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Alconquin Trail to Hells Hole Falls - Prescott National Forest

Summary: A nice enough 1/2 day hike to a small waterfall and pool in the Castle Creek Wilderness Area of the Prescott National Forest.
Directions: From Phoenix drive north on I-17 to exit #248 for Bumble Bee and Crown King (this is also the exit for the Horse Thief Basin Recreation Area'). Drive west on the main road which becomes well graded dirt in about two miles. Stay on this main road which goes through the one horse town of Bumble Bee then begins climbing into the Bradshaw Mountains. Take your time driving, the road is one lane in places and sees a fair amount of traffic on the weekends (many driving faster than is prudent). About 150' before the mile 25 marker, where the road takes a sharp bend to the right, look for the pull out on the left (south) side of the road , and park.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car, though a High Clearance Vehicle would be better
Navigation: Easy
Length: 4 miles
Date Hiked: November, 2002
Weather Conditions: Cool and sunny
Required Skills: None
Hike Description: From the car park you'll have good views to the south down into the drainages that run through Hells Hole. Begin walking on the unsigned, but well developed trail which descends moderately to the south through the chaparral (predominantly scrub oak, prickly pear, bear grass and cats claw). After 5 minutes or so, you'll pass a faded wooden sign labeled 'Alconquin Trail #225' and shortly thereafter a register and another sign (this one in better condition) which reads 'Horse Thief Canyon Trail #30 - 3 miles, Horse Thief Basin - 5 miles, Senator Road #52 - 6 miles'. Continue along the path (which is slightly overgrown in places) as it descends moderately to the drainage below. Where the trail crosses the first stream bed, hop off the path and head left down stream. This side drainage is unlikely to be flowing (though there were some puddles when the author was here). Be careful on the rocks, they are polished smooth and quite slick. When you reach the confluence with the main drainage which enters from the right (and is hopefully flowing), stay left and continue down stream. There is a little bit of bush wacking involved in this section, but it's a fairly easy task to keep your feet dry. This area is fairly nice, with small pools and cascades gurgling through polished granite boulders. Soon your progress will be blocked by a 100' long pool which lies between granite walls. If it's warm and you don't mind getting wet, your best bet is probably to wade the pool... if you're wimpy like me, you'll probably want to keep your feet dry. Most people would probably want to bypass the pool by climbing high around this section on one side or the other. If your group is composed of good climbers, you can climb on the granite slope on the right which lies just above the pool. If you choose this option, be aware that there is one tricky down climb near the end with a bit of exposure. Once past the pool, it's a short 5 minute walk to the falls and pool. I expect that most people turn around here, since another tricky climb is involved to descend the falls (the author went down on the left). The drainage continues through a short nice section below the falls before widening a short distance later. When ready return the way you came.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife hiked down to the falls, did some exploring below, ate a leisurely lunch, then returned in just under 4 hours.
Maps: Prescott National Forest map - though it's not very good
Books: None
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Hike out through the chaparral. Hells Hole Falls.