AZ desert wildflowers
AZ petroglyph AZ Ironwood Forest National Monument AZ Vermilion Cliffs National Monument AZ Wild Burros AZ Desert sunset
BLM > Arizona > What We Do > Recreation > Hiking > Cottonwood Trail - Gila Box RNCA
Print Page
Cottonwood Trail
Gila Box RNCA
hikingpicnickingwildlife watchingcampingphotographycult-histequestrianbiking
view of the Gila River from cottonwood trailDescription
The Cottonwood Trail is a 2.5-mile loop trail that links the Serna Cabin Picnic Area, Bonita Creek Watchable Wildlife Viewing Area, Riverview Campground, Flying W Group Day Use Area, and Kearny Camp Monument. It is an easy trail that includes some gentle slopes and unstable surfaces. Spring and fall offer the most pleasant temperatures for hiking the trail.
The west end of the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area (RNCA) is located northeast of Safford. The trail begins at the Flying W Group Day Use Area.
From Safford, travel approximately five miles east on U.S. Highway 70 to the town of Solomon and turn left onto Sanchez Road. Travel north for eight miles, crossing the bridge at the Gila River, to a Gila Box RNCA sign. Turn left onto that dirt road. Travel another 3.8 miles and take the right fork in the road. Travel 0.6 mile to another fork and turn right. Follow the signs at the next fork, turning right into the Riverview Campground. The picnic area, with its large W-shaped canopy, is just beyond the campground. This is the best place to begin a hike on the Cottonwood Trail.
Visitor Activities
Hiking, biking, horseback riding, picnicking, wildlife viewing, camping, photography, historical exploration.
Special Features
Picnic tables, potable water, grills, restrooms, historic Serna Cabin, access to Gila Box River Trail.
Permits, Fees, Limitations
Day use only on trail; no fees.
This site is located near the end of a county-maintained dirt road and within a BLM recreation area; a four-wheel drive or high-clearance vehicle is not needed to access the site. The trail traverses rocky terrain. The site is not wheelchair accessible.
Camping and Lodging
Dispersed camping is not allowed along the trail. Developed campsites are nearby at the Riverview Campground. Safford and Thatcher offer a variety of lodging options including motels and campgrounds, as well as cabins at Roper Lake State Park.
Food and Supplies
Gasoline, food and supplies can also be found in Safford and Thatcher.
First Aid
No first aid available on site. Dial 911 for emergencies; cell phone coverage is limited in some areas, so you may have to seek higher ground to reach a tower. The nearest medical facility is the Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center in Safford.
Additional Information
This trail is part of the Arizona State Parks Trail System with partial funding provided by the Heritage Fund.
The Graham County Bird Checklist, available at the BLM, Chamber, and online, provides a list of more than 300 species that can be seen in the area.
The Graham County Chamber of Commerce can provide more information about local recreation opportunities, as well as lodging and restaurant options on their website or by calling 1-888-837-1641.

 Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area
Manager:  Tom Schnell
711 14th Ave.
Safford, AZ 85546
(928) 348-4400