Sunny Flat Campground Portal Arizona

Discussion in 'Arizona' started by HiFiDave, Mar 30, 2015.

  1. HiFiDave

    HiFiDave Singin round the campfire

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    Back in late summer, we had some killer rain storms in southern Arizona and many streams and such turned into Rivers. One area that got hit hard was the Chiricahua mountains. This sky island mountain range is one of our favorites and we go there often. A place I've wanted to take my wife because she is such birding fanatic was the Cave Creek area near Portal AZ. Birding here is simply awesome and the area is further away from big cities so it's not flooded with human beings. We knew it was a bit early in the bird migration season but work is slow so it's time to get away!

    Sadly, the Sunny Flat Campground there was hammered by the flooding. I called the Douglas Ranger District all during winter, bathroom full of mud, road washed away in many places ugghhhh really wanted to go here during the winter camp season but they are slow in getting things restored. But as luck would have it, I called last Thursday and the nice lady tells me the campground is opening that Friday. What luck! We head out very early Friday morning and get there about 10:00. Place is empty and we get to choose our spot. Best site, easily no. 9

    I back the E1 into place and we walk out into the road to look around. Wow! The sheer rock rising up all around us is intimidating. You get dizzy in a way just looking up at it. Very different from other mountain area campgrounds we had been at. OMG look at all the interesting caves! Hmmmm if I were a younger man, I would be trying to head up there LOL (can you say, climbing gear?) As we walk back to the pup, a bunch of dear are running about. We walk just a bit further and there is the cool waters of the Cave Creek stream. Just beautiful.

    The whole area is a birders delight. A blue throated humming bird came right into our camp and that was a lifer for my wife. She set the feeder out and cocked the Canon 7d and 400 mm zoom. As the day wore on, more folks came in. Real friendly people we met and shared a beer with. We even met a famous photographer there and that was really kewl.

    Campsites are clustered around a center area that isn't grassy like most web sites claim. It's full of sticker bushes and you cannot pass through it. It's nice in that it hides the lower view of other camp sites across the way though. All sites are pretty much shaded, some more than others, and all are reasonably close to Cave Creek. Bird watching is great right in camp (as it is in all Cave Creek camps) with elegant trogons and many other interesting species sighted regularly among the sycamores and oaks that border the creek.

    The open character of the area makes for amazing views of Cave Creek Canyon's famous rock formations which tower over the area. Other recreation attractions in Cave Creek Canyon, such as birding areas along South Fork and a number of hiking trails, are just a short drive from this campground, which is along the Cave Creek Canyon/Portal to Paradise Loop scenic drive.

    Some attractions you may want to take advantage of while you're camped at Sunny Flat are the scenic Vista Point Trail located a short distance downstream of the campground, and the Cave Creek Visitor Information Center a little farther downstream. The Center, which is open from early spring through late fall, offers interpretive information, books and pamphlets on the natural and cultural history of the area, and a few examples of local wildlife species. There are some neat live rattlesnakes on display at the Ranger Station. Also if you get a chance, drive back to the Herb Martyr dam. Got a strong heart? Stand under the flowing water LOL You could pop up back there but it wouldn't be the best choice. Some great boon docking though going back up in to the mountain and down from the mountain towards the town of Paradise. Before you get to Sunny Flat in the little town of Portal is the main store and cafe. I had a GREAT breakfast burrito there and they feed the birds so lots of good viewing from your table.

    It's fun to set up camp and go driving around the many winding mountain roads. We drove the back way to the town of Paradise, stopped in on the way to see the Paradise cemetery, very peaceful and isolated in the middle of the country. Paradise is a very small, old town, quiet but there is a place called the George Walker house that's worth dropping in on. The owner Winston was a real nice fellow full of information and birding there was top notch.

    Anyway, camping is $10 per night. All fees are payable by cash, check or money order typical. Vault toilet and potable water is there. Elevation is around 5000 feet I think it was so kind of warm in summer but doable. 150 miles east of Tucson. From Tucson, take I-10 east 139 miles to US 80 (you will cross the New Mexico border to get to this intersection). Turn right (south) and drive 28 miles, then turn right (west) on the road to Portal, 7 miles. From Douglas, take US 80 east approximately 50 miles to Rodeo, NM. Two miles past Rodeo, turn left (west) on Portal Road. From Portal drive west on Forest Road 42, approximately 3 miles to Sunny Flat Campground.

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  2. HiFiDave

    HiFiDave Singin round the campfire

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    Bridge over Cave Creek into Sunny Flat

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  3. sgerlach

    sgerlach New Member

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    Another wonderful review. Thanks for taking the time to do this!
     
  4. teejaywhy

    teejaywhy Active Member

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    Looks nice Dave! Thanks for sharing. Added to my "places to visit" list.
     
  5. betancourtfamily6

    betancourtfamily6 New Member

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    Beautiful looking country down there.... we'll need to visit
     
  6. Hoomi

    Hoomi I write everything the voices in my head tell me.

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    DW has been wanting to take a camping trip to the Chiracahuas. I sent her the link to this post.
     
  7. AzCactusFlower

    AzCactusFlower New Member

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    Fantastic review. Have family that go to the Chiracahuas all the time for offroading. Have to get there this spring, your pictures are super!
     
  8. HiFiDave

    HiFiDave Singin round the campfire

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    This mountain "sky island" is a MUST see area. Both east and west sides offer one a lot to do and see. Do some homework on it and you will understand for your self, awesome place to explore. One of my favorite places in Arizona.
     
  9. HiFiDave

    HiFiDave Singin round the campfire

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    Blue-throated hummers were everywhere. Quite rare according to e bird.

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  10. Pockets

    Pockets Member

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    Wow! Some really great photos! Thanks for sharing and whetting my interest in the area!
     
  11. AzCactusFlower

    AzCactusFlower New Member

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    What a fantastic review and the pictures were super. Thanks so much, we're thinking of going there this summer. I wonder if the water will still be running (okay, okay! I'm not in Ohio anymore!).
     
  12. niagarafam

    niagarafam Active Member

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    Beautiful and Inspiring! We love AZ and the SW!
     
  13. novagirl

    novagirl retired camper

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    Beautiful!

    Sent from my KFTHWI using Tapatalk HD
     

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