Life in Carefree

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

Located about 35 miles north of central Phoenix, Spur Cross lies in the beautiful Sonoran Desert abutting the Tonto National Forest. This protected area encompasses 2,154 acres of diversely rugged land that features archaeological sites, ancient petroglyphs and lush riparian spots along Cave Creek which generally flows with its crystal waters during the winter months.

All of this natural beauty of rolling hills and mountains is dotted with tall Saguaro cacti of unique shapes and forms that have taken thousands upon thousands of years to grow. Remnants of early mining camps from the 1870s. There are ruins of the ancient Hohokam Indians and an old dude ranch that likely holds many secrets of times past.

Spring brings the color of abundant wildflowers enticing hikers that love to hike and ride their horse during ideal spring weather. Anytime is a great time to hike, but the summers can become quite warm, so be sure to wear protective clothing and take plenty of water. The best way to enjoy your first visit to the park and its trails near and around the impressive peaks is taking a ranger-guided tour who will narrate its ancient and old west history.

Hiking In Spur Cross

Although Cave Creek AZ is bordered by a thriving metropolis of millions of people, once you begin hiking you get the illusion that any civilization is no where near. It's so tranquil and serene. And unlike the hiking trails of South Mountain or the urban trails of the Squaw Peak and Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, not many hikers are even aware of the Spur Cross Park trails.

There are five maintained trails at Spur Cross that combined feature over ten miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. They range in difficulty from very easy to difficult. Elephant Mountain, which is 2.1 miles long is perhaps the most rigourous while leading hikers into the Tonto National Forest. Hiking trails can have dense vegetation and some high elevation gains.

  • > Elephant Mountain Trail: 2.1 mi (4.4 km)
  • > Metate Trail: 0.8 mi (1.4 km)
  • > Spur Cross Trail (Regional Trail): 5.3 mi (8.5 km)
  • > Tortuga Trail: 1.2 mi (2.0 km)
  • > Towhee Trail: 0.2 mi (0.3 km)

The Tortuga is a good trail for a quick workout combined with inspiring view. Elephant Mountain rewards hikers with views to the south of Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak, and the Phoenix skyline. Metate trail is a more gentle trail along the path of Cave Creek. Scenery along the Metate trail includes groves of mesquite and gnarled, multi-armed saguaros.

Spur Cross Trail Hiking Video

Horseback Riding On The Trails

All trails in Spur Cross Park are multi-use that permits mountain biking and horseback riding. Equestrians are welcome to use the horse staging area at the park. Horses are required to stay on the designated trails.

Map of Spur Cross

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Directions To Spur Cross Park

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area is located approximately 35 miles north of central Phoenix. Interstate 17, State Route 51, and Loop 101 can all be used to reach Spur Cross Park. From the intersection of Carefree Highway and Cave Creek Road head north on Cave Creek Road about 2.5 miles to Spur Cross Road. Turn north for approximately 4.5 miles to the public parking area. After 3 miles the road turns to all-weather graded. The last 1.5 miles can be confusing; continue north on the graded road past the green house, through the tall gateposts and on past the horse corrals to the signed public parking area on the right.

Map To Spur Cross Park

Spur Cross Park Map

More Information

Park hours are from 6:00 AM to 8 PM on Sunday through Thursday and close at 10:00 PM on Friday and Saturday. Camping is not permitted but there are picnic tables near the park entrance. Service stations, stores and restaurants are a few miles away. Visit the park website for a calendar list of upcoming, park sponsored events.

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
44000 North Spur Cross Road
Cave Creek, Arizona 85331
(480) 488-2263

This page was last modified on 22 February 2012 at 11:01
Carefree and Cave Creek, Arizona