China Dam/Tule Homestead

Anthem, Arizona (Yavapai County)

Last Updated: 12/04/2016
4/5 (1 review)
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Difficulty: 3-5
Length: 21.4 miles
Highest Elevation: 2221 feet
Duration: About 5 hours
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: North
Nearest Town: Anthem
Nearest Town w/ Services: Anthem
Official Road Name: Cow Creek Road
Management Agency: BLM, Lake Pleasant
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles


Highlight: China Dam/Tule Homestead

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. In the late 1880's many adventurous souls braved the brutal conditions and fierce Apache indians to find their fortune in this remote and rocky landscape. 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. The trail is an offshoot of the main back way to Crown King trail and there are many other side trails that can be explored north of Lake Pleasant but bring a map and GPS since it is very easy to get lost and road conditions can change frequently due to weather.



7 day forecast for China Dam/Tule Homestead

Route Information

Technical Rating: 3-5

Rocky or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 24" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 24" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 54" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.

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This off-road trail branches off of the back way to Crown King trail, taking you to China Dam. The beginning of the trail can be very busy with folks heading north to Crown King but once you get a few miles in you are unlikely to see many other people. Although most of the route is not very difficult the trail is not maintained and some sections have been washed out and have increased the difficulty of the route. Many of the creek crossings can become flooded so this area is best avoided during rainy conditions. The area north of Lake Pleasant is full of many spider trails and offshoots and it is very easy to get lost so be sure to bring maps & GPS or plan on extra time to get lost. Although most of the trail is very easy there are 2-3 sections that would likely need aggressive SUV with decent clearance, however the difficult sections are within 1/2 mile of the end of the trail so you can always park and walk a short distance to the dam & homestead.


1. Trailhead

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.

2. Staging Area (1.52 mi)

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.

3. Trail Turn Off (2.64 mi)

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.

4. Crossroads (3.08 mi)

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.

5. China Dam Turnout (3.82 mi)

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.

6. China Dam Parking (4.61 mi)

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.

7. China Dam (4.61 mi)

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.

8. Humbug Creek (6.55 mi)

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.

9. Tule Creek Homestead Turnoff (9.08 mi)

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.

10. Gate (10.36 mi)

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.

11. Tule Creek Homestead Parking (10.76 mi)

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.

12. Tule Creek Homestead (10.76 mi)

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.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 33.936051, -112.324542
From the east and I-17 head west on Highway 74 for 11.4 miles to Castle Hot Springs Road, if coming in from the west from Morristown then head east on Highway 74 for 18.8 miles. From the intersection of Castle Hot Springs Road and Highway 74 head north 8.5 miles to the intersection of Cow Creek Road. There is a small area for airing down at the road intersection but there is a much larger area 1.5 miles down the road. You will cross over the northern end of Lake Pleasant just before the intersection with Cow Creek Road


There are plenty of places along this trail to pull out and camp on BLM land but if you continue on some of the many trails heading south to the north shore of Lake Pleasant you can find lots of nicer camping spots right along the shores of the lake. If you plan on camping along the lake you will be in the Lake Pleasant Regional Park so you will need to stop at the fee booth entrance to the lake on your way up from Highway 74 and pay $6 for the park entrance fee.

Camping: China Dam/Tule Homestead

Land Use Issues

If you follow the route as described in the GPS track there are no access or permits needed however note that if you explore south to the shores of Lake Pleasant you need to pick up a pass the Lake Pleasant Regional Park for $6, while on the trails it is unclear where the end of BLM land is and the beginning of Lake Pleasant Regional Park begins. I would say that if you are just driving around and exploring you should be okay without a permit but if you plan on camping or staying along the shore of Lake Pleasant then you can pick up the pass from the park. The link below has more information.

Writer Information

Bill Loux

Mapping Crew - Arizona

After spending his early years in the Air Force traveling around Asia looking for adventure Bill has now settled down in Arizona and loves to spend time exploring the remote expanses of the West. He grew up as a Kansas country boy getting his Jeep stuck in as many places as possible. He is now, however, a recovering Jeep owner and currently in the process of building up a 2013 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition. Bill has a passion for adventure travel to remote and hard to get to locations that offer amazing scenery and interesting historical background, and has a knack for biting off more than I can chew. He is currently focused on building up a rig for hard core overlanding/camping and enjoys finding beautiful hidden campsites in the backcountry with lots of activities nearby (hiking, rock climbing, fishing, etc.) While having two small kids has slowed him down some, it allows him to share his love of adventure and the outdoors with his children and he hopes to focus on some longer aggressive overland loop routes with lots of family friendly things to see and do along the way.


Questions & Answers (0)

Trail Reviews (1)

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Good, easy to moderate trail to some interesting landmarks. Recent snow in the mountains made for a fun water crossing over humbug creek. The dam was neat, the homestead was pretty awesome with lots to look at. Overall the trail was easy, getting progressively rougher the deeper in you got. Rain made it interesting with some “foggy” views of th surrounding mountains. Took our small group approx 5 hours with a few stops to do the out and back.