Hiking the Badger Springs Trail with kids is a fantastic day trip option from Phoenix. The in-and-out hike is less than a mile to the gentle beginnings of the Agua Fria River, and offers shallow water and swimming holes that will delight toddlers to teenagers! We’ve hiked to and enjoyed this river before from the Black Canyon City Trail, but the Badger Springs Trail is much easier, both in terrain and distance.
Note: we hiked this trail mid-April, and there was water in the spring, and in the river. However, this may not always be the case. The time of year may dictate how much water is present. Call the number at the end of this post for more information, or check the website. Also, Badger Springs Road is unpaved, and it takes about a mile from the Interstate to the parking lot. There are potholes and bumps, but our mini-van made it just fine.
The trail starts at a parking lot, which has no restrooms or trash cans. (We did pass a bathroom facility up the road, but it was closed.) The trail is clearly marked, taking you down into the valley on a dirt path. It starts wide, and narrows as you reach Badger Springs. There is one fence crossing, seen above.
Once you reach the stream, the trail continues alongside – or you can hike the stream down to the river! We choose the latter and the kids loved it. In retrospect this was likely the better option because we’ve heard from other hikers that rattlesnakes can be present on the trail! We also stayed cool in the water. The stream sometimes narrows, or disappears completely, but as long as you follow the general path, you’ll reach the river with no issues.
The Aqua Fria River is clearly visible from the trail, opening up to a nice sandy area! The trail continues to the left, past some petroglyphs, and then hops over the large rocks by the small waterfall to continue another half mile or so. (We were told by other hikers that there are several beautiful swimming holes past these rocks! We chose to stay at the main area, due to having a little one.)
We had so much fun exploring! There were rocks to climb, sand castles to build, multiple swimming holes, and crawfish and tadpoles. The water depth ranges from ankle deep to about 6 feet, sometimes dropping drastically, so always keep an eye on little ones. Was it cold? Yes, and the sun was also hot, so the kids adjusted quickly.
There are two shady grassy banks on either side of the river, perfect for picnic time or breaks. We had a small ant problem, as well as gnats, but nothing serious – and thankfully, no snakes! Be sure to explore all around. We found a nice long sand bar to enjoy past the two swimming holes.
If you decide to explore the Badger Springs Trail with your kids, here are some tips:
- Bring water shoes, sunscreen, towels, hats, plenty of water, snacks or lunch, and a change of clothes. That said, we opted for sneakers for the first part of the trail, then bare feet! We left the change of clothes in the car, except for baby items.
- We also brought along: boots (didn’t need them), buckets and shovels, a net for catching tadpoles, our favorite Suds2Go for hand washing, and an extra towel to sit on. We had extra water in the car to drink on the way home as well.
- Our 5-year-old is a beginner swimmer, and since it was just me with three kiddos, I brought along his floaties for added safety. This worked out great all around, giving him the freedom to explore and my peace of mind.
- This trail is not stroller or wagon friendly. Baby carriers work great! (I used an Ergo for the 14-month-old.)
- There is no fee to access this area.
- There is no cell service at the river. Service is available at the parking lot, and gets spotty as you hike.
- If you research Badger Springs Trail, it may come up as a moderate, highly used 1.5-mile hike. We would offer that the moderate title, as well as distance, refers to the portion of the trail past the swimming holes. From the parking lot to the river is 0.8 miles, and more on the high end of easy. If you are a beginner hiker, and just want to enjoy the river, this is a great option! If you have toddlers, this hike will work as well. As far as “highly used”, week days almost always have less traffic, as well as morning. If you can, go Monday-Thursday, arrive before 9am, and you’ll likely have the river to yourself for a good hour or two like we did!
- For more information, visit the website, or call 623-580-5500.