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Jewel of the Creek Spur Cross Dragonfly
Cave Creek
June 16, 2022
by Robbi Fowler
Jewel of the Creek. [photo by Robbi]
Rod, Neil, Udi, Rich, Billie, Debbie, Martha, Michael

Ten hikers convened at the main parking lot at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. At 6 AM it was 79° when we started out and 90° when we finished. Being just north of Phoenix Metro in Cave Creek helps a little, the breezes were lovely, but it still got hot. All the hikers this day were prepared and hiked 3.76 miles in 1 hour 34 minutes with a +-367' EC.

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area encompasses 2,154 acres of diverse, rugged upland Sonoran Desert. It contains numerous archaeology sites, portions of Cave Creek and the remnants of early mining and ranching. Several floral communities present in the conservation area provide a rich habitat for diverse wildlife. We, however, saw one lone bunny, some lizards, and a hawk.

Jewel of the Creek Preserve, which is not a part of the county park but overseen by Desert Springs Land Trust is made up of two trails. Dragonfly which comes into the Preserve from Spur Cross to make a large loop of 27 miles of land that is a riparian paradise and a smaller loop, The Harry Dalton Loop Trail.

We did half of each before leaving the Jewel and entering Spur Cross Ranch.

The Jewel of the Creek differs from other valley hiking spots because it contains three distinct habitat types, Sonoran Desert Upland, Mesquite Bosque and Riparian. The riparian area is supported by year-round water and is home to a beautiful canopy of Cottonwoods, Gooding’s Willow, Arizona Ash, Sycamore, Arizona Walnut, and Saguaro.

We began by traversing the road into the park back to The Jewel of the Creek Trailhead Sign. We descended into the riparian area taking the right hand turn to enter the Harry Dalton Trail until it looped around and joined with the Dragonfly.

It’s a tougher choice at other times of the year, when the water is higher the other side has a sandy beach, next to a constantly flowing wide pool in the creek, lots of split log stream crossings and even a child sized cave to explore. We followed Dragonfly Trail, past an old mine entrance, in and out of shady patches and glimpses of water running in the creek ascending gradually to the Spur Cross Trail. We spotted some of the petroglyphs we looked for, but alas did not manage to catch the location of the large rock that holds the Dragonfly Petroglyph the trail is named for. Views of Elephant Mountain, the far-off hills and the wash and creek valleys below us, all liberally covered in Saguaros, framed the sunny track until the hard right downhill toward the Metate Trail.

There, two of our hardier trekkers decided to add more mileage to their morning and headed out to do Metate, a portion of Spur Cross Road and the Fairy Duster Loop adding another 2 miles to the originally planned less than four miles. The remainder of our group, headed up the hill to what is the usual beginning to most hikes in Spur Cross—the ranger’s trailer and picnic tables. From there, we went up the rise to the parking lot we began in, changed our shoes and headed out.

Where we went.

To find this trail, take Cave Creek Road north from Phoenix into the town of Cave Creek and turn left onto Spur Cross Road for about four miles. Spur Cross Road soon turns into a smooth dirt road for the last mile, where it ends at the Spur Cross Ranch on the right. Parking for Spur Cross hiking trailhead at the Jewel of the Desert is located on the left, in front of a private home.

To get there.
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated June 17, 2022