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Name: Rock Crossing 18C Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: Hike Difficulty: (Beginner)
Time: 1-3 hours (includes time exploring, but not travel time to get to trail head) Region: NE Arizona
Length: 1.4 miles (roundtrip) Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +276 ft / -276 ft / +0 ft (roundtrip)
Type: Out and back Avg Elevation: 7000 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, summer Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Medium Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: May, 2016
Short Description: A short, but beautiful hike down to the beginnings of Blue Ridge Reservoir
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area: Quien Sabe Spring; Xing ? Trail; Cool Blue
References / Contact Information: Rock Crossing USFS #18, Hike Arizona; Payson Roundup;
Points of interest: Blue Ridge Reservoir; Beautiful scenery
Special Considerations: Keep in mind that the level of the reservoir can change and the amount of water at the crossing can vary.
How to get there: There are multiple ways to get to this trail head. These are the directions from Google Maps. Drive north out of Payson on Highway 87. Keep going past Pine and Strawberry up to the top of the rim. Approximately 47 miles from Payson, turn right onto Forest Road 95. From there drive about 11 miles until you reach Forest Road 139A. It's not that easy. There are multiple intersections that may or may not have signs. My recommendation is have a good map or GPS unit. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This trail is part of a series of trail along the C.C. Cragin Reservoir (formally known as the Blue Ridge Reservoir) up on the Mogollon Rim near Payson. The reservoir is U-shaped with the top of the "U" pointing west. The dam that holds the water back is at the bottom of the "U" on the east side at East Clear Creek. This trail takes you down to the headwaters (if you can call them that) at the south end of the reservoir.

The trail is short, easy and not too steep. The first section of the trail follows the old 4WD road, but can be a little hard to follow. It's much easier to keep track when it turns into a singletrack.

Once you get down to the reservoir, there's really no way to walk around the water's edge (the canyon walls can be very steep). There is a trail that may take you around part of the reservoir on a ledge that's 30-50 above the water (we didn't take this though).

General Information and History

The C.C. Cragin reservoir (formally known as the Blue Ridge Reservoir) was constructed by the Phelps Dodge company in 1965. The Salt River Project (SRP) acquired the the reservoir from Phelps Doge in 2005 as part of the Gila River Indian Water Rights Settlement.

In addition to the reservoir, the purchase came with the dam, diversion tunnel, pumping plant and a generating plant. With the drought over the last decade or so, the water in the reservoir is becoming increasingly low. At some periods over the last few years, it was only 16% full.

The town of Payson is building a pipeline to help with its own water issues. This should be completed in 2018.

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The Trail

From the trail head, begin to walk down the old 4WD trail. It looked like it headed off to the right at first, but it's better to keep straight ahead. Fairly soon, it will transition into a singletrack.

Keep walking on the singletrack. About 1/3 to 1/2 way down you will pass through an old gate. The fence and gate had fallen down and were not usable when we went through.

Keep going and begin the descent into the canyon. Now, you will get glimpses of the canyon through the trees on your left.

As you near the bottom of the canyon, there's a fork in the trail. The left fork goes down to the water. I don't know where the right fork takes you, but it looks like it goes along the ledge above the water.

Take a left at the fork and make your way down to the bottom of the canyon. The trail leads to the intersection of two canyons to the west. The water is in the larger canyon to the right.

There's a nice sandy "beach" near the water. Have fun. Play in the water and enjoy this beautiful canyon. When you're done, head back the way you came in.

FYI. If you continue through the canyon, you can take Rock Crossing trails #18B and #18A to other parts of the reservoir.

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Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here. You can also rate this adventure by clicking here.

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