Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Seven Springs Recreation Area

Fast Flight Facts

Target Species:  Species at sycamore riparian habitat with surrounding juniper species

Elevation: 3400'

Habitat:  Riparian habitat with sycamores, cottonwoods, willows along a flowing creek, juniper covered hillsides

Overall Birding Rating: 5

Difficulty: 1-3 (Easy to Moderate)

Birding Type: Easy to Moderate Hiking

Facilities:  Parking, Restrooms, Campground

Fees/Ownership:  Fee for Camping only/Tonto National Forest

Closest Town or City/How far from Phoenix:  Cave Creek /37 miles north-northeast of Phoenix

Getting there:  Reached from Seven Springs Road, which is good dirt road that usually has good driving conditions

Overview:  Nestled at higher elevations close to 3500' in one of the northern ranges of Maricopa County, is the Seven Springs Recreation Area.  The area is another part of the Tonto National Forest and is great for birding and a very under birded place.  Camping and hiking make this a popular area for people to come on weekends.  Just like the Sunflower area in the northeastern part of Maricopa County, Sunflower has similar habitat.  It is highly made of sycamores, with willows and cottonwoods and a healthy running creek throughout the area.  Juniper filled hillsides surround the area.  The area attracts similar breeders similar in comparison to the Sunflower area, but Seven Springs has some of the best and abundant winter birding in all of Maricopa County with great access to the habitats.

Seven Springs will bring in large numbers of wintering birds annually, and is a great place to see migrants and wintering birds who's numbers are considered irregular.  Some years, countless American Robins, Western Bluebirds, and Cedar Waxwings may be seen.  Other years, they will be present but in much smaller numbers.  The winter season also brings in good numbers of Red-naped Sapsuckers (be on the look out for any other sapsuckers as the habitat is great), Northern "Red-shafted Flicker, Gray Flycatcher, Hutton's Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, sometimes Golden-crowned Kinglet, sometimes Mountain Bluebird, Townsend's Solitaire, Hermit Thrush, Sage Thrasher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Green-tailed and Spotted Towhees, as well as Chipping, Lincoln's, and White-crowned Sparrows; and Dark-eyed Juncos.  When birding, scan through the heavy flocks of sparrows.  A Golden-crowned Sparrow was found here among some of the rarities that have been found.  Although the Golden-crowned Sparrow was a solitary bird, they can often be found in the middle of big White-crowned Sparrow flocks.  Seven Springs also has great Winter and Pacific Wren habitat, which have been seen here a number of times.  Be sure to listen for their distinctive call notes when birding along the creek, especially near clumps of fallen wood piles.

Breeding birds to look for in season will include Common Black and Zone-tailed Hawks, Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Black and Say's Phoebes, Western Scrub-Jay, Juniper Titmouse, Rock, Canyon, and Bewick's Wrens; Northern Mockingbird, Crissal Thrasher, Phainopepla, Lucy's Warbler, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Canyon and Abert's Towhees, Black-throated and Song Sparrows, Nothern Cardinal, and Scott's Oriole.  This place is also a great spot to search for different migrants.

Birding Tip:  Seven Springs has trails and access that make birding here relaxing and easy.  The birder can easily have a great outing here by walking up and down the roads and picnic areas.  At the area's trail head, which is titled Cave Creek trail head, there are several trails one will have an option of taking.  Perhaps the most recommendable trail to take would be trail # 4, which passes through great habitat.  One will start this trail by going through juniper forest (which continues throughout the hike), and the trail will shortly end up going along a close distance to the creek, which has excellent stands of sycamore, cottonwoods, and willows for a few miles in midst of the juniper filled hills.  It's an amazing hike with beautiful habitat, certainly a lot of potential.  There is also Seven Springs Wash (separate hot spot), which is a rocky hike with some major bushwhacking involved, which has a lot of potential also and is right next door.  This area takes some time to cover thoroughly, a full day's length is recommended.  Camping overnight is a good idea too, to spend a few days here.  There is a fee to camp in the Seven Springs Campground. 

Directions:  From the east side of the loop 101, take the Pima Exit and then Pima Road north for 12 miles until the intersection of Pima and Cave Creek Roads meet.  Then take Cave Creek Road east for four miles until the road turns into Seven Springs Road.  It becomes Seven Springs Road after the turnoff to the Cave Creek Ranger Station, which is where the daily passes may be purchased.  Once it becomes Seven Springs Road, head north for 12 miles (after a short distance it becomes all dirt road) to the Seven Springs Recreation Area.


Seven Springs Recreation Area Map

Seven Springs Recreation Area eBird Data


Scenes and Sights from the Seven Springs Recreation Area:

Winter Months

Summer/Early Fall...



Birdlife of the Seven Springs Recreation Area:

Golden-crowned Sparrow (rarity)

Winter Wren (rarity)

Common Goldeneye (way out of place)

Townsend's Solitaire


Back to Area 11-Cave Creek

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