Hike to Water Wheel & Ellison Creek Cascades

Water Wheel

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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RT Distance 1.8 Miles
Elevation Gain 105 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Cliff Jumping


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 


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.

Beautiful, but Crowded

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.

Amazing Place That Is Now Gone

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

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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