CHRISTOPHER CREEK IN GILA COUNTY, ARIZONA

If you live in here in Arizona then you know that without good A/C and a swimming pool, it’s just too hot! Even though temperatures may be sizzling here in the desert region of the state, you can still get out and enjoy nature and the outdoors.

 

More than any other state in the U.S., Arizona is famous for its many beautiful canyons and gorges, many of which can be reached in as little as a few hours drive from the Phoenix metropolitan area. If you’re ready for a real outdoors adventure, and a great summer day trip & hike into one of Arizona’s gorgeous mountain canyons, just a little bit east of Payson Arizona is a canyoneering playground called Christopher Creek Canyon (aka Box Canyon). The water is nice and cold, and is only muddy after rainstorms. Make your way from pool to pool as you descend through the canyon, cliff jumping, rappelling, and down climbing. 

Access Points

Twelve miles from the turnoff to Tonto Creek, Highway 260 crosses Christopher Creek. For access, head into the city of Christopher Creek and turn north onto Forest Road 284 to reach Sea Canyon. 

History of Christopher Creek

For millions of years, the spring-fed waters of Christopher Creek that spill from the base of the Mogollon Rim, have sculpted the rose-tinted ramparts that flank the gorge and funnel water into slippery chutes, churning rapids and low-flow channels awash in swirls of pine needle litter. The most spectacular section of the gorge is less than a mile in length and can be fully explored by those who don’t mind boulder hopping, minor hand-over-foot climbing, wading and swimming. However, most of the action takes place at the head of the canyon where the sun-warmed escarpments fill up quickly with sunbathers and weekend warriors. So, if you’re looking for solitude---try a visiting on a Tuesday.

Christopher Creek Hiking Trail

See Canyon Trail #184 is one of the popular hiking trails near Christopher Creek.  It is a 6.1 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Payson, Arizona that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Nice hike in the Mogollon rim area. Could be a pretty quick hike so take your time and enjoy the sites. A lot of cool little things to see a long the way. Great weather! Bring lots of water and some snacks. There's a lot of moss growing all over and fungus. It's cool to see the different species of mushrooms. Most of them have little blue beetles living on them and underneath, they're are cool too.

 

Pretty easy hike, you could always walk up the creek for a bit too, other wise you only cross the creek 3 times. A little strenuous the last mile or so, but still a hike worth doing.

Christopher Creek Fish Species

Stocked with Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and Brook Trout.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) stocks this part of Christopher Creek bi-weekly from spring until fall, creating fairly good fishing from May 1 through late August or early September. Little more than a thread of water, this tiny brook begins at about 8,100 feet on the rim and runs for 3.3 miles. Its banks are shaded by poplar and spruce, which offer ideal shady cover for stealthy anglers.

Because the flow changes based on the time of the year, fishing in the spring and early summer is generally much easier than later in the summer, fall and winter. Since it is stocked with rainbow trout in the spring and early summer, there are also many more cooperative fish to catch. You are welcome to keep any rainbows you catch, but please consider releasing the wild brown trout back to the stream.

Christopher Creek Fishing Strategy

Small stream tactics are in order for this creek. Stealthy approach and making the first cast into each pool count. General attractor dries with small nymph or midge droppers will get it done on most days.  The best place to fish this creek is hidden pools at higher elevations where the water is cooler and the trout are larger. The access to these areas requires hiking so someone physically fit is recommended to find the daring spots. Flies and salmon eggs are recommended fishing baits.

Christopher Creek Boating Options

Great place to Kayak.

 

A spectacular steep creek through a spectacular box canyon. Christopher Creek is a tributary stream feeding Tonto Creek.120 to 150 CFS is good here, but the only gauge serving this run is the Tonto Creek gauge some 50 miles downstream.

 

This creek didn't start getting attention until Bret Howard, Roy Lippman, Tyler Williams, Hut Wade and Mark Knight attempted it first in '05. Roy broke his leg on the 4th or 5th drop (a 10-footer into a shallow pool). Evan Stafford, Kyle McCutchen and Todd G completed the first descent shortly after. It has been on the radar of steep creekers, worldwide, ever since its opening and dramatic seasonal weather events.

Put In: Christopher Creek Campground off the 260 about 21 miles east of Payson, AZ.
Do not put in or linger at the Scout Camp (It is private property).

Christopher Creek Camping Options

Christopher Creek (USFS) and Ponderosa (USFS) Campgrounds, both primitive forest campsites, are located between Tonto Creek and SH 260 just east of Payson. There are no other campgrounds located along or near Tonto Creek.  If you are backpacking or canyoneering there are many areas to camp along the creek.

Christopher Creek Swimming Holes

“THE BOX” Christopher Creek Canyon.  There’s always a lot of woopin’ and a hollerin’ at this favorite summertime swimmin’ hole where the scene on any given weekend is a collision of Andy Griffith-esque country charm and the Nine Inch Nails crowd. Cooler-toting baby boomers in plaid Bermuda shorts and white socks mingle with young people in butt-crack-bearing swim trunks to cool off in the clear water and fresh, pine-scented air of Christopher Creek box canyon.