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Gibson Canyon Trail #308, AZ

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Guide 8 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Safford
3.5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Distance One Way 8.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,380 feet
Elevation Gain 5,943 feet
Accumulated Gain 6,447 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 29.88
Interest Seasonal Waterfall, Seasonal Creek & Peak
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
15  2016-11-29 SkyIslander18
36  2014-04-14
Deadman Peak 7505
15  2011-03-25 SkyIslander18
14  2011-01-02 PrestonSands
1  2010-08-24 PrestonSands
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, May, Sep, Apr
Sun  6:07am - 6:16pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
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Named place Nearby
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Likely In-Season!
This is an abandoned trail starting on Marijilda Creek at the base of Mount Graham, that climbs the Gibson Creek drainage up to Forest Road 507 (closed to public), near 10,370 foot Plain View Peak, just south of Mount Graham itself. The top 0.8 miles of this trail (above 9800 feet) are within the Mount Graham Red Squirrel Refugium, which is closed to all public entry. The Gibson Canyon Trail is likely very difficult to follow, due to extensive damage from the 2004 Gibson Fire (Nuttall Complex), and lack of maintenance. Connects with the Round The Mountain Trail #302 at the 5600 foot level, and the Deadman-Highline Trail #325 at the 10,000 foot level. Starts in mesquite and prickly pear, and ends in (burned) spruce-fir forest, passing a 100 foot seasonal waterfall along the way. Statistics listed include a 1.2 mile hike on Forest Road 57 at the bottom, due to Forest Road 57 being washed out at the Marijilda Creek crossing.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. Arrive fit and prepared or this could get ugly.

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2018-07-14 HAZ_Hikebot
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One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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 Triplog Reviews
Gibson Canyon Trail #308
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Forest Road #57
First trip up FR #57 since the Frye Fire. This eastern side of the mountain was mostly a back burn so I didn't really know what I was going to see. Marijilda crossing was full of sand that I didn't want to chance with the truck so I parked there and hiked up 57 to Gibson.

The Bad - #57 road is not fun driving in on, lots of boulders that kissed my under carriage a couple of times.
Marijilda crossing now has a lot of sand over the bridge from flooding.
The desert hike up to Gibson had minimal burn until the corrals.
From the corrals on there is a lot of mosaic pattern burn up to the Gibson parking.
Gibson trail up was a total hit. After a quarter mile I turned around, it will be a year or two of healing time before I come back out to see this one again.

The Good - Most of the drive in to Marijilda shows little burn.
The 2 CCC structures up the hill shows no damage.
The corrals at Rincon made it through the fire.
Marijilda Creek shows minimal damage, some flooding & burn, but all in all still very beautiful.
The upper mountain under Heliograph Peak & Mt Graham have a lot of autumn yellow showing.
And ..... most of the prehistoric "secrets" are still nicely hidden in the unburned thickets !!!

I'm prepared now for this to be the norm on most of the lower mountain trails ..... Bad, good & a little relief.
Gibson Canyon Trail #308
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Pinalenos received it's first snow fall of winter 2 days before, I wanted to make a snowman and chose Gibson Canyon to get me up in the snow zone. Hiked up Gibson, hung a left onto the Round the Mountain trail and followed it to the Gibson creek crossing making this my turn around destination. I hit 5600 elevation with the snow level still well above this mark and decided to cancel my snowman plans ..... from town the snow level looked much lower than what it was. Instead, I hiked down into the Gibson Canyon gorge for an hour and enjoyed the spectacular series of waterfalls that run down this canyon! The lower grassland section on the way back down was equality as scenic in it's winter colors.
Good hike, trail is in great shape, but forest road 57 in needs some work ..... high clearance only now IMO.

Moderate colors down Gibson & Marijilda canyons.
Gibson Canyon Trail #308
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Temps have finally cooled down enough to start hitting up the lower Pinaleno climbing trails.
The entire mountain range this last month has been gushing water down all it's creeks & drainages like I have never seen before! Lauren & myself decided on the Gibson Canyon trail up to view the impressive waterfalls/tinajas that are found along the Round the Mountain trail section at upper Gibson Creek ..... and they were amazing!!!
Heavy water flow running down the canyon into waterfall after waterfall after waterfall.
The lower grassland trail up is turning now, but still a nice shade of green with great scenic views to be had up to the golden aspen covered hills just below the high peaks.
We ended the out-n-back down to Marijilda Creek to relax a bit by the rushing creek water before heading home.
Very enjoyable day on the east side, I shall return!
Gibson Canyon Trail #308
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
After years of procrastination (and admittedly some fear) I wanted to at least try to climb this peak that I had always looked at in awe during the years I had lived in Safford. Online correspondence with a geocacher had led me to believe that this peak could possibly be climbed without technical rock climbing gear.

I turned off of the Swift Trail and rolled toward Marijilda Creek as midnight approached. The peak of Deadman 7505', illuminated softly by the moonlight, looked ominous. A strong wind blew across the desert foothills of the Pinalenos as I crawled into my sleeping bag in the back of my truck.

I was up at dawn, eating cereal and packing my pack. Soon after I was pushing my way into the grassy foothills from the Gibson Canyon trailhead. I passed two guys on horseback and a few Game and Fish folk who were heading down from the 8000 foot level of rugged Gibson Canyon. These were the last humans I would see.

Two miles in, I left the familiar tread of Gibson Canyon and turned onto the Round The Mountain Trail, where oak woodlands are still trying to recover from the 2004 Gibson Fire. A mile and a half further, just above Round The Mountain Spring, I left the easily followed track of the Round The Mountain Trail to trudge up a spur of massive Deadman Ridge. Atop the spur ridge, Deadman came into full view. Studying it briefly, I had my doubts but continued on.

Following the ridge toward the peak was a relatively easy mix of unstable mountainside traverse and picking my way up through boulders and oak brush. Reaching the western shoulder of the peak, the summit cone came into full view. I was greeted shortly after by the loud buzzing of a black tailed rattlesnake in full strike position a few feet ahead of me. It seemed a fitting greeting from a peak with the name "Deadman" in it.

The fairly easy off trail hiking came to an abrupt end as I approached Deadman's summit cone. I fought, stumbled and slid through rock outcrops and thick vegetation to reach what I believed would be a natural access ramp on the west face of the peak. This ramp was a steep rock slide of somewhat loose boulders, which I carefully made my way up as a hawk screeched at me from above.

The top of the rock slide resulted in a dead end at the base of a cliff. Doubt returned. I backtracked slightly and found a way to access the peak's north ridge, which I began to scramble up. The narrow ridge, with cliffs on either side, dead ended at a notch about 40 vertical feet below the summit. Pausing, I dropped my pack, noted a few available hand and footholds, and pulled myself up a little wall.

I was soon on the gray, rocky summit, amazed that the peak was actually able to be climbed and relieved that all of my effort was not in vain. After numerous photos, videos, shouts and smiles, I added my name to the two others in the summit log, and then placed it inside a larger jar that I had brought. Satisfied, I began my descent.

The descent from the peak went much faster, now that I knew the route, but the vegetation-induced bloodletting continued. I was happy to leave the rock slide behind after a close call with a loose boulder. Two and a half hours later, I was back at the Gibson Canyon trailhead, only slightly worse for the wear with a bruised knee and bleeding shins.

The route that had looked only slightly possible and very sketchy from long distance observations and satellite images had proven to be possible. In climbing this peak, one of my biggest hiking goals had been completed.

In conclusion, for anyone with significant off trail hiking and scrambling experience, this peak should not be a problem. Might be wise to not go alone on this one. I'd say it's not for beginner or inexperienced hikers or those with a fear of heights, though. My climb rating in this triplog is my best guess.
Gibson Canyon Trail #308
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Today's trip turned out much better then yesterday's - I was able to actually make it down the forest road to the trail-head and hike! Parked down beside Marijilda Creek and headed up the Gibson Canyon trail. Made it up to the Round the Mountain T and hung a left taking RTM down to Gibson Creek Canyon to see if I could get down to the waterfalls & tinajas. From the top looking down into the deep canyon, I could see the pools and hear the waterfalls, but just could not find a safe route down to them. Returned back the way I came stopping at "S" canyon which had some running water in it and then ending the day along Marijilda Creek for sunset. A little warm for a January hike along this mostly shadeless trail, but a lot of good views & fun!
Gibson Canyon Trail #308
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Arrived at the TH after one scary Marijilda Creek crossing that I was not sure my little Ford Ranger was going to be able to make! Headed up the mountain on the Gibson Canyon trail for a couple of miles until it met up with the Round The Mountain trail. Hung a left onto RTM and took it down to Marijilda Creek and then back out the way I came. I saw some pretty spectacular waterfalls down in the unnamed canyon before Marijilda Canyon that will have me coming back in the future. Very scenic & fun trip today!
Gibson Canyon Trail #308
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
With the upper Pinaleno's snowed in, I decided to check out the bottom end of the Gibson Canyon Trail. Driving in on FR 57, I reached Marijilda Creek and discovered that the road crossing had been repaired. :y: The crossing is now high clearance instead of freaking nuts, and will likely remain that way until the next flash flood.

I drove all the way in to the "official" trailhead, where there was a sign for the Gibson Canyon Trail. The lower section (2.5 miles) of the Gibson Canyon Trail was easy to follow and well cairned, and climbed steadily through grassland and scattered oaks, following the route of an ancient, eroded road (an old sawmill road?). High snow covered peaks were in constant view. S Canyon contained a few small waterfalls.

I hit solid snow at 5400 feet, reached the Round The Mountain Trail at 5500 feet, then followed it south for a fridgid third of a mile to the signed junction of the upper section of the Gibson Canyon Trail. Saw several trail cameras in trees along the way. I struggled up the snowy slope, trying to follow the upper trail, but had a tough time (which I had always expected I would) due to the fire damage, regrowth, and snow covering. I turned around at sunset after 0.25 miles, and headed back down.

Several years of procrastination due to a belief that this trail was likely vanished ended today, and I got to experience some new territory and a great little hike. If you go, avoid summer on the lower section of this trail, there is no shade.

FYI: The upper end of the Gibson Canyon Trail near High Peak Cienega is totally gone, so the entire section of trail above the Round The Mountain Trail will likely be very challenging.

Permit $$

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

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To hike
From Safford, head south on U.S. highway 191. Turn west onto state highway 366 (Swift Trail). Follow highway 366 for approximately 3.3 miles to milepost 117. Turn right onto Forest Road 57 at milepost 117. Follow Forest Road 57 for about 2.6 miles, to where it effectively ends at a washed out creek crossing (Marijilda Creek). There is room to turn around here, and space for several vehicles. The hike continues north on Forest Road 57, past the washed out creek crossing. Follow Forest Road 57 to its end, where the Gibson Canyon Trail #308 begins.
page created by PrestonSands on Aug 24 2010 11:04 pm
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