In Part 1 I talked about my favorite for a quick, get out of town for the day, splash around in some water, hike. The Jug in Salome Canyon in the Salome wilderness. Now I would like to tell you about my favorite for an absolutely amazing, beautiful, awe-inspiring day hike still in Arizona. You might notice I said my Favorite both times. Its true. For a lot of reasons these are both my favorites.
Let me introduce you to West Clear Creek.
West Clear Creek is a huge canyon that runs for miles in the rim country of Arizona. It lies deep in the heart of Coconino National Forest. Even considering how large it is, its never crowded or busy. Unlike neighboring Fossil Springs with its overcrowded parking area and hundreds of people everywhere, West Clear Creek offers solitude and privacy. There may be a couple vehicles at the trailhead but once you drop into the canyon we are almost always very alone.
Once you hit the bottom West Clear Creek offers the intrepid explorer an impressive array of geological features, abundant wild life, and diverse environment.
From the trailhead down to the bottom of the canyon its a short 400-500 yards but its a steep decline with some bouldering required. Once at the bottom, it opens up to a whole different world from what you just left at your vehicle. Ferns, tall grasses, boulders, tall trees, waterfalls, and springs wait to impress you around every bend.
To explore West Clear Creek in a day is impossible, don’t try. Its dozens of miles from end to end. Don’t worry however, just to enjoy a small section will delight you for an amazing day. Expect to get wet wading through the many pools as its almost impossible to get anywhere at the bottom without doing so. Nothing so deep as you would have to swim but you might want to dry bag your electronics or leave them home. Your not going to get a cell signal anyways so a waterproof camera might make more sense.
Over the years we have had great experiences with the Fujifilm XP line of waterproof cameras. We have had 2. The Current one is the Fuji film Fine Pix XP90 Its a simple little point and shoot with great resolution, megapixel count, and above all, its waterproof. We have soaked ours over the years and even take some underwater pictures of fish and stuff while hiking.
West Clear Creek is formed by deep strait cliffs on both sides in most places so there are only a couple of entry points. As you explore at the bottom however, make sure you check out the many hidden corners. We found a point where a natural spring bubbled up through the bottom of a small cave. It was amazing to see. Sorry, the pictures don’t do it justice.
If your into rock climbing, there are tons of rock faces to climb. If not, they are still spectacular to see!
For fun, spend some time catching some of the hundreds of Crawdads. You can just catch and release like we do or take them back home for a tasty appetizer or gumbo stew.
There are a number of pools big enough to fish and I suspect there are Trout to be caught. I cant say for sure however as we never tried to fish down there. No matter what you do, its fun for the whole family. We took our friends Travis and Amy and their kids a few years back. Their daughter (6 at the time) managed the trip just fine with some help over some of the tougher spots on the way back up. This is one you can take your dog (or dogs in our case) if they are reasonably in shape and can hop up some boulders here and there. Ours always managed better than we did.
Directions West Clear Creek is in the forest along some reasonably well graded roads but I wouldn’t recommend taking a low riding family car. A car with some decent clearance, an SUV or a truck would be my suggestion.
From the Junction of SR260 and SR87 go 3.1 miles north and look for forest road 149 on the east side.
From the junction of SR 260 and Forest road 149 go east 2.1 miles to the T in the road.
Go left-north 1.3 miles (still 149 I think) to the next T at Forest road 149 and 142.
Go right-east 0.9 miles on Forest road 142 and look for Forest road 142E on the left-North.
Take 142E North 2.8 miles while it winds along a ridge to the Trail Head parking.
At the trail head parking walk slightly north west as it slopes away from the parking to the well used trail. You cant miss it.
Forest Roads to West Clear Creek