Located on the eastern edge of the Tonto National Forest is the spectacular Cibecue Falls. The hike brings visitors to a waterfall situated in a charming desert canyon along Cibecue Creek, a small river that eventually feeds into the larger Salt River.
When To Hike Cibecue Falls
Late spring, summer, and early fall are best for hiking Cibecue Falls. Although situated in a desert environment, much of the hike is shaded by brush and canyon walls, so warmer weather is the best time to visit. The hike also presents plenty of opportunities to swim along the way.
Although the hike provides plenty of shade and river to wade in, bring more than enough water. This is always an essential tip to follow, but especially important when hiking in a desert environment.
Getting to Cibecue Falls
From Phoenix, simply hop on the US-60 East. Stay on this road for a couple of hours until reaching Primitive Road. After turning off, you’ll pass a river rafting organization and First Campground. This is a good campground to consider for those interested in camping near Phoenix and being the first one on the trail in the morning.
The rest of the drive is a bit intense. The road is dirt, windy, and dangerous in a few spots. A 4-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended but is not entirely necessary. As the road approaches the trailhead, there will be a river crossing. Sedans can often be seen parked before the river crossing to avoid danger. Then, hikers can simply walk the rest of the way to the trailhead. We suggest this unless driving a high-clearance vehicle or, again, a 4-wheel-drive. The official name of the trailhead is Cibecue Creek Trailhead.
Don’t Forget Your Cibecue Falls Permit
A permit is required for the hike. The access permit costs $30 per day and can be purchased at the self-paying station at the parking area or at the Carrizo C-Store (Sinclare gas station).
On The Cibecue Falls Trail
The Cibecue Falls trail is a 3.5-mile out-and-back trail. The trail is moderately trafficked and is of moderate difficulty. There are several creek crossings along the trail, and hikers should be prepared to get their feet wet. Hikers must hike through knee-deep water at times. We suggest wearing a durable hiking sandal or some boots that hikers don’t mind getting wet.
The trail is on thin, desert sand with plenty of shrubs and trees for shade. There are some stretches of the trail where hikers have to bushwhack and climb over boulders.
As the trail progresses, the canyon narrows. At the falls, it’s common for there to be a small crowd hanging about, wading in the water, and jumping from the small ledges outlining the falls. This is a premier opportunity to take a dip after a sweaty hike through the desert. The waterfall comes spewing out of red desert rock gently enough to swim near.
Visit Lost Dutchman State Park on the Way Home
After the hike, consider checking out the Lost Dutchman State Park, also located in the Tonto National Forest. The park covers 320 acres and is renowned for its Superstition Mountains, which can be reached on the Grand Enchantment Trail and other trails. As stated by Arizona State Parks, “these trails give hikers a sense of solitude in a relatively remote setting.” Lost Dutchman State Park is an enchanting piece of the Sonoran desert that we highly recommend visiting.
For those wanting to complete the Cibecue Falls hike and a visit to the state park in one trip, consider staying at the Lost Dutchman State Park campground. The campground provides cabins, tent cabins, tent sites, and RV sites for a total of 72 sites. Drinking water is provided and pets are allowed. Campers at these grounds love the views of Superstition Mountain as well as the night sky full of stars.
“If you love the Sonoran desert landscape, this will be one of the most beautiful parks you will ever have been to.” —The Dyrt camper Alastair A.