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Six miles north of the town of Young, Highway 288 crosses Haigler Creek, which eventually dumps into Tonto Creek at Bear Flats, near the boundary of the Hellsgate Wilderness. Haigler creek offers rainbows and browns all year long and the Arizona Game and Fish Department as of 2015 is starting to introduce native fish back in to the creek like:  Apache Trout, Arizona Trout and Gila Trout.  Making a truly unique fishery.


At a slightly lower elevation than other rim creeks, Haigler produces reliable dry fly fishing even during the winter.

There are several camping options in this area where the whole family can camp, fish and swim.

It is also a canyoneering favorite due to its rugged canyons and rushing water.  Make sure you are prepared for this wild landscape.  They don't call it the "Hell's Gate Wilderness" for nothing.

Access Points

Access #1 (34 miles east of Payson): From Payson, travel east for 24 miles on State Hwy 260. Turn right on Colcord Road  291 and travel 3 miles to FR 200. Turn right on unpaved FR 200. Travel on FR 200 for 6 miles, through Haigler Canyon Recreation Site to FR 202A. Turn right and follow this unpaved road for ½ mile to the site.

Access #2 (12 miles north of Young): From Young, travel 3 miles north on State Hwy.288/Forest Road (FR) 512 to FR 200. Turn left on FR 200 and travel for 9 miles to the site.

Creek Access Point #3 (ALDERWOOD CAMPGROUND): From Young, take State Hwy. 288 for 3 miles and turn left on Forest Road (FR) 200. Follow FR 200 (unpaved) for 7 miles, to FR 202A, and turn left. Follow FR 202A for ½ mile to the site. This site is ½ miles south of Haigler Canyon Campground.

Creek Access Point #4 (HELL'S GATE): From Young, go west on Forest Road (FR) 129 for 7 ½ miles. Turn left onto FR 133 for approximately 8 miles to the Smokey Hollow Trailhead. Hike north on the Hellsgate Trail 37 for approximately 2 ½ miles to the confluence of Haigler and Tonto Creeks.


Travel approximately 11 ½ miles east of Payson on State Hwy. 260, (past Mile Marker 266). Turn right on FR 405A and follow it for ½ mile to a cement water-trough on the right, which is the Hellsgate Ridge Trailhead. It is possible to drive further if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Follow the rugged Hells Gate Trail 37 for approximately 6 miles to the creek

Tonto Daily Pass or Tonto Discovery Pass are required. America the Beautiful Passes are accepted at Picnicking sites only.

History of Haigler Creek and the Hells Gate Wilderness

Haigler Creek is  named after Jake Haigler.   This area was the site of the Pleasant Valley War.  This family Feud is generally known as one of the bloodiest feuds in American history.

The area is surrounded by some of the most WILD territory in the United States.  With places like the Devils Chasm, Hell's Gate Wilderness, one starts to get the picture of this amazing beautiful but almost dangerous place.  Make no misstate and adventure in to  this territory will leave you in awe of mother nature and the amazing historical Native American traces that have been left behind for this generation.

Hiking Trails Near Haigler Creek

For a complete description of trails in this area - click here.

Haigler Creek Fish Species

In 2015 the Arizona Game and Fish Department reintroduced native fish to Haigler Creek. The iridescent gold native Arizona trout, which grows to a foot or even two feet in length is native to this creek.  Haigler Creek is one of the only places on the planet where you can fish for this species of fish. Other native species are the Gila Trout and Apache Trout.  Making it a one-of-a-kind trout fishery.

Haigler 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.

Haigler Creek Boating Options

Due to the narrow canyons boating options are limited on Haigler Creek.

Haigler Creek Camping Options

2 day use sites, 2 campground areas with 14 overnight sites.  Stay limit 14 days, trailers under 20'. Bear-proof your camp--especially food stuffs. A sewage dump facility is located at Ponderosa Campground on Hwy. 260, which is 15 miles east of Payson. There is a fee of $5.00 for sewage dump, pack it in pack it out. FR 200 and 291 are unpaved roads, four-wheel drive or chains are advised after heavy rains or snow. Haigler Creek is prone to have flash floods from rains on the Mogollon Rim, only street-legal OHVs are allowed.

Canoneering Haigler Creek

A rugged, non-technical descent of the gorgeous sculpted granite, clear water and deep pools of Haigler Creek in the Hellsgate Wilderness, ending at the confluence with Tonto Creek.

Haigler Creek runs right through the Alderwood recreation site, from there just head downstream. Don't bother trying to keep your feet dry, you will very soon be hiking, wading and swimming in the creek, and will be for the rest of the day. This creek is non-stop rock scrambling and boulder hopping, but only occasional vegetation that has to be fought through. You'll also be swimming constantly (drybag mandatory), including several swims of 50 yards or more.

Around the 3 mile point is your only significant obstacle, a 20-foot, two-tier waterfall / chute that could be downclimbed if the water flow is low or else bypassed on the right with some moderate scrambling. Around the 5 mile point the canyon opens up and there are wide benches on either side for easy walking, a nice break from the rock scrambling. The canyon closes up again shortly for more miles of scrambling and swimming before you finally reach the confluence with Tonto Creek.

If you're lucky enough to be on a multi-day trip down the Tonto, spend the night here and continue downstream the next morning. Otherwise, your exit is the Hellsgate #37 trail, 7+ tough miles up and out to the Hellsgate trail head, where you will have spotted a car or arranged for a pickup.

Water Sources
Haigler Creek (always filter / purify creek water due to heavy upstream human use and cattle ranching in the area). Water may be cloudy with silt after periods of heavy rain and runoff.

Numerous narrows sections that would be dangerous in high water flow and/or monsoon flash flood conditions.

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