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Name: Ruby Wash Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: (based on three votes)
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Challenging 4WD trail)
Time: 2 - 3 hours (one way, does not including trip back or time to get to trail head) Region: Central Arizona
Length: ~4 miles (one way) Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +1176 / -160 ft / +1016 ft (one way)
Type: Out and back (though many options available) Avg Elevation: 3400 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: March, 2013
Short Description: A short, challenging trail through a narrow wash leading to some old mines, collapsed cabins and interesting concrete water tank
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area. Above Arizona 2; Ruby Wash; Ruby Challenge
References / Contact Information: Bill Tower Ruby Wash Youtube slideshow; Bill Tower's Youtube video; AZDesertDog video
Points of interest: Challenging wash, minor rock crawling, beautiful scenery, wildlife, lots of mines in the area, 2 old flattened cabins and an interesting concrete water tank
Special Considerations: Lots of old mines in this area, stay away from open mine shafts and be careful of mine tailings. Area / trail is not well traveled is desolate. Travel in groups. Route finding can be difficult
How to get there: Take I-17 north of out Phoenix until taking exit 223B at Carefree Hwy. Go west on Carefree Hwy for almost 12 miles (past Lake Pleasant), then take a right onto Castle Hot Springs Rd. Continue on Castle Hot Springs Rd for about 16 miles, then take a right on Buckhorn Rd. Stay on Buckhorn Rd for about 8 miles until you reach Waypoiont 001. Note: Castle Hot Springs and Buckhorn Rd are usually 2WD and semi-maintained. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

Ruby Wash has something for everyone. It has a few challenges, beautiful scenery, history, mines, wildlife and access to a huge network of additional trails. Ruby Wash is not only a destination in itself, but it's like a gate that opens up a huge assortment of adventures in the Buckhorn Mountains northwest of Phoenix.

By no means is this the only way into or out of this area. There's a huge network of trails here. But Ruby Wash offers something just a little different than the others. It's more challenging than the other trails I've tried in the area. It also is one of the least known and used trails. So, if you like your solitude, this is a good bet. I had a great time on this trail. It offered just enough challenge both in obstacles and route finding to make it interesting, the scenery along the wash and ridge line was gorgeous and it had some cool stuff.

General Information and History

Ruby Wash is located within the Buckhorn Mountains northwest of Phoenix and east of the Wickenburg Mountains. There are TONS of 4WD and ATV trails in the area. The place also has a long history of ranching and mining here. You'll see old mines, ranches, ghost towns intermixed with ones being currently worked.

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The Trail

From the trail head at Waypoint 001, turn south at the corral and abandoned truck. The trail looks well-traveled for the first 100 yards or so, then it enters the wash and it can be hard to follow for a while. At one point, we thought we'd hit a dead end until we noticed that it crossed the rocky wash ahead.

Keep a sharp eye and follow the trail. Route finding will become easier after about a 1/4 of a mile or so, though if route finding is not your strong suit, you'll want to make sure you have some good maps, GPS or friend with you.

Keep following the main wash (Ruby Wash) as the trail continues to criss cross from side to side down through the canyon. There was a little bit of water running in the wash at a few places when we went. If you hit this during the right time of year, I am sure you'll find some nice water in the canyon. I wouldn't be in this canyon after a big rain or during the height of monsoon season. It could be a dangerous place to be.

Almost a mile into the trail you will head up and out of the wash for a short while as you bypass Slot Canyon (Waypoint 002). This is a portion of the canyon that narrows way down. We saw a portion of it as we drove past, but didn't stop. I wished we had. When I do this trail again, I will stop just before we head up out of the wash and walk down the canyon to the Slot Canyon (less than 1/4 of a mile).

After Waypoint 002, you will bypass Slot Canyon, then re-enter the canyon on the other side. Keep driving until you get back in the wash at Waypoint 003. The next leg of your journey is probably the most difficult. There are a few nice boulders along the wash that need care when negotiating if you don't have the ground or body clearance.

Just before you reach Waypoint 004, you'll pass through a gate across the wash. This "gate" is very flimsy and I could see it getting carried away with a good monsoon. Not too far after the gate, you'll come to The Ledge. The Ledge isn't as difficult as it looks, but you have to be careful with your vehicle tipping to the driver's side next to the large boulder on your left. I nicked it with the corner of my stock back bumper and ended up with it creased and about a 1/2 further away from my body than the right side. All other vehicles came through relatively unscathed (with only slight dents in a differential and skid plates on the bottom).

I also found a video (slide show) taken a month after we took the trail and it appears someone filled in the holes with a bunch of rocks. Here's another video from the same person (ledge around 5:30 into the video). And a ATV/Razor video (~5.30 into the video is where he goes down the ledge). Thanks to Brian S. for showing me these videos!

After The Ledge, you'll follow the wash for another 3/4 of a mile or so until you get to Waypoint 005. For the most part, this was fairly easy, though the canyon became very narrow at a few points. We had to saw and pull away a fallen tree at one location to be able to fit through.

The trail around this section can be very confusing. The main trail appears to continue straight down the canyon at Waypoint 005. You may be able to continue down this trail until you reach Trilby Wash (yellow track), but I have not yet tried this.

There may be some conflicting reports on what the condition of the road is. In the Bill Tower's video, he states that he started at Trilby Wash and it doesn't look too bad. If found a couple of earlier reports (~2001) that show Ruby Wash is extreme. Even rock crawlers couldn't make it (a few got significant damage). I am not sure where they started from, but here's the links:

AZ Rockcrawler September 2002

AZ Rockcrawler January 2001

For this trip, take the road to the right, after 30-50 feet or so, you will bear right again into another wash, and soon after you'll see a road heading up the side of the canyon on your left (Waypoint 006).

The next 1/3 of a mile is a steep climb out of the canyon. You're mostly out of the canyon at Waypoint 007 and keep heading straight down the main trail. You'll follow a nice ridge line for another 1/3 to 1/2 of a mile with great views all around. Be careful, the trail can be a little hard to follow here due to it's lack of use.

Keep on the main road at Waypoints 008 and 009. The trail to the right at Waypoint 009 ends up at Independence Mine, but I think it may be washed out. There's a better way to get there a little further along this road.

From Waypoint 009, you should be able to see the yellow bulldozer ahead, about 1/4 miles away. Head toward the bulldozer. There's a nice big parking area next to the dozer with 360 degree views. It's an awesome place to watch the sunrise/sunset. If you want to camp with a view, this spot's got that (although the ground is a little rocky).

If you walk a few feet east of the dozer and look down the hill, you can see a series of roads below. You can also see another nice camping spot near the entrance to Independence Mine. We camped there during our trip.

When you're done enjoying the view and looking at the dozer, keep going straight down the hill toward waypoint 010. One section of this road is steep and can be a little bit of a butt clencher if you don't like that kind of stuff.

At Waypoint 010, you're going to have a plethora of options. What I am going to detail in this report is to go to a couple of collapsed buildings and concrete tank by heading through the gate and bearing right (the red track).

If you take a sharp right BEFORE the gate, you can head down to those trails you saw from above and visit the Independence Mine (blue track). This option will be covered in a future adventure.

You can also take a left AFTER the gate and head toward Wickenburg via the Trilby or San Domingo wash (blue track). This will also be covered in a future adventure.

If you want to stay on this adventure, keep on the red track. Not too far from the gate, the road will split again. The left track goes up the hill to a quick dead end, while the right going down the hill is where you want to go.

After about 1/4 of a mile, you'll see the two collapsed buildings on your left. You can also see a mine entrance across the canyon on your right with a large wooden frame. We didn't go to this mine when I was there, but I have heard that it isn't too much to see.

When you're done exploring the buildings, continue down the road until you reach Waypoint 011 and the concrete water tank. It's an interesting design with a cool yellow steel water tank inside. We had a nice picnic lunch here when we visited with some friendly cows.

This is as far as I went on this road and looking at Google Earth, the road appears to deadend after a short distance beyond the mine. You can turn around and go back the way you came or head out through the San Domingo or Trilby Wash (adventures to be added later). These two options are an easier trail than the Ruby Wash.

Any way you choose, I'm sure you'll have a great time!

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Trail may be more difficult now

October 4, 2015

We ran the wash on 10-03-2015 and it was a little difficult to find the trail. We made it thru with a lot of time walking the wash to ensure we didn't stray the wrong direction. The trail does not look like its been used since you were there. It has its challenges but the ledge has changed a lot since you took photos and it almost requires lockers to get  up. Trilby wash is an easy run out and we were able to cruise thru most of it. We will run it again in a few weeks.
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