West Clear Creek on the Mogollon Rim, June 2015

Mary Ann and I hiked into West Clear Creek and camped on the Mogollon Rim.

Our anniversary is June 5, and we always try to take some time off and go someplace. This year we didn’t plan ahead very far, and made a last minute decision to go camping on the Mogollon Rim. My friend Martha told us of a trailhead to West Clear Creek, with camping nearby. We have hiked in the West Clear Creek Wilderness near Interstate 17 and Arizona Highway 260, and really enjoyed it. On our anniversary last year we tried to access the creek from forest roads along highway 260, but weren’t successful.

The trailhead is in a remote spot in the forest. We met a young couple at the top with a 6 year old and carrying a baby in a backpack. They said that the trail was steep, but it wasn’t bad and it was worth it. They said they hiked out in 20 minutes. There was a forecast for rain, so we decided to hike down on Thursday instead of waiting to Friday when we might get rained out.

The trail was incredibly steep, and what passed for a ‘trail’ was really hiking over and around boulders straight down into the canyon. We took our dog, Chief, and even he had problems where we had to lift him over boulders in several spots. It took about 40 minutes to get to the bottom, and all the way thinking “we have to hike back up this thing”! If you ranked trails as easy, moderate, difficult, and extreme, this would be extreme.

It was beautiful at the bottom. A clear creek and sheer canyon walls. The pictures (below) don’t really do it justice. We met a group of 5 backpackers, 4 teenagers and an adult. They had huge backpacks, and had spent 3 nights in the canyon. He said there were about 4 or 5 very nice camping areas up the creek. He said there are about 4 more trailheads to get into the creek, and one he saw from the bottom might be easier to hike down. Hiking the canyon requires frequent hiking through the water. Where we were, the water was fairly deep compared to our hikes in Aravaipa Canyon, maybe up to the teenagers’ knees.

We spent an hour or so at the bottom. It was getting late and starting to sprinkle, and we weren’t prepared to hike up the stream in the water, so we decided to save that for another trip. Hiking up was a bear. How the young dad did it with the baby on his back I don’t know, let alone those teenagers with the huge packs. I was panting like I just ran a marathon when I got to the top. However, I’m in very bad shape. I need to go to the gym more often! It was a little easier hiking up against gravity (though harder on the cardio system 🙂 ), and Chief had an easier time. I had to help him only twice. But it was very steep and required climbing over and between the boulders. It took about 40 minutes to hike up.

We camped a few hundred yards from the trailhead. The camping spot was very nice. There are no facilities or designated camping spots – you just camp in the national forest. We had the place all to ourselves (maybe due to the rain forecast 🙂 ). We had a couple of short rain showers, but then we got clear skies for a campfire under a bright full moon and stars. In the morning we got some heavy rain for about an hour, and then it cleared up. We heard reports of more rain coming our way, so we decided not to stay another night. We had breakfast and packed up with no rain. Mary Ann spotted a Western Bluebird in a cavity nest, and I got a few pictures before we left.

It took about 2.5 hours to get from home to the trailhead – about 1.5 to Payson, and another hour to the trailhead. Here are directions to the trailhead: Go on highway 87 north through Payson, Pine, and Strawberry. Continue past the junction with the 260 (note: not the 260 in Payson, but the 260 north of Strawberry). The Rim Road (Forest Road 300) is about 3 miles past the 260. Then about 4 miles past the Rim Road, take a left on Forest Road 142. Turn right on Forest Road 142E, which ends at the trailhead. It is about 7 miles and 25 minutes on dirt road from Highway 87 to the trailhead.

Here are a few pictures:

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One Comment

  1. Aaron
    Posted June 7, 2015 at 1:00 am | Permalink


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  • By Camping at West Clear Creek, July 2016 on July 31, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    […] last year. I described how to get there and how difficult the trail into the canyon is on the post here. This year we hiked into the canyon early in the morning, and were prepared to hike through the […]

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