★★★★☆ Easy / Phoenix Area:
Dragonflies by a pond, wood-plank creek crossings and a kid-sized cave are some of the fun features to be found on the easy, Jewel of the Creek & Dragonfly Hiking Trail loop. Kids of every age will have a blast exploring this shady, tree lined loop – that circles the lush green banks of Cave Creek.
TRAILHEAD: 44000 N. SPUR CROSS ROAD, CAVE CREEK • DIFFICULTY: easy • DISTANCE: 2 MILE loop • APPROX. TIME: 1-1.5 HOURS • ELEVATION GAIN: 36 feet (3 stories) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 260-300 • BEST TIME OF YEAR: OCT. – APRIL • PETS: yes • KID FRIENDLY: yes please! • FACILITIES: YES, but no water • FEES: Free at Jewel in the Creek entrance, $2 per person at spur cross entrance
In crazy contrast to the dry desert landscape around it, the Jewel of the Creek Preserve sports a cool, perpetually running stream, tall leafy Cottonwoods, bright green grasses and an abundance of insect and bird life.
Starting on the Jewel of the Creek trail, and continuing around the lower portion of the Dragonfly Hiking Trail (see downloadable map below), this hike circles a mile-long portion of Cave Creek. It crosses the creek twice, on wood plank bridges (that minnow adore swimming beneath).
A little ways into the hike a small, kid-sized cave, begs to be explored. At only a few feet deep, and very exposed to the trail, this pint-sized hole-in-the-cliff is 100 percent perfect for igniting kid’s imagination around fantasy occupants.
On the north side of the path, by a deep wash, the Dragonfly Trail splits off and heads towards Elephant Mountain (in the neighboring Spur Cross Conservation Area). Head straight to continue around the creek.
A small pond is a fun hang-out at the far end of the Jewel of the Creek and Dragonfly Hiking Trail loop. Its depth changes with the seasons. There are lots of boulders to be hopped on. And teems of dragonflies and butterflies flit around Spring through Fall – a delight for budding entomologists.
Past the pond the trail ascends a small hill and turns back towards the parking lot. From this elevated vantage point, contrasting views of the green creek area, and the dry, Saguaro lined hills of Spur Cross behind it, are uniquely outstanding.
Jewel of the Creek is a favorite hang out for colorful butterflies and dragonflies, Spring through early Fall. Catch glimpses of Comanche Skimmer and Apache Spiketail dragonflies, or Two Tailed Swallowtail and Mexican Yellow butterflies, and others.
Directions From the intersection of AZ-17 and Carefree Highway, exit 223 (in North Phoenix), head east on Carefree Highway for 10.55 miles to Cave Creek Road. At the stoplight for Cave Creek Road turn left / north and continue for 1.43 miles to North Fleming Springs Road. Turn left / north onto North Fleming Springs Road and drive for 0.78 miles to North Echo Canyon Drive (which becomes North Sierra Vista Road and then North Cottonwood Canyon Road). Continue for 8.47 miles to the intersection of Spur Cross Road. Turn left / south onto Spur Cross Road and continue for 1 mile. A small parking lot for the Jewel of the Creek Hiking Trail is on the left side of the road, across from a riding stable. If this lot is full, continue another 0.2 miles to the Spur Cross Conservation Area parking lot, and walk back to access the Jewel of the Creek Hiking Trail.