Warning

This trail has only been partially surveyed at this time. Length and other trail data may be incorrect or missing. Please consult other resources before planning any trips based on this page.

Rock Creek Trail #259

Important Note

There has often been confusion about this trail and where it terminates, an issue perpetuated by several maps and a sign that was present at the upper terminus at Bootlegger Saddle which used an incorrect trail number. In April 2016, this sign was replaced by a new, correct sign, though as of May 2021 it has fallen over.

Some sources, including certain signs, call this the Rock Canyon Trail.

Current Trail Conditions

As of May 2021, the upper ¾ mile between the Crest Trail and the junction with the Bootlegger Trail at Rock Saddle is clear of deadfall and has had some tread repair, though the tread is still in moderate to poor condition in places. West of Rock Saddle, an additional approximately 1.5 miles of trail was cleared of deadfall and vegetation overgrowth, not quite reaching the junction with the Rattlesnake Trail or Saulsbury Saddle Trail.

Length: ~7.56 mi

Difficulty: moderate

Condition: bad

Access

The Rock Creek Trail can be accessed from many locations, some of which have not yet been surveyed.

The lower elevation western terminus is at the end of FR 4277, which may not be accessible by vehicle.

The Fife Canyon Trail crosses the Rock Creek Trail approximately ¾ mile from the western terminus, connecting to the Witch Ridge Trail and Pine Canyon Road (FR 357) to the north and Turkey Pen Trail to the south.

At Fitch Corral, the Fitch Corral Trail connects to to Witch Ridge Trail to the north and the Turkey Pen Trail comes in from the south.

From Rattle Rock Saddle, the Rattlesnake Trail drops down a heavily burned and eroded canyon to a barely visible junction at the bottom of the Rock Canyon with no signs. (31.89526, -109.32184)

The short, steep Saulsbury Saddle Trail connects in from the longer Saulsbury Trail between West Turkey Creek and Round Park along the Crest Trail. This junction is signed. (31.88987, -109.31253)

Two junctions, 350 feet apart, exist at Rock Saddle as the Bootlegger Trail meets the Rock Creek Trail on the west edge of the saddle (31.89718, -109.29011) and they both head east together along the same path before parting ways again (31.89727, -109.28913) with the Bootlegger Trail climbing northeast to the Crest Trail above Rustler Park. Both junctions are signed, but the western signs have both fallen over and one is badly faded and difficult to read.

The higher elevation eastern terminus is at Bootlegger Saddle along the Crest Trail. As of April 2016, a new trail sign has been installed where this trail descends south from the meadow, easily visible from the Crest Trail. (31.89245, -109.28368)

Trail Description

FR 259 to Fife Canyon Trail

This segment has not been completed at this time.

Fife Canyon Trail to Fitch Corral

This segment has not been completed at this time.

Fitch Corral to Rattlesnake Trail

There are two junctions near Fitch Corral, approximately 150 feet apart. The first is at the southern terminus of the Fitch Corral Trail (31.89717, -109.33727) on the west side of Fitch Corral. The sign is currently missing from this junction but there are two signposts leaning upright in an unfinished hole. The second junction is across the creek at the northern terminus of the Turkey Pen Trail, (31.89693, -109.33687) along the south edge of Fitch Corral. There is no sign at this junction.

After leaving Fitch Corral, the trail continues east, largely just above Rock Creek and occasionally dropping down into it. A number of logging activities occurred along here in the late 1800s and while the trees have regrown and flood damage has removed some evidence, you may be able to see hints of past human activity along this segment of the trail, including clearings, fenceposts and rock arrangements.

0.94 mile east of the Turkey Pen Trail junction, only about 150 feet west of the Rattlesnake Trail junction, a medium-sized grotto is cut into the rock on the south wall of Rock Canyon. (31.89531, -109.32221)

Rattlesnake Trail to Saulsbury Saddle Trail

The Rattlesnake Trail is badly obscured at this junction, but the spot is currently marked extensively with several bands of flagging tape on a tree. (31.89526, -109.32184) From here, the Rock Creek Trail—clearly visible as having once been an old logging road through several points along this segment—heads south and almost immediately begins climbing the south bank of Rock Creek. A side drainage connects in here from the southwest, and the trail stays east of this. After about 200 feet there is a fork, with an abandoned logging spur road heading southwest and the main trail southeast.

The remaining length of this segment alternates between excellent and terrible condition. Initially climbing high and staying well above the creek on the old road, it sometimes drops low or crosses and disappears. After about 0.7 miles, the trail crosses the creek for the last time in this segment (31.89028, -109.31354) and a small waterfall can be seen just up-canyon. For the final 400 feet, it climbs high up the southern bank of the creek again, with a series of rock cascades visible below. The Saulsbury Saddle Trail (31.88987, -109.31253) is marked with a sign and climbs steeply to the southwest up a side canyon to meet up with the Saulsbury Trail 0.43 mile above.

Saulsbury Saddle Trail to Rock Saddle

The Rock Creek Trail heads southeast on the south side of Rock Creek from the trail's signed junction with the Saulsbury Saddle Trail. (31.88987, -109.31253) After 400 feet, the canyon swings to the east and the trail follows. ⅖ of a mile and two gradual bends in the canyon later, a clearing can be seen approximately 100 feet south-southeast of the trail. This was the uppermost of three sawmill sites in Rock Canyon from the late 1800s to early 1900s.1 2

Not much more than half a mile upstream, Rock Creek disappears beneath a rock flow caused by flooding. The trail remains near it for another half mile beyond, before beginning its climb out of the canyon. A beautiful stretch of pine needle-covered trail follows, with several switchbacks keeping most of the ascent reasonably gradual. Three tenths of a mile after leaving the creek, the trail exits pine canopy onto the exposed Rock Saddle and intersects with the Bootlegger Trail. (31.89718, -109.29011) The signs here have fallen over and faded badly.

Rock Saddle to Crest at Bootlegger Saddle

From Rock Saddle, the trail heads east for 300 feet along the same route as the Bootlegger Trail, then swings right to the southeast at a second junction (31.89727, -109.28913) and immediately begins to climb through a largely unburned pine forest. There are only four switchbacks in this segment of the trail, but it gains 600 feet of elevation in just over ⅔ mile.

The final switchback turns almost directly north, at which point it's only 200 feet further to the southern edge of the Bootlegger Saddle meadow. (31.89256, -109.28367) A nice camping spot can be found here, with a stone fire circle. The rock outcrop a short distance to the west provide a great view over the trees to anyone who climbs them. Where the trail meets the meadow, there is an easily visible two-post sign. The trail essentially disappears here, but the Crest Trail lies only 100 feet to the east, (31.89254, -109.28339) passing through the eastern edge of the meadow. Going north along this trail will take you back towards Rustler Park, while Fly Saddle lies 1 mile to the south.

Map

Topographic map of Rock Creek Trail #259

Footnotes

  1. John P. Wilson, Islands in the Desert, First Edition, 1995, p. 211
  2. Cachor Taylor, Hiking Trails and Wilderness Routes of the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona, 1977, p. 151

Last updated May 3, 2021.