The Phoenix heat is brutal, as anyone in Arizona between June and October can attest to. Because of that, I decided to head further north, out of the concrete jungle, up to West Clear Creek.
Hike Date: June 7 - 8, 2018
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: -750 feet
Difficulty: Difficult steep climb down to the canyon floor, then easy
Dog Friendliness: Definitely dog friendly, as long as they're willing to get a little wet
I’ve hiked West Clear Creek a couple of times over the years, always starting at the Bull Pen Ranch. I have to admit, I was not a fan. In fact, I vowed to never come back. Until I tried going in another way. This time, I drove down FR 142E until I reached a parking area, which is where the fun begins.
Immediately upon reaching the trailhead, the descent into the canyon begins – down a very steep and relatively unstable trail. There wasn’t any real climbing involved, but you’ll definitely need to be sure-footed, and likely use your hands. Be warned: it’s slippery.
Once I hit the canyon floor, I assessed the sitch and decided to head East up the canyon, where you’ll almost instantly run into your first stream crossing. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the faint trail to the left of the creek, so spent a little time in waist-deep water trying to figure out how to get through. Eventually, I spotted the right trail and climbed across the top of boulders to get through to the well-marked trail. Note to readers: waist deep was not necessary.
After a little over a quarter of a mile from the point where you reach the bottom of the canyon, you’ll pass by a box canyon on your right called Sundance Canyon. It’s worth the trek through the chest-deep water. It’s cold. Go anyway.
Once you’re done exploring the canyon, you’ll cross back and continue up the original trail another half mile until you reach a natural spring coming out of the side of the canyon wall.
It was across from this stream that I decided to set up camp in the most beautiful little oasis. As soon as the tent was set up, clouds and thunder started rolling in. The pup and I took a nice nap in the tent and, when we woke up, the rain was clearing up and the skies going back to their beautiful Arizona blue, which remained for the duration of the trip.
I’m already planning my next trip back up to the West Clear Creek Wilderness – likely starting with Tramway Trailhead or Maxwell Trailhead.