walking along a rare perennial creek in a desert riparian
The hike along Red Creek reminded me of hiking through Aravaipa Canyon. Large Cottonwood and Sycamore trees provide shade as you follow a perennial creek all the way to the Verde River. It's a beautiful place.
One of the nice things about this hike is you are very likely to have this hike to yourself, as this is a remote, hard to reach place. You'll need to travel at least 30 miles on dirt roads to get to the start of the hike. Unfortunately for us hikers, there are a few brave 4WD folks that like to try their luck at navigating their jeeps down the same route. National forest planning suggests the near future may bring a closure of this area to vehicles, so hiking may be the only way in.
From FR18, walk down the short, rocky downhill section of this road to Red Creek. Turn right at the creek, as you will be hiking downstream towards the Verde River. You can follow FR18 along the length of this creek, as sometimes it represents the easiest route. Other times, FR18 goes right down the flat creek itself. Expect many creek crossings and some rock hopping. Luckily, the creek is very shallow, so keeping dry is easy. The first three miles of this hike you'll be alternating walking under shade, along a rough jeep road, or rock hopping along a shallow creek.
This is a potentially great place to see wildlife too. We saw plenty of animal tracks in the soft sand next to the creek. We were even treated to views of the rare Gila Monster lizard.
As you get closer to the Verde River, the area opens up and the creek may move underground in spots. The shade goes away until you reach the shores of the Verde River. The Verde is a good place to stop and sit under some shade to enjoy lunch as you watch the lazy river drift by.
Just before reaching the Verde River, if you look to your right you may notice a bright orange wind sock on the South bluff of Red Creek. This marks the location of a remote airfield, which is worth exploring if you have the time and energy. It's location is marked on the map.
When you're ready, return the way you came.