Wet Feet in Cottonwood Narrows

The scheduled hike for this Wednesday was either a “challenger” trip up the Flatiron, or an intermediate trip to Siphon Draw.  Probably would have done Siphon Draw, but frankly that one isn’t on my “top 5” list.   But Monday afternoon I got an email and visit from George asking me if I wanted to try “a new one”.  He planned to hike “about 10 miles over flat terrain” through a “gorgeous canyon” below Four Peaks north of the Salt River.

Sign me up!

The trek he planned was the lower 5 miles of Cottonwood Creek (10 miles round trip).  This creek starts high to the east  below Browns Peak, and is the major drainage of the entire western flank of Four Peaks.


To reach the creek we drove north on the BeeLine highway to Forest Road 143.  After a few miles on 143, hang a right on Forest Road 401 until it terminates in a valley at an old cattle station called “Cottonwood Camp”.  You can identify this parking spot by the corral, and a huge old stone water tank.

Four Peaks tank

Lots of parking room here, and the camp lies right next to the creek, so makes a great trail head.

Although it’s still about 10-12 miles away, Four Peaks dominates the eastern horizon.  It still has a fair amount of snow remaining from last weeks storms.

Four Peaks

We will head south out of here, downstream toward the Salt River.

ATV trailThere is a lot of ATV/OHV activity in this area, so the early part of the hike is on a 4-wheeler trail which criss-crosses the creek several times in the first couple of miles.


There was a fairly generous flow of water, but in this stretch the streambed is flat and broad, so stream crossings were “feet dry” for the most part, jumping from rock to sandbar to rock, etc.


The first couple of miles were in a wide shallow valley, good cow country which explains the abandoned cattle camp where we parked.

Gradually the valley narrowed however, and we could see the first of the canyon walls ahead.


Just before this narrowing (see above) there are the ruins of a stone structure, probably an old line shack for the ranching operations in the area.

cabin ruins1


cabin ruins

The main attraction of this hike is the next 2 miles or so, where the creek has carved a twisty narrow slot canyon through dark red and brown sandstone.





Here the creek bed often consumes the entire width of the canyon, and “dry feet” becomes something of a challenge!


Even deep in the canyon there are the ubiquitous ATV tracks!



canyon3 canyon4

After about 2.5 miles, the canyon opens up again, and the creeks meanders its’ way down to join the Salt River (AKA: Saguaro Lake).

The remainder of the hike consists of retracing our steps back upstream to the old ranch site.

I think this hike is a worthy route to be on the club list, not soon after any significant rain event, nor if rain is in the forecast.  The narrow slot canyon would be deadly if significant rain fell on the flanks of Four Peaks.  George and I saw just one ATV all day, but I suspect it would be much busier on a Friday, so recommend this as “Wednesday only”.

Thanks, George, for a great hike.  Even with boulder hopping and damp socks, it was the easiest ten miles I’ve hiked in a long time.

This entry was posted in Arizona hiking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Wet Feet in Cottonwood Narrows

  1. Norman Lowrance says:

    Thank you Hans for the time, photos and effort you put into your post. We hope to be back on the road soon. The wife is recuperating from surgery on her foot and in a couple weeks we should be traveling somewhere in our fiver.
    Tin can sailor Lowrance


  2. Mike Hohmann says:

    Great stories, Hans. Great photos too of course. I’ve got to spend more time on your blog looking around. I’d like to get back to AZ again sometime, and your blog is the perfect way to prepare for the journey. Thx. 73, de Mike, KEØGZT


Comments invited

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.