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Blue River - Apache / Sitgreaves National Forest

Summary: A pleasant hike/backpack up the Blue and Little Blue Rivers to a hot spring and some narrows. Beware of flash floods and strong currents after heavy rain. Deer flies are present in late spring and early summer.

Drive on Highway 191 about 30 miles north of the small town of Clifton. Between mileposts 188-189 turn right (east) onto Forest Road (FR) #475 (also called Juan Miller Road) towards the Blue River. After 2 miles you'll pass the Juan Miller Campground. Stay right where the road forks at the 6.7 mile point, remaining on the main road.
Upper Trailhead (rough road):  At the 121 mile point on FR #475, turn left at the sign for XXX Ranch onto FR #475C. Follow this rough road for 3 miles to the ranch and trailhead.

Lower Trailhead (somewhat less rough road): Continue on FR #475 to the 13.6 mile point to where the road crosses the Blue River. Park here. Note - this will add about 3 miles (each way) to your hike.

Road Conditions: High Clearance Vehicle
Navigation: Moderate - you can't get lost in the stream, but you'll need to keep an eye out for the correct side drainages
Length: ~15 miles
Date Hiked: May 2008
Weather Conditions: Nice
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From wherever you parked (Trailhead 1 or 2) simply begin hiking the Blue River on one side or the other. Don't bother trying to keep your feet dry, you'll be crossing the stream many times before the hike is over. Benches on either side of the river are usually rather rocky, with occasional stretches of gravel or sand. There is little brush though, which makes for pleasant hiking. If you started at the lower trailhead, after 3 miles you'll reach the XXX Ranch (also known as the Fritz Ranch) and gravesite of its owner Fred J. Fritz who died in 1916. Continuing up the Blue, the canyon becomes very wide. After hiking 4.2 miles past the ranch, the river forks with the Blue River continuing straight, and the Little Blue Creek coming in from the right. There is a pleasant, little campsite on a grassy bench where the two forks meet. Turn right (east) and begin hiking up the Little Blue Creek. After 2.3 miles, Hannah Springs Creek enters from the right (east). Here we'll take a detour up Hannah Springs Creek, which usually requires a deep wade or two (prepare accordingly) to Hannah Hot Spring. The spring lies about 0.5 miles up the drainage and features very hot water and a man-made catch basin that forms a small pool. While the spring is interesting, adventurous hikers may wish to continue their explorations up the creek to some very nice narrows, pools, obstacles and climbs. It'll take some effort, but it's possible to go all the way through the narrows to where the canyon widens again. When ready, return to the Little Blue and continue your northerly progress. Just past the Hannah spring drainage, you'll pass through the Little Blue Box - a pleasant, if short, stretch of conglomerate narrows. Another 2.4 miles above Hannah, the drainage splits with the Little Blue Creek heading right and a stream formed by Dutch Blue and Ash Creeks heading straight. I hiked up the Little Blue for a mile from this point but, while pleasant, didn't find anything terribly exciting. Heading up the other drainage, the creek splits with Ash Creek heading right and Dutch Blue Creek going straight. A short distance up the latter, you will find White Rocks Cabin up on the bench on the left (west). The cabin is made of corrugated metal and has an old stove and register inside. Continuing up Dutch Blue Creek you will enter a very nice stretch of conglomerate narrows through which the stream twists and turns. After some hiking you'll arrive at a 10' waterfall with a deep pool at the bottom. Those with good climbing skills can bypass the pool with some exposure by climbing up and around on the right (facing up canyon). Above the falls the narrows continue a short distance before the canyon begins to widen once again at about the 1 mile point beyond the Ash Creek junction. This is as far as I went. You can either return the way you came or continue to explore this interesting area.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife hiked from the lower trailhead up to the Blue River / Little Blue Creek confluence where we made camp. I then day hiked up the Little Blue completing the hike described above. The next day we broke camp and hiked out. Apart from the hike itself, a highlight of the trip was spotting a sizeable mountain lion on the drive in (the first we'd seen in the wild in our 11 years of Arizona residence.
Maps: Click here for a map of the hike: Map 1, Map 2
Books: Arizona Trails: 100 Hikes in Canyon and Sierra - David Mazel
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Typical view in the Blue River. Little Blue Box. Hannah Hot Spring.
White Rocks Cabin. The narrows of Dutch Blue Creek.