Hike to Water Wheel & Ellison Creek Cascades

Payson, Arizona

4.9/5
based on 8 reviews

Details

Distance

1.8 miles

Elevation Gain

105 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Description

Added by Matt Whelan

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!

Read More

Download the Outbound mobile app

Find adventures and camping on the go, share photos, use GPX tracks, and download maps for offline use.

Get the app

Features

Photography
Hiking
Forest
Scenic
Waterfall
Cliff Jumping

Reviews

The hike to the waterfall along Ellison creek is short and beautiful. There are multiple waterfalls along this short stretch of creek. There are often crowds of people at the swimming holes, especially on the weekends.

This is one of he more easy hikes! There’s not some much a trail as you walk alongside the river and are completely free to explore! This area is gorgeous. I have heard from some of the people who live here to be careful during monsoon season for flash floods! So watch the weather! Other than that it was amazing!

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.

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.

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

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!

Bring water and beware of flash flooding.

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.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Nearby

Hike the Colonel Devin Trail

Backpack up the Mogollon Rim via Washington Park

Backpack the Cabin Loop Trail

Hike the Pine Creek Loop in Tonto Natural Bridge SP

Stroll Pine Creek's Lavender Farm

Backpack Horton Springs