Hiking the Blue Wash Trail with kids is an easy distance, with moderate parts. The 2.8 mile trail is in and out, following two usually dry washes, and leading to a waterfall. We visited in January, with hardly any rain for the last 6 months, and there was still water! So while this spot is popular in the summer, we think this makes a great water hike any time of the year.
The trailhead to Blue Wash is outside of Carefree, about 2 miles past the entrance to Outlaw Golf Course. There’s a huge dirt parking lot on the right hand side of the road, with two signs. Searching for the trailhead on Google Maps should come up correct (33.8769205, -111.8169641 for GPS). There are no restrooms at the trailhead. We stopped before and after at the free restrooms in downtown Carefree, near the splash pad and sundial.
Also note that there are no trail signs or markings along the way. But we made it fine by reading descriptions ahead of time and screenshoting a map. Please don’t attempt this hike without research! We had no cell signal in wash, although our location marking on Google Maps worked and was always accurate.
The first part of this hike leads you down the hill on a wide dirt path. The views are amazing! When you come to a small “Y” in the path, either path will take you down to the first wash. We found that the first path is not as steep and easier for little kids. At the wash, take a left to continue.
This part of the hike is fairly easy, with some boulder climbing. But nothing intense! Our kids kids loved it and with help, our 23 month old was able to hike this portion too. The ground is a mixture of small rocks and sand, some are blue too (hence the name, blue wash). Don’t forget to look up and admire the amazing canyon walls! We even saw a deer at one point. Continue to follow the wash for about a mile. When the wash opens up wide, you know you’re getting close to the next turn.
At the “T”, take another left. (You may also spot an American flag on the hill in front of you!) This wash will lead you to the waterfall. We came across a stream fairly quickly too! There are a few places to cross the water, so if you have water shoes, this would be a good time to change. But we made it fine without them. As the canyon gets narrower, stay to the left for the best path. With a few more boulder hops, you will arrive at the waterfall!
We stayed at the waterfall for about 2 hours! The kids explored, we had lunch, and played in the water. It was cold, but so much fun. Be sure to climb the rocks on the left and catch the view from above. There are a couple pools above the falls, and the stream continues but we didn’t explore this portion as there was no real trail. We were on the lookout for rattlesnakes in the crevices too; thankfully we didn’t see any.
If you’re considering hiking the Blue Wash Trail with kids, here are some tips:
- no pass or fee is needed to park at the trailhead
- there is little to no shade along the hike; in early morning or late afternoon, you may find shade along the cliff walls
- please bring your trash with you!￼
- we’ve seen numerous posts about hiking this trail in the summer to enjoy the cool water. It’s a great idea! Just be prepared for the warmer temps and no shade.
- the hike to the waterfall was 1.4 miles and took us about 50 min (our toddler walked the majority of this), and the route is mostly downhill
- the hike back to the trailhead was 1.4 miles and took us an hour; the route is all uphill, so plan accordingly and leave the waterfall before the kiddos are exhausted.￼
- we brought extra socks and pants, snacks and lunch, a quart of water per person, whistles, baby carrier (love our Toddler Tula!), and a towel. Plus diapers/wipes. Our son also had his crocs while exploring at the waterfall, our toddler had Keens, and our oldest went barefoot. Other fun items we brought: binoculars, nets (no fish or tadpoles to catch this time tho), nature journals, and had extra water and snacks back in the car.
- see this hike description for more info
- lots of other hiking ideas and reviews here, including the nearby Sears Kay Ruins .