Tule Creek/China Dam Trail
Follow a mostly rocky and sometimes steep trail to the Tule Creek Riparian Management Area. Here find what remains of the Tule Creek Homestead. Expand your day by taking many difficult side trips while you’re in the area.
Where to go:
From I-10 and Loop 101 in the West Valley, head north on Loop 101 for 14 miles. Take exit 15 (Union Hills Dr.) and turn left. Turn right onto 83rd Ave and follow it north for 1 mile. 83rd turns left into Lake Pleasant Parkway. Follow this north for 9 miles and then turn left onto AZ-74. Follow 74 west past Lake Pleasant for 5 miles and then turn right onto Castle Hot Springs. Continue north on Castle Hot Springs Road for 10.0 miles, ignoring side roads that lead to Lake Pleasant. The road turns to dirt and then crosses over Lake Pleasant. Follow the signs for Crown King by turning right onto Cow Creek Road. Staging is off to the right after 1.5 miles along an old dirt strip (33°57'2.21"N 112°18'40.38"W).
From the staging area, head north along Cow Creek Road. Stay right onto lesser trail at 1.2 miles where Cow Creek Road swings left. Stay left at 1.7 miles. To the right is the return of the alternative trail that swings further south along Humbug Creek. Stay right at 2.2 miles where the trail forks.
Just before 2.5 miles, stay left to see China Dam. The side trip to China Dam is slightly rougher. Follow it east 0.8 miles until it drops into Humbug Creek where you can see both the upper and lower China Dam. Return 0.8 miles back to main junction and stay left to continue on the trail. Mileages from this point include the 1.6 mile side trip to China Dam. At 5.2 miles, the trail makes a sharp, eroded descent into Humbug Creek. At the bottom of the hill, turn left and head north along the banks of Humbug Creek. The trail crosses the creek, which may have water present so use caution while crossing. The main trail continues northeast. Continuing south after the creek crossing is a more difficult alternate route that winds along the creek before reconnecting to Cow Creek Road (refer to GPS track for alternate route options). At 5.4 miles, the trail leaves the creek and splits -- stay right uphill. To the left is a more difficult track that leads back to the China Dam.
Ignore all side roads and lesser roads as you head northeast. The trail gets rockier and narrower. Stay straight at 8.2 miles where the trails to the right lead to the waters of Lake Pleasant. Stay right at 8.4 miles where the trail forks again. The trail continues to cross several creeks, where washouts and large rocks can be expected. A difficult ledge at 8.9 miles marks the toughest spot on the trail. Stay left at the split at 9.6 miles and immediately cross through a gate. To the right dead ends. Not long after turning left, the trail ends at a permanently locked gate at the Tule Creek Riparian Management Area at 10.1 miles. Park here and walk the rest of the way to the old homestead site. Return via the same way you came or take the more difficult route south along Humbug Creek.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
Round trip, this trail is just under 20 miles. Allow for about 3-4 hours to complete the trail and stop a few times to explore. The trail is rated a ‘6’ because of the difficult bit along Humbug Creek and some of the narrow, rutted sections of trail near Tule Creek Homestead. High clearance and 4-wheel drive required for this trail. Great for OHVs too. Depending on the time of year, this isn’t a well-traveled trail so be prepared and be self-sufficient while in this area.