Cave Creek Trail 4

Tonto National Forest, Arizona

Elevation Gain4,501ft
Trailhead Elevation3,359ft
Elevation Min/Max2425/3384ft
Elevation Start/End3359/3359ft

Cave Creek Trail 4

Cave Creek Trail #4 is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Maricopa County, Arizona. It is within Tonto National Forest. It is 9.9 miles long and begins at 3,359 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 20.1 miles with a total elevation gain of 4,501 feet. The Ashdale Ranger Station ranger station can be seen along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Cottonwood Trail #247, Trail 4 and Skunk Creek Trail #246.

Cave Creek Trail #4 Professional Reviews and Guides

"With 35 miles of trails, the Cave Creek trail system offers a variety of hiking terrain a short distance from Phoenix. A nice loop hike here follows perennial Cave Creek for a few miles downstream from the vicinity of the Seven Springs picnic site before returning via the desert foothills to the south."

"This hike follows the perennial Cave Creek through its lush riparian upper course then cuts around some desert hills to rejoin the river lower in its canyon.

This trail is both scenic and easy year-round. The estimated hike time assumes you spend some time splashing around. This stretch is the most popular of the Cave Creek trail system. OUTSTANDING FEATURES: Riparian area, running water, crowned saguaro cacti."

"Butcher Jones Trail runs along a section of Saguaro Lake’s northern shore, offering many scenic overlooks of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Burro Cove, this hike’s destination, commands an impressive view of Four Peaks across the lake."

"Permanent streams are an oddity in the desert Southwest. It’s a good thing for you and your trail dog that the Tonto National Forest has developed the Cave Creek Trail system, which in addition to Cave Creek Trail 4 includes the Skunk Tank, Cottonwood, Skull Mesa, and Quien Sabe Trails.

Start exploring this unique and beautiful area with the Cave Creek Trail.You and your dog will be walking in the footsteps of the Hohokam and Tonto Apache peoples, who at different times used this lush riparian area extensively. Little wonder. This thriving creek flows even in dry cycles and offers plenty of shady stretches among mighty cottonwoods and sycamores with easy access to the stream."

"North of Phoenix, the low-lying, flat Valley of the Sun abruptly gives way to the foothills of the New River Mountains, a complex of mesas, canyons, Sonoran Desert peaks, and even some seasonal streams. This loop hike follows portions of Cave Creek, one such creek within the southern portion of the New River Mountains in the Tonto National Forest.

Start on the Cave Creek Trail (Forest Trail 4), which follows the creek, crossing it a few times. After about 4 miles, turn left onto the Skunk Tank Trail. After another 5 miles, turn left onto Forest Trail 247 to return to the trailhead. Along Cave Creek is a lovely riparian habitat featuring Fremont cottonwood and Arizona sycamore. This is a great birding area, especially in late spring and early summer."

"A desert day hike along a flowing stream. Along Cave Creek is a lovely riparian habitat with Fremont cottonwoods, ash, alder, walnut, and Arizona sycamores. This is a great birding area, especially in late spring and early summer.

Once you leave the creek, the route enters typical Sonoran desert. Saguaro, cholla, ocatillo, and palo verde are common. On your way to the trailhead, just inside the forest boundary, is a halfmile side trip to Sears-Kay Ruin, the remains of a thousand-year-old Hohokam settlement. A self-guided tour includes signs explaining the site. Permit: Parking fee at Cave Creek Trailhead."

Cave Creek Trail #4 Reviews

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As the other reviewers noted, definitely would suggest a clockwise loop as opposed to the Trail Guide suggested route. The Skunk Creek Trail has some mild climbs and depressions that would be more enjoyable early in the hike. Even in mid-November, the Cave Creek portion of the trail was very lush and scenic.
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I gave this 4 stars because it's one of the few hikes around with water. Excellent hike. I did it like the author (counter clockwise) and wished I did it the other way around like the previous reviewer. You want to end up at the creek at the end of the hike.
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I have to give this trail 4 stars simply because i would not at all recommend doing this trail on the counter clockwise route that the author did! When I hike this again I will definitely go clockwise for several reasons...the main one being i would prefer to get the most challenging part of the hike out of the way at the beginning (no shade and less scenic) and then enjoy the most beautiful portion of the loop at the end with trees along the creek providing shade! The trail was well marked with pink ribbons at the creek crossings and stacked rocks to follow when you doubt which way to go. It was hotter than normal today (103 in the valley) and I would not suggest hiking this in the summer since there is NO shade on the Skunk Creek portion of the trail. The Cave Creek portion was gorgeous - we stopped to eat along the creek and dunked our shirts in the water to cool off! Very refreshing...Loved the portion of the trail where you could see the old mine and hundreds of rusted tin cans...
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We didn't have much time so we only hiked the first 2.5 miles or so of Cave Creek trail out and back the first week of May. It looked like this area had seen some fire recently but the creek was flowing and plenty of wildflowers were blooming near the water and up the hillsides. The trees growing along the creek provide some shelter from the sun.

Trail Information

Tonto National Forest
Nearby City
Tonto National Forest
Skill Level
Tonto National Forest Nearest town: Carefree
Local Contacts
USGS New River Mesa and Humboldt Mountain
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Oct 2018