Haigler Creek / Young / Hell's Canyon Loop
Get Out Of The Heat With A Great Day Trip
September 1, 2019
Almost thirty-five years ago, John and I and our American Brittany, Katie, went to Haigler Creek for the weekend. We camped in the woods right next to the creek and never saw anyone else the whole time we were there. Recently, John and I and our French Brittany, Mochi, went back to Haigler Creek just for a ride to get out of the heat. It makes for a great day trip, especially if you take the dirt roads down through Young afterwards and head north from there.
The main road north from Young offers a bit of a side trip which we didn't take the first time we were on that road, but we took it this time and it was great. To get to Haigler Creek, take Colcord Road (291) south from Highway 260 east of Payson. After about four miles, turn right onto the Chamberlain Trail (200) and it takes you down past Fisherman's Point trailhead to Haigler Creek and Alderwood.
Thirty-five years ago, Haigler Creek was just another little creek with dispersed camping and beautiful scenery. The creek and the scenery are still there, but now the road is lined with "no camping" signs and there are day-use areas on either side of the creek. We stopped at one of the day use areas – both have pit toilets and tables. There are also two campgrounds on the road to the creek, but they are a bit farther away. Not too far to walk, though.
Plenty Of Hiking Trails
There are plenty of hiking trails around there as well. When we were on our way to the creek before, there was a Jeep trail at Gordon Canyon and you were able to drive down the canyon to Fisherman's Point.Now there is a barrier and some parking, and if you want to go down to Fisherman's Point, you need to hike. It's a 350-foot descent covered in half a mile, and it's pretty steep, so bring trek poles. If you want to, you can fish down there or keep hiking up or down the creek. It's a gorgeous little creek and it flows all year.
A couple of miles past Gordon Canyon, Haigler Creek flows right across the road and forms pretty little falls on the DOWNSTREAM side. This is the spot with day-use areas on either side. It is stocked with trout and when we walked along the creek near the road, we came to a pool where we could actually see the trout hanging out. Mochi thoroughly enjoyed jumping in and out of the water, so I'm pretty sure the fish wouldn't be biting with her around.
Take The Kids For A Picnic
There are several pretty little riffles and short waterfalls along the creek, so it's a great place for photos. It's also very shady for the most part, so it's nice and cool. This is a great place to bring the kids for a picnic and a little cooling off in the water.
Further down the road is Alderwood site, another area where you can enjoy the creek. We drove down there and the roads get a bit confusing, but there are camping, fishing, and a few tables scattered around the area, so we just chose a place to park. There are trails that almost all lead to the creek, so we walked down one of them. The creek here is narrower and a lot more private. We enjoyed it until someone's dog decided he didn't like our being there. The guy kept yelling at the dog but it ignored him and pretty much chased us back to the truck.
You Can Go Around
My map said that the road crossed the creek very near where we were, but the dog guy was parked right in the road so we couldn't get past to see if it really went through. I'm pretty sure the road was fenced off so you couldn't drive across the creek any more, but I'm not positive. However, you can go around and get to the other side without having to drive far at all. We actually started to do just that, but after going just a little way, we decided that we had seen enough of the creek for the time being, and decided to leave it to the dog.
Instead of going back the way we came (what's the fun of that?), we stayed on 200 and went south to 2993 toward Pleasant Valley. I saw a place called Sheepherder's Grave on the map and wanted to see what that was about. I think we were back on 200 by that point. We had taken a little side loop to see a well.
Anyway, the Sheepherder's Grave is on the side of the road just before you get to highway 288 and there is a sign near it, but you need to keep an eye out for it or you'll miss it. This unnamed Navajo sheepherder was the first casualty of the Pleasant Valley War, a feud between cattle herders (the Grahams) and sheep herders (the Tewksbury's) that went on from around 1882 until the last Graham died in 1904. In all, at least 19 and possibly 30 people were killed in this dispute. It's an interesting story, so if you have time, look it up.
288 And 109
From there, we went on to Highway 288 and turned left (north) toward Highway 260. I've written about Highway 288 before – it's mostly gravel road, but not bad at all. Last time we were on it, we took it straight through, but I could see on the map that there was a bit of a loop to the east at one point that looked like it didn't add much mileage to the route, so we decided to take that way this time.
Creeks And Hikes
Once you pass Red Lake Forest Service Station, keep an eye out for a road to the right, number 109. I'm really glad we decided to go this way because that loop (109) goes over to the edge of Hell's Canyon where Canyon Creek flows, and follows the edge of the canyon for a couple of miles before looping back through the forest to 288. The views are gorgeous from this road, and I highly recommend you take it.
The area between 109 and 288 is crisscrossed with hiking trails through the woods. We saw a few RV's parked off the road as well. Highway 288 is called "From the Desert to the Tall Pines" Scenic Byway, and it's a fun road. The road crosses several creeks as it meanders from Highway 188 to Highway 260, and there are many side roads to explore. You could spend years discovering all the cool stuff around there.
National Geographic Map
The photo of the map is from a National Geographic map of Hellsgate, Salome, and Sierra Ancha Wilderness Areas. This map shows all the Haigler Creek recreation sites, and those sites are not on my DeLorme Atlas or my 1:100,000 maps. It pays to have several maps of the same area. Another thing I like about the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topographic Maps is that they show hiking trails.
The trails are easy to see because they are red to distinguish them from the roads. If you look closely at the pink line that shows our route, you can see that we took a Jeep Trail to Cherry Creek (861 and 868). On the map, it shows the road crossing the creek and continuing on to a road that ties back in to 288. However...that road virtually disappears and we had a very hard time following it. It got so bad that we stopped and walked the rest of the way to Cherry Creek, which was dry anyway. But you never know until you try.
Half The Fun Of Day Trips
That's half the fun of day trips, especially the ones on dirt roads. This trip was almost all dirt roads once you leave Highway 260, but aside from the side roads, any truck and many cars would have no problem on it. All bets are off if it rains, though.
As always, I used my Topo Maps app the entire time, and I highly recommend you download it. If storage on your phone is an issue, just download the quadrants you need. My phone has tons of storage, so I downloaded every Arizona quadrant map in high def. These maps are very helpful – they not only show you where you are, they show you things that probably aren't on your paper maps.
You don't even need to have service to use them, as long as your device is GPS capable. You do need to have WiFi or cellular service while you're downloading the maps, but once they're on, you can access them and see where you are whether you're out of service or not. Get the app today and start adventuring.