OverviewSkull Mesa is located just east of Cave Creek (the creek, not the town). When looking north from the Spur Cross trailhead, two prominent mesas can be seen, separated by Cave Creek. Skull Mesa is the one on the right (east) side of Cave Creek and New River Mesa is on the left (west) side.
The top of Skull Mesa is mostly grasses, some Juniper trees and various types of cacti including Prickly Pear and Hedgehog which can produce very colorful flowers during Spring. There are no Saguaro cacti on the top of Skull Mesa, as the high elevation makes Winter temperatures too cold for them to thrive. Skull Mesa offers great views of Cave Creek, New River Mesa and other mountains in the area.
The Skull Mesa trail can also be accessed by starting out at the Cave Creek trailhead which is the at northern terminus of the trail. Follow the Cave Creek trail south for approximately 9 miles to find the Cottonwood trail junction. Alternatively, one can start at the Bronco trailhead and hike west on the Bronco trail (#245) for 4 miles to the Cottonwood trail. Take the Cottonwood trail 2 miles west to the Skull Mesa trail. Both the Cave Creek trailhead and the Bronco trailhead are accessible from Seven Springs Road.
Red TapeIf you park at the Spur Cross trailhead be prepared to pay $3.00 per person at a self-payment station. You will need to purchase a Tonto Pass (available at the Cave Creek District Office on Cave Creek Road before you enter the national forest) and display it on your vehicle to park at the Cave Creek trailhead. Parking and access is free at the Bronco trailhead.
CampingCamping is allowed in the Tonto National Forest.
External LinksCave Creek trail system map.
Tonto Pass information