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Headwaters West Clear Creek

West Clear creek
West Clear Creek
West Clear Creek
West Clear Creek
West Clear Creek
elevation plot: Headwaters - West Clear Creek
map: Headwaters - West Clear Creek
West Clear creek
West Clear Creek
Petroglyphs in West Clear Creek


How to Get There
This hike is located near Strawberry, AZ.

To get to the trailhead: from the Phoenix area, take HWY-87 North toward Payson. Go through the towns of Payson, Pine, and Strawberry while staying on HWY-87. About three miles past Strawberry is the junction of HWY-260 and HWY-87. Turn left onto HWY-260. After about 3.1 miles, turn right onto FR144 (just past mile marker 249). Drive 1.8 miles on FR144 to FR149. Turn left on FR149 and go 1.2 miles to FR142. Turn right on FR142 (it is a Y-intersection) and follow FR142 1 mile to FR142E. Make a left onto FR142E and follow it 2.7 miles to it's end and the start of our hike. The dirt roads are in pretty good shape. Although a high clearance vehicle is recommended, it probably isn't required.
Mogollon Rim

Hike details

6.20 [Miles] Total
Hike Distance- Details
The out and back described is 6.2 miles round trip.
6.00 [Hours]
It took us six hours to do this hike with a 30 minute break for lunch and some time spent exploring the petryoglyphs and side canyon. Although the distance isn't long, the travel time through the canyon is slow.
Elevation Change
1,200 Total gain/loss [Feet]
Elevation Loss
600 Total Elevation Loss[Feet]
Elevation Details
about 600 ft loss walking into the canyon and 600 ft gain again walking out of the canyon.
Hike Trail Type
Out and Back
Special Features


Best Season
  • May
  • June
  • July
Worst Season
  • January
  • February
  • December
Season Details
Summer, Fall, Spring
Date Hike completed
May 08, 2004


Solitude Details
Not too bad. We saw about 10 other people on this hike. For the most part, we had the canyon to ourselves.


Difficulty Rating
difficulty detail
30 yr old Recommendation: We had a great time on this hike. Splashing though water and marveling at the great scenery kept us entertained. This hike is Moderate because of the steep climb in to and out of the canyon.


Be Aware of
route finding, walking through water, scrambling

Hiking the Headwaters of West Clear creek, Arizona.

This hike starts at the south rim of West Clear Creek. This trail steeply descends (and I do mean steeply!) down 600 ft to the canyon floor. Expect some scrambling to get down this trail and watch your step. After reaching the canyon bottom, head upstream.

Progress is made up this canyon by following unmaintained trails created by hikers, wildlife, and fishermen, as well as by walking and wading through the creek. It's not likely you can keep your feet dry for this entire hike, so get 'em wet early and enjoy it.

There is a cool side canyon on your right as you hike up the canyon (about 0.3 miles). It doesn't go far back at all, so it's worth a look. A little farter (another 0.2 miles) is a spring that flows into the creek. I don't know if this is a seasonal spring, but it was pretty.

We set the destination of our hike as the Maxwell trail. After about 2 miles of hiking up the canyon, you pass Tramway Canyon (it enters on the left as you walk up the canyon). Get on the canyon left and hug the walls to see some pretty cool petroglyphs. I couldn't tell which were the real ones and which were copycat, but I found them interesting anyway.

The Maxwell trail winds up through the pine trees on the left side of the creek (as you walk upstream). The trail is not easy to find, so keep a sharp eye out for the trail on your right as you walk downstream. Luckily, there will most likely be some other people at this point that hiked down the Maxwell Trail that can point you in the right direction. We found this a good point to turn around and find a nice secluded spot for lunch.

Lunch next to a running creek in a heavily forested canyon is always a treat. After a bite (and perhaps a nap!) return the way you came. Hopefully you remembered the creek area you came down so you can find your car again. 


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