West Clear Creek Wilderness

Area Status: Open

Photo: looking into a canyon with green grass and patches of water at the bottom

The West Clear Creek Wilderness, established in 1984, is a narrow but lengthy wilderness that follows the contours of West Clear Creek from its western terminus at Bull Pen Ranch to the headwaters of Willow Creek and Clover Creek to the north and east. The persistent strength of these waters have cut at the walls of the Mogollon Rim of the Colorado Plateau, creating the deep, narrow, rugged and spectacular canyon we see today. Due to the stark variance in elevation and sunlight across canyon walls, the West Clear Creek Wilderness offers a wide range of vegetation, geology, recreational opportunities, and supports a variety of wildlife.

Visitors should note that when traversing the canyon, stream crossings are unavoidable. The West Clear Creek Trail (the longest and most-used trail within the wilderness) has four crossings that range from knee-height to impassable depending on time of year, weather, and flooding. Those looking to follow the creek beyond the maintain trail should prepare for more than a dozen pools, which sits between both canyon wall sides and can be up to a quarter mile long, requiring wading or swimming.

Naturally, a place this remote and inaccessible provides superior opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. For most of its length the stream is a valuable fishing resource and is stocked with trout by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Trails leading into the canyon from the rim attract hardy adventurers seeking good fishing and secluded swimming holes. Trails that lead up from the canyon mouth get a lot of use by weekend anglers, picnickers, day hikers, and backpackers who use the primitive trailhead at the old Bull Pen Ranch.

Read more about West Clear Creek Wilderness.

The western portion of West Clear Creek is managed by the Red Rock Ranger District (928-203-2900). The eastern portion is managed by the Mogollon Rim Ranger District (928-477-2255). The District boundary runs north-south through the Home Take Draw area. 

Wilderness areas are rare, wild places set aside by Congress where the land is allowed to retain its natural state, serving as a natural haven for humans to escape modern civilization and for nature to be itself. To help minimize human impacts in wilderness and maintain its character, several laws and regulations have been put in place and we ask that visitors practice "Leave No Trace ethics."

The image above was taken overlooking the canyon just west of state Route 87. This little slice of heaven is on the eastern end of West Clear Creek Wilderness.



At a Glance

Closest Towns: Sedona, AZ and Happy Jack, AZ
Operated By: Red Rock Ranger District 928-203-2900 or Mogollon Rim Ranger District 928-477-2255

General Information


Location: 52 miles south of Flagstaff and 12 miles east of Camp Verde off paved and graveled roads some of which can be a bit rough.

Access: The lower areas of this remote canyon (Red Rock Ranger District) are accessible via a number of roads and trails, including FR 214 and FR 215 off FR 618 (see scenic drives). Upper reaches of the canyon (Mogollon Rim Ranger District) are accessible via the Maxwell Trail and Tramway Trail off FR 81 and FR 81E.

GPS (Bull Pen, Map): 34°32'22.0"N 111°42'31.6"W



Click map thumbnail for a larger view.

West Clear Creek Wilderness Map


General Notes:

Attractions: Hiking and horseback riding trails, swimming, fishing, great views, photography, and wildlife viewing.


Do not disturb cultural/archeology sites (Antiquity’s Act 1906)

No motorized equipment or vehicles allowed. (Wilderness Act 1964)

No motorized or mechanized transport (ie... bicycles, strollers, etc) allowed. (Wilderness Act 1964)

Leave No Trace: Recognize your role in preserving wild lands by practicing these Leave No Trace principles:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors.

Additional Resources

Leave No Trace
Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center
Mogollon Rim Ranger District
Code of Federal Regulations
Coconino National Forest: Forest Orders

Trails in the Wilderness:


River and Stream Fishing

Recreation areas with activity River and Stream Fishing:

Horse Riding

Recreation areas with activity Horse Riding: