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Towel Creek Trail #67 - Coconino National Forest

Summary: An out and back hike near Camp Verde through the cow pies to some decent ruins.
Directions: From Phoenix take I-17 north to Camp Verde to Exit 285 for the General Crook Trail. At the bottom of the exit ramp turn right towards Camp Verde. At the end of this road turn right again (east) onto Highway 260. Drive 8.8 miles to between mile markers 228-229 and turn right onto the well graded, dirt Fossil Creek Road (which is also Forest Road 708). Drive 9 miles to the Towel Creek Trailhead, which is on the right side of the road a short distance past Needle Rock. The trailhead is a bit difficult to spot since there is no parking area and the Forest Service sign pointing out the trailhead faces the other direction. Park on the side of the road or at a nearby pull off if you can find one.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car
Navigation: Moderate
Length: ~13 miles
Date Hiked: February 2006
Weather Conditions: Partly cloudy and cool
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the trailhead, walk through the metal gate, across the dry wash and up the hill on the other side to a 'T' junction. Turn left (following the arrow on the wooden post) and begin climbing at a moderate grade on a well established path to top out at a saddle. The path then bends slightly right and follows an old road that traverses the hillside. After about 2.5 miles the trail enters a broad pasture and travels beside a fence to a stock pond (Towel Tank) and corral. Follow the flagging tape (which is colored bright pink or blue and white striped) past the tank and through a fence. The trail then begins descending beside Towel Creek, which is brushy, shallow and dry in this section, along a very rocky track. In this area you will begin to see considerable evidence of cattle ranching which becomes more prevalent as you hike. After about 10 minutes of walking the path leaves the road to the right. This split is marked by flagging tape and a cairn. The path descends steeply on the left side (facing down canyon) of the dry creek to a point near the mouth of Brushy Prong (which comes in from the left), at which point it switches over to the right side of Towel Creek and descends at a moderate grade. Keep your eyes open for cairns in this section as you hike. The cows have created a number of braided trails that may prove to be confusing. After following the right bank for a while the trail makes a sharp left turn and becomes rather indistinct as it drops down and crosses the creek to the left side once again (keep an eye out for cairns). Continue down canyon until you pass through an old electrified fence (~6.5 miles). If you look across the canyon to the escarpment on the other side you should be able to spot a few old walls that have been built to seal off alcoves in the rock. There is no trail to the ruins, but if you continue to follow the trail a few minutes past the fence it is possible to work your way down into the stream bed, then up and out the other side to visit the site. According to the reference below, the walls were built between A.D. 1125 - 1300. Be careful as you walk around the area, there are a number of potsherds littering the ground (some of which have been placed on rocks in little piles by people, like they always do), and though I probably do not need to remind the reader, please do not disturb, touch or climb on ruins. It should also be mentioned that bats have taken up residence in the alcoves covered by the walls. Please don't disturb the bats if they are roosting. If the bats are not present (like when I was here) you will not want to enter the alcoves anyway, since the piles of guano on the floor smell very bad. After you're finished poking around and taking pictures return the way you came (~13 miles).
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author completed this hike at a fast pace in about 5.5 hours.
Maps: Click here for a map of this route.
Books: A different route to these ruins in described in: Hiking Ruins Seldom Seen - Wilson, Dave
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Typical view along the trail. View descending Towel Creek.
Ancient wall. Another ruin.