SJ's Hike of the Week: Horton Creek
Distance: 8.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,431 feet
Dog Friendly: Yes - in fact this is my favorite dog-friendly hike in Arizona!
Permit/Pass Required: No
Getting There: See Map
Tips: The trail runs along the creek so I personally would recommend hiking sandals so you can cross back and forth and not have wet socks for eight miles! The rest of the trail is mostly soft dirt and my Teva's did great! Wear a swimsuit under your hiking clothes to take advantage of all the great swimming holes along the creek. Looking for a longer trip? Bring a tent and camp on the opposite side of the creek in one of the magnificent dispersed camping spots along the way or at the end near the spring!
About the Hike: The first time I hiked Horton Creek I squealed in delight probably a hundred times. The lush, green vegetation combined with the ice cold water rushing through the creek from the spring was what dreams were made of for both myself and my dog. Since that day, we've made it a regular stop on our camping trips to the Mogollon Rim.
The first mile or so will have you fooled as you meander along a dry creek bed. Don't dismay - water will appear shortly. And once it does, you will be surrounded by ferns, grass, oak trees, Ponderosa pine, moss, wildflowers and every color of butterfly imaginable. You'll find yourself among the blue jays, massive squirrels, wild turkey, elk and more.
The main portion of the trail prior to the climb up to the spring is relatively flat. You'll have two options - stay on the wide, main trail OR wander down to the creek and take your hike alongside the water. I recommend the latter. This is where the magic is. Be aware, though...the trail comes and goes and you may have to cross the creek a few times and do a little bouldering. It's worth it though.
At about three miles the trail starts to climb in elevation. Tough out the switchbacks for a little over half a mile and you'll reach Horton Spring. It's basically a waterfall that magically appears from the middle of a cliff. And it's absolutely spectacular.
From this point you can climb all the way up to the top of the Rim, but my pup and I usually turn around after dipping our toes in the spring. A lot of folks hike down Horton Spring Trail to this point so you may see more foot traffic here than you did on the rest of your hike.
Bring a lunch, bring a towel and bring a full day because I promise this magical place is one you won't want to leave. But when you do...please leave it better than you found it so the next person can enjoy it in all of its wonder and serenity.