Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area – Acres of Hiking, Horseback Riding and History


Cave Creek, Arizona

A couple of years ago, I first visited Spur Cross Ranch with a couple of friends. That is a photo story for another time, however. Recently, my wife, Lynn, discussed hiking options with an acquaintance at our local fitness center. A trail at Spur Cross featuring a trek through the riparian area around Cave Creek came highly recommended for its scenic beauty.

O Trails are well marked and groomed.

From the main trailhead area, a pleasant loop via the Spur Cross Trail, originally a road into the ranch, leads you to a junction with the newest trail in the park, Dragonfly Trail. A total of about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) in a loop that terminates at nearby Jewel of the Creek Preserve, adjacent to the south end of the conservation area. If you parked in the main parking lot, however, another short hike along the road into the park will be necessary, adding a little over a 1/4 mile (0.4 km) to the trek. You can also add a short distance and a bit of a climb by taking the Tortuga Trail to the confluence of Tortuga, Spur Cross and Dragonfly trails.

A gila woodpecker scolds us from his perch high on a saguaro cactus.
In the mid-1950’s, the Spur Cross Ranch was a thriving guest ranch. Very little of that history remains, but there are nearby stables where you can rent a horse and for a short time, put yourself back in the heyday of the Dude Ranch. On the day of our visit, there were several horse trailers parked in the lot, so equestrians may bring their own steed for a trail ride.
Three plank bridges traverse the creek during our hike.
Cave Creek traverses the over 2000 acre (8 sq km) conservation area. The creek is one of the few perennial water flows in the Sonoran Desert. On our chosen hike, we crossed the creek several times on wooden plank footbridges.
Elephant Mountain is appropriately named.
Much of the way along the trail, Elephant Mountain, the area’s highest peak, could be easily seen. The trails are well marked, and only for a short distance as we traversed Boca Grande Wash, did we wonder if we might have strayed from the trail. Not to worry, the many footprints of those who preceded led us to multiple trail markers as we navigated the wash and approached Cave Creek.
An easy climb from the creek bed to the parking area concluded our hike.
We look forward to exploring some of the other trails, and in a future post, I will share with you that story of an earlier trek on the Spur Cross Trail and adjoining Fire Service Trail 48 in the Tonto National Forest.
John Steiner

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