About two and a half hours east of the Phoenix area is a charming creek reminiscent of something out of a Disney movie—complete with babbling brooks and tiny (albeit less furry) critters. Cibecue Creek is located on the White Mountain Apache reservation, which means you need a permit (the “Special Use: Black River/Salt River Daily” permit) for the day. There isn't anybody there to verify the permits but, for 15 dollars, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
To get to this idyllic hike, take 60 East all the way out past Globe. Be sure to stop and take some pictures along the way—the drive itself is beautiful. Once you’re about an hour past Globe, you’ll see a rest stop on the right. Almost immediately after you cross the bridge, you’ll take a left down the first dirt road and follow that all the way to the river. There’s no actual trailhead but there are informational signs about the hike and reservation rules that indicate where to start hiking.
The best time to hike Cibecue Creek is May through September. The weather we had towards the end of May was perfect. I recommend going earlier in the morning (we started hiking around 10), simply because the trail towards the falls got much busier as the day approached noon.
Getting to the falls is as easy as following the creek north for roughly two and a half miles. If you can’t stand the thought of weaving through grasses and ducking below tree branches, this probably isn’t the hike for you. If you’re willing to suffer through that to be rewarded with a glorious 60-foot waterfall—keep trekking. The hike is relatively flat in in terms of elevation but you will be rock hopping and crossing the creek multiple times, so be sure to wear appropriate shoes.
At the end of the hike you’re rewarded with a beautiful, rushing waterfall. We’re still unsure of the waterfall’s exact height. Someone estimated 60 feet, so that’s what we’ve been proclaiming. High enough to lure some daredevils we met to jump from it. They lived, so we assumed it couldn’t have been that terrifying.
After some sustenance and a canned sangria or two, I and two other women—in all of our brilliance—decided to follow suit in jumping from the falls. I started to get a little worried once we began rock climbing the side of a cliff to get to the top. That was our “there’s no turning back” moment because there was no way we could have scaled back down the cliff.
Our logic for jumping was “You only live once” and, once we got to the top of the falls, I feared that this really might be the end of my one life. Nominated to go first, a fear I’ve never before experienced gripped me as I looked at the distance to the emerald green pool.
“I can’t do this,” I thought, “What the hell were we thinking?” It wasn’t until, several fearful minutes later, someone in our group of spectators started counting that I thought, “Fuck it. I’m going on three,” and stepped off the ledge.
I’m not even sure what I felt during the fall. I lost all train of thought. All I remember is flailing my arms like I was going to sprout wings and they’d help slow me down. Had I known how painful hitting the water was going to be beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I hit the water slightly off kilter and felt the pain of the impact on my left thigh and my chest.
The second woman who jumped was much more graceful than I—her form was flawless. The third woman who jumped got the worst of it. As she hit the water at an angle, we spectators groaned in unison. She emerged from the water shaking, her leg already beginning to bruise purple. Luckily, the adrenaline kept her pain at bay enough to get back to the car.
One of my favorite things about hiking out-and-back trails is seeing how different the trail looks going back; it's like a whole new hike. I enjoyed hiking back almost as much as I did hiking to the falls—save the impending bruises from my jump and the scraped knee I got from slipping on a rock.
Once we got back to Phoenix, we rewarded ourselves with a much deserved burger and beer from Arizona Wilderness Brewery. I was tempted by the protein-packed After the Hike burger, but my love for goat cheese won out and I went with the Beet and Goat Cheese burger—wasn't disappointed. And, of course, I couldn't resist getting a side of their Frietjes (french fries fried in duck fat). Any other day and I would have regretted devouring such a heavy meal, but I savored every bite knowing we earned it.
We did jump from a waterfall, after all.