Hike From Hell
Overview: FR-172B, Coffee Flat Trail #108, Red Tanks Trail #107, Hoolie Bacon Trail #111, JF #106
Hike: The trailhead picks up near a private ranch only a small distance from the fenced off drop area. Pass through the gate and follow the fence line which will gradually give way to the trail. Coffee Flat Trail slowly descends about 1000 feet over the next four miles. This portion of the hike is very enjoyable and the miles pass quickly. In early March there was plenty of water in the creek along the way.
After the four mile descent, Red Tanks Trail picks up heading north. This trail is a hard scramble up a bolder choked canyon for the first couple miles, where all 1000 feet of elevation lost on Coffee Flat is gained back plus another 200 feet in only 2.5 miles. The next mile is a 500 foot descent to where Hoolie Bacon Trail and Red Tanks Trail meet. The Upper La Barge Box is to the west of this juncture continuing along Red Tanks, however we continued north on Hoolie Bacon.
Hoolie Bacon ascends another 600 feet in 2 miles, essentially coming over the top of one of the larger hills in the route north. Then after one more descent/ascent that was slightly easier, the trail descends for 3 miles with small ups and downs back to 3300 feet. The final few miles were very easy in comparison to Red Tanks Trail.
Coffee Flat and Hoolie Bacon are very enjoyable trails (Hoolie Bacon does have one section of excruciating up hill hiking that was really difficult with a 35 pound pack) However, Red Tanks is a real challenge all the way to the Box. (In the Box as well is also challenging from what I heard from other hikers) If you are in it for the views and not the challenge, avoid Red Tanks because it's more struggle and less scenery.
I never made it into the Box after hiking Red Tanks which is kind of like going to Disney Land and not riding any of the rides, because from what I'm told the scenery in the Box is well worth the effort. I found what looks like an easier route into the Box from the west side following The Dutchman Trail instead. We'll see how that turns out.
Water was flowing fairly well from several sources in March when I went. However it only runs after recent rainfall.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
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.