Skull Mesa Trail is a 17.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Cave Creek, Arizona that offers scenic views and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round.
Directions from Cave Creek: Travel north on Cave Creek Rd, then left on Spur Cross Road to the Spur Cross Trailhead, then find trail 247. Take 247 to the fence line and gate (about 45 minutes or more), then take trail left up to the top of the Mesa.
The trail was good and long and for the most part easy to navigate...well, at least the first 6 miles or so before you get to the actual skull mesa trail. there weren't too many people, which was kind of nice. you cross a river 5 times before you get to the path junction to determine which way you want to go. then it's a couple of miles and you will pass through a gate, that's where the skull mesa trail starts. that trail is terribly marked. if it wasn't for the cairn stones (man-made rock piles), i would have had no clue where i was going. when you get to the top of the mesa, it is a gorgeous view! totally worth it! but make sure to go back the same way you came, i couldn't find a path off the opposite side of the trail. and make sure you plan on making a day trip out of this hike! i was moving pretty fast, but almost 18 miles takes more than a few hours!
This is the hardest hike I've done so far other than R2R of GC ! it is a must do ! The most scenic by far very very rocky and steep towards the very top! but the views are worth it. We ran out of water and daylight! we got to Skull Mesa 4290 elevation at 2pm and it took us 4 hours nonstop to get this far starting at Spur Cross Trailhead at !0 am so we did not have time to explore or find the ruins . Gives me a good reason to do it again! Saw the most gorgeous crested saguaro !
I've attempted Skull Mesa twice now. Once was with another guy who took us the longest and most difficult route possible so by the time we got to the base I was crushed and didn't do it.
Today I took trail # 4 all the way to the far end of the northwestern part of the base. Just below the ruins. I was told I could climb up the backside. Not in this lifetime!! So next weekend I take Cottonwood trail to Skull Mesa and ascend her.
Great country out there, but hard to follow the trail. It pays to download the map before you hit Spur Cross area. My reception gave out about 2 miles before we reached the area.
To get to the trailhead, park at the Spur Cross Conservation Area and hike north (right) on the Spur Cross Trail. Once the trail crosses into the Tonto National Forest, it changes to FS 4. Continue until you reach a fork at an old corral. Take the right fork and continue hiking. You'll eventually reach a large National Forest sign that says Skull Mesa Trailhead on it. It should take about 40 minutes to reach the trailhead by this route.
Views are great. Rather remote area.. You won't see too many other hikers. I did this hike to the top of the Mesa.. Then bushwhacked to the edge of the canyon. If you are experienced in rock climbing, you can rappel down the north rock face and check out some Indian ruins. I did this trail to test new backpacking gear, therefore staying a night at the top of the Mesa. Great experience, loved the trail an scenery.
This hike is amazing. We completed in the spring of 2010 and encountered 4 different terrains - high desert, flowers, volcanic rock and running springs with trees. There is also wreckage from helicopters in a couple areas. It gets very steep towards the end / top, and your knees take a beating on the way down. Also, depending on the time of year, the trail can be very hard to follow - use rock piles as trail markers. Wildlife - Deer, Mtn Lion, snakes (careful of the Rattlers), numerous birds and small animals. There is a natural spring on the way and the tallest Saguaro Cacti I have ever seen in my life.
- plan plenty of time to explore at the top of the Mesa - petroglyphs, etc.
- take plenty of water and energy - difficult hike but not impossible
- this is a hike that took most of the day; elevation changes quickly, and I think it is farther than advertised.
THIS IS A MUST HIKE