Lying at the base of the Mogollon Rim, upper Tonto Creek has incised a 1,000-foot-deep canyon that runs entirely through the center of this Wilderness. A perennial waterway, Tonto Creek creates deep emerald pools sometimes separated by impassable falls. The area also contains Haigler Creek with its impressive rock formations. Elevations range from 6,440 feet atop Horse Mountain in the northeast corner to 2,960 feet where Tonto Creek leaves the area in the southwest. Trout, catfish, and smallmouth bass inhabit both creeks, popular destinations with anglers. Available water helps to support a variety of wildlife: black bears, mountain lions, mule deer, coyotes, gray foxes, javelinas, beavers, and many small mammals and birds. You will find exceptionally rough and broken terrain with moderate to very steep slopes on long rocky ridges. Archaeology buffs will encounter evidence of prehistoric use. Six trailheads give access to the Wilderness, but human use is relatively light, especially off-trail, and the U.S. Forest Service reports that foot travel can be very difficult. If you follow either creek you'll have to swim at some point. Snowfall may be substantial in winter. Group size is limited to 15 people and 15 head of livestock. Length of stay is limited to 14 days.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Hellsgate Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.