Washburn Canyon Trail

Important Note

Because this trail goes up and over a ridge, its average slope is misleading. Refer to the elevation gain/loss and segment-level slope for a more accurate indication of its steepness.

This is an unofficial name. This trail passes through Washburn Canyon on the south side of the saddle. Washburn Saddle is also an unofficial name.

Length: 1.89 mi

Difficulty: moderate

Condition: moderate

Elevation range: 5660 ft – 5985 ft

Elevation gain/loss: 340 ft ↑ / 315 ft ↓

Average slope: 0.3%


This trail is accessible from three locations.

The southern terminus is at an old corral along the North Fork of Cave Creek, accessible via the Trans-Mountain Road (FR 42). From the Herb Martyr Road (FR 42A) junction at the Southwestern Research Station, (31.88461, -109.20631) head northwest up-canyon for 1.16 miles to where the road bends sharply to the west and a rough road drops towards the creek heading north. A parking area lies on the other side of the creek, beside the corral. The trail begins near the northeastern corner of the corral. (31.89817, -109.21732)

A spur trail out of Bean Flat connects in near an old homestead site. From the Trans-Mountain Road (FR 42) drive another 0.68 mile northwest beyond the aforementioned turnoff to the corral. FR 42 makes a sharp bend to the north after crossing the North Fork of Cave Creek, then another sharp bend to the northwest soon after. Just after this second bend, a rough, unnamed road drops down on the north side of the road. After approximately 0.3 mile the road enters a clearing known as Bean Flat and passes a dirt tank. 100 feet beyond the dirt tank, (31.90179, -109.22190) a spur trail heads north-northeast to connect with the Washburn Canyon Trail 650 feet later. (31.90319, -109.22106) From the start of the spur trail, the road also continues southeast through Bean Flat and eventually turns into a trail that connects to the Washburn Canyon Trail closer to the corral. (31.89965, -109.21819)

The northern terminus is along Forest Road 4301, accessible via the Paradise/Turkey Creek Road (FR 42B). From Paradise, head south to the National Forest Boundary. FR 4301 heads east through a gate only 100 feet beyond. (31.92697, -109.22058) Note that this is a rough road and it may not be possible to drive the full distance. Follow it for just over ½ mile until it crosses a creekbed. (31.92078, -109.21871) Walk south up the creekbed, taking the right fork after 70 feet, and 200 feet beyond the trail will be visible climbing up the east bank. (31.92012, -109.21872)

Trail Description

North Fork Corral to Old Homestead

The trail begins at the northeast corner of the North Fork Corral (31.89817, -109.21733) and is initially quite visible as it heads west towards the North Fork of Cave Creek for 175 feet. It then turns north, atop the remains of a historic road alongside the creek, and eventually disappears into the creek for a while. After a little over 0.1 mile of heading nearly straight north, the creek makes a bit of an s-curve to the west and back to the north. Two possible routes exist from here.

The first turns west for a little over 100 feet (31.89973, -109.21856) and climbs up a faint trail to the northwest onto the south end of a flat. After about 200 feet, the trail turns into a road and another 600 feet later the flat—historically known as Bean Flat—opens up more visibly. A small dirt tank lies to the left of the road 650 feet northwest and 100 feet before coming to it, a trail crosses the road heading northeast. (31.90179, -109.22190) Turn right onto this and follow it for 650 feet—crossing a side drainage after a few hundred feet—until you enter a smaller clearing on a lower level, closer to the creek, where a faint fork in the trail exists. (31.90319, -109.22106)

The alternate route, following the old road and the creekbed more closely but also more washed away, leaves the creekbed on the north side just after the start of the s-curve (31.89973, -109.21826) and cuts a shortcut across the bank. It alternates between these shortcuts and creek crossings—and occasionally follows the creek for brief stretches as well—while generally maintaining a northwestern heading. Finally, after 0.29 mile (31.90277, -109.22084) a clearing should be visible to the northwest from the creek and the trail climbs up onto it, swinging closer to north to meet the fork where the alternate route connects in. (31.90319, -109.22106)

There is barbed wire and other evidence of human inhabitation in the area, as there were several homesteads and a corral built around this clearing.

Old Homestead to Washburn Saddle

Heading north-northwest out of the clearing, the trail enters into Washburn Canyon proper, and alternates between either side of the creek and the creekbed itself. In several places as it climbs towards a saddle you can see more traces of the old road this trail follows—historically this route was used by Stephen Reed to transport goods between his homestead (now the Southwestern Research Station) and the town of Paradise.

The saddle at the head of Washburn Canyon has a fence and a gate across its high point, the trail passing through the gate. (31.91099, -109.21827)

Washburn Saddle to FR 4301

Dropping into an unnamed canyon on the north side of the saddle, the Washburn Canyon Trail begins to closely parallel a creekbed after 350 feet. In places, when it climbs higher above the bottom of the canyon, it has eroded badly and can be somewhat tricky to maintain traction. After 0.29 mile it crosses the creek again (31.91543, -109.22014) and heads northeast, for a while staying higher above and further away from it than earlier.

Over the next 0.39 mile the trail swings back closer to the creek and eventually drops down into it. (31.92018, -109.21878) The final 250 feet is spent in the creekbed with no visible trail. The trail ends at Forest Road 4301, (31.92078, -109.21871) which heads in both directions. Paradise can be reached by turning left and following FR 4301 0.55 mile north-northwest out to Turkey Creek Road (FR 42B) near the National Forest boundary just south of town.

Last updated December 22, 2013.