Cave Creek Nature Trail #603

Important Note

Due to flooding altering the creek level, Cave Creek Canyon is now more prone to dangerous flood conditions during monsoon storms, resulting in occasional temporary closures of both Sunny Flat and Stewart campgrounds, the Cave Creek Road and the Cave Creek Nature Trail. For current closure information contact the Douglas Ranger District Office at (520) 364-3468.

Current Trail Conditions

In September 2014, flooding from Hurricane Odile damaged several portions of this trail where it came close to Cave Creek or side drainages. A volunteer trail crew partly composed of members of the Portal/Rodeo community repaired some of the damage in mid-April 2015, and while it's still a bit rough in places, it is now much easier to follow and walk on than it had been.

Length: 1.05 mi

Difficulty: easy

Condition: moderate

Elevation range: 4935 ft – 5070 ft

Elevation gain/loss: 160 ft ↑ / 35 ft ↓

Average slope: 2.3%


The Cave Creek Nature Trail can be accessed from multiple locations along Cave Creek Canyon.

The northeastern terminus is at the Silver Peak Trailhead Parking Area (31.89642, -109.16445) along Forest Road 42, 0.21 mile southwest of the Cave Creek Visitor Information Center. After passing through the pedestrian gate, take the left fork. There is no charge to park here.

The southwestern terminus is at the north end of the Sunny Flat Campground. (31.88559, -109.17542) Parking here costs $10 per day.

Additional spur trails connect the Cave Creek Nature Trail to Forest Road 42 close to the entrances of both Idlewilde (31.89436, -109.16613) and Stewart (31.89079, -109.16879) Campgrounds. The spur trail closest to Stewart has a small fee-free parking area which can fit one to two vehicles. Parking within the campgrounds themselves costs $10 per day.

Trail Description

An easy, short walk through the riparian area of Cave Creek Canyon, with many opportunities for birdwatching or just generally enjoying the sights, the Cave Creek Nature Trail begins just inside the pedestrian gate at the Silver Peak Trail trailhead parking area. Upon passing through the gate, take the left fork. The trail roughly parallels the Cave Creek Road (FR 42) at a distance of 50 to 300 feet as it travels from this point to the Sunny Flat Campground. Spur trails occasionally lead to the road, to the creek, and to birdwatching points with benches. Nearly the entire trail is under tree cover, with large sycamores dominating the area.

1000 feet from the parking area, the first spur trail travels east-southeast 200 feet to connect with the Idlewilde Campground on the other side of FR 42. 1600 feet further, a 50 foot trail connects to a two car parking area just across the bridge from the Stewart Campground.

After another 500 feet, the trail begins to parallel Cave Creek, and after 0.3 mile of walking along its northernwestern bank, you'll come to a rock structure with a steel door, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s to store explosives—possibly for road construction. (31.88722, -109.17369) Across the trail a short distance away, a second, smaller structure can be found. From there, it's only 0.16 mile to the Sunny Flat Campground. A faint trail forks off to the south from the Cave Creek Nature Trail 370 feet before reaching the campground. To reach the campground, take the right fork. There are public restrooms at the southern edge of the campground, along the paved road loop.


Topographic map of Cave Creek Nature Trail #603

Last updated May 2, 2017.