Hiking Guide to Camp Creek Falls – Blue Wash Trail near Cave Creek

Mare CzinarFebruary 19, 2021
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While many of the Tonto National Forest’s gems are located deep within remote back country, Camp Creek Falls offers an easy access taste of the forest’s diversity with a trip to a rare, perennial desert waterfall. 

Camp Creek and Blue Wash are part of the Verde River watershed and both eventually drain into Bartlett Reservoir on the Verde River north of where it merges with the Salt River.   

The hike passes through an impressive corridor of massive boulders where the trail is somewhat tricky to follow. A horse bypass route avoids a section of the hike where some minor down-climbing is required.

Past the stone corridor and obstacles, the trail follows the sandy course of Blue Wash to the 1.1-mile point where the drainage of Camp Creek comes in from the north (left). To visit the cascading waterfall, head left and hike 0.28-miles to the stone grotto that shelters Camp Creek Falls.  

Camp Creek is a spring-fed waterway that flows year-round, but is best a few days after storms and during spring snowmelt season.   

Some hikers like to climb to the top of the grotto, but be aware that there pockets of private property north of the falls. Please do not trespass.

Geography

Camp Creek Falls is located in the southwest sector of Tonto National Forest just a few miles north east of Cave Creek.  

 

Tonto National Forest

At 2.9 million acres, the Tonto National Forest is Arizona’s largest national forest.  Its enormous range encompasses Sonoran Desert, mountain ranges, river basins, wilderness areas and the tall-pine woodlands below the Mogollon Rim near Payson. 

Hike Stats

LENGTH:  

  • 8 miles round-trip with falls & wash out-and-back 
  • 2.76 miles round trip to falls and back

RATING: moderate 

ELEVATION: 2,640 3,200 feet 

Adventure Responsibly

  • Do not attempt to do this hike before, during and after rain storms.  Water rushing off nearby mountains can quickly flood drainages, stripping away vegetation, scouring landforms and can potentially sweep away hikers. 
  • Wildfires in the area this past summer have added to the risk as much of the plant life that slowed runoff and erosion was destroyed.  This means that water will enter the wash more aggressively and there will be more debris in the flows. 
  • Also, just because it might not be dry where you stand, flood risk exists when it’s raining miles away.  That’s because the deluge could arrive before signs of a storm become apparent. 

GETTING THERE

NORTH (Cave Creek Road) TRAILHEAD: 

  • From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Princess/Pima exit 36 and go 13 miles north on Pima to Cave Creek Road (a.k.a. Seven Springs Road and FR24).
  • Follow Cave Creek Road 6.5 miles to the gravel lot on the left just past the “Blue Wash #1” sign.
  • Trail begins near the cottonwood trees across from the parking place. 

SOUTH (Bartlett Dam Road) TRAILHEAD: 

  • From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Princess/Pima exit 36 and go 13 miles north on Pima to Cave Creek Road (a.k.a. Seven Springs Road and FR24).
  • Follow Cave Creek Road 4.1 miles to Bartlett Dam Road, turn right and continue 2.8 miles to the trailhead on the left. 

 

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