There are two ways to reach your destination. If you don't have access to a boat, read the hike description for "Hells Hip Pocket " and once you get to the ridge refer to this desciption and GPS waypoints. If you do have a boat, your adventure starts at the Canyon Lake boat launching area. They have changed the fee structure at Canyon Lake - they have removed the pay stations, but a fee and displayable permit is required. They sell the permits at several locations in the valley, on your way to the lake, last opportunity is the Dash In service station at Rt 88 and Brown Road prior to the Ghost Town of Goldfield. Contact the Tonto National Forest for further fee structure 480-610-3300, or 602-225-5200, or web site: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto
. They are enforcing these regulations. In preparation for your journey it would also be wise to read a little of the history of this incident. Details at http://www.geocities.com/~zybt/boy.htm
. This will make the whole experience more meaningful. My journey began as Phil, Jodi and I put the boat into the water. Being the first boat outting of the season, the boat, which is very cold blooded to begin with was particularly hard to start, and eventually just as it started to fire, the battery failed. I had my lucky horseshoe with me and although there was virtually no one else out there, another boater arrived at the launch. I approached him and asked for a jump start. He willingly agreed and the boat started right up. I was busy keeping the boat running while my partners had some conversation with the good samaritan. Off we went. After a short distance my partners told me that the good samaritan and his three friends were also headed to skull cave. Wow, some coincidence. A GPS and Topo maps will also assist with this hike. Travel the Salt River about 5 miles to the northeast to Blue Tank Canyon GPS N33 34.870 W111 23. 108. From this spot you can clearly see the Skull Cave high on the mountain side to you north. Find a suitable place to tie up the boat, probably off shore as it is rocky and you can wade into shore. This can be done as a loop or up and back the same route. I saw no cairns and no obvious trail in the area. Look over the area and decide on your plan. As you look to the right of the cave and below it you will see a ledge that continues to the right for quite a distance. I f you approach from that direction, as i did, you will want to head east along the shoreline for about a quarter of a mile then start heading up to the northeast bearing for that ledge. Pick and choose your routes and its easier than you think to make it up to that ledge. Once on the ledge you will find its flat and level like a road. Now proceed towards the cave westbound on the ledge. You can also observe new possible routes from your birdseye vantage point . As you walk the ledge around to the northwest the cave comes into view above you to the northeast. At a comfortable stage start your ascent GPS N33 34.996 W 111 22.636. At this point in the trip, i met the good samaritan and his friend Bill (the guys that helped me start the boat), we got into some conversation and i asked him if he belonged to HAZ. Is it any surprise, he certainly is. Harry, a noted HAZ contributor from Tempe. Special thanks to Harry for saving my adventure on that day. Harry and I have reservations about this being the actual Skull Cave as the storys don't seem to fit the description of the cave. Later I tried to confirm the information and all signs point to the fact that this indeed is Skull Cave. Local Topo maps and the National Geographic Topos list this site by GPS waypoints as the location of Skull Cave. After parting ways I continued up to the cave for a snack. The views are incredible. The cave has its own ecosystem of plants and flowers. I have been in many caves and mines in the Supes and find this one unusually free of stones, rocks, etc. Could that be because of the archeological recovery of artifacts documented ? A continued journey up to the ridgline would bring you up to the "Hells Hip Pocket Hike" described on HAZ. So with out a boat, the cave could be accessed. Cave GPS N33 35.117 W 111 22.655.
As you depart the cave you can take a variety of routes down, either returning the way you came up or proceeding to the inviting Blue Tank Canyon to the west and picking a route down to the water.
A short but exhilarating hike.
We spent the rest of the day on the lake exploring along the shoreline, sighting several Big Horn Sheep and many more intriguing caves for future adventures