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Name: Aztec Peak (FR487) Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: No votes yet
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Maintained Dirt Road)
Time: 2 - 3 hours Region: Central Arizona
Length: 7 miles (one way from main road) Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +2270 / -0 ft / + 2270 ft (one way)
Type: Out and back Avg Elevation: 7000 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter (non-snow conditions), early or late summer. Note: may be closed in the winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: November, 2015
Short Description: A 2WD dirt road (in most weather) to the top of a mountain with 360 degree views. You will also be able to enjoy Workman Creek Falls.
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area: Aztec Peak; The Bobcat's Lair; Rose Creek
References / Contact Information: Tonto Forest Service; Workman Creek Ruins Photoset #1; Hike Arizona Photoset #2; Hike Arizona Photoset #3; Payson Roundup; Arizona Silver Belt;
Points of interest: Workman Creek; Aztec Peak; Indian Ruins; Beautiful views; Falls colors
Special Considerations: Caution: Camping no longer permitted at some areas along the creek due to possibility of low levels of radiation from uranium mining between the 1950s and 1970s in the area. I believe camping is allowed in places after you leave Workman Creek. There are some truly awesome places to camp up at Aztec Peak. NOTE: May be closed during some winter months
How to get there: From Globe, head north on Hwy 188. Drive about 14.5 miles, then turn right onto Hwy 288. Arrive at the Workman Creek trailhead (Waypoint 001) and FR487 after about 25.5 miles. Click here for directions. See Workman Creek Adventure for complete directions. Follow until you reach Workman Creek Falls, then continue from there.

Trail Description

2016 Update: The Juniper Fire of 2016 significantly damaged this area. The summer rain run off has filled in much of the creek with sooty sludge. Many of the trees are burned. Although still open, you may want to give this area some time to recover before visiting.

NOTE: May be closed during some winter months.

Aztec Peak and the drive up Workman Creek in the Sierra Ancha Mountains is a wonderful escape from the desert heat and typical central Arizona desert scenery. The drive along Workman Creek reminds me of the small streams in Kentucky and Michigan I used to explore when I was young. Aztec Peak is an awesome place on top of the mountain with 360 degree views, a fire lookout and the "Flintstones" camp. The first half of this adventures is covered in the Workman Creek Falls adventure. The drive past the falls to Aztec Peak is worth the trip.

The drive is 2WD (in good weather), but after the bottom falls recreation area (Waypoint 005), it gets steep, narrow and scary for those afraid of heights.

This appears to be a small slice of paradise, except for the danger of low level radiation poisoning. Don't let that dissuade you though. This is an awesome place.

You can also fish along Workman Creek. The Tonto National Forest stock the creek twice a year (in early summer) with trout. Click here for information on fishing.

Aztec Peak is a great destination too. It has awesome views and the Flintstone's camp is a unique place for a picnic.

General Information and History

From the 1950s to the 1970s, uranium was collected from dozens of mines in the Workman Creek area. The area contains naturally occurring uranium and radium-266.

Caution: DO NOT enter any of the mines in the area. Many of these mines have radiation levels that would be enough to recommend that you "evacuate" the area. The Forest Service boarded up many of these mines, but people have broken through the boards and have ignored the warning signs. Not too smart.

The levels outside the mine can be above "normal", but are not dangerous for short periods (not camping for extended times). The Forest Service does not recommend eating any fish caught in the Workman Creek area.

A few years ago the Tonto Forest Service was asking for public comment and suggestions on a large cleanup of the area. They came up with a $1.5 million dollar plan, but I do not believe it was ever funded. It's your call on whether you want to visit the site or not. I did not see any mutated plants or three eyed creatures during my visit and plan to go back again.

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The Trail

NOTE: May be closed during some winter months

From the Workman Creek Adventure (see actual webpage for more info):

From Highway 228, head east on FR487 at Waypoint 001. There are nice big signs pointing you in the correct direction. You can stop to read the sign. It tells you there's no camping due to possible long term radiation exposure.

Keep heading east in a slow climb up the mountain. Workman Creek will be on your right. After 0.75 miles, you will pass the Elk's Youth Camp on your left (Waypoint 002). Keep straight. There are a few more old homes, etc. that are private property here, please respect them and keep heading east along the dirt road.

After a little more than a mile, you will pass the first recreation area on your right (Waypoint 003). Stop and enjoy the area or keep going. At about 1.9 miles, you will come to the second recreation area (Waypoint 004). Again, you can park to enjoy the creek or proceed forward to the falls.

At 2.5 miles, you will come to the Aztec Peak Recreation Area on your right (Waypoint 005). This isn't as developed or as large as the other two recreation areas. I believe it's used as a parking area for those who want to hike to the bottom of the falls, which I have never done (but really want to).

From here to the top of the falls, the road gets steeper and much narrower. Much of this is only one lane wide and there are a few "bridges" that you will need to cross that may make those afraid of heights nervous. I was the first time I went. The second time, I didn't mind it too much.

Proceed up to the top of the falls at Waypoint 006. There are a few pull out areas near the falls that you can park at.

After seeing Workman Creek Falls, continue up the road. Just after the falls you will see a Forest Service shack and dam. This is another nice place to stop and get some pictures, especially in the spring or fall.

Continue up the road. You will see some places to have a nice picnic or camp on either side of the road as you get closer to the top.

At Waypoint WPT007 (2.86 miles from WPT006), keep straight past the road on the right that leads to a ranch. You can go down that road a little if you want, but it ends at a locked gate at the ranch.

Keep heading up the road, past the tight left switchback and up to the top about 0.86 miles ahead at WPT008. Just before you get to the fire tower, you will see a short road leading to the right. This leads to one of my favorite spots in this area called, The Flinstones Camp.

I've heard this camp was built by the Boy Scouts. There are tables and chairs built of of rock that look as though it came directly out of the Flinstone's cartoon. It's very cool. And what views. You can see down to Devil's Chasm. You can also climb up the fire lookout tower (almost to the top) and get some incredible views all around you.

This is a great place for lunch or a night under the stars. When you're done, head back down the way you came up.

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