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    Horton Creek, Highline, and Derrick Loop

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    15.3 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    553 m
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    Directions to Trailhead

    The Horton Creek, Highline, and Derick Loop makes use of three lovely trails to create one moderate adventure. This hike is 15.3 km long, but the elevation gain is well spread-out. You can also use the Upper Tonto Creek camping area to make this a backpacking trip if you’d prefer.

    Horton Creek runs through part of this trail, offering an unexpectedly lush experience. There are lots of spots where you can dip your feet to cool off and take a breather. Dogs who like the water will definitely love this stretch of the route. We do recommend exercising caution in this area if there’s a monsoon in the forecast, as we advise with all hikes near a water source in this part of Arizona. Flash flooding can occur.

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    Route Description for Horton Creek, Highline, and Derrick Loop

    Horton Creek Trail is the most popular hike in this part of the Tonto National Forest. This route uses Horton Creek Trail, Highline Trail, and Derrick Trail to make a loop hike that allows you to fully appreciate this uniquely forested area. Hikers flock here for a few reasons: the trail is shady, you can cool off in the creek on the way, it’s dog-friendly, the atmosphere is very relaxed, and there’s camping near the trailhead that makes backpacking a breeze.

    We like starting our hike on the Horton Creek Trail to go clockwise. The trail hugs the creek to the spring where the creek originates from. It’s so treed in, you won’t believe you’re in Central Arizona.
    This hike is great throughout the year, but it’s at its best in the fall when the colors come alive. If you visit in the summer, come prepared with lots of water.

    From the parking area, the trail heads out along the creek. You’ll be hiking alongside the creek to the edge of the mesa ahead. As you hike, the grade is consistent but mild. You can stop to cool off in small pools and admire trickling waterfalls. Check out the trees and the moss that hugs the creek.

    There are lots of good places to stop for a breather or dip your feet if you’re interested. Where two trails intersect on their side of the main route, you’ll take a right to cross the East Fork Horton Creek. This takes you along the base of the mesa on Highline Trail.

    There’s a spur trail on your left before the junction with Derrick Trail that leads up the mesa if you’re interested in checking out the view. It’s very steep, though!

    Keep right onto Derrick Trail where the route forks. This will lead you back to the trailhead. Pick a campsite and settle in or head out to whatever adventure is next on your list.

    Hiking Route Highlights

    Horton Creek

    Pretty little Horton Creek flows from a spring at the base of a wide butte in the Tonto National Forest. This water source supports a variety of plant and animal life and the trail that runs along the creek makes for a pleasant hike for visitors to the area.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Do you need a pass for Horton Creek?

    You’ll need a day pass or a Tonto Discovery Pass for this hike.

    Can you swim in Horton Creek?

    Yes, you can swim in the creek.

    Are fires allowed at Upper Tonto Creek?

    Fires can be limited depending on the current wildfire risk. Check the signage before starting a fire.

    Insider Hints for Horton Creek, Highline, and Derrick Loop

    • Bring wading shoes if you’d like to cool your feet off as you hike this trail.
    • If you’re going to make the climb up the mesa, poles and good boots are essential.

    Getting to the Horton Creek, Highline, and Derrick Loop Trailhead

    The trailhead for the Horton Creek, Highline, and Derrick Loop is off Zane Gray Highway.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground

      Upper Tonto Creek

    • When to do


    • Pets allowed

      Yes - On Leash

    • Family friendly

      Older Children only

    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


    • Route Type


    Horton Creek, Highline, and Derrick Loop Elevation Graph

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    Horton Creek, Highline, and Derrick Loop Reviews

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