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Name: Upper Parker Creek Canyon Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: Hike Difficulty: (Medium trail)
Time: 2 - 3 hours (you'll want to spend some time enjoying the beauty Region: Central Arizona
Length: 1.0 miles (roundtrip) Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +60 ft / - 60ft / 0 ft (roundtrip)
Type: Out and back Avg Elevation: 4500 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Medium Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Low-Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: February, 2015
Short Description: A hike through a exquisitely beautiful narrow canyon that is enjoyed by canyoneers
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area:Parker Creek Slot Canyon ;Z 53 ;The Cutie Coati
References / Contact Information: Adventures Plus LLC; Ted Gartner; Ray182s (These videos show the canyoneering side of Parker Creek, which is not needed for this adventure); Upper Parker Creek Canyon 4WD Adventure; A Tale of Two Canyons; Lower Parker Creek Canyon 4WD Loop; Lower Parker Creek Canyon Hike
Points of interest: Narrow, beautiful canyon, "light" canyoneering, fun challenges, did I say beautiful canyon? It doesn't matter, it needs to be said again
Special Considerations: DO NOT enter this during possible flash floods or after/during heavy rains - if this canyon gets filled with water, you will most likely die. You may get wet while hiking this. Some obstacles may be impassible with lots of water and can be dangerous. The rocks can be VERY slippery. Use your own best judgment. You will need a high-clearance 2WD vehicle or 4WD vehicle to get to the trail head (or you can walk the road which adds another 1.5 miles total to the trip). GPS signals may be difficult to obtain in the narrow canyon and can be unreliable.
How to get there: From Globe take highway 188 north and drive 14.7 miles to highway 288. Take a right onto highway 288. Drive 19.3 miles on highway 288 until you come to FR488. See 4WD adventure for more information on how to get to trail head. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This trail takes you through a beautiful narrow canyon that's famous for its canyoneering. What I've described herein can be done without having to rappel or the use of special equipment. That doesn't mean it's not a just a little bit dangerous and you may get wet. But that's okay. It's worth the trip.

The canyon has beautifully colored sheer rock walls, boulders, dams and history all packed into a short one mile hike. You start with a quick descent from the road into the main canyon. On your way, you'll pass "The Stairway to Heaven" which is a steep climb down a narrow slot in the rocks over tree roots and rock ledges.

You'll reach Parker Creek at one of three dams. Next to this dam are a set of old wooden steps and a collapsed shed. If you climb up the ledge you will also see another waterfall about 50-100 feet upstream.

A short distance downstream is a third dam, the largest of the three. This one spans Pocket Creek just before it runs into Parker Creek. Next to this dam is another collapsed shed and water depth gauge. On the rock ledge just before the dam, there's a "sign" with "CCC" written with concrete. See General Information and History below for more information on what this may mean. There's also what looks like some foundations to an old walkway that used to span the creek here.

The rest of the canyon is filled with more beautiful scenery that won't disappoint. You can travel about another 0.3 miles until you come to the first big obstacle that's not passable without canyoneering equipment or training. Even with such a short distance, it's worth the visit.

General Information and History

From Wikipedia:The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families as part of the New Deal. Originally for young men ages 18–23, it was eventually expanded to young men ages 17–28. Robert Fechner was the head of the agency. It was a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal that provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments. The CCC was designed to provide jobs for young men, to relieve families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression in the United States while at the same time implementing a general natural resource conservation program in every state and territory. Maximum enrollment at any one time was 300,000; in nine years 3 million young men participated in the CCC, which provided them with shelter, clothing, and food, together with a small wage of $30 a month ($25 of which had to be sent home to their families).

The American public made the CCC the most popular of all the New Deal programs. Principal benefits of an individual's enrollment in the CCC included improved physical condition, heightened morale, and increased employability. Implicitly, the CCC also led to a greater public awareness and appreciation of the outdoors and the nation's natural resources; and the continued need for a carefully planned, comprehensive national program for the protection and development of natural resources.

During the time of the CCC, enrollees planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide and upgraded most state parks, updated forest fire fighting methods, and built a network of service buildings and public roadways in remote areas.

The CCC operated separate programs for veterans and Native Americans. Despite its popular support, the CCC was never a permanent agency. It depended on emergency and temporary Congressional legislation for its existence. By 1942, with World War II and the draft in operation, need for work relief declined and Congress voted to close the program.

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The Trail

There are a few different ways you can access Upper Parker Creek Canyon. If you have a 4WD vehicle, you can drive the 3/4 of a mile down Forest Road 488 to a small parking area and begin your hike from there. This route provides you that quickest access to the canyon. If you don’t have a 4WD vehicle, you can park along route 288 and walk the road. If you're up for a little more adventure, you can hike down the creek itself, which parallels the road. See Upper Parker Creek Canyon 4WD trail for more information

Although I felt the urge to hike down the creek as we drove over the single lane bridge immediately after leaving highway 288, we decided to drive to the parking area to get into the canyon as quickly as possible. We started our hike from parking area at WPT001.

From WPT001, head down toward the canyon. The trail immediately turns into a rocky wash. If these rocks are wet, be very careful. They can be extremely slippery, especially if your shoes were wet.

As you head down, you may notice some rocks have a waxy sheen to them. Go ahead and touch them. They feel as though they are covered in a waxy film.

About half way down to the canyon you will come to a place I call the “Stairway to Heaven”. It’s a narrow and steep stairway made of tree roots and small rock ledges. At the end of the stairway is Parker Creek Canyon - or Heaven - at WPT002.

There are three small dams nearby. When you get to the canyon, you will see one directly to your left. Also on your left are some old wooden stairs leading up to a ledge where there's a collapsed building (more like a shed). The stairs are not climbable, but you can scamper up the rock ledge for a better look at the shed.

While you're there, you will see the second dam about 50-100 feet upstream from where you're standing. This small dam was built with rock and concrete.

From this point, continue downstream for a very short distance to the confluence of Parker and Pocket Creeks. There you will find the third, and largest, dam spanning across Pocket Creek. You'll also find the remains of another wooden structure and some depth measuring devices. On the ledge just before the dam and on your left as you're walking down Parker Creek, you will also find some concrete foundations and a concrete "Sign".

The foundations along with those across the creek lead me to believe there was once a foot bridge spanning Parker Creek. The concrete "sign" has the letters, "A" and "CCC". Did the Arizona Civilian Conservation Corps build the dams, buildings and foot bridge back in the 1930s and early 1940s to monitor water flow in the canyon?

Also in this area you will find beautiful colored rocks that look as though Mother Nature went a little crazy with her paint brush. These colors really stand out when the rocks are wet. I can’t remember when I’ve seen such striking colors.

From Waypoint WPT002, continue to head downstream. You will find small challenges along the way. The difficulty of these can depend on how much water is flowing in the creek. You may have to get wet at some points. Be very careful, lots of slippery rocks along the creek.

 We made it another 1/3 of a mile before reaching a large waterfall that required canyoneering equipment and skills to traverse (WPT003). When you're done, head back out the same way you came in. The nice thing about this hike is that the canyon looks different depending on which way you're hiking through it so it's almost as if you're in a different canyon on the way out.

Have fun and be safe!

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