Just northwest of Phoenix, AZ sits the small town of Wickenburg. The landscape is made up of undulating desert and low foothills. Trails in this area can be dangerously hot in the summer to drive. However, there is a trail here that allows drivers to relax in the shade of canyon walls and get a little wet too.
From Wickenburg, we headed north about 2 miles on Highway 93. We turned right on Rincon Road, marked by a large wooden sign for Kay El Bar Ranch. From here, the road crosses two large dry riverbeds heading east to the staging area.
The start of the trail is a small dirt path down the side of the hill barely big enough for the UTV. The path dropped us into the main Hassayampa Riverbed. Immediately the tall red rock canyon walls start to tower above the trail on both sides. The terrain was made up of soft sand slowing us down. Our solution was to give it more throttle, which made the driving fun. Not far along the trail, on the right, we saw a fun side trip through a narrow canyon. The side trail is much narrower than the main wash but provides beautiful views as well as a little challenge for the vehicle. Back in the main wash, we continued east. As the trees became greater in number the water running through the middle of the canyon increased. We found a great camp spot on the left side tucked neatly against the canyon wall covered by the shade of the trees. Behind the camp spot was a short hike almost straight up out of the canyon. We took our time here knowing that the trail wasn’t very long. The next bit of the trail was where we got a little wet. The trail follows the Hassayampa River, which was low while we were there. The water was unavoidable in some places so we didn’t mind running through the shallow parts a couple of times. From here the canyon walls start to disappear and the riverbed opens up. At the end of the trail, there was a large, sandy area featuring some fun open riding. We eventually decided to return to our trailer, driving the way we came in and once again enjoying the high canyon walls and fun sandy terrain.
Box Canyon at Hassayampa River,
BLM Hassayampa Field Office
Start of the trail: N34 02 04.1 W112 44 23.6
Rated: Easy, Trail is mostly soft sand with occasional wet sections. Flash flooding is possible following heavy rains.
Time and Distance: Almost 4 miles, allow 2-3 hours.
Staging/Camping: A makeshiftlarge parking area used for staging is located next to start of the trail. Accessible from Rincon Road.
Matt Peterson is co-author of “Guide to Arizona Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails,” published by FunTreks Guidebooks, Inc., Monument, CO. This is a simplified description of Trail #43 from that book.