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Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon, AZ

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Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
4.3 of 5 by 10
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 13.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,858 feet
Elevation Gain -1,378 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,300 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 30.1
Interest Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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6  2017-09-09 AZBeaver
8  2012-09-30
Santa Catalina Mountains - AZT #11
7  2012-02-13 nicolelee
20  2011-09-24
Santa Catalina Mountains - AZT #11
12  2011-09-24
Santa Catalina Mountains - AZT #11
10  2011-09-24
Santa Catalina Mountains - AZT #11
25  2011-09-24
Santa Catalina Mountains - AZT #11
24  2010-10-23 mromero
Page 1,  2
Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,742 map ( 18,136 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
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Preferred   Oct, May, Apr, Sep
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:06am - 6:30pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
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Culture Nearby
East Fork, West Fork, which is the Best Fork?
by fricknaley

Likely In-Season!
AKA: The Hard Way

I've been wanting to go out to Hutch's Pool again for years, and lately I have realized that a prolonged trip out of the Hirabiyashi Campground via the Sycamore Reservoir, East Fork and West Fork Trails just might be a sweet way to go. I was wrong, it is THE way to go! This route has it all: water, falls, saddles, canyons and some of the most outstanding views I have laid eyes on in the Catalinas, or anywhere in southern Arizona for that matter. This is a long, rather grueling hike with multiple ups and downs.

From the pullout at the end of the Hirabiyashi Campground take off on the Sycamore Reservoir Trail #39. I have described this trail as it's own separate hike so you can check that out if you like. This trail takes off and passes through the old Prison Camp site, with the foundations the only visible remnants of the old structures. It follows an old, wide 4x4 road that will flow with water if there has been recent rain. It goes level then climbs briskly after a total of 0.8 miles to the magnificent Shreve Saddle and the official trailhead of the Arizona Trail segment of the Sycamore Reservoir Trail. There are enormous views out over Sabino Basin from here.

The trail takes off down the left/south side of the canyon leading down to Sycamore Reservoir. The trail descends smoothly and passes through some old burned areas from the fires. There are nice views to the right up towards the Catalina Highway as it passes near Seven Cataracts. As you get near a mile from the saddle, the trail crosses over the canyon and drops you on the floor of Bear Canyon from the right. There is an old, rusty sign telling you where you came from. If you go left at this intersection you can follow a use path out to the falls at the Sycamore Reservoir dam. This is worth a look, the falls are probably a good 20-25 feet. Bear Canyon narrows down here too.

Go back to the sign and go right, a couple of large cairns point the way to where the trail actually deposits you, and crosses the wide sandy floor of Bear Canyon. Cairns also mark where it climbs out the other side. Be careful if there is water running here, which there often is. Today there was a lot. As you climb out the other side and continue along, the trail parallels the creek flowing down from Sycamore Canyon, which is roaring at times. There are intermittent areas of burn again, with bright green regrowth too. Within about 0.25 miles of the crossing a cairned route breaks off to the right. This just leads to some unmarked campsites, so stay straight. About 0.5 miles from the crossing a cairned trail breaks off to the left, this leads to the Bear Canyon trail, again stay straight. You will make another creek crossing, which can be tricky if there is big water running, then come to a signed intersection. This is the junction of Bear Canyon Trail to the left, and East Fork Trail 24A straight ahead. Sycamore Reservoir trail ends here. This intersection is about 1 mile from the Bear Canyon creek crossing, 0.5 miles from the cairned shortcut to Bear Canyon Trail, and roughly 3.25 miles from your car.

Take to East Fork Trail down the saddle and strap your jaw on as thunderous views of Sabino Canyon and Basin explode out and down from where you stand. Far below and to the right the East Fork Creek roars along it's green-tree lined way, fed by Palisade and Box Camp Canyons. The trail soon descends/switchbacks sharply down to the floor losing several hundreds of feet (which will be climbed on the way out). There are short sectors of significant exposure here so watch your footing. This is among the best scenery I've seen here. After nearly 0.75 miles from the intersection you are on the southern floor of the East Fork trail and running along the creek. A sign for Palisade trail is noted, follow the East Fork trail. There are more water falls than you could count here. Follow the East fork trail for about another mile to the the next signed intersection with the Box Camp Trail. Stay along the East Fork 24A until a signed intersection dead ends you at the creek. The sign is on the ground right beneath a large tree branch. To your left is Sabino Canyon 23 which leads to the paved tram line road in 2.6 miles. The West Fork Trail #24 is your destination.

Immediately the West Fork makes a creek crossing, which is marked by cairns. Today the creek was flowing strongly and there are multiple cascades and small falls here making this the highlite of the hike. Just stunning. Anyway, carefully cross the creek then climb up a little to skirt along the north bank of West Fork Creek. As you swing around on this trail there are occasional huge saguaros and intermittent views down Sabino Canyon that provide the most outstanding views of Sabino Canyon that I have ever seen. I kept stopping to say "Wow" to myself. After about 1.5 miles on this sweet trail the path crosses over the creek. This is the toughest crossing if there is water going. Shortly thereafter you reach the turn off for Hutch's Pool. There is no sign here, but there are numerous side trails heading off to the right that will take you to the pool. Hutch's Pool is a long and narrow permanent pool in a sheer rock gorge and a well known local landmark.

Return the way you came and prepare for the bulk of the climbing is on the way back. As a note, pay attention after crossing the creek to the junction with Sabino Canyon trail and East Fork the small sign is easy to miss and you can end up on the Sabino Canyon trail going the wrong way. I met someone out there who had done just this and was scrambling to make up time.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2008-02-04 fricknaley
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent of 11 deeper Triplog Reviews
Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon
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This was a short gear test trip since my friends and I hadn't been backpacking since November. We wanted to hike the Superstitions but the unreliable water out there after such a long time without rain led us to this awesome backpacking trip. I was nursing a recently sprained ankle :--: so I was happy to keep it short and sweet. We paid and parked in the Sabino Canyon visitor's center lot then took the tram to the end to start out hike. We hiked up Sabino Canyon Trail #23 up then hooked onto the East Fork Trail towards Hutch's Pool. We ended up finding a great creekside campground enroute and set up camp. The icy creek was perfect for aching feet and chilling beers. After getting settled, and realizing how cold it felt sitting in the shade of the canyon, we grabbed our daypacks and continued on to Hutch's Pool. There were a few interesting campsites along the way but ours seemed the best. Lots of water in the creek from the visitor's center, all along our trail and tons at the pool. :y: The night got really cold — we woke up to frost on our tents and chunks of ice in our nalgenes, and a strong determination to gear up before our next cold weather trip. The hike out was perfect weatherwise. We enjoyed the short hike and tram ride back to the car. We stopped at Tanias33 in Tucson for (vegan!) burritos and then headed back home. Great trip.

Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon
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I finally got back into backpacking after taking a long summer/monsoon break. I joined 10 members of the Arizona Backpackers Club on a hike to Hutch’s Pool in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson. This was a nearly 16-mile round trip through a lot of vegetation and a lot of ups and downs. We parked our cars at the Gordon Hirabiyashi Campground and set out for a great day. For a good description of the hike, read Fricknaley’s Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon, AZ description. I thought going downhill for most of the day to the pool would be easy. Not so. It took us 5 hours with lots of breaks to reach our destination for the night. It was hot which made this trek more difficult. Once reaching the pool, many of us just took our packs off and waded right in. The water felt great as it cooled us down from all our exertion. We set up our tents on the beach and along the creek area settling in for a relaxing evening.
Another group of young people hiked through our camp disappointed that we got there before they did, so they camped further down the creek at the end of the pool where the waterfall was. They jumped from edge of the waterfall into the pool all evening long and gathered firewood for the evening although it was a warm night. It was obvious they were in for a party.
I went to bed around 8:30 as I was one tired puppy. It was a warm night and I knew I wasn’t going to sleep too well. When I finally got into a deep REM sleep, I heard what I thought was gun fire. Bang….Bang. I woke up and thought I was dreaming. I looked at my watch and it was 11:30 p.m. Then another …Bang…..Bang. The intoxicated party up the creek shot off a gun of some kind. It made me so upset. Those bullets could have ricocheted off the canyon walls and hit one of us; or worst, they could be walking through the camp shooting at each tent. (I watch too many crazy TV shows, I guess.) You never know what is going on in the minds of drugged out people. It ruined my night. I’ll take the presence of bears any day from the presence of idiot humans!
The next morning, we all got up early to get ahead of the heat as we knew it was going to be a long climb back to the GH trailhead. We were all thankful we survived the gunfire from the night before.
One of our hikers decided he could not make it back up the mountain and decided to take an easier way out by going a shorter trail to Sabino Canyon and taking the Tram. A couple of the Tucson gals took his car keys and drive his car from the GH parking lot and dropped off his car at the Sabino Canyon parking lot. All worked out for him.
I decided to suck it up and go the long way up with the help of the “the sweep” encouraging me all the way. As long as I took a lot of breaks, I was going to make it. Again the trail was a bit overgrown making using your hiking sticks nearly impossible. There were these certain kind of evil weeds that were stronger than Velcro wrapping around your pant legs and socks. They turn to mush if you tried to pull them off. I looked like the “Swamp Lady” covered with sticky weeds when I was done.
This trip just proved to me that you cannot take the summer off from hiking and backpacking. Just because it’s hot, you got to keep your body moving and keep it strong!
Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon
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Headed up to Tucson this weekend for some outdoor fun and the gem show. After doing some research via HikeAZ I found this trail description which sounded amazing. We gave it a whirl and it didn't disappoint! Some great views (aided by some good hiking weather) made it a real fun trip. It's been a while since I've been in this area so it was fun figuring out what the various canyons were. In fact, it was hard for me not to start planning my next excursion in the Catalina's while I was out on this one. A wide varitety of butterflies and birds added to the enjoyment of the trail as well.
Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon
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awesome climb up from prison camp. i've been on all these trails numerous times but not officially as the AZT so here it is..

beautiful day, though a bit warm. the east fork and west form remain among my favorite local trails though right now they are literally pure torture from all the grass and fox glove.

as always the climb up mt. lemmon trail from romero pass in the hot sun is a total killer. the wilderness of rocks remains a show stopping rock star trail. saw a western diamondback and a black tailed rattler

thanks for the help getting this one done, john. :y:

this caps off 30 days in a row for me and also gives me a new personal record for mileage recorded in one month :zzz:

697.98 miles and 38 segments done. 5 to go
Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon
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Very nice hike. Was surprising to start the segment heading up the Catalinas to discover we actually had to head down in elevation 1000 ft. The climbing after that was a bit challenging, but doable. The fact that I took the Cathedral Rock trail by mistake and climbed a few hundred feet of switchbacks before recognizing the mistake didn't help things much. Fortunately I was ahead of the pack, so not everyone went quite as far as I did.

Hutch's Pool was the highlight of this segment, followed by incredible views from Romero Pass to the top. The climb up to and just beyond Romero Pass in the heat without a stop for lunch until 1:30pm almost did all of us in but Joe, who just seems to be an elevation machine (I guess all those trips up and down Piestewa Peak are paying off!).

The three wild turkeys on the trip were a surprise, as well as the large number of trees struck by lightning up there above 7,000 feet.

After lunch I followed Denny while Joe stuck with Bruce. We made it up top a bit earlier than the rest but certainly didn't mind the wait up top!

Thanks guys for the great company, and another great trip on the AZT. Only 10 segments to go!

Note: 1 hr 50 minutes break total, but I needed 50 minutes of it to recoup at lunch so I'm only counting an hour.
Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon
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I love all the big Catalina hikes. While I've done all these trails I was excited to get back for the AZT!

We took a wrong turn onto the Cathedral Trail and ascended 315 feet. Denny mentioned something at the junction. Dave and I ignored him and kept on Luckily Dave noticed the error quickly and we didn't lose to much energy.

The highest temp Bruce noticed for the day was 80 degrees. With lack of shade 80 is pretty toasty at times. Exposure and grade were not to Dave or Bruce's liking from the Cathedral junction to Wilderness of Rocks. Hopefully they get to experience the phenomenal spring snow melt in the lower half some year!

The foxtails were pretty annoying. Foxtails are bad when your socks look like fur. It's really bad when they penetrate the shoe. When I got home I witnessed a new level... embedded in the skin. Perhaps someday I will remember to prepare for all aspects... unlikely. Today I brought 5 quarts of water which was not nearly enough. I started rationing before the big climb. Otherwise this was another great hike. We got some nice distant views from the top. Denny is starting to tell mean jokes that are funny, he must be getting that from Bruce. "if you don't like your burger then I'm sorry we didn't stop at one of the other 104 restaurants you had us pass up" :sl:

We only have 10 segments left to finish the Arizona Trail. 5 between the Kelvin Bridge and the Rincons with the remaining 5 north of the Grand Canyon. We should be able to knock out the lower 5 before summer 2012 easily.

Large swaths in areas yet not super photogenic as they are tiny. Most of the interesting varieties are along #39

I added up all the ascents and came up with 6,500 ft. I threw in 200 for tiny uncalculated blips. Recorded, TOPO! and DEM SYNC figures seem too high.

Personal Stats
September appears to be shaping up to be my third largest mileage month, currently at 183mi
AEG currently at 64k is a far cry from my best at 92k last Dec
Temps seem to be warmer than normal yet still a huge relief from the hottest August ever last month

Video short
Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon
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Left the House at 3am, picked up the Phoenix portion of the AZT Team, and met Dave on the top of Mt Lemmon at about 6:45. We dropped off a car up top and drove the beginning of our journey today at the old Prison Camp / Prisoner of war camp, the Gordon Hirabayashi (aka hibachi) Trailhead.

The temps at out 7:30 start were perfect. Blue skys, rolling hills, gentle breezes, and a dew still on the grasses. The first six miles of this passage of the AZ Trail takes you past the Riparian area by Sycamore Reservoir, down the East Fork of Sabino Canyon and to the lowest elevation you will be at for the day.

At the 7 mile mark, after loosing 1000' in elevation, was the first highlight for the day, Hutch's Pool. We spent a good amount of time cooling off in the water. Denny did a Cannonball and Joe did a Chair, off the ledge into the water.

Back on trail, A couple miles up, was the second highlight. 3 Turkeys..what the heck are Wild Turkeys doing up here. Hopefully somebody in the group got some decent shots, because none of mine turned out. All three of the birds had yellow or orange tags an inch of so wide by 18 inches long on them. So more than likely some sort of reintroduction program... or maybe they've been tagged for Thanksgiving :D .

The rest of this trip was a brutal climb for me. By the time I got to Romero pass I was sucking wind big time. Luckily there was only 6 miles and 3000' in elevation to go. Lack of sleep over the week took it's toll. Denny and Dave pushed forward, while Joe stayed back with me. He must be getting old, he did it last week w/ Denny on the North Rim, and this week with me. I may have to re think my opinion of him. Thanks Joe!

Temps to start the day - low 60's,
Lunch just up from Romero Pass - 80
End of day on top of Mt Lemon - 60

10 passages and under 200 miles to go!

Thanks guys for another memorable trip :y:
Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon
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Hirabayashi to Catalina State Park
Made my second Catalina traverse of the winter with joe and bob. started off freezing and ended the day sweaty and hot. along the way there were many dry and two wet and COLD crossings of bear creek, box canyon, the west fork and romero. too many waterfalls to count and several feet of snow...or a couple of inches (though you'd guess several feet after hearing joe screaming in his tevas..).

joe was convinced the whole way that we'd never make it. :D
Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon
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Hirabayashi to Catalina State Park
Game Plan Hirabayashi - Sycamore Reservoir - East Fork - West Fork - Hutch's Pool - Romero Pass - Catalina State Park

6:34am Nick's Confidence 5% chance(documented on video below) we'd make it due to reported chest high creek crossing

7:28am Sycamore Crossing Two respectable men yelping(documented in video) crossing 18 inch deep creek

Knowing we'd be crossing countless creeks I wore Teva's with Seal Skinz. The reviews from REI are about 10% absolutely love 'em and 90% call them useless. Starting in the upper 30 degree temps walking through a 1/4mi very shallow creek and followed by full submersion at a swift creek crossing I was very impressed. I think people that buy these are expecting to go swimming in them and stay dry. If you go above the sock line but jump right back out, I had good results. Later on through 2-3 foot deep and much longer submersion in wide creeks I found they leak in from the top. Almost wished I bought a size smaller, perhaps better results?

Yet I was still impressed as my feet were still very warm. I should have dried off but foolishly went another 5 or so miles until tending. Later on I developed some rather painful 3 inch blister pads on each foot.

Back to the hike... All the creek crossings turned out to be within reason. While I thought they weren't that cold, Nick and Bob felt they were painfully cold. The crossing of Box Canyon Creek, which I call the subway since all the creeks collect in the area, was flowing hearty. Nick and Bob found an easy dry jump across. I beelined it straight through the creek.

At the crossing before Hutch's Pool I beelined it right across too. This was the crossing Nick heard was chest level days prior. I met three runners at the crossing. One crossed half way with me while talking with me. He said this crossing was no big deal but there was much worse ahead. I asked him to please not tell my friends :D

I think that man heard the same report Nick heard without seeing it for himself as all the other crossing heading up got much easier. Nick took us for a quick look at Hutch's Pool then on to what he called a "5 minute hike" up to the Cathedral junction. What a stud, that five minute section kicked my butt. Reminded me of Kurt's "it's a half mile more" in the Grand Canyon last year... ugh, 2 miles later...

Up to Romero Pass aside from all the reports there was barely any snow. Nick figured about 5 feet judging by views from his house, luckily it had melted! It looked like a twenty foot swath then home free. So I decided to forge through with bare feet in sandals. That twenty feet turned into the most tortured half mile of my life without a doubt. About an hour later when the feelings were restored to my lower limbs I noticed my feet were in terrible pain. The extended push in wet socks earlier turned into huge elephant sized blisters on my feet. I almost wanted to go jump back in the snow to numb them up again.

Romero was kickin' throughout with one extraordinary waterfall among countless cascades that appeared more on the scale of dam releases than what you'd expect near Tucson. Hiking above Montrose the wildflowers were looking pretty sweet. Large patches of Mexican Gold Poppies dominated over Blue Dicks. There were several occurrences of Desert Anemone throughout Romero Canyon too. My "Moderate" wildflower observation is for the stretch above Montrose. It was isolated otherwise.

Great day, glad it's over too :D
Hutch's Pool via East Fork Sabino Canyon
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I'd been itchin' to do this since Nick posted it a couple weeks ago. Left home about 5:30am and arrived at Gordon Hirabiyashi at 8am. At which point I realized I didn't have my hiking pants nor a pair of socks. So I layered up three shirts to make up for wearing shorts in thirty degree weather. Having nearly froze last week at Romero I opted to bring my Five-Ten canyoneering boots for the water crossings. Bright yellow boots, shorts and a balaclava... I was head turner indeed. I gave it a try but turned around at a half mile and headed back for my tevas.

One mile down and started over. Lingering storm clouds made for a nice morning drifting through the peaks. Just over a mile in you come to a saddle (Shreve Saddle) that was apparently the trailhead long long ago. The views are nice. The mountains look like... mountains. Tall, steep, numerous, sweet. Couldn't help but think about never ending ups/downs in store. Heading down to Sycamore Reservoir you're trekking through scorched terrain. I passed a family that camped for the night and moved on through the creek. This is a pretty cool area that resembles portions of Big Bear in California. My interest started kicking in.

The creek turns into what only Mt Lemmon can produce, white granite? boulders with dark yellow running water. At this point I'm getting pretty excited about the hike. Then I took a wrong turn which took me to the Bear Canyon? junction. It all turned out okay. Minus a couple hundred feet elevation and a tad more mileage you skirt a cliff with views worthy of the effort.

Now on the next saddle I got a peek of the Sabino labyrinth ahead. First thought was wow, followed by a quick ugh that sucker goes down! It's big lazy switchbacks down to the oasis. Most of which is sound. The sound of waves crashing on the beach. Actually it's just a creek in the East Fork of Sabino Canyon. At the bottom the trek over to Sabino is brushy. The creek was rippin' through more white boulders. There's one really nice waterfall cascade and several other smaller ones. The foliage is packed tight. It's cool passing shade trees with saguaros in sight.

The switch from East to West was beyond words with the snow melt. The creek was turned on to Alaska flow. It's the same deep yellow water only volumes more and the boulders just get bigger too.

So I headed up to Hutch's pool. This canyon was stunning too with pristine saguaros and wicked steep cliffs in view. I came to a creek crossing that looked more like a swim than anything. At this point I was a half hour past my turn around time as I had taken a zillion photo stops. Since I didn't have a clue how much further it was and I seriously doubted any pool could match the Alaskan waves I'd already witnessed I turned around.

The climb I feared most out of Sabino East was actually pleasant. The ascent back up to Shreve is a little more of a huffer.

Wow, what a hike!!! This is hands down my favorite Tucson hike now.

Permit $$
Visit this link for full details.

There are four specific day use areas that require a Coronado Recreational Pass or a National Pass/America the Beautiful Pass.
1) Sabino Canyon - located on the Santa Catalina Ranger District (520)749-8700
2) Madera Canyon - located on the Nogales Ranger District (520)281-2296
3) Cave Creek - located on the Douglas Ranger District (520)364-3468
4) Mt. Lemmon at 11 day use sites.

Catalina State Park $6 per day. Sabino Canyon Tram is $10 extra.

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Gordon Hirabiyashi Trailhead
From Tucson take the Catalina Highway up into the mountains. Right around milepost 8 is the signed lefthand turn off for the Gordon Hirabiyashi Campground. Take a left here and drive through the campsites to the end of a smooth gravel road. There is a small roundabout with multiple parking spots for dayhikers.
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