Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Wear good boots with ankle support
Following some sound advice from fellow hikers, a friend and I decided to head to Maiden Falls via West Clear Creek #17. The trip was absolutely amazing. This hike takes you through some amazing red rock canyons in the heart of West Clear. Using Trail #17 to enter the canyon, we hiked approximately 2.3 miles to reach the creek, using a very steep access to actually reach the water. We marked our entrance on the north side of the creek with cairns. As we arrived at this point around 5pm, and darkness was already beginning to envelope the canyon, we only hiked another half mile or so up the creek and decided to break camp at a small waterfall on the south side of the canyon. There is no marked trail heading upstream, although there is noticeable wear in many places. This hike required that you cross at a number of points, and there are many places on the creek where you can boulder hop across-- but eventually, you will have to swim to reach the falls.
In the morning we made breakfast and headed out in search of the falls. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the canyon I have seen, and I've spent a good deal of time over the past few months exploring it. You have to use your own judgment in when to cross the creek, and where. At some points vegetation on one side may be thicker than the other and it is wise to cross... I lost count very quickly. After approximately three or so miles of bushwhacking we arrived at a box canyon. The water was deep and cool, and as my dry bag I had fixed to my hip via carabiner had a small hole due to mesquite, I had to swim to the falls with one hand. The water was extremely cold, and if I had planned a bit better, I would have brought my mattress to float our cameras and other valuables across. Maiden falls is just beyond this canyon, and is a very unique feature. I have to admit that the cold swim made the falls a bit dissapointing, but they are fantastic nonetheless. On the hike back I decided to scout out a wash and see if there was a way around the swim. Though steep, there are washes and connecting goat paths you can use to avoid it, but it is very risky, and I had to take a rather fast 250 foot vertical slide down a dusty wash that would make Bear Grylls very proud. At least my Dog thought it was fun.
After a few hours of fishing for dinner we made it back to camp with a plentiful haul and good photos of the falls. The hike out is difficult with a weighted pack, and as my buddy had realized he had lost his gun at some point the day before, we hiked out later than expected and caught the mid-morning heat of early September. We hiked downstream, found our cairn, and ascended back to the west clear creek trail #17 trailhead in approximately 2.5 hours. Overall it was a great hike, and an opportunity to experience some of the most beautiful and remote areas west clear has to offer. You can choose to hike out by taking trail #17 to the bullpen if you want to park another vehicle there... it would eliminate hiking out via the steep and slippery canyon route you came down.
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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.
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