How to get there: From the I-17/Loop 101 interchange in Phoenix, head north up I-17 for 33 miles. Take exit 248 (Bumble Bee/Crown King) and turn left. Follow Crown King Road for 1.9 miles to the end of the paved road. Staging is along the paved road and at numerous places along the first 3-4 miles of the trail. The trail begins at the staging area off to the left just before the bridge over Bumble Bee Creek.
The trail: the trail begins from the staging area just south of Bumble Bee along Crown King Road. The trail heads west. After a few hundred feet, stay right as the trail begins to wind downhill towards Bumble Bee Creek. The trail enters the usually dry creek and crosses it at 0.5 miles. Turning right, the trail climbs out of the creek and continues to climb as it zigzags in a northwesterly directions. Stay right at 1.3 miles as the trail swings right to head due north. Stay left at 2.9 miles where a short spur goes right to a privately owned miner’s cabin. We’ve heard he’s friendly and will talk to you about the area but we left him alone. The trail remains mostly easy as it winds north. At 3.7 miles, the trail turns right as it passes the Howard Mine. The Howard Mine was a copper mine and has ruins left to check out. Tailings spill out over the left side of the road. A horizontal adit can be seen off to the right of the road.
Leaving Howard Copper Mine, the trail heads downhill and turns sharply left. The trail enters the wash at the bottom just after 3.8 miles. Stay left as you climb out of the wash onto a more established trail. At 4.3 miles, you’ll come to a rock ledge. This section of trail begins the difficult stretch of the trip. Only heavily modified SUV’s should attempt this portion of the trail if water is running along Turkey Creek as it can be very easy to get stuck in this section. Travel in a group and be smart about attempting water crossings. The trail passes over the rocky ledge and through a tight notch which may prove challenging for wider vehicles. The trail drops into Turkey Creek where the trail zigzags across the creek several times. There are multiple lines running through this section and depending on the season, some are easier than others. Either way, it is very rocky. At 4.6 miles, the trail briefly leaves Turkey Creek on the north side of the wash. Here, you’ll be faced with another challenging bit. A short but steep and rocky hill have to be navigated at this point. The trail continues west before turning north and crossing Turkey Creek again at 4.8 miles. After leaving the creek, the trail crosses a sandy stretch and gets rocky. Again, there are multiple lines through this area so try and follow the most traveled trail. At 5.0 miles, the trail turns sharp right and crosses the creek and crosses it again at 5.2 miles. At 5.5 miles, the trail crosses Turkey Creek again, then turns left and switchbacks out of the creek bottom.
The trail continues winding up the canyon following Turkey Creek. At times, it’s in the sometimes wet creek bottom, at others, it’s up on the hills on either side. The trail crosses the creek a few more times at 5.8, 6.1, 6.7, and 7.2 miles. After this point, the trail gets easier. With no more potential water crossings, it is pretty much a straight shot to Cleator. Stay right at 7.7 miles as the trail rapidly ascends into the warmer desert hills. Continue straight at 9.5 miles where a slightly more difficult shortcut takes you to Crown King Road. After passing a few small houses, the trail enters Cleator and ends at 10.7 miles. Easily extend your day by continuing to Crown King (left), DeSoto Mine trail, or many of the other roads in the area. When you’re done, return to the staging area and I-17 via Crown King Road.
Summary/Trail Ratings: This trail fluctuates difficulty depending on how wet Turkey Creek is. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict when it will be wet and when it will be dry. Assume it will be wet and plan accordingly. The trail regardless has several difficult sections. The rocky ledge, the numerous creek crossings, and tight rocky sections provide a challenge for the driver. We did this trail on quads and found it slightly easier. Jeeps frequently do this trail but you’ll want an aggressive one. Aggressive tires, 4 wheel drive, and high clearance are required for this trail. Lockers will help. When doing this trail, make sure to travel in a group and carry tow straps should you need to pull someone out of the mud. Don’t let the description scare you – this is a fun and scenic trail with a mine along it. The trail is about 11 miles from end to end not including travel time along Crown King Road. Plan for 2-4 hours on the trail plus more to travel back to the staging area. This trail can also be run in either direction. Based on the obstacles, we’re guessing it’s easier to run opposite of what we did, beginning in Cleator and ending at Bumble Bee. Regardless, this is a great trail to explore with some friends with capable vehicles and a little extra time on your hands.
Status: Open | Trail Type: One way | Length: 11 miles | Approx. Time: 2 to 6 hours
On this trail, take a challenging ride from Bumble Bee to Cleator (or vice versa) via the rugged Turkey Creek. Along the way, challenge your vehicle and your driving skills. You’ll pass old mines and several great sights. Please note: when Turkey Creek is wet (usually some water during most of the year) things can be very challenging: bring recovery equipment.
Page last updated: 6/18/2015
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