You may interpret "water hiking" as toting a portable mister along the trail up Camelback, but dear reader, there are places with real water, too. Wet hiking is a perfect way to explore Arizona while keeping cool. Canyons, creeks, and springs fill our desert landscape if you know where to look and where to hike.
So here are three options for wet hikes: an easy nature walk nearby, a moderate canyon exploration, and a difficult (but epic) gorge discovery. Read through, do some personal research, and if you're feeling up to going out and cooling down, choose the one that is right for you.
Seven Springs An easy getaway for a day trip this summer, Seven Springs is in the Tonto National forest, only about 20 miles north of Carefree. Located along the shallow waters of Cave Creek, this site is the starting point of many hikes of varying difficulty and opportunities for lots of other outdoor activities. A luscious part of Tonto, the Sycamore and Cottonwood trees offer shade from the summer sun and respite from the heat for wildlife and hikers alike. There isn't quite enough water to swim in, but the stream and its surroundings are beautiful.
To get there: Take Cave Creek Road north for 24 miles, with the last stretch as dirt road.
West Clear Creek Headwaters A bit more out of town, this hike near Strawberry is more difficult and has much deeper waters than Seven Springs. It's a bigger commitment. That being said, the season for this hike is right now, so seize the summer day with a dip into West Clear Creek. Another spot that has opportunity for varying levels of difficulty, a nice start is the headwaters path. A short hike of only three miles along the creek, the canyon provides lush scenery offering shade cover and beautiful sights of petroglyphs and clear pools for wading. Since this is a canyon hike, there is a steep descent to the bottom to reach the creek which can be treacherous if wet. (Be extra careful.) But it's brief and the view at the bottom is well worth it. The trail does require crossing the creek a few times, and that means you should be prepared with appropriate water attire. About three miles from the trailhead, Clover Creek and Willow Valley Creek converge, creating the perfect point to either turn around or continue exploring.
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To get there: Take HWY 87 through Strawberry, take a left on Highway 260, right on Forest Road 144, left on Forest Road 149, right on Forest Road 142, left on 142E and the trailhead will be at the end.
The Jug of Salome Creek For the more experienced and adventurous, the Jug is a challenging and breathtaking place to visit. A pink granite gorge with pools along the creek, it's an easy hike two miles away from the trailhead at the edge of a dirt road. At high levels the water can move too quickly for safe exploration, so be cautious and do not swim if unsure. But if the creek is shallow enough, moving about the gorge is mostly done in water through clear pools between the gorge walls. Attention, thrill-seekers: the gorge ends with a 20-foot waterfall that can offer a jump or rappel into the last pool of the Jug.
To get there: Take Highway 87 North, take a right on Highway 188 South, take a left on A-Cross Road, and take the National Forest-895 to the trail head about 4 miles.