The United States Congress designated the Hellsgate Wilderness (map
) in 1984 and it now has a total of 37,457 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Arizona
and is managed by the Forest Service.
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.