This wilderness was established in 1984 and contains approximately 18,530 acres, with a major canyon running practically its entire length. At the upper reaches of Salome Creek and Workman Creek are small perennial streams snaking their way through the bottom of this scenic canyon. Inviting pools of water can be found nearly yearlong. Elevations range from 2,600 feet at the lower end of Salome Creek to 6,500 feet on Hopkins Mountain. Spring and fall are ideal times to visit this area however, trails are rare and access to the wilderness is limited.
Location: Gila County in Arizona
Size and Elevation: 18,530 acres, 2,600 feet to 6,500 feet
Ecosystem: At lower elevations, semi-desert grasslands. Mid-elevations, chapparal. Higher up are ponderosa pine forests. Narrow riparian band along the river.
Features: Salome Canyon shelters old Salado Indian ruins.
Activities: Hiking, Horseback Riding
Before you hit the trails, you may want to learn more about the topography, vegetation, geology, climate, wildlife, livestock regulations, water, or natural fire management. Still not satisified? Check out more sources for information and other Tonto wilderness trails.
The network of "system" trails serving the Salome Wilderness varies from excellent to poor condition. Signs are installed at trail junctions, but unfortunately they are often damaged or stolen. Some trails are unsuitable for horses. All trails within Wilderness are off-limits to bikes of any type.
Cactus Butte Trail - 6 miles outside western boundary of Wilderness. Hard to follow.
Jug Trail - 2 mile old jeep trail.
Boyer Trail - 5 miles along canyon bluffs.
Hell's Hole Trail - 5.3 miles to a riparian area of sycamore and cottonwood.
60 - Cactus Butte Trail:
6.0 miles in length. This trail does not enter the designated Wilderness, but runs parallel to its western boundary and provides excellent views into it. It crosses rugged, desert scrub and chaparral-covered hills, and offers panoramic vistas out over Tonto Basin. It is overgrown and difficult to follow.
Lowest elevation: 3420 feet; highest elevation: 5380 feet.
Difficulty level: more difficult.
Use level: very light.
Trailheads: Cactus Butte and Roads 1417/3643 (this access point requires driving through private land; get permission first).
61 - Jug Trail:
2.0 miles in length. This route was an old jeep road. It winds along the ridges south of Salome Mountain steadily descending towards Salome Creek where it dead ends. The southern boundary of the Wilderness is adjacent to this trail.
Lowest elevation: 2800 feet; highest elevation: 3300 feet.
Difficulty level: more difficult.
Use level: moderate.
Trailhead: A Cross
148 - Boyer Trail:
5.0 miles in length. The trail follows Boyer Creek, steadily climbing through chaparral and semi-desert grassland. It tops out, then follows the bluffs above Salome Creek, eventually meeting with Hell's Hole Trail 284. It may be overgrown and difficult to follow in some places.
Lowest elevation: 4080 feet; highest elevation: 5600 feet.
Difficulty level: more difficult.
Use level: light.
284 - Hell's Hole Trail:
5.3 miles in length. Approximately one mile from Reynolds Trailhead, the trail passes near private property; please respect the rights of the property owner, and do not trespass. Travelers will go through pine forest and chaparral to a riparian area of sycamore and cottonwood. The last 1/2 mile of the trail is a steep descent into Hell's Hole (which is a real challenge when making the return trip) where the trail dead ends. Use of livestock on the trail is discouraged; it can be hazardous to horses, and there is nowhere to put them at the end of the trail which does not damage the riparian area.
Lowest elevation: 3920 feet; highest elevation: 5480 feet.
Difficulty level: most difficult.
Use level: light to moderate.
Directions to Trailheads
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 27 miles. The trailhead is on the left (west) near the Reynolds Creek Group Site (approximately 100 yards south of the gate to the Group Site). Access to this trailhead is suitable for sedans.
Trail accessed: Hell's Hole Trail 284.
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 13 miles to the A Cross Road (Forest Road 60). Take Road 60 west for nine miles, then turn north on Forest Road 895. Follow this road for 12 miles to Boyer Cabin. 4x4 vehicles are recommended.
Trail accessed: Boyer Trail 148.
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 13 miles to the A Cross Road (Forest Road 60). Take Road 60 west for 17 miles. This trailhead is on the north side of and adjacent to Road 60. This road is suitable for sedans, except during foul weather.
Trail accessed: Jug Trail 61.
From Punkin, Center, drive south 7.5 miles on State Highway 188 to A Cross Road (Forest Road 60). Take Road 60 east for 9 miles to the trailhead. This road is suitable for sedans, except during wet weather or when Tonto Creek is flowing.
From Claypool (between Miami and Globe), take State Highway 88 northwest for approximately 15 miles to its junction with State Highway 288. Turn right onto Highway 288 and drive north for approximately 13 miles to the A Cross Road (Forest Road 60). Take Road 60 for 18 miles. This trailhead is on the north side of and adjacent to Road 60. This road is suitable for sedans, except during foul weather.
Trail accessed: Cactus Butte Trail 60.
From Punkin Center, drive south 7.5 miles on State Highway 188 to A Cross Road (Forest Road 60). Take Road 60 east for 8 miles to the trailhead. This road is suitable for sedans, except during wet weather or when Tonto Creek is flowing.
Salome Wilderness features a rugged canyon with steep slopes, outcroppings of bedrock, and precipitous bluffs. Salome Creek and Workman Creek are small, perennial streams snaking through the bottom of this scenic canyon. Elevations range from approximately 2,500 feet at the mouth of the canyon to 6,543 feet on top of Hopkins Mountain.
The lower areas are generally semi-desert grasslands. Above this, chaparral and pinyon-juniper woodland occurs. On the higher, north-facing canyon slopes are large expanses of pure chaparral. At the highest elevations are scattered stands of Ponderosa pine.
The corridor adjacent to Salome Creek supports a narrow, but welcome band of riparian vegetation. This riparian zone is especially sensitive to outside impacts, and requires special attention and protection.
Salome Wilderness is situated in a deeply dissected mountainous region at the southern margin of the Colorado Plateau structural province. The rocks are mostly flat lying sedimentary strata and intercalated igneous rocks of Proterozoic age, representing the earth's bedrock that locally are deformed by folds and faults. The contact of granite basement rocks with the overlying Pioneer formation is well exposed in many of the canyons.
Annual precipitation ranges from 12 inches in the lower elevations to 22 inches in the highlands. Flash floods may occur after severe thunderstorms.
Winter temperatures in the high country can drop well below freezing, while summer temperatures can exceed 100 degrees in the lower canyon.
The weather charts below are for general information. Conditions will vary according to the terrain. The temperatures are based on an elevation of 3,500 feet. These average temperatures may be extrapolated to other elevations with a general change of 3.5% F per 1,000 feet of elevation difference.
Preservation of the natural character of this land and reduction of human impacts provides an excellent habitat for many species of wildlife, especially those most vulnerable to human influence. Animals prevalent in the area include: mountain lion, whitetail and mule deer, ravens, red-tail hawks, and many small animal species as well. Salome and Workman Creeks provide habitat for brown and rainbow trout.
While habitat is managed by the Forest Service, management of the Wilderness's wildlife is the responsibility of the State of Arizona. All applicable state hunting, fishing, and trapping regulations apply. For information concerning these regulations, please contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The main drainages are Salome and Workman Creeks. There are a number of small springs and a few side-streams where water is sometimes available. Water runoff is dependent upon seasonal precipitation and is influenced by fluctuations in the groundwater table. While most sources are reliable, there are no guarantees. Carry an appropriate amount of water when traveling, and understand the nature of the environment when planning an extended trip in the backcountry.
Unfortunately, even clear, cool mountain water can no longer be assumed to be drinkable without appropriate treatment. A variety of methods and devices are available for water purification.
Few remnants remain of the wildlands that witnessed the early growth of modern Arizona. Recognizing their value, a Federal law was passed to protect a few such areas: the Wilderness Act of 1964 set aside selected areas of public land to maintain their primeval character. The Salome Wilderness was so designated by Congress with the passage of the Arizona Wilderness Act of August 28, 1984.
The rugged Salome Canyon was the site of"Salado" Indian villages during Arizona's prehistoric period. They built and lived in their dwellings between 1200 and 1300 A.D.
Roaming through the Wilderness, you may come across evidence of these previous inhabitants. We invite you to enjoy these windows into the past, reminding you that all prehistoric and historic sites and artifacts are protected by Federal law and must be left where they are found. Because so little is known about these people and their dwellings, it is important to preserve and protect anything you may see during your Wilderness visit.
Grazing animals were first introduced into this area in the 1880's and continues to the present time. A homestead patent (HES 640) was issued for 57 acres in 1926. This property was acquired by the government in 1991 and is now a part of the Wilderness.
Desert Survival; 1977; Nelson, D. and S.; Tecolote Press.
Hiking the Southwest; Ganci, D.; Sierra Club Totebook, San Francisco, CA.
Flowers of the Southwest Mesas; 1976; Patraw, P.M.; Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, Tucson, AZ.
Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest Uplands; 1976; Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, Tucson, AZ.
The Archeology of Arizona; 1973; Martin, P.S. and Ploy, F.; Doubleday/Natural History Press.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication