave Barry
Jan 15 2010
gpsjoe
avatar

 Guides 16
 Routes 123
 Photos 2,810
 Triplogs 140

78 male
 Joined Feb 13 2004
 Mesa, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 15 2010
gpsjoe
Hiking19.20 Miles 3,880 AEG
Hiking19.20 Miles   12 Hrs   30 Mns   1.54 mph
3,880 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
My 19.2 miles includes about 1.5 miles of errors. I got back to my car at 9:25 PM after 3 hours with headlamp on. Made a few hiking mistakes along the way (edited out of the posted track). True odometer mileage would be about 18 miles without error. Hiked past 3 backpackers going in at 9:00 PM intending to camp along Cave Creek that night (lots of water there).

I did this hike to capture the last 6 miles of track recording to complete my file of all trails in the Cave Creek system from hikes I have done over the last several years.
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1 archive
Dec 21 2007
toddak
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 Guides 8
 Routes 5
 Photos 1,187
 Triplogs 451

55 male
 Joined Nov 15 2005
 Puhoynix, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 21 2007
toddak
Hiking16.00 Miles 3,500 AEG
Hiking16.00 Miles   6 Hrs      2.67 mph
3,500 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This is a tough but rewarding hike in classic, pristine Sonoran desert, with lots of up and down and huge views in all directions. We did the clockwise route, climbing up to the looming mesa on Trail 248, east along the top, then dropping way down into lovely Cottonwood Creek, still running gently after the rains earlier this month (as was Cave Creek, which was easily crossed by rock-hopping on the way in). The grass is taking over the trail on top of the mesa and also when dropping down the east end of the mesa, so you get to hone your cairn-spotting skills to stay on track. Wouldn't dream of doing this hike in summer, but it was wonderful today!
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Jul 08 2006
12red98
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 Triplogs 64

52 male
 Joined Jan 02 2005
 Phoenix, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jul 08 2006
12red98
Hiking12.00 Miles 3,500 AEG
Hiking12.00 Miles   5 Hrs   26 Mns   2.21 mph
3,500 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
No one else hiking - probably because of last years burn. Still beautiful in it's own stark way. No wildlife, but plants are starting to returm. Century plants in full, glorious yellow bloom.
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Jan 01 2006
Al_HikesAZ
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 Guides 11
 Routes 88
 Photos 2,645
 Triplogs 242

88 male
 Joined May 16 2005
 Scottsdale, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 01 2006
Al_HikesAZ
Hiking18.00 Miles 3,500 AEG
Hiking18.00 Miles   7 Hrs   20 Mns   2.45 mph
3,500 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Started at Spur Cross and followed the Skull Mesa from Spur Cross hike description to the gate and the 247/248 junction. Stayed on 247 and did Cottonwood #247 counterclockwise. Southeast of the gate at junction of 248 with 247, there is water at a spring .5 miles that is piped to a stocktank at .75 from the junction. Not sure how it holds up in the summer. I will probably not attempt this hike in the heat of the summer. Lots of Cottonwood Creek crossings. No water in the creek today. Area between Cottonwood trail and Quien Sabe trail requires good route finding skills.

Area east of Skull Mesa badly burned by the 2005 Cave Creek Complex Fire. See my prior trip log for this hike.
_____________________
Anybody can make a hike harder. The real skill comes in making the hike easier.
life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. Andy Rooney
Dec 25 2005
Al_HikesAZ
avatar

 Guides 11
 Routes 88
 Photos 2,645
 Triplogs 242

88 male
 Joined May 16 2005
 Scottsdale, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 25 2005
Al_HikesAZ
Hiking18.00 Miles 3,500 AEG
Hiking18.00 Miles   8 Hrs      2.25 mph
3,500 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I started at Spur Cross Conservation Area. You could start at the Seven Springs trailhead and approach from the east. I followed the Skull Mesa from Spur Cross hike description to the top of Skull Mesa. Then crossed Skull Mesa by following the cairns. The top of the mesa was charred by the 2005 Cave Creek Complex fire, but nothing like the area east of the mesa.

The area east of Skull Mesa was burned badly by 2005 Cave Creek Complex fire. Looks like some sort of post-apocalyptic mutant universe. Forest Service has not done any repair work yet so burned trees and cacti block the trail in places, and the trail is very hard to find. Route finding skills necessary between junction with Quien Sabe trail and junction with Cottonwood trail.

If you don't know this trail or don't have excellent route finding skills, don't attempt it until you hear that the Forest Service has repaired this part of the trail.

Lots of crossings of Cottonwood Creek on the way in. I would be wary during monsoon season. Because of the 2005 Cave Creek Complex Fire, there could be flooding.
_____________________
Anybody can make a hike harder. The real skill comes in making the hike easier.
life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. Andy Rooney
Dec 04 2004
AZOutdoorsman
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 Guides 4
 Photos 2,156
 Triplogs 117

male
 Joined Jan 16 2004
 Chandler, AZ
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 04 2004
AZOutdoorsman
Hiking 3,500 AEG
Hiking
3,500 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I led this hike for the Sierra Club back in December, some pics are from the pre-hike the prior week. Great, long loop just north of town. Full write-up coming soon.
Flora
Flora
Saguaro - Crested
Named place
Named place
Skull Mesa
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average hiking speed 2.22 mph

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.

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