Turkey Creek

Written by J. M. Hill Mon Nov 27 09:44 MST 1995

Here's a trip report on the 4x4 trip we took down Turkey Creek on Friday and Saturday November 24-25, 1995. No foolin' we went to Turkey Creek on the day after Thanksgiving. Participants included Bob Peterson and Bobby and Anna in Bob's 87 Chevy Suburban (lifted, rear locker, 33-inch tires), John Hill in his 94 Chevy K2500 extended cab (31-inch tires, XD9000 winch) and John Waack in his Suzuki Samurai (front and rear lockers, 33-inch tires, rock lobster gears).

The first challenge to Turkey Creek is getting there. We had breakfast in Benson, topped up our gas in Wilcox and then drove north for two hours up Sulphur Springs Valley through Bonita and Klondyke. The trip is actually more interesting than you might think. Sights included numerous ostrich farms, a tomato greenhouse covering tens of acres, a nice view of the south flank of the Pinalenos and the Sulphur Springs Valley itself. Fortunately the dirt road from Bonita to Klondyke is so well graded that you can do 55 mph on many sections of it.

Turkey Creek is a tributary that feeds in at the trailhead at the east end of Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. We turned south from the parking area for people hiking Aravaipa. Turkey Creek is quite a spectacular canyon, perhaps rivaled only by Aravaipa Canyon and Eagle Creek in southern Arizona. Once again we had beautiful weather and loads of colored leaves on the cottonwoods. The road south in Turkey Creek for about three miles is easily passable in a 2-wheel-drive truck. There were plenty of camping spaces available, but it probably gets crowded on major summer holidays. The road becomes a real 4-wheel-drive trail when it turns up the west flank of Oak Grove Canyon (rating 3.5 for the trail from here to Copper Creek). The first section is a steep hill climb out of Turkey Creek to a ridge overlooking both canyons. The road continues overland to Parsons Grove with enough rock-crawling to keep the wheeling interesting. This road is good for people that still have nice paint on their fenders since the trail is wide and the bushes are trimmed back to avoid desert pinstriping.

Parsons Grove proper has been closed to camping by the Nature Conservancy. (Now we wish they'd clean up the old refrigerators that litter the area.) We camped overnight in an oak grove in a canyon near Little Table Mountain Mine. The sky was beautiful for sleeping under the stars. Rarely have I seen the upper atmosphere so stable --- no scintillation (twinkling) from any stars above 30 degrees elevation. (The measurement was limited by how long I could go without blinking my eyes.) After a breakfast ranging from fried apples to Cocoa Krispies, we headed up Saddle Canyon on Saturday morning. Note that the "Holy Joe Peak" topo map hasn't been updated since 1949 and doesn't show this road, but it is very easy to follow since it is so heavily travelled. We came down the west flank of Little Table Mountain and then up an amazing section called "carpet hill". This was a steep hill climb maybe 2/3 mile long where parties unknown have laid carpet over much of the road. We estimate that we drove over at least 1000 sq. yards of old carpet. The mystery is why they put the carpet there? traction? erosion control? nothing better to do? The road joins onto the Copper Creek road just west of where is turns down into Copper Creek.

From rduck4@juno.com Sun Oct 28 18:16:15 2007
I made a similar trip somewhere around 1982. I was friends with a local policeman from Mamoth and he took myslef and another friend down that "road". My friend said that carpet hill and most of that road was there to service the Salazar Ranch. Mr. Salazar, back in the 1950's, drove a conventional two wheel drive pick up and had trouble negotiating the hill from time to time. Salazar drove into Tucson and collected as many carpet remnants as he could and deposited them on the road that went up the hill. the idea was to slow down erosion and prevent ruts from developing during down pours. It also aided in traction. I remember at some point we drove by a cabin or shed on that road and it was marked somewhere that it was part of the Salazar ranch. Perhaps when you drove by it was no longer there. I also rememeber that there was the remains of a boiler and some mining equipment.
This trip has to rank above Eagle Creek in terms of quality wheelin' because of the fun hill climbs, but Eagle Creek gets my vote overall because of the bighorn sheep and bald eagles.

Trail Rating for Turkey Creek

This trail is rated a 3 -- you definitely need 4-wheel-drive. Stock 4x4s can make the trip, but wide tires and low air pressure are extremely useful. This is not a trail to do by yourself as it goes through some very remote country. There is a steep rock hill climb coming up out of Turkey Creek, although the most difficult obstacle has been dynamited to keep vehicles from rolling. The trail is rough but easy going until you come to the famous "Carpet Hill". Anybody can go down (West-East), but coming back up can be quite a bit of wheelin' fun. Carpet Hill is a VERY long and steep hill climb, and at least in the past was completely covered with carpet. (Don't ask why.) Short wheelbase vehicles with open differentials may require assistance.

Trail Location for Turkey Creek - Copper Creek

The directions are simple: ``go to Mammoth and turn right'', but if the San Pedro river is high/wet we have to cross it on the AZ 77 bridge just north of Mammoth. From the bridge we then come back south 2 miles on the east side of the San Pedro before turning east on the road into Copper Creek. In the dry season you can cross the dry San Pedro at Mammoth and save a few miles. (See the map.) After that there is about 10 miles of dirt road to get to Copper Creek proper. The trail to Carpet Hill and beyond splits off before the Copper Creek road drops down into the Copper Creek canyon. There is active mining in this area around Copper Creek, so you need to be alert for mining trucks and changes to the trail.

From the east side: Head north out of Wilcox to Bonita, and follow the Bonita-Klondyke road (well graded dirt) to Klondyke and then on to the east entrance to Aravaipa Canyon. The Turkey Creek trail goes south from the Aravaipa parking area.

Topographic Maps Needed

Clark Ranch, Holy Joe Peak, Oak Grove Canyon, Rhodes Peak, Klondyke
(The trail is not shown on the Holy Joe Peak quadrangle.)

Adjoining Maps

See also Experience Arizona

GPS Coordinates

Landmark UTM Easting UTM Northing Altitude Latitude Longitude
Turkey Creek North (junction with Aravaipa) 12 5 51 500 E 36 39 900 N +3065
Turkey Creek South (access to trail) 12 5 53 230 E 36 36 610 N +3221
Turnoff for corral 12 5 50 350 E 36 32 525 N +4589
Corral in Oak Grove Canyon 12 5 50 792 E 36 32 421 N +4175
Turnoff for Aravaipa Overlook (at PG) (Howard) 12 5 48 948 E 36 31 999 N +4480 +32 49 29.7 110 28 37.38
Parson's Grove 12 5 49 026 E 36 31 900 N +4500
Turnoff to Bleak Spring 12 5 48 342 E 36 31 589 N +4510 +32 49 16.5 110 29 00.78
Table Mountain Mine 12 5 48 100 E 36 30 900 N +4740
Saddle Canyon (the saddle) 12 5 46 340 E 36 30 200 N +5376
Exit via Cowboy Miller Rd (Priestley) 12 5 46 182 E 36 29 214 N +4670 +32 47 59.71 110 30 24.25
Bottom of Carpet Hill (Marine) 12 5 46 550 E 36 27 914 N +4262 +32 47 17.46 110 30 10.38
Carpet Hill / Road Canyon (at the top) 12 5 47 100 E 36 25 850 N +5050
Copper Creek North Intersection 12 5 46 849 E 36 25 321 N +4658

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John M. Hill <jhill@as.arizona.edu>
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Last modified: Mon Oct 29 12:44:45 2007