AURORA THE EXPLORER DOES THE HIDDEN AZ HANGING GARDENS Strawberry, AZ
Length: 5 miles round-trip approx: 5-6 hrs
Difficulty: Moderate 3/5
Elevation: Approx: -550 feet
Directions: Take the I17 N & exit Camp Verde "US260" Head east on US260. Then make a right at mile marker 142. Continue on FS142 till you come to a T in the road, then go left on FR142B. At the Y stay left. Continue on this road till you reach the canyon edge. Then, look for the staked rocks as markers.
Best suited for high-clearance vehicles.
Dogs Allowed: Not Recommended
Best Times. April-August
Horses Allowed: No
Camping. Yes, definitely recommended.
Let me just start by saying, this is by far my most favorite hike to date! It has just the right amount of adventure, beauty, and obstacles to make for a truly amazing day trip!
For starters, you must have a 4x4 high clearance vehicle to make it here. The trail is a rocky one and quite an adventure in itself! Of course once you get to the trailhead, you forget completely about the ride in.
You start off right at the edge of the canyon with a breath- taking view! You then seek out the stacked rocks, and make your way down the narrow trail. Be aware it is incredibly steep and the rocks are covered in sand and dirt so please proceed with caution.
Once you reach the bottom, I recommend you make a marker of where you came out at. You certainly don't want to miss your exit on the way back. From here, just follow the stream. Water shoes are a must here; along with a waterproof bag and a floaty of some sort is recommended. For as you make you way upstream, the canyon walls begin to close in around you and there is only way thing left to do; swim.
Now, that wasn't the only part you have to swim across to get the magical, 'Hanging Gardens'. There are several more...somewhere between 8-10 depending on water levels. Don't worry, the experience is absolutely incredible! Being out in the middle of no where, swimming in in the crystal clear water, surrounded by the red canyon walls...golly here is thinking like it! It's just so surreal.
PLEASE NOTE: This is absolutely NOT the place you want to be during a flash flood. There would literally be no escape so urge you to please check the weather report before making this trip! Also, this water is very cold so do not even attempt this during the winter months unless you have a full wetsuit. Moving on...
My recommendation is to bring a cheap inflatable tube or 2 to haul your stuff and/or yourself across. I wore flippers to give me speed and so I could look underwater, but there wasn't much to be seen below the surface.
You just have to keep moving along upstream...don't get discouraged like I did. It took my 3 attempts to find this place, and when I turned the corner and was greeted with this view...
This makes it all worth while. There aren't to many people in the world who get to see a place like this. A true oasis in the desert. Words cannot even begin to describe it! I bathed under the falls, swung from the rope swing, and swam in the cave...I will never forget this amazing journey! It is not easy, but it is SO worth it!
Please PM me for questions/comments.