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Monday, October 20, 2014

West Clear Creek Wilderness, The White Box

This is a return to an old favorite, West Clear Creek Wilderness, AZ.  I have posted about this place before, but there is so much to it and it draws me back again and again.  My go to place in the canyon is the waterfall, but many people seek out this location farther up the canyon.  This is called the White Box. 
It is one of the narrowest parts of the canyon with steep white or light orange sandstone cliffs on each side of the creek.  And it stays narrow for quite a stretch with long deep pools that you must swim to get through.  Most people come here to see the "hanging gardens" is downstream from the White Box.  But they must pass through here to get to it
As you can see this would not be a place to go during the monsoon season when there is the potential for flash floods.  If you were in the white box when a flash flood came there would be no place to hide and it would most likely be fatal.  The water could rise in here in a big hurry.  So if you are going to go get a good weather report in advance and be careful. 

Now to get there there is a very rough and rocky road that takes you to the edge of the canyon and then it is a steep scramble down a narrow trail with some loose slippery spots to get to the canyon bottom.  The Trailhead is at around 5,840 feet and you drop about 600 feet to the canyon bottom.  Once at the bottom be sure to make sure you take note of the exit point because on the way back you could go right past it and have some problems finding your way out.  Thee really is only one way in and one way out in this part of the canyon unless you are a bird.  Once you are down in the canyon you head down stream and right away the walls of the canyon close in on you and you encounter the first places you must swim.

 In between the large pools are small areas that have large boulders with water running between them that you boulder hop through to get to the next swim  

After a short distance you get to this narrow opening, that you pass through.  From the starting point you can't see the other side of the pool and where you will be getting out.  Once past the opening you find that this is a very long pool with large cliffs and it goes for 100 yards or more.  On one side there is a log jammed between the cliffs way above you head and someone has made a rope swing out of it

In these deep pools where you must swim if you have anything like camera gear you will need dry bags to store it.  For me, I go over night so my sleeping bag, food and clothes must all be in dry bags in my pack.  I use a couple of foam pads doubled over to help the pack float better and take on less water. 
I'm not sure how many of these big pools there are but there are several of them and for me this is the fun part.  Swimming through these beautiful slots in the cool water on a Hot Arizona summer day.  If you were to try this in the winter you would probably end up with hypothermia.
This is the last of the bigger pools you cross on the way down stream.  It is a very long one but there are some ledges on the right side you can climb out on. 
After this the canyon opens up and there are more trees and brush and you boulder hop down stream and fight through the brush and trees as you go.  There are an occasional place you could camp as you head down stream.  from here there are about five more smaller pools to swim or wade before you get to the destination, of the "hanging garden".
The "Hanging Garden: is a spring that comes out of the side of the canyon wall and has created a travertine build up that juts out over the creek.  And the spring water falls off the travertine fan into the creek.  Before I heard everyone calling it the Hanging Garden, I used to call it "Shower Bath Spring" for lack of a better name, because you can stand in the creek and have a shower of water pour down on you.  Under the little shower like fall there is a cave that goes back in under the fall.  I heard the old timers called it the Cache Hole.  Maybe they stored things in there.  
 Once you have your fill of the Hanging gardens you just head back out the way you came Through the White Box, and then take the steep hike out and up to the canyon rim. 
To get there: From the intersection of SR87 & US260 north of Strawberry AZ. Head west on US260 and in just a few miles turn right at mile marker 249 onto FR 144. In 1.8 miles turn left onto FR 149. In 1.1 miles, turn left onto FR 142 at the T-junction. Take 142 until you get to 142A and turn right.  Then take 142A until you get to 142B and turn left.  Take 142B to the canyon edge.
Some people come in off the highway at 142 but I prefer taking 149.  It is a better road.  But once you get to 142A it is more of a rocky jeep trail than a road.  It is slow going and high clearance is needed in places.
  The actual hike is only around 5 miles or so round trip but it will take 5 hours or more.  This is a remote wilderness and this should only be attempted by people who are in good condition. 
For more about West Clear Creek Wilderness here are some of my other posts.


  1. Wow, fabulous place. Thanks for sharing.

    Bob W.

  2. Ever thought of working in black and white. Puts you visually on a whole new level.

  3. Well, Narrow Dog, I will leave that to the real photographers. I don't consider myself much of one. Thanks for the comment.

  4. In just recently heard of this place and wanting to go check it out now. Thank you for the information! Was much needed!!

  5. I just recent heard of this place. Very informative article. Thanks for sharing!

  6. where can i get more info on this ! forest service is saying the hike is alot longer and more like a three day trip ! any other tips?