AZ – Cave Creek Canyon, South Fork and Burro Trails

Surprise! My morning started with a stop at the Visitor Center for a little WiFi and a few more trail tips. Within a few minutes of arrival the volunteer received an email shutting down the Visitor Center. My anxiety of being out and about increased. What to do?

Since I was in a remote location and 2,000 miles from home, I decided to hike.

Joan and I hiked this trail in December 2017 (link). I was looking forward to an early spring experience. This area is known as a birder’s paradise. While I was really hoping for a sighting of an Elegant Trogon, I was told they won’t be migrating this direction for a few more weeks. I’d heard there would be a few wet feet crossings so I started in sandals.

Although none of the crossings were deeper than mid-calf nor very swift, I was glad I knew how to pick and choose crossing locations as some were much riskier than others.

With a 30F degree morning, I was glad I waited a bit for those wet feet crossings although the water wasn’t nearly as cold as expected.

The 2014 Hurricane Odile caused major flooding and damage to this trail. You need to pay attention to cairns and trail crossing clues to stay on track. I met a hiker coming the opposite direction who gave me a heads up on one tricky crossing after a long wandering trying to find the trail.

After 8-12 wet feet crossings, it was time to leave my sandals behind and start the climb up the Burro Trail.

After climbing for a while I found this beautiful orange rock escarpment, making an excellent viewpoint and turnaround spot.

Recent rains provided nice potholes for the wildlife.

When hiking in the Chiricahuas, I recommend using the Gaia layer on the Gaia app. It’s the only one that shows current trails. A bonus are the binoculars indicating viewpoints.

This would be a geologist’s Disneyland.

I found a few early blooms including this Hartweg’s Groundsel (?), a member of the aster family.

Alpine Pennycress Wild Candytuft (?), mustard family.

Extra Credit:

You know you’re in the Chiricahua Mountains when you see coatimundi. The previous night on my way to camp I saw this one grubbing away (photo taken through window).

This one wasn’t nearly as cooperative as the ones Joan and I saw at Cave Creek Ranch (photo taken through window).

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 16, 2020

Hike Details:Tips:

  • At the Visitor Center ask for trail guides and the dispersed camping handout.
  • The nearest gas is in Animas, New Mexico
  • The nearest laundry is near Rodeo, New Mexico. I used Rusty’s RV Park and it was clean, inexpensive with the bonus of a place to hang out with WiFi.
  • The nearest shower I found was at The Chiricahua Desert Museum between Portal, Arizona and Rodeo, New Mexico.
  • There are small grocery stores and cafes in both Portal and nearby at Sky Islands.
  • The library and Visitor Center leave on their WiFi during business hours, both accessible from outside.
  • Potable water, garbage and restrooms are available at the nearby campgrounds.
  • Best digital trail maps I found are the Gaia layer on the Gaia app. The others I tried haven’t been updated since the 2011 fire.
  • The time on your phone will flip back and forth between New Mexico and Arizona time, making it very confusing.



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2 thoughts on “AZ – Cave Creek Canyon, South Fork and Burro Trails

  1. What a treat for us stuck at home to see your adventures in such a wonderful area. Guidelines say go outside and exercise with care. Looks like some excellent settings among the mountains of the Chiricahua. Thank you for sharing. Stay safe and warm.

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