The trail is accessible by all high clearance vehicles including most two wheel drive trucks. You will even see cars on the early sections of the route. The early sections before FR24, Waypoint 25, are primarily well groomed dirt roads. However, once past FR24 the road becomes much rougher requiring a high clearance vehicle. The difficultly on the entire route increases dramatically in rainy weather. You cross numerous washes over the very long route and all can be dangerous when flooded. The trail is long and remote but pretty popular on most weekends, so be cautious of traffic on blind corners.
Please do not travel this route in wet weather, it ruts the trails, causing long lasting damage.
The trail begins at the Aqua Fria National Monument sign. There is an information board and on most days you'll find very informative free maps of the monument region. There is a small camping and staging area with room for 4-5 trailers.
2. Trail 9168 Toneea Road (0.5 mi)
The first trail on your left is 9168, which leads to the housing community of Cordes Lake. Continue south on the main road.
In the wash, trail 9009 travels north and connects with other trails.
4. Trail 9005 To Badger Springs (1.2 mi)
At the top of the hill is a small staging area with room for 4-5 trailers. Trail 9005 also begins here. It travels south through a difficult rocky wash to Badger Springs. High Clearance and 4x4 is required to reach Badger Springs.
5. Trail 9269A Camping (1.3 mi)
Trail 9269 travels north connecting with trail 9009 and others.
6. Trail 9021 Cattle Tank (2.8 mi)
Trail 9021 travels south past a cattle tank to a dead end with ruins and petroglyphs. Most of the sites are not well marked. Many sites require you to seek out the large rock piles.
Trail 9018 travels north connecting with trail 9009 and others.
8. Trail 9017 / Horseshoe Ranch (5.9 mi)
The large Horseshoe Ranch borders the east side of the road. At the second gate in the distance, trail 9017 travels north past the ranch.
9. Restrooms / Hiking Trail Parking (6.4 mi)
When you're approaching the large tree lined wash, there is a pull off to the north for hikers parking. Around the corner you will find the only restroom in the region. This is a popular parking point for hikers and people shuttling to campsites.
Trail 9269B travels west for a very short distance, ending at a cattle pond.
Trail 9022 travels northwest to a wide open camping area. See the 9022 trail write-up for more details.
Trail 9269C travels south for a short distance before ending at a turn around above Hackberry Wash.
Trail 9023 travels north to the main Native American ruin site in the region, Pueblo la Plata. Stay on 9023 until the parking area at the end. It's a short walk but worth it. See the write-up for 9023 Pueblo la Plata
for details on this trail.
14. Trail 9269D (10.2 mi)
Just after crossing the wash, trail 9269D travels north for a very short distance, leading to camping and parking for hikers.
15. Trail 9014 / Info Boards (11.2 mi)
Trail 9014 travels south. On the corner you will find information boards just like at the trailhead. 9014 offers some of the best ruins and petroglyphs in the entire region. See the write-up of 9014 Aqua Fria Ruins
for complete details. Please be respectful and obey the law by not disturbing or removing any artifacts.
16. End 9269 / Start FR269 Tonto Forest (11.6 mi)
You leave Aqua Fria National Monument and enter Tonto National Forest land. The trail turns from 9269 to FR269.
17. Trail FR677 (11.9 mi)
FR677 travels north connecting with more trails and is considered part of the Great Western Trail.
FR36 travels to the south through a large steel gate. There is an empty info board sign as well. This trail leads you to the old stone cabin at the Copper Creek Admin. site. Find all the details at the FR36 Copper Creek Cabin
The first entrance to FR44 travels north in the sandy wash.
20. Trail FR391 / Camping (15 mi)
FR391 travels to the north to a couple campsites before ending at a narrow turn around.
The second entrance to FR44 travels north circling back to Waypoint 19.
FR58 travels south for quite a long ways before ending at an old cabin.
23. Trail FR399 Camping (19.3 mi)
FR399 travels north for a very short distance before ending a turn around at cattle tanks. No camping.
24. Trail FR578 Stone Cabin (21.9 mi)
FR578 travels south downhill for a short distance, leading to an old stone cabin that is still in use. One half of the cabin was locked. The trail can be rough and requires high clearance.
25. Trail FR24 Cave Creek Road (26.1 mi)
The other main route into the region is FR24, Cave Creek Road leads you south to Carefree and the Phoenix Valley. This route requires high clearance in some sections. There is staging and signage here. The trail becomes rougher after this point, high clearance is highly recommended.
FR16 travels north, connecting to other trails and eventually ending at the Verde River 28 miles away.
FR18 travels north before ending at camping near a seasonal creek.
28. Trail End Sheep's Bridge (38 mi)
The end of the trail is when you reach the bottom of the hill at Sheep's Bridge and the Verde River. This is a popular destination for camping and swimming during the summer. There is an informative placard on the original bridge foundation that explains how the bridge came to be. Down along the river is camping and be sure to look for petroglyphs hidden in the rocks above the river.