So I've been joking around about wanting to find a hot springs technical canyon and I may have just found the next best thing!
The price of admission is kinna high, but it's definitely worth all the effort... This is a warm spring technical canyon thru the redwall limestone layer of the rugged & remote lower Big Canyon of Little Colorado River with travertine falls and amazingly beautiful warm pools.
We drove up the afternoon before with just enough daylight to navigate out way to the TH for Salt Trail Canyon and got ready for a chilly night of camping. We woke up at first light to a chilly 33*, broke down camp, geared up, and cross country out way to the upper fork of Dry Wash at GPS 36.186 -111.651. We reached the head of that that canyon in about an hour, which is rather steep & loose so we carefully made out way down to the rocky canyon floor. We quickly made our way to the middle section of Big Canyon and again trudge downstream thru sand, rock, and boulders to eventually start making our way thru the redwall limestone layer. At first it was just slickrock with some clean pools, then the pools got dirtier & tougher to bypass, and then we reached one that was a scuzzy chest high wader so we put our wetsuits on beforehand.
We reached the beginning of the technical section after about 4 hour of brisk hiking from the TH which put us in a good position to make it out before dark.
Geared up and made our way down the first tricky 60ft rappel along the side of a huge chockstone in an amazing grotto below. In the beta, I was told that it was fed by a warm spring but it didn't fully sink until we took a dip in that first pool and it was a refreshingly warm 65-70?. Is this still Arizona or did we just warp to a tropical island?!?
Once out of the pool, we could see another two mini falls popping out of the side of the canyon wall. You cross a warm pool and from a chockstone we setup rappel #2, a sloping 90ft chute flowing with bubbling water into a narrow hallway. From here, we were looking down a travertine falls with a 40ft drop on the left side and a straight view to the LCR not too far ahead. Once at the bottom, we got some more amazing photos of that falls & pools and made our way past another falls before reaching rappel #4. This drop was another 50ft past yet another sweet travertine falls followed by the final 40ft sloping rappel #5 down to the amazingly sweet Emerald Pool. Grabbed some photos of this beautiful gem before boulder hopping & scrambling our way down to the equally amazing LCR which thankfully was still flowing the unreal turquoise blue.
Dunked in the blue waters, dropped all the gear, and while snapping loads of photos we slowly made our way downstream along the muddy & bushy bank. Neither of us had done the Salt Trail Canyon before, so It took us 15-20 minutes of wandering around, wading thru a swamp, and some serious bushwhacking but we eventually found the cairns indicating the beginning of the route, oops I mean trail.
We left the river around 2pm after being slowed down by much playing & soaking in all the amazing scenery, but now we'd have to power out of the canyon to bet the sun. That route out is steep, exposed, rugged, and kinna tricky to follow in sections but we topped out in about 2.5 hours of steady hiking. That tower near the top was pretty cool especially with it glowing from the setting sun. And thankfully we still had enough daylight to drive those tricky & rough dirt roads back out to the highway.
What better way to hit 1000 miles for the year than thru one of the best techical canyons in the state!!!