“A beautiful and gentile trip along a creek that runs much of the year.”
— Guy Granger
Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
Need to Know
There is a fee to enter Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. As of early 2019, auto entry is $7. They could charge $3 per person for walk in entry, but I'm not sure if this is enforced. There are restrooms at Spur Cross Ranch and at the Cave Creek trailhead.
This trail runs from near Spur Cross Ranch Conservation area, a Maricopa County Park near Cave Creek, Arizona, to the Seven Springs area in Tonto National Forest.It follows Cave Creek much of the way, and is beautiful and peaceful when the creek is flowing. The ridges and canyons, as well as the trees and flowers, are inspiring.
To access the northeast end of the trail, drive Cave Creek Road north until it becomes Seven Springs Road/Forest Road 24, and continue to the Cave Creek Trailhead. This road is off and on dirt and pavement, but easily traveled in a passenger car. Park for free at the Cave Creek Trailhead, where there is a toilet.
To access the southwest end of the trail, take Spur Cross Road north from the town of Cave Creek, and park at the Spur Cross Trailhead. To get to Cave Creek Trail 4 from here, you run about a mile north on the Spur Cross Trail/Maricopa Trail to the national forest boundary, and then continue another mile or so on Maricopa Trail/Forest Road 48 (gated) to the beginning of Trail 4. At this point, the Maricopa Trail/Cottonwood Trail #247
branch off to the east as well, while FR 48 continues north.
The northeast 5 miles of the trail along Cave Creek is absolutely spectacular. I started it from the intersection with the Skunk Tank Trail #246 to the Cave Creek TrailHead. The path is usually well above the creek, but crosses it several times. In January, the creek was flowing steadily, making beautiful babbling noises. From above you can see down into beautiful pools, sometimes quite clear, sometimes a little green. Negotiating the crossings can be slightly tricky, but I never got my feet wet. Take your time, and watch for the cairns that show the preferred place to cross.
Along the way, there are a couple of somewhat rare Crested Saguaro Cacti. One is right on the trail at N 33° 58.0098 W 111° 53.9735. These Saguaro's are marked by Geocaches, as well.
As your reach the last mile or so back to the trailhead, the trail moves away from the creek, but you might still hear it if it is quiet. The trail threads between a road going to a forest service maintenance area and a private ranch, running along a fence in this section, so it is not quite so wild here.
Flora & Fauna
You'll find the usual cactus along here, saguaro, cholla, prickly pear. There are a couple of rare Crested Saguaros. This area also has quite a few birds. Watch for Black Phoebes, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Bell's Vireos, Western Screech Owls, Gilded Flickers, Gila Woodpeckers, Phainopeplas, Albert's Towhees, Costa's Hummingbirds, and Lucy's Warbler. There are also bobcats and mountain lions in this area.