Hike to Water Wheel & Ellison Creek Cascades

Water Wheel , Payson, Arizona, United States

  • Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    1.8 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    105 Feet

Forest
Scenic
Waterfall
Cliff Jumping

If you a have a love for waterfalls and unique rock walls then this place is for you! Scenic views and gushing water gives this place excitement with every step!

A short and easy out and back hike for adventurers of all ages with scenic waterfalls along the entire trip!

Starting at the Water Wheel day use area you will simply follow the well traveled path that meanders alongside the creek. You will reach the first significant waterfall within minutes which is also a great swimming hole and cliff jumping area! But wait, there is more! Proceed upstream to yet another decent sized waterfall which I nicknamed "Bridal Veil Falls" once you see it you will realize the name is pretty self explanatory.

The main attraction is still ahead, just keep following the distinct trail upstream Ellison Creek making the easy bypass around Bridal Veil Falls and venture onward for about 1/4 of a mile and you will soon be greeted by the famous "Water Wheel Waterfall and Swimming Hole"

Its hard to explain just how beautiful the area really is until you see it with in person! Cool mountain creek water gently cascades about 80-90ft from the top of the gradual waterfall into a deep pool surrounded by large cliff walls. Spectacular would be considered a understatement for this Mogollon Rim Country treasure. There is a giant tree log stuck in the pool from a flash flood long ago that gives the Waterwheel area its iconic look, it has been carefully carved to imitate a natural staircase, it is a gorgeous sight but just watch your step if you plan on climbing on it because it is very slick!

Stay and play as long as you like and just simply return the way you came but just remember that this place is a day use area only now and camping is NOT ALLOWED! Above all enjoy the day exploring some of the many surprising swimming holes and waterfalls that Arizona has to offer!

Pack List

  • $6.00 Day Parking Permit
  • Camera
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Water 
  • Hiking Boots  / Good Sandals / Wet-shoes
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Reviews

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I found this spot about a year and a half ago. It sooner turned into my “go-to” spot. It’s absolutely beautiful and it doesn’t even feel like you’re in AZ! I love this spot and all the beauty it provides. Sadly, the flash flood did alter it quite a bit (breaking the swimming log in half, pushing down trees, leaving mud everywhere, etc) Always be sure to have a plan in case a flood or something of that sort do occur because they can happen when you least expect it.

2 months ago
2 months ago

We did this one week before the flash flood came through, and it was a really neat hike with lots of wading and swimming. Needless to say, don't go if there's rain forecast anywhere in the vicinity.

5 months ago
5 months ago

If you are planning on going to Water Wheel anytime soon, you might need to change those plans because the beautiful place is nothing that it used to be and should be closed for a while due to a huge flash flood

7 months ago
7 months ago

From the parking lot, we followed the trail to the right (downstream) instead of to the left (upstream). Make sure you go upstream! You will reach the first waterfall within minutes. This spot is pretty crowded so it would be a good idea to go during a weekday. Have fun!

10 months ago
10 months ago

Bring water and beware of flash flooding.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

This is an amazing day trip. We took our 5 year old daughter and 12 year old pug and they both did great! Besides a few spots we had to carry the dog (old bones) they were able to make it on their own. I would strongly recommend hiking sandals or water shoes as you will need to traverse the river in a few spots and the rocks can be a bit sharp. The water wheel area can be crowded but you'll easily find other swimming holes along the way if you want more solitude.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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