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Friday, April 10, 2009


LOWER LABARGE CREEK Superstition Wilderness Tucked into the sun-drenched cacti-studded hills surrounding Canyon Lake, a little-known path leads to a surprisingly lush pool of water, complete with its own sandy beach. Although the middle of the desert might not sound like a good place to find fall foliage, a hike into the lower reaches of LaBarge canyon rewards with torch-bright clusters of Velvet ash, Arizona sycamore, Goodding willows and Fremont cottonwood trees. To find this hidden oasis of color, follow Boulder Canyon Trail #103 for roughly a half-mile to the top of a rise and look for a faint, unmarked path that leaves the main trail and heads right and downhill into LaBarge Creek. Once at the creek, simply hike upstream among the boulders and seasonal pools. Accenting the colorful flora, are veins of jasper and quartz crystals which splatter the craggy canyon walls in shades of ruddy-red and ivory. Fragrant stalks of desert lavender, rustling reeds and frothy clumps of pampas grass add the finishing touches to the canyon’s jumbled crags and rubble-strewn floor. LENGTH: 5.6-mile out-and-back RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 1,680 – 2,300 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take Highway 60 east to Apache Junction to the Highway 88 (Idaho Road) exit. Turn left at the off ramp light and continue on Hwy-88 for approximately 15 miles to the Canyon Lake Marina between mileposts 210 and 211. The trail begins at the sign for Boulder Canyon Trail #103 across the road. A Tonto Pass is NOT necessary if you park in the designated trailhead spaces. Information: or call Mesa Ranger District (480) 610-3300


JULY 1, 2013:
Fossil Creek area fire closure in effect.  Visit this web site
or call the Fossil Creek hotline 928-226-4611 before heading out.  

March, 2012:

FOSSIL SPRINGS Fossil Springs Wilderness
OCTOBER 7, 2011: Fossil Creek Road from Strawberry: Please be advised that there was a rock slide on FR 708 in Fossil Creek.  The rock slide has completely blocked the road just above the bridge near Irving Power Plant. So Fossil Creek is inaccessible from Strawberry. The road could remain blocked for several weeks.

AUG. 3, 2011:

FOSSIL CREEK CLOSURE TERMINATION ORDER: Order No. 12-11-002 United States Forest Service Tonto National Forest PUBLIC SAFETY CLOSURE TERMINATION ORDER Pursuant to Title 36 CFR 261.50 (a) and (b), all prohibitions listed in Order Number 12-11-002, affecting areas on National Forest System lands, roads and trails identified as National Forest System Road 708, known as the “Fossil Creek Road” from immediately west of the intersection with National Forest 784, known as “Fossil Springs Trailhead Road” and extending west and down to immediately east of the Waterfall Trailhead (Old Flume Trail Trailhead) within the Payson Ranger District of the Tonto National Forest, Arizona, dated January 11th, 2011 and signed by Gene Blankenbaker are hereby rescinded and terminated; effective 8:00 AM, Wednesday February 16, 2011. Done this 25 day of February , 2011 at Phoenix, Arizona. /s/ Gene Blankenbaker GENE BLANKENBAKER Forest Supervisor Tonto National Forest TEMPORARY CLOSURE NOTICE JANUARY 2011: Section of Fossil Creek Road, FR 708 closed due to unsafe road conditions Release Date: Jan 12, 2011 Payson, Ariz. (January 11, 2011) – Unsafe road conditions caused by recent storm activity has prompted Tonto National Forest officials to close a section of Forest Road (FR) 708, also called Fossil Creek Road. This closure begins at the intersection of FR 708 and FR 784, also called the Fossil Springs Trailhead Road, and extends westerly and down to a point just before the Waterfall Trailhead, also called Old Flume Trail Trailhead. This closure will be in place until rescinded by another order or on April 1, whichever comes first. For more information on this closure, contact the Payson Ranger District at 928-474-7930. Updates will also be provided on the forest website at
  HIKE DESCRIPTION:Hidden within the walls of a 1,600-foot-deep canyon carved out of rose-tinted sedimentary rock, Arizona’s largest and most diverse riparian area stands in stark contrast against the surrounding arid landscape. Saturated with robust greenery, countless gushing springs, soaring cliffs and refreshing swimming holes, a hike along the Fossil Springs Trail is a veritable road to a desert Garden of Eden. No serious Arizona hiker’s portfolio is complete without a trip down this classic trail. Extremely popular, the Fossil Springs trail holds many delights. The hike begins in the high desert above the canyon where scrub oak, stunted junipers, manzanita, cliff rose, and skunk bush cling to red rock escarpments. There’s little shade for the first three miles, so it’s smart to carry a gallon or more of water per person on this hike. At the bottom of the canyon, the trail becomes somewhat difficult to follow. To find your way, just head toward the canopy of green and you’ll soon encounter a series of progressively larger pools of water in the sandstone. The real adventure begins beyond the pools. After a short scramble through a jungle of cottonwoods and humungous sycamore trees, the sound of gushing water fills the air. Here, at the base of a knarled tree is the first of many springs that pump gallons of icy water per minute into Fossil Creek. At this point, the trail takes on a tropical rainforest flavor. Dozens of species of trees and shrubs grow tall and wide in the rich soil while tangled masses of Canyon grape, yuccas and beds of bright yellow columbine and monkey flowers contribute to an impenetrable undergrowth community. Arizona walnut, alder and hackberry trees make an admirable showing amid massive specimens of water-loving sycamores. The trail continues along the banks of the creek passing numerous pools complete with rope swings and wet dogs. Roughly one mile from the first spring site, the trail reaches an old concrete dam and flume system that at one time diverted Fossil Creek water to a couple of power generating plants downstream. Happily for water-loving hikers, the flume was recently de-commissioned, sending a roaring cascade of water over the cliffs into swimming holes where, on any given weekend, swarms of manic Labrador retrievers and their human companions thrash happily in the warm, mineral-rich spring water. HIGHLIGHTS: Arizona’s largest riparian habitat, splendid waterfalls, gushing springs and sycamore-canopied alcoves. LENGTH: 7 miles round-trip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 3,800’ - 5,100’ Driving distance from Phoenix: 110 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From Payson, travel north on Highway 87 to the town of Strawberry. From Strawberry, go left onto Fossil Springs Road (Forest Road 708) and continue for roughly 5 miles to the signed trailhead turnoff on the right. Finding the route: From the trail register, go right and downhill a short distance to an intersection with a dirt road. From there, turn right and descend along a wide path into the canyon. Facilities: vault toilet at the trailhead Information: (928) 477-2255 or NOTE: always check with the forest service before hiking this one. There will be trail closures as work continues on removing the old dam.


BLUE RIDGE Passage #28 of the Arizona Trail Coconino National Forest In 1994 a group of dedicated hikers formed the Arizona Trail Association to fulfill the dream of a geophysicist, teacher and long-distance runner. The seeds of the Arizona Trail were planted back in the 1970s when Dale Shewalter thought it would be cool to hike the Appalachian Trail, but instead, moved to Arizona. Once in the Grand Canyon State, Shewalter quickly succumbed to the geological diversity underfoot and set out exploring. By 1985, he had blazed his way from Nogales to Flagstaff by linking existing trails and roads spawning a plan for a state-traversing hiking path. Over its 750-mile route, the Arizona Trail passes through virtually every eco-system in the state. From its origin in the desert near the Mexican border to its terminus on the Kaibab Plateau, the trail is designed to showcase Arizona’s diverse landscapes. Divided into 43 “passages” the route can be tackled in manageable chunks. The Blue Ridge passage samples the canyon-riddled high country south of Flagstaff. Best experienced as a 2-day backpack or one-way car shuttle hike, the trail is mostly flat except for where it plunges into the awe-inspiring gorges of East Clear Creek and General Springs canyon. Throughout the hike, the blue-green ridges, for which the trail was named, take center stage on the pastel horizon. HIGHLIGHTS: Pleasant introduction to the northern segments of the Arizona Trail featuring scenic views and a plunge into East Clear Creek Canyon. LENGTH: 15.8 miles, one-way RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 7,300’ – 7,500’ Driving distance from Phoenix: 165 miles one-way GETTING THERE: North access: From Payson, go north on Highway 87 to Forest Road 138 (road signs say Moqui Campground). Turn right onto FR 138 and continue for about 100 yards. The trailhead is on the east (left) side of the road. South access: From Payson, go north on Highway 87 to Forest Road 300 (General Crook Trail). Follow FR 300 (stay straight) for 12 miles to a turnoff on the left that leads to “Battle of Big Dry Wash” historical marker. From there, turn left and follow the power lines for roughly a third-of-a-mile to the General Springs trailhead. Information: (928) 477-2172 or or


WOODS CANYON LAKE Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest In September of 1993, an unsuspecting hiker went into the thicket surrounding Woods Canyon Lake to answer nature’s call and got more than relief. Lurking in the brush was, as she described it, a very large, hairy, human-like creature who left footprints the size of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus. She did not get a photo, nor did the many other people who claim to have sighted the elusive beast in the Mogollon Rim’s lake country. Known in legend as Bigfoot, it’s not surprising that the shy missing-link would feel at home at the lake. After all, who wouldn’t want to live where wild roses and ferns embellish the shores of a lake teeming with fish, cranes and beavers while a canopy of Douglas firs filters the sunlight and provides cozy, secluded alcoves? More a stroll than a hike, the trail hugs the water’s edge as it skirts dense grasses, woods and dells. Although usually busy, this popular recreation area is so quiet; you can hear fish jumping and the soporific sound of canoes bobbing on the water. There are lots of places along the trail to stop and enjoy the sights, and when nature calls, remember to bring your camera. LENGTH: 3 miles RATING: Easy ELEVATION: 7,500 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take Highway 87 north to Payson. In Payson, connect to AZ 260 and drive east for 30 miles to just past milepost 282 and turn left onto Forest Road 300 (Rim Road) at the Woods Canyon Lake sign and go 4 miles to the lake. Park by the store and pick up the trail at either end of the parking lot.