Monday, March 6, 2017
Crystal clear, gurgling waters, red rock cliffs, shady mesquite forests and towering canyon walls make hiking along Red Creek an especially relaxing experience. A tributary of the Verde River, Red Creek--which runs through rugged backcountry roughly 35 miles northeast of Cave Creek--creates a narrow band of green in the desert and supports abundant plant and animal life. The "trail" is a mash up of both motorized and non-motorized routes. Running water often obscures the way, but as long as you go with the flow, you'll pick up the paths-of-use. From the parking area, hike down the steep embankment, veer right (north) and follow the creek, informal footpaths and 4x4 roads. Stream hopping is a major feature of this simple and serene, hike but the creek bed is gravel (not mud) and the water is anything but deep or treacherous. The creek emerges from the canyon at about the 3-mile mark and trickles into a desert wash with big-sky views and miles of river rock underfoot. On the near horizon, a ribbon of green jutting over the desert ridges is a sure sign that a major water source is nearby. Keep following the trickle and it will lead you to the rushing waters and sandy beaches of the upper Verde River.
LENGTH: 8 miles out-and-back
ELEVATION: 2,660' - 2,210'
GETTING THERE: From Carefree, follow Cave Creek Road (which will turn onto Forest Road 24) for 32 miles to the Forest Road 269 junction (Bloody Basin Road) and turn right. Go about three miles, turn left onto Forest Road 18 and proceed 2.5 miles and park in the dirt turnoff just before the steep descent to Red Creek. Expect to spend 2.5 hours on dirt roads. NOTE: FR 18 is very rough and requires at least a high clearance vehicle.