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Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Coconino National Forest
Stage 1 Fire Restrictions Aug 14th to TBD
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 marvelous. 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 very steep access to reach the water. We marked our entrance on the north side of the creek with cairns. As we arrived at this point around 5 pm and darkness was already beginning to envelop 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 several 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 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 cold, 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 frigid, 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 unique feature. I have to admit that the cold swim made the falls a bit disappointing, 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 hazardous, and I had to take a relatively 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 challenging 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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