Hike of the Week: Clay Mine near Cave Creek

Mare CzinarJanuary 23, 2024
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Cave Creek Regional Park, Cave Creek 

This unusual North Valley hike is an ode to the remains of the clay. 

The short, easy trek that’s sometimes hosted by park rangers, explores the site of a former mine that produced mineral-rich clay for a woman-owned beauty and health enterprise.  

In the 1930s, Leila P. Irish saw the potential in marketing a buff-colored earth found among the tailings of an abandoned, gold prospect in what is now Cave Creek Regional Park.  For reasons unbeknownst to modern science, Irish envisioned a miracle cure in the otherwise unremarkable, chalky rock.  She transformed the common soil into a marketable gold mine of another type by grinding the soft sediments into a fine, talc-like powder and selling it at premium prices as a calcium, iron and silica rich health supplement and basic elixir for building strong teeth and nails and enriching blood.  The product took off, making Irish and her Pearl Chemical Mine very wealthy. When Irish’s dreams of further cashing in on the magic muck by establishing a nearby health resort complete with therapeutic mud baths didn’t pan out, she sold the claim in 1949 and the mine and its sensational issue of debatable value fell into oblivion.  Today, the clay mine lives on as a county park curiosity.  Casual hikers may view the site from behind a locked gate, but frequently-scheduled ranger tours allow for inside access as well as lessons on the history and science behind this enlightening bit of Arizona lore. 

LENGTH: 3 miles round trip 

RATING: easy 

ELEVATION: 2,000 – 2,300 feet 

GETTING THERE: 

Overton Trailhead: 

37900 E. Cave Creek Parkway, Cave Creek. 

From Interstate 17, go 7 miles east on Carefree Highway (State Route 74) to the park entrance at 32nd Street.   

FACILITIES: restrooms, water, picnic ramadas, camping, visitor center 

HOURS: 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily 

FEE: $7 daily fee per vehicle