New River Canyon

New River, Arizona (Maricopa County)

Last Updated: 01/24/2022
4.7 / 5 ( 19 reviews )
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Highlight: New River Canyon
When you think of rugged off-road trails, you typically conjure up images of a trail in a land far away and not right near a major metro area such as just Phoenix, Arizona. New River is rugged and will have you feeling like you are in a remote part of the world rather than a quick drive from the Valley of the Sun. Stretching over 19 miles long across the New River Mountains and Mesa, you will feel enveloped inside the mountains and surrounded by saguaro and other cacti of the area. On a good day, you can cross the New River several times when it is flowing.

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Lightly Modified 4X4 (Small Lift and Larger Tires)
The newly formed obstacles at Waypoints 21 and 23 give this trail its rating.

Technical Rating

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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Community Consensus

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FR 41 is a 19-mile trail that very loosely follows the New River from I-17 to FR 24 through the Tonto National Forest. The road begins as West Table Mesa Road on the west side before turning into FR41, New River. It can be driven from either east to west or west to east as mapped here. Technical obstacles at Waypoint 21 and 23 will require your attention. The obstacle at Waypoint 23 does have a bypass forming around it, but there is no guarantee that it will remain the "easier" option after any given rain. Overall, the trail is very rough and requires driving over loose rocks, boulders, and deep ruts throughout the entirety of the trail. Hill climbs, and descents are also a regular occurrence along the trail. On top of all that, anticipate washouts that can happen after any rain. This trail will push the limits of a stock SUV. Better suited for pure off-road vehicles such as the Wrangler, Tacoma, 4 Runner, Bronco, with a mild lift. River Flow The New River can be trickling or raging depending on the season and the weather. Always double-check the weather before adventuring in the desert. Using Gaia GPS, you can check flow rates through the USGS Streamflow layer. Alternatively, you can find streamflow directly from the government here.
Heavy side-by-side traffic on the weekends and flash flooding during weather events, in addition to mud forming when wet.


1. Trailhead (0 mi)
Right off I-17 heading east is a staging area. The sign read's "State Trust Land. No Trespassing. Permit Required"
2. Cattle Guard - Bend Left (0.94 mi)
Stay left through the cattle guard. To the right is a private ranch. Through the cattle guard there is another staging area and good place to leave a trailer if needed.
3. New River Crossing - Continue (1.71 mi)
Depending on rainfall or snowmelt, this river can be dry or flowing. Camping spurs can be found in the area.
4. Camping (2 mi)
An uneven area for camping, but not overly rocky. Large enough site for a few vehicles to camp with a view looking down into the New River.
5. Spur Road (2.84 mi)
There are a couple of spur roads in this area that are State Trust Land. The roads do not appear on any maps.
6. Rough Area Begins (3.55 mi)
The rocky nature of this trail kicks off at this point. Anticipate a slow go with plenty of rocks to drive over and hills to climb from here on out.
7. Forest Service Boundary - Continue Straight (4.18 mi)
Officially, New River FR41 starts at this point. There is flat ground in the area if required for camping, but not the most incredible spot for camping.
8. FR1484 - Bend Right (4.3 mi)
Bend right/straightish on the more defined road. FR 1484 is a short spur less than 1/2 mile long. There is flat and rocky ground here for camping.
9. Rocky Road Example (4.85 mi)
Another pitch up that is rocky and may require 4 wheel drive, low gears.
10. Saddle and Camping - Veer Left Uphill (5.1 mi)
You will reach a saddle of sorts before one of the more intimidating hill climbs on the entire trail. Three posts stand that must have held a sign at one point in time. A large camping site overlooks New River off in the distance and is large enough for several vehicles, but expect wind.
11. Hill Climb (5.23 mi)
Skirting the north side of the point named "West Point," the hill climb is more intimidating than it looks. The rocks are loose but not overly large; 4 low will be helpful for a slow but methodical climb up. When reaching the top, there is plenty of room to pull over and wait for other members of your party.
12. Rocky Area (5.99 mi)
Exposed undulating sandstone along the trail.
13. Rocky Area (6.01 mi)
Coming uphill, the rocks are loose and ever-shifting. Slow and four low will make this area much more manageable.
14. Cattle Guard (6.12 mi)
Impressive views of where you came from or where you are going can be found right here.
15. Cholla Basin and Switchbacks (6.57 mi)
Large wrapping switchbacks are rutted and rocky descending into Cholla Basin.
16. New River Crossing (7.3 mi)
Water may or may not be flowing depending on seasonal conditions.
17. New River Crossing (7.78 mi)
One of the actual obstacles on this trail is just on the west side of the river as you come down into the river bed. Once in the river bed, you must contend with small boulders which shift in position all the time. Sometimes you may have a clear path across, while other days, it may require more thinking. Once through, you must drive a loose rock hill on the other side of the River. This area is also a nice spot for a break or lunch depending on how much water is flowing in the river.
18. Monsoon Washout (8.52 mi)
Depending on your vehicle size, your experience, and your crew, you may not want to proceed past this point until the washout has been repaired. The loose ground on the downslope does not indicate that it will stay contained and not giveaway with you and your vehicle dropping 7' below.
19. Scenic - Continue Straight (9.69 mi)
This is an excellent location to get out and stretch the legs. There is room for roughly six vehicles to pull off to the side of the road and not obstruct other traffic.
20. Obstacle with No Bypass (10.35 mi)
Formed from the monsoons of 2021, this obstacle has no bypass but does have a clear line through it. Inexperienced drivers may want a spotter. Note: The photos are taken driving the trail from west to east, which is the opposite of how the trail guide is written. There is no difference in difficulty going in either direction.
21. Obstacle with No Bypass (11.02 mi)
This obstacle, formed in the monsoons of 2021, has no bypass. However, there is a clear line through requiring only careful tire placement. Note: The photos are taken driving the trail from west to east, which is the opposite of how the trail guide is written. There is no difference in difficulty going in either direction.
22. Corral - Continue Straight (12.05 mi)
Old corral and river access here.
23. Major Rock Slide with Bypass (12.27 mi)
This is the most challenging portion of the trail with a six technical rating. A spotter may be required for inexperienced drivers and or for vehicles without lift modifications. These boulders are loose will shift when driving over them, making the tiptoe across these boulders more interesting. Careful tire placement will rule the day here. Note: The photos are taken driving the trail from west to east, which is the opposite of how the trail guide is written. There is no difference in difficulty going in either direction. A bypass has formed dipping down into the wash to the north of this boulder field.
24. Minor Slide Obstacle (12.9 mi)
This is the easiest of the new obstacles formed as a result of the monsoons of 2021. Note: The photos are taken driving the trail from west to east, which is the opposite of how the trail guide is written. There is no difference in difficulty going in either direction.
25. FR 37 Trailhead - Go Right To Follow Main Road or Left for Lunch Spot (13.86 mi)
Stay right to continue on FR 41. To the left is a fun side road to explore.
26. Scenic Area (13.67 mi)
Great spot for lunch! Take note of all the fascinating rock formations in this area. There is a good spot for camping one vehicle on the high side of the wash, which is to the north.
27. FR 374 Trailhead - Go Straight (16.26 mi)
Continue straight.
28. FR 17 Trailhead - Stay Straight (12.05 mi)
Stay straight for FR 41. To the right is FR 17, New River Mesa. This road takes you high up on the mesa and is extremely rough and rocky.
29. FR 3193 Trailhead - Stay Straight (18.13 mi)
Follow the main road.
30. FR 1090 Trailhead - Stay Straight (19.43 mi)
31. End at Cave Creek Road (19.43 mi)
This is the end of the trail at Cave Creek. Go left to head north towards Bloody Basin and into Yavapai County. Go right around the hairpin to head south back into town.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Phoenix, Arizona

Travel north on I-17 to exit 236 Table Mesa Road and turn right. There is a staging area just east of the interstate. There is also a staging area exactly one mile east down Table Mesa Road.


Not necessarily a camping trail, but there are plenty of spots to set up for the night. Many people camp towards the western end around the first river crossing at Waypoint 3 but anticipate crowds. The Waypoints in this guide notate areas where small spaces for camping were found. Waypoint 10 has the best ground condition but will be windy. Take note: the ground is rocky, and you will want to have a cot or rooftop tent.
Camping: New River Canyon

Trail Reviews (23)

Questions & Answers (2)

Q: Hi Todd. Any updates on the washout at WP 18? Was planning to use this trail next Thursday (2/3/2022). Three of us in JKs, 2.5", 35" tires, lockers and skid plates. Been on New River trail twice and really like it but the washout could be a problem. Thanks, -Ken
–Ken (01/31/2022)
A: Hey Ken, I drove it last weekend coming from the eastern side. It’s a little sketchy still but the washout has been built up since a few months ago. We ran all the obstacles in a JL, 35s and a 2” lift as a reference point for you.
–Todd (02/01/2022)
Q: Are there any river flow rate gauges on New River to predict the difficulty of the river crossings? And any local knowledge about how to calibrate those rates to degree of difficulty? Planing to take this route end of January.
–Ken (01/23/2021)
A: Hi Ken, that's a good question I will have to research a little further. Here is what I can tell you though. The USGS does have a gauge at Waypoint 3. Most of the time, this river is just trickling water. In all of these areas out here in Arizona, during and after rains, the trails can become impassable due to flash flooding, so you would not want to be in these rivers or washes during rain. They literally will flash flood within an instant and what flow meter may state may not be accurate the moment you try to cross. The photos of the river crossings above were captured about a week after a couple of days of a mix of rain and snow. All but the first crossing are typically dry. Currently, (January 24, 2021) the USGS is listing that gauge at 0 CFM and yet calling it above average. Each crossing is mostly hard bottom, with cobblestone of small size being densely packed, and the larger boulders being sporadic. I recall it all being fairly good traction.
–Todd (01/24/2021)

Writer Information



Todd is an avid wheeler who loves to explore new trails whenever and wherever he can. They say necessity is the mother of all invention and that holds true for Todd. His want and desire to find passable trails and new nooks and crannies of the Great American West to explore were his reasons behind starting On any given weekend you can find Todd on some obscure 4x4 trail or using his legs to hike to an alpine lake.
For individual use only, not to be shared.