|Typically Open:||Year Round|
|Permit Information:||Permit Required - Click Here|
|Highest Elevation:||2221 feet|
|Duration:||About 5 hours|
|Shape of Trail:||Out & Back|
|Best Direction to Travel:||North|
|Nearest Town w/ Services:||Anthem|
|Official Road Name:||Cow Creek Road|
|Management Agency:||Bureau of Land Management|
This is a very fun day trip close to Phoenix that explores the historical mining areas north of Lake Pleasant in the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains. The trail is an offshoot of the main back way to Crown King trail, where there are many other side trails that can be explored. This trail takes you to the China Dam that was built in the late 1880's for hydraulic mining operations on Humbug Creek and then continues on to an old mining homestead deep in the mountains on Tule Creek. Be sure to know your route since it is very easy to get lost and road conditions can change frequently due to weather.
Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 18" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 18" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 36" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.Read more about our rating system
The trail begins at the intersection of Cow Creek Road and N. Castle Hot Springs Road. Turn right at the sign marking Cow Creek Road, this road also will lead you north to the back way to Crown King trail. There is a small area for staging right at the intersection.
From the trail head continue north to this large staging area that is usually full with folks preparing for travel to Crown King or exploring the many trails north of Lake Pleasant.
Continue north on Cow Creek road another mile to a road intersection heading east at a hill to your right. At this intersection you will turn right, left will take you on the main trail for the back way to Crown King. The road to the right has two options, right side is easier, left side is steeper and more technical, but the roads merge again after the hill so either branch will take you to the same place.
Continue north to mile marker 3.08 to an interaction of several trails on top of a hill. You will take the left most path continuing in a northern direction.
Continue north on the trail as it winds around back to the east and comes to another intersection. You will take the left trail heading east towards China Dam. This section of the trail becomes more challenging as it drops down quickly into Humbug Creek and China Dam. There are also many side areas to explore.
At the 4.61 mile marker you will run into Humbug Creek and the China Dam Parking area near the smaller upper dam. There are lots of interesting areas to explore and some good campsites around the area.
The main China Dam structure is a short walk down stream from the parking area. It is worth spending some time exploring the large dam, and hiking down around Humbug Creek. In the late 1800's this area was full of miners working the creek so there is lots of interesting things to see. On the east side of the dam there is a diversion tunnel that is fun to explore. Lots of interesting rock collecting too.
Continue back the way you came to the original China Dam turn out and take the southern road heading southeast descending down into Humbug Creek. There are some more technical sections here and road conditions change frequently depending upon the weather conditions. Best to avoid this area in heavy rain as the wide creek could quickly become impassable.
After crossing Humbug Creek continue north as the trail starts to get more difficult as this section of the trail doesn't see much traffic. Continue on this road heading north to about the 9 mile mark and turn east for the Tule Creek Homestead turnoff. The next section of trail is the most difficult with some steep creeks to cross, a steep bank to climb and a few small ledges. Nothing to difficult but high clearance and 4-wheel drive are recommended and in bad weather this could become very difficult.
At trail mile 10.36 you will reach a branch in the road and a gate. Continue left on the road through the gate for the final section of trail that will take you to the Tule Creek Homestead.
At mile marker 10.76 the trail will terminate at a small parking area for the Tule Creek Homestead and Riparian Management Area. From here you can view the homestead and return back the way you came.
The Tule Creek Homestead is a short walk past the enclosed fence area. It is worth planning to spend some time around here exploring the area as it is very beautiful and there are lots of ruins and old mining operations in the area to see. If you have time continue hiking up Tule Creek for some more beautiful scenery.
Starting Point: North Phoenix, AZ I-17
Bring your own firewood, there is none to be found in the desert. Camping is primitive along this route. There are no services or facilities in the area for campers. There is no running water in the area for campers. You can camp along many of the trails in the area. There are no established campgrounds with facilities or services in the area.