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Aravaipa Canyon

Summary: A nice hike through a pretty canyon along (and in) a perennial stream. A permit is required  even for a day hike into this canyon and must be booked ahead of time from the BLMs Safford Field Office (520) 348-4400. Fee is $5 per person per day (quite steep if you ask me considering the Grand Canyon is $20 per carload and is good for 7 days) and is limited to 50 people per day. More information is available on the BLMs Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Page
Due to its perennial flow, Aravaipa Canyon is home to many species of plants and animals including 2 threatened minnows and over 150 bird species. The author has seen coati, javalina, rattlesnakes, gila monsters, a great blue heron and many species of birds in the canyon.
Directions: You can start at either the west or east entrance of the canyon.
West Trailhead: Take US Highway 60 to Superior.  At Superior, take State Highway 177 south to Winkleman. At Winkleman, turn right on State Highway 77, 11 miles to Aravaipa Road. Turn left on Aravaipa Rd and drive 12 miles to the west trailhead.
East Trailhead: Take US Highway 60 to Globe. At Globe pick up US Highway 70 to Klondyke Road (8 miles east of Fort Thomas). Take this graded dirt road 45 miles to the East trailhad (several stream crossings are required).
Road Conditions: West Entrance - Passenger Car, East Entrance - High Clearance Vehicle
Navigation: Easy - walk along the stream
Length: 11 miles - one way
Date Hiked: December 1999 & May 2004
Weather Conditions: December: Cold in the morning, otherwise nice, high-60's, low-below freezing. Because this hike was done late in the season, the author and his wife had the canyon to themselves (only saw one other person the entire time). The only drawback was that the water was quite cold, particularly in the morning (boots and socks also froze solid overnight). For canyon hikes such as this one, the author wears a thin pair of neoprene socks under regular hiking socks. Most people would probably want warmer weather to do this hike.
May: Warm and sunny
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From either trailhead start walking in or along the stream. A walking stick is very helpful to aid in balance when crossing the stream. Much of the time a use trail exists (typically the trails on the south bank are easier to follow than the ones on the north), though you will probably end up bushwhacking a little bit when the trail segment you are on suddenly fades. It helps to carry a map and count the prominent side canyons as you walk along the stream to keep track of your location. There is a fence on the east side that marks the boundary of the canyon and trailhead parking signs on the west. These will mark your turn around points if your goal is to hike the length of the canyon and you haven't arranged a car spot. There are a number of side canyons along the way though only Deer Creek is really worth exploring.
Virgus Canyon: The canyon enters Aravaipa on stream left (the left side of the stream if facing the down stream) and is steep and boulder strewn for its entire length. You will have to do quite a bit of climbing and route finding to work your way up this canyon. There are several dry falls that are moderately difficult to climb. If you succeed in ascending those obstacles your progress will eventually be stopped by a dry fall that is not possible to ascend. The author spent 2 hours exploring up Virgus Canyon.
Horse Camp Canyon: The canyon enters on stream right. Walking up you'll soon reach a pour over that can be bypassed on canyon left (watch your footing, the rock is quite slick especially if your feet are wet). Above you'll find some slick rock and several more dry falls (which can be bypassed on canyon left on a use trail). Eventually your progress will be blocked by dry fall that you won't be able to climb.
Booger Canyon: The canyon enters Aravaipa on stream right and is very steep with large sections of pock marked rock. You'll have to do some climbing and route finding to ascend several large pour offs created by boulders that have fallen into the canyon.
Deer Creek: The canyon is easily identified by the wide, flat and gravel strewn mouth where it enters Aravaipa on stream right. It's easy walking heading up Deer Creek and soon the canyon walls close in to form picturesque narrows (about 20 feet wide at its narrowest point). After 40 or more minutes of quick walking you'll hear the sound of falling water whose source is a gushing spring in a fern covered grotto on canyon right (the right side when facing down canyon). Another 20 minutes will bring you to another dripping spring on canyon left and shortly above that some short undercut caves. Not long afterwards the path becomes more shallow and strewn with boulders, which is where I turned around.
Parsons Canyon: The canyon is located on stream left, just east of Deer Creek. It is somewhat rocky and not terribly interesting. The author walked up to the junction with Wire Coral Draw at a quick pace and back in about an hour.
Rating (1-5 stars):
On his first trip author did this hike as a two day backpacking trip. The first day he hiked from the west to the east entrance then back a ways, camping next to Parsons Canyon. The next day was spent hiking out. The canyon is rather wide, but is quite pretty with cotton wood and sycamore lining the stream. It's interesting to contrast the riparian oasis surrounding the stream with the Sonoran Desert vegetation that line the dry canyon walls. Water depth never exceeded knee level, though evidence of debris found well above the stream bank indicates that the canyon floods from time to time. 

On his second trip the author spent two days exploring many of the side canyons of Aravaipa.
Maps: I've created two maps of the canyon: Map 1 (west), Map 2 (east)
Campsites are marked with a green tent (note: these are the ones I noticed, there are most certainly others in the canyon).
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
The west entrance station. Typical view in the canyon.
Just east of the Deer
Creek confluence.
Deer Creek narrows.