Dragonfly Trail (Jewel of the Creek) Hiking Guide

The Dragonfly Trail Loop is a 1.8-mile loop hike located near Cave Creek, Arizona (less than a 1-hour drive from downtown Phoenix). This easy, yet beautiful trail is perfect for all ages. Along the way, visitors can enjoy plenty of local wildlife, two small creek crossings, towering cottonwood trees, and a kid-sized cave in the rocks. The loop is lovely to visit year-round. Dogs kept on a leash are also welcome on the trail. This short, easy hike is the perfect way to enjoy nature and explore the beautiful Jewel of the Creek Preserve.

🔍 Route Details & Map

Dragonfly Trail – Jewel of the Creek Preserve

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Start: Jewel of the Creek Preserve Parking Lot
  • End: Jewel of the Creek Preserve Parking Lot
  • Distance: 1.8 miles (2.9 km)
  • Elevation: 108 feet
  • Average time to finish: 1-1.5 hours
  • Fees: Free
  • Kid-Friendly: Yes
  • Pet-Friendly: Yes
  • Recommended Guided Hiking Tour

Dragonfly Trail Map:

For families with young kids who want to get on a hike during Arizona’s short hiking season, look no further than this oasis on Cave Creek!

Located in the Jewel of the Creek Preserve, the short loop of the Dragonfly Trail will take you through shady trees, alongside an always-flowing creek, over two delightful wooden bridges, and even past a kid-sized cave in the rocks.

Tall cottonwoods line Cave Creek and make Jewel of the Creek Preserve a little bit cooler than the surrounding desert.

Known for its resident bird population and hundreds of dragonflies and butterflies in the spring, this 1.8-mile loop will enchant you and your children with its charm and whimsy.

Dragon Fly Hiking Trail Jewel of the Creek Arizona
Rob crossing the creek
– by Take A Hike ArizonaCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Dragonfly Trail: What to Expect?

Starting at the Jewel of the Creek trailhead on Spur Cross Road, this smooth and mostly flat dirt trail winds gently through cottonwoods and other native trees on one side of Cave Creek, before crossing over on a small wooden bridge.

Kids Exploring the Jewel of the Creek Preserve
Kids exploring the Jewel of the Creek Preserve – by Take A Hike Arizona (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The trail then heads back, but on the opposite side of the creek. The loop conveniently encompasses a mile-long stretch of the creek. Two creek crossings are required but the small bridges are easily traversed.

At only 1.8 miles (2.9 km) long, with options to make it shorter or longer by turning around at any time, children of all ages should be able to complete this hike.

The hike itself isn’t challenging by any means, and should only take about an hour to an hour and a half to complete. Of course, adventurous and curious kids could easily spend a whole morning here!

The town of Cave Creek set aside this area of land, Jewel of the Creek Preserve, within the greater Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. Miles of remote trails crisscross through this landscape just northeast of Cave Creek and Phoenix and provide some classic desert hiking to visitors from all over.

Is the Route Difficult? How Long Does It Take?

Although the trail is not paved or wheelchair/stroller friendly, the flat and smooth dirt makes for easy walking for all ages and most abilities. Visitors should always wear sturdy shoes, as there are some mildly rocky areas of the trail.

Younger children may take their time to finish the Dragonfly Loop; after all, there’s an unlimited amount of exciting plants and small creatures to discover!

Adults with a quick stride may finish the loop in under an hour, while most will take an hour to an hour and a half to complete. This place is so beautiful, you’ll find yourself taking your time!

Highlights

  • Cave Creek – this constant-flowing creek (except during the driest months) provides a pleasant atmosphere of flowing water, complete with tiny minnows, dragonflies, stunning greenery, and towering canopies of cottonwoods.
  • Local wildlife – the myriad of trees hosts dozens of species of local and migrating birds. Their chirps and songs echo through the creek wash and serenade you during your hike. Dragonflies, ladybugs, and butterflies also make their homes here.
  • Kid-sized cave – just off the trail a short way into the hike, there’s a small, shallow cave that is perfectly safe for your kids to explore. Their imaginations will run wild as they play inside this little cove.
  • Saguaros – the year-round water that flows through Cave Creek feeds into the local saguaro and makes them tall and chubby! One of the most iconic cacti in Arizona, these many-armed behemoths will have you craning your neck to take in their full glory.
  • Creek crossings – small wooden bridges help you cross the creek a couple of times, and your kids will have an especially good time traipsing across the planks to the other side.
Horse Riders Crossing the River in the Jewel of the Creek Preserve

Practical Information

  • What is the best time of year to do the route? Generally, you want to avoid hiking in Arizona in the summer months, starting mid-May until September. Fall through spring has the perfect hiking weather and many people travel to Arizona during these months just for that!
  • How do you get there? From the center of nearby Phoenix, it is about 45 minutes to the trailhead. Take Cave Creek Road off of the North 101 to Spur Cross Road. Turn left, and then after 3.7 miles, you’ll see Jewel of the Creek parking lot just off the road. There are no bus or train routes to the trailhead.
  • Where to stay – nearby Cave Creek has some charming small hotels, and North Phoenix has plenty of options as well. In Cave Creek, Spur Cross Inn is a charming location. And in Phoenix, try staying at the fancy JW Marriott Resort.
  • Is there camping nearby? Cave Creek Regional Park has campgrounds available for reservation and is just a short drive from Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. There is no wild camping allowed on the route.
  • Where and what to eat? Cave Creek is a small but charming town with a wild west kind of atmosphere. Buffalo Chip Saloon and Steakhouse definitely sticks with this theme, as well as Big Earl’s Greasy Eats. Harold’s Cave Creek Corral offers delicious southwestern food, plus live music and country dancing. A smattering of French, Italian, and Mexican restaurants offer a more refined fare.

Pro Tips for Hiking the Dragonfly Trail

  • Bring a butterfly net! For kids interested in learning about the local insects such as dragonflies and butterflies, catching and safely releasing these gorgeous bugs can be a fun activity for young wannabe scientists. Don’t forget to release them afterward.
  • Bring plenty of water. The water in Cave Creek is not drinkable, and there isn’t anywhere else to fill up your bottles. Even on a nice cool day, you’ll want to stay hydrated.
  • Bring your binoculars! The tall canopies of cottonwoods and other trees make the Jewel of the Creek Preserve a mecca for birdwatchers. Quietly watch the birds from afar and try to see who can find the most species on your hike.
  • Take your time. This hike is meant for enjoying and exploring, not so much for trudging through a hard hiking workout or traversing challenging trails. Take in your surroundings and appreciate this special oasis in the desert.
  • Beware of snakes! Some hikers encountered rattlesnakes on the trail, so open your eyes.
Rattlesnake over a Branch

Nearby Routes

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area has almost 13 miles of trails, and you can even take the southernmost section of Spur Cross trail to the Maricopa Trail, which connects you to nearby Cave Creek Regional Park. The 2-mile Dragonfly Loop also connects to the Spur Cross and Tortuga Trails within the conservation area.

Before You Go

Jewel of the Creek Preserve is contained within the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, and the Dragonfly Trail Loop gives you a fantastic and easy tour through the preserve. Cave Creek is at its most gorgeous here, with towering cottonwoods providing plenty of shade and habitat for local wildlife.

The Dragonfly Trail itself is well-maintained, smooth, and dry with very little elevation gain. This is a perfect hike for beginners as well as children.

Your kids will have so many fun experiences on this hike, they’ll be talking about it for days!

With its proximity to Phoenix as well as the charming town of Cave Creek, visiting Jewel of the Creek Preserve to hike the Dragonfly Trail loop should be on everyone’s Arizona hiking list.

For more trails in Arizona check out my complete guide about the 13 Best Arizona Hikes with Water.