Skull Mesa Trail

HARD 21 reviews

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. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

17.6 miles
4,465 feet
Out & Back

dog friendly



nature trips




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.

2 months ago

Pretty descent hike. Overall I wouldn’t rate this trail as difficult, the last part of the hike going from the base of the mountain up to the top plateau is somewhat strenuous but I would consider 75% of the trail to only be moderate not difficult. Scenery wise, it’s ok, typical desert scenery. I did like the fact that past the first mile I saw no one. To avoid wandering around trying to figure out what direction you need to go to find the trail use the satellite map on the all trails app. It didn’t occur to me to do this until after I had went the wrong direction for about a mile. After parking continue to walk down the road to the area where the portable restrooms are. They will be on your right. Continue to walk straight down the road toward spur cross trail - do not go left- you will pass 2 other trailheads on your right, just continue going straight. You will stay on this road/trail for awhile until you eventually see an old cow pen on your left. Their will be a river bed on your right. The trail to the right is the one you want to follow. If you end up going through a gated area with the cow pen on your left you went the wrong way. You will eventually see a large older sign that has several trails listed on it. At the sign go to the right. You will continue on this trail which was listed as cottonwood trail, you will not actually see a sign that says skull Mesa trail for a number of miles. You will eventually see it on your left. Pay attention to make sure you stay on skull Mesa trail. It is not well taken care of and only rockpiles keep you on track. From almost the start of the skull Mesa trail you will be going uphill. Eventually you will find yourself at the base of the mountain. The trail switchbacks up this mountain up to the top. Be mindful of weather reports. I disregarded them and ended up wading back across the flooded river beds that had been bone dry only hours earlier. After finally getting back to my truck the main road was flooded out and had a line of cars. I did find out from a very nice girl that morning star road was a bypass road and not flooded to the point that it was impassable. If you find yourself in the same situation try Morningstar road. It’s much better to pay attention to the weather and not get into the situation to begin with. I hope this long winded run on review helps.

2 months ago

Great trail and very close to cave creek. Didn’t complete the full thing but camped up on top of the mesa. Excellent views with a fun hike! The scenery is unforgettable and makes me proud to call Arizona home.

3 months ago

As an experienced hiker, next to the Grand Canyon this trail is by far the hardest I’ve hiked in Arizona. Do not attempt it in the hotter months as there is little shade. You will need a minimum of 4 liters of water to complete this round trip. Extremely rocky and uneven terrain so good boots are a must. All in all a awesome hike that will challenge you to keep going. The views from the top of the Mesa are endless and must be seen. As you ascend to the top on the 248 trail imagine the Native Americans doing this daily carrying supplies and water to the community that lived on top. Your day pack will feel much lighter! Enjoy

6 months ago

simply amazing.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The trail was okay but it is very hard to walk on due to very rocky terrain and less maintenance. I would give 5 stars if some maintenance done to the trail which makes hiking more enjoyable. There are little shades so I would not recommend to hiking during summer time.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Great hike with views of the whole valley atop the mesa! From the Cardinals stadium to Weavers Needle and everything in between. Indian ruins, streams, deers and desert... it doesn't get much better than this.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

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!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

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 !

Sunday, November 27, 2016

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.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

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.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

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.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

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.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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.

1 month ago

recorded CC#4

6 months ago

7 months ago

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Wednesday, April 15, 2015