Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Butler Canyon Trail – Greer, Arizona

in Arizona

Butler Canyon Trail is a very short, but absolutely gorgeous nature trail in Greer, Arizona. We wanted to check it out because we’d seen the view from the trail’s start used several times on websites promoting Greer as a vacation destination. And after hiking the trail – I can see why. It’s a family-friendly little gem of a hike.

Butler Canyon Nature Trail

This trail is named for Jacob Butler, a Mormon pioneer who moved to the area in the late 1880’s with his nineteen children. There is no evidence of where his cabin or buildings might have stood, nor any of his nineteen children’s homes. Historical records indicate that no one is quite sure what happened to the Butler family.

  • Distance:  1.0 mile round trip
  • Hiking Time:  ~30 minutes – 1 hour
  • Difficulty:  Easy
  • Elevation:  8600 ft to 9000 ft

There is a very small trailhead parking lot available (34.014128, -109.499165). It’s not paved and wouldn’t fit more than 5 or 6 cars. Luckily, we were the only ones there that day (an experience we had quite often in Greer.)

Butler Canyon Parking

Directly across from the parking area is the entrance to the trail and a sign-in station. There is no potable water or bathrooms available.

Butler Canyon Trailhead

From what I read online prior to our trip, there used to be a pamphlet available at the sign-in station at the trailhead which was meant to be borrowed for the duration of the hike, and then returned. Sadly, when we signed-in, the pamphlet was nowhere to be seen. Prior to the Wallow Fire in 2011 – the trail was well marked with numbered stations which corresponded to sections in the pamphlet. Post-fire, some of the signs are still in place (although some are burned), but most appear to be gone.

The trail starts out through a forested area that appears to be untouched by the fire. However, as you continue hiking – if you look to the right – you’ll notice that the area was badly damaged.

Beginning of hike

Fire Damage

In the shot below you can see just how many trees are still standing, but cleared of greenery. A friend explained to us that many of the trees were burned clear of all foliage, but the trunks still stood. Some of the trees are able to recover from this and some aren’t. The real hazard is when the tree doesn’t recover and begins to rot. Once the tree begins to rot – it creates several problems.

Depending on where the tree is located – it can block trails or threaten roads or cabins when it falls (which is a very big deal for an area like Greer that relies heavily on tourism.) If the tree is surrounded by deep forest – it falls to the ground and becomes fuel for another potential forest fire. From the amount of painted trunks we saw when hiking in Greer – you can tell that the Forest Service is hard at work marking trees for removal in order to stop these problems from happening.

Missing Greenery

The trail continues along through the canyon for about a half mile. As you can see – the trail is lined with aspen, pine, spruce, and fir trees (some dead and some living.) And then you get to the best part of the trail – the creek and spring box. The trail crosses over the creek and then loops back around to the parking area.

You can tell when you’re almost there because the forest is interrupted by a cluster of aquatic plants. It’s a really cool sight.

Approaching the creek

The creek creates a lush landscape of water plants while in the midst of an aspen/pine forest. It’s really beautiful.

Creek shot

Here’s a shot of the creek bed.

Creek bed

There were so many ferns!


Larger fern shot

And there’s a spring box located right next to the creek. Something about a spring box just feels so pioneer. And my kids loved it! Please note that the water from both the creek and spring box is not treated and therefore probably not safe to drink from (better safe than sorry.) My dogs grabbed a drink from the spring box while I was trying to take a picture of it, but luckily seemed fine.

Dogs drinking

Spring box

After you cross the creek – you loop back around to the parking area for about another half mile.

Loop back

Rock formation

While on the trail – we found the coolest little green spider. After returning home – we’re pretty sure this is a crab spider (also not poisonous to humans in case you were wondering.)

Crab spider

Crab Spider

As the trail loops around you see some privately held log cabins in the distance, but the trail is fairly isolated.

Several times during our trip we saw the most gorgeous purple thistle.  Turns out it’s called the New Mexico thistle.

New Mexico thistle

New Mexico Thistle

The trail crosses back over the creek again. The creek bed area is just as lush as on the other side.

Second creek bed

Lush creek bed

And here’s a shot of some beautiful bluebells that were hanging out above the creek bed.



The trail is green and lush for a time before you get back to the less dense forested area. I thought the contrast was striking in the two shots below (that are only a few hundred feet apart.)

Trail shot

Heading back to parking area

If you’re looking for a quick, beautiful walk in the woods with some gorgeous quick changes of scenery – this is the hike for you! Another plus in my opinion is that we were completely alone on the trail when we went in July. The weather was very pleasant in the high 70’s with cloud cover. The trail is dog friendly, but no horses or motorized vehicles are allowed.

For more information – please visit the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest website for Butler Canyon Trail.

RobinGuest Post by Robin Laulainen. Robin writes about camping and other outdoorsy stuff at Trek Southwest, pets every dog she meets, and drinks more coffee than she should. She blogs about her other passion - creating - at Make It Yourself Girl.

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