Clover Creek Canyon

Clover Creek Canyon


Mileage: 4.2
Elevation gain: 241 feet
Time to complete: 1.5-3 hours
Stars: ★★★
Difficulty: 1/5 (Ratings explained)
Easy trail, little elevation gain

In the southeast corner of the West Clear Creek Wilderness lies the small tributary of Clover Creek, a leisurely forest stroll with a few campsites that would make for a short and easy backpacking trip. There may be water in a wet season, but more than likely it’ll be mostly dry until you eventually start seeing pools of water as you get farther in. There is no destination here, so go until there’s too much water and bushwhacking for your liking. Watch for elk!

Trail Description

The fortunate among us will bring a high clearance vehicle to access the trailhead, but we are currently lacking one, so we parked at a pull-out on highway 87 and made a sketchy descent to the meadow below to connect with the parking area and the trail.

Clover Creek Canyon Trail

At the parking area, there is a fence to keep vehicles from proceeding, but this clearly used to be a forest road, as evidenced by “Aslan’s altar,” as we called it.

Remnants of a road in Clover Creek Canyon

The Clover Creek Canyon trail is pretty well defined, and from the “altar,” you’ll make your way left to follow the creek bed. We went in late fall when the leaves and grass were mostly yellow, but it looks like it would be very pretty in the summer.

There are a few areas that would make really nice campsites if you would like to make this into a short backpacking trip. Maybe with the kids?

Cool Overhang

The next unusual thing is this cool overhang, and you’ll probably be tempted to leave the trail to go check it out. Hey, why not?

Cool overhang in Clover Creek Canyon
I could stand up inside

As you continue to follow the creek bed, the walls of the Clover Creek Canyon will begin to get more tight and vertical, and you might start thinking there has to be a cave in there somewhere. I checked several recesses, but no caves.

Eventually, we got to a pool of water that would be difficult to go around, and we were running low on light, so we decided to turn back, but you can go as far as your little heart desires. Just be aware the trail will become less defined and the bushes more intrusive.

Pool of water in Clover Creek Canyon
The pool that ended our hike

Retrace your steps back to your vehicle, enjoying the way the light filters through the trees.

Map & Directions

Location West Clear Creek Wilderness, Coconino National Forest, Payson, Arizona

From Payson, take highway 87 north to Forest Road 142. Turn left and at the next junction turn right and fork right to stay on Forest Road 142. Google Maps will lead you astray because Forest Road 616 no longer exists.

Fees/Passes None

Trailhead Facilities None

Download KML or GPX

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Disclaimer Outdoor activities have inherent risk, and we will not be able to tell you all the risks you may face. You are responsible for your own safety, so prepare as well as you can and know your limits. Follow this guide at your own risk. And have fun!

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