Attempting Queen Creek Canyon – 2022 New Year’s Day Ride

Our friend, Scott and his son, invited us to check out Queen Creek Canyon on the first day of 2022 with them!

This trail is an off-shoot trail from the popular Montana Mountain trail in the Tonto National Forest.

We started with airing down our tires at the Montana Mountain OHV Staging Area off of Highway 60. Scott noted that he saw the river with some good amount of flow from the highway, most likely from the heavy rain fall we had the night before.

Once aired down, we headed north east on E Happy Camp Road and made a left at 1.7 miles from the staging area to connect to Forest Road 650 (also known as North Happy Camp Canyon Road), it is a part of the Montana Mountain Loop trail.

We almost did not recognize this part of the trail because just 4 months ago, we came out this way from riding the Montana Mountain Trail and it was dry and sandy. 

We were greeted with our very first water crossing shortly after the turn. The water was rushing pretty good and we had no idea how deep it was. We threw a few rocks and branches to see if we could guess the depth. We could not be sure if it was too deep to cross, but noticed the tire tracks on the other side of the river, and a couple of side-by-sides rolling up behind us, we decided to give it a go.

Scott braved the way for us and made it across with ease. So we followed and a rush of excitement came over us when we did our first ever water crossing in the Nacho Honey Badger. Jeremy looked over at me with a big smile and said, “I LOVE OUR JEEP!”

The trail continues through the beautiful canyon and a handful more water crossings. One section required us to follow the wash for a little over 400 ft. That was quite exciting!

We stopped to take short break after we made the turn to get onto Forest Road 342 and noticed two vehicles appeared to be stuck on the trail ahead of us. We made over there and offered help to guide the stuck vehicle out of the badly rutted part of the trail in a very muddy section. Their tires were not getting good traction and they kept sliding. After some rock moving and winching the front of the vehicle to a tree with good position, the vehicle came free and was able to go further up the trail where there was space to turn around.

Scott headed up this way on the trail and gave a nice Jeep wave while navigating the very rutted muddy area. Jeremy and I both screamed a little when we saw that. You can probably tell, we are still pretty new to this Jeeping thing. 

The driver of the stuck vehicle warned us that the Queen Creek Canyon trail is pretty good when dry, but is extremely sketchy when muddy and wet. He suggested that we come back when the condition is better. But we had to check it out ourselves, so we head on up further on the trail.

Sure enough, there were some sections that were a little too tippy (off-camber) with the slippery muddy condition and rutted edge. We got to one spot where it was off-camber, rutted wash-out edge and slippery… our back tires started to slide towards the edge towards the drop off and that was too much for comfort. With our roof top tent still attached, anything more than 18 degree tilt to the side gets me very nervous.

We went on up a few yards to turn around, but Scott could not easily do that, so he backed his way up till an area opened up enough for him to safely turn around.

There was a nice open flat area off of the trail that could be a good dispersed camping spot, we took a lunch break there and took in the beautiful scenery.

The way back out was just as exciting. We took our time where the other vehicle got stuck and tried to avoid the very rotted wash out area. All and all it was a great day on the trail with friends even though we did not run the trail we were there to do.

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