In October 2020, the Greenhouse Trail was cleared of deadfall along its entire length by a volunteer trail crew, and significant portions of its length were brushed and had the tread improved. While the tread is still narrow or rough in places, it can be easily hiked to the Winn Falls Overlook, and those comfortable hiking a lower quality trail can continue beyond to Cima Creek, Cima Cabin, etc.
As of May 2021, there are a half dozen or more trees down in the upper half mile of the Greenhouse Trail and likely more below Cima Cabin.
Length: 3.89 mi
The Greenhouse Trail is accessible from two locations.
The lower-elevation eastern terminus is on the southwestern edge of the turnaround loop at the end of the Greenhouse Road (FR 713). (31.87883, -109.24900) From Portal, head west out of town on Portal Road for a little over half a mile and angle to the southwest into the mouth of Cave Creek Canyon. After 0.77 miles, you will cross the National Forest boundary and the road becomes Forest Road 42. Continue up-canyon 3.3 miles, remaining on the paved road. After crossing a bridge, the pavement ends, and nearly two thirds of a mile beyond you will pass the Southwestern Research Center. Immediately after, take the Herb Martyr Road (FR 42A) to the left for 1.84 miles, then turn right onto the Greenhouse Road (FR 713). (31.87574, -109.23205) This is a rough 1.4 mile road with steep grades and a rocky creek crossing and should only be attempted in high-clearance 4WD vehicles. Park here and walk the road if you cannot drive it. The creek crossing has rock rubble for a hundred yards below it and driving beyond this point to the trailhead should only be attempted with high clearance vehicles. There are several places to park or turn around along the length of the road.
Cima Cabin was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and historically served as a boarding house for firefighters during summer months, and is still occasionally used by trail and fire crews. The structure was surrounded in fireproof material during the 2011 Horseshoe 2 fire and, while fire did pass through here, it was undamaged.
Winn Falls, which this trail passes close to, was commonly known locally as "Sally Falls", named for Sally Coryell, a cook and phone operator at Cima Cabin when it was in service during fire season. After Frederick Winn, the Forest Supervisor, died, an effort was made to name a local waterfall in honor of him. While a different waterfall up the middle fork of Cave Creek was proposed, this waterfall along Cima Creek ended up with the name instead, replacing the existing name.
The Greenhouse Trail is one of the most unique trails in the Chiricahua Mountains, traveling alongside two different creeks, passing through a huge assortment of lush plant life along the latter creek, and climbing all the way from the Cave Creek Basin to the Crest nearly 2,700 feet above, with a viewpoint for the tallest waterfall in the Chiricahuas a third of the distance up the trail.
Several signs mark the point where the trail leaves the south edge of the turnaround loop at the end of the Greenhouse Road (FR 713). Greenhouse Creek, which the road to the trailhead crosses once and parallels much of the rest of the way, is visible below the trail here and it stays close by until the climb to the Winn Falls Viewpoint begins.
This area was affected by the 2011 Horseshoe 2 fire, but tree cover remains largely intact for the trail's duration in Greenhouse Canyon. After two tenths of a mile, the trail passes through a small clearing in the forest, and three tenths beyond lies the Wilderness boundary, (31.87516, -109.25548) where a new sign installed by a volunteer group in early 2012 welcomes hikers. Tooth marks and fur on the sign suggests bears have already begun sampling it for flavor.
Just past the boundary lies a small switchback, and shortly after, the trail and the creek move closer together. The trail heads southwest on the slope above for nearly the next two tenths of a mile, after which it swings south and crosses the creek. (31.87285, -109.25800) When last surveyed, there was a large tree down across the trail here, but it is easy enough to duck under. The trail then swings left to the east and begins to climb up a treeless slope to the ridge separating Greenhouse and Cima Canyons. The first of many switchbacks along this trail begins less than a tenth of a mile from the creek crossing, and twelve more occur over the next roughly three quarters of a mile to the Winn Falls Viewpoint.
The Viewpoint, perched on a narrow ridgetop, is marked with a sign bolted to a tree. (31.86716, -109.25947) To the south, across the extremely steep Cima Canyon, you can view 365-foot-high1 Winn Falls. If viewed in springtime during snowmelt, or during summer monsoon season, you are likely to see water cascading over the V-shaped lip. Winter viewing can be especially spectacular, with the water freezing into a solid column of ice.
The trail resumes its steep switchbacking—eight more over the next 0.4 miles—before rounding a bend and straightening as it converges on Cima Canyon over a 0.56 mile stretch. Remaining close to the creek from here—which is almost never completely dry—you'll pass a multitude of plant varieties for the next 0.42 miles, and the canyon narrows significantly here as well. While it has been maintained recently and is generally very visible, there are a few areas right along the creek which are prone to washing out. The trail is usually marked with rock cairns here.
Climbing above the creek now, the trail makes a couple switchbacks before resuming its creekside journey—but higher above along a side slope now. Remaining at roughly the same height relative to the creek over the next 0.44 miles, it passes the foundation of a barn that burned down in 2011 and, shortly beyond, enters the north edge of a clearing which features a log structure—Cima Cabin (31.86187, -109.28322)—a locked shed, and an outhouse. Cima Cabin is locked and public access is not allowed, but the outhouse is open to use. The output of Cima Cabin Spring is located almost directly south of Cima Cabin, a short distance upstream of the outhouse. (31.86168, -109.28319) A black pipe elevated a foot above Cima Creek provides easy access for filling water containers and returns the unused flow into its drainage.
The Cima Cabin Helispot Trail once left from roughly in line with the northeast corner of the cabin (31.86195, -109.28281) and climbed a short distance to a helispot on Wattmid Ridge, but only a faint trace of this trail and even less of its destination remain. It may still be worth a short side trip into one of the clearings on this ridge, however, just to get a clear view of Anita Ridge on the opposite side of Cima Canyon, which remains thickly forested with almost no visible fire damage.
The Greenhouse Trail continues west-northwest for the remaining ⅓ mile to the Crest Trail. Just over one tenth of a mile beyond Cima Cabin, an abandoned springbox lies 50 feet south of the trail. (31.86206, -109.28458) The sign is intact at the Crest Trail junction (31.86141, -109.28739) in Cima Park and its post, previously damaged by the fire, has been replaced by a sturdy new one. Round Park, with the Fly's Peak Trail, Bear Wallow Trail and Booger Spring Trail, lies 0.67 miles north and the Anita Park Trail junction 0.82 miles south.
Last updated May 3, 2021.