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Crucifix Canyon, AZ

no permit
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Guide 10 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions NW
4.2 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Shuttle 5.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,610 feet
Elevation Gain 540 feet
Avg Time Hiking 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 7.3
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
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15  2019-02-10 jamminaz
10  2019-01-19 te_wa
9  2019-01-19
Salt River Canyon View from Peak 3042
9  2019-01-19 Pickles
8  2018-12-31 adilling
6  2018-07-28 te_wa
29  2017-12-16
Black Cross Butte 3351
9  2012-01-29 AZLOT69
Page 1,  2
Author Hardboater
author avatar Guides 1
Routes 1
Photos 10
Trips 1 map ( 5 miles )
Age 75 Male Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Jan, Dec, Nov → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:22pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Stark remote craggy and challenging
by Hardboater

Route with waypoints

This is a route in the traditionally Grand Canyon sense although perhaps not as strenuous. The 5.5 mile route starts at the head of the canyon from FS 80 with a scant footpath dropping into the canyon. Once into it there are craggy rocks and steep cliffs all along the beautiful remote canyon. It gets deeper as the route approaches Canyon Lake. There is a guano cave above the canyon floor to the north at 33 33.67N 111 23.69W. A bit further west is a choke rock requiring technical climbing down and more importantly up! So access to Canyon Lake is problematic, ie without technical gear ascending the choked section back up and out does not appear possible to this non-climber author. Back track to 33 33.602 N, 111 23.565 W for the exit to the south which is a scramble up a 560 ft elevation gain. Pick up an old ridgeline road going south that gentle descends. Once a perennial stream and water impoundment is located, ford across above the water impoundment structure. Your shoe tops won't get wet fording this creek. Pick up another old road once across heading generally southeast. To get to the cars, ford Mesquite Creek where your shoe tops might get wet.

The stark and remote beauty of this canyon makes it a worthwhile hike. Bush whacking and boulder hopping are necessary to both avoid causal water and circumnavigate boulder piles. The climb out is a bit arduous so it's not for the casual hiker. GPS, long pants, sturdy boots and gloves are recommended. Anyone injured will have a difficult time getting out or summoning help as there is limit satellite accessibility and certainly a helicopter rescue is not possible in the canyon itself.

Two cautionary notes 1) Investigating the guano caves means getting it on your shoes, ankles and higher up one body. Perspiration makes the guano stick and stink! It is an unpleasant odor to both yourself and your hiking companions. Stripping and bathing in Mesquite Creek might be mandated by your hiking companions especially the owners of the shuttle cars. 2) The choke rock is a significant vertical drop and a non-technical climber might not be able to retrace their route out. Consider this obstacle carefully before descending this rock.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2010-11-13 Hardboater
    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
    Crucifix Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Big Plans that Changed... But it still ended up being a Big Hike albeit not Intentional... :sweat: The Original Plan was to hit BCB and then Salt River Canyon View from Peak 3042... BCB was pretty Sweet, first Time Up that one, although it's been on my List for Years.... A triple of Interesting Scrambles, two or which made me Pause for a minute or two, but with that Sticky Rock and Good Soles, I built Confidence...

    After a pretty Delightful Use Trail petered out on the way to 3042, we kept thinking we were Off-Route. At one Point though, the Geology became an Overwhelming Distraction as we started running into Geodes and some Amazing Quartz in one Area.... When we finally got to above the Final Wash Crossing, before ascending 3042, we looked at our Watches and decided on Nope! Not Today.... :sweat: It was almost 11:30 by then and we just didn't think we could swing it in a reasonable amount of Time... It was a very Good Decision especially since we were thinking on making this a Loop... :lol:

    I had suggested we make the Loop of this Hike. as the Description subtly suggested, and take the Wash down and back to the Vehicles. We decided to follow thru with that, but after looking at the Topo, we believed that the Wash we were looking at between us and Peak 3042 would Cliff Out. We were Correct. (We Verified that from the Bottom... :sweat: ) So we found a "Cut" in the Cliff Band on the Topo that looked "Doable" and went for it... We came very very close to Cliffing out on that one about halfway down after trying a couple of other Routes along that Section first. In fact, if I had been Solo, I would not have tried that Downclimb at all and as it was, I took my Pack off and lowered it first. But Andy did it, so I wasn't going to be the Reason we went all the way back up that Cut, and it looked to be more "Doable" the Rest of the way down after some more Route Finding.... It wasn't as bad as it looked, especially with no Pack and Camera Bag to deal with.... I just had to make sure not to kill Andy with Rockfall from above... :sweat: And the Bonus to that particular Route was the Guano Cave... I barely went in, took a couple of Photos and got out... Didn't see any Bats, they are probably gone for the Season, but there's a Part of that Cave, Up High, that goes back into utter Blackness. Hard to know, unless you sat there until Sunset....

    We finally got down to the Bottom of Crucifix and took a well Deserved Break. We headed down Crucifix for just a bit to see if we were correct on the Topo Reading on Top. And then we headed back towards the Vehicles via the Bottom of Crucifix. It seemed like an Endless, Boulder Hopping, Scrambling, Route Finding Stretch with some Wonderful Catclaw thrown in the Mix on Occasion. But the Views were Splendid and the Amazing Rock Formations kept our Cameras from feeling Neglected. With a Final Turn of the Creekbed, we saw a Cairn up above the Creekbed but were unsure what it was meant for... With the Creek getting way worse at that Turn, we decided to go up the Hill and ultimately climbed up to a small Saddle. On the other Side of the Saddle was the Road and the next Ridge would be where our Vehicles were... Relief and Adrenaline kicked in, and our Pace picked up. But then, it's really not over until it's over, as there was Gunfire and Andy heard a Bullet whiz over his Head. :sweat: So we had to slow down and I started yelling, so whoever was Shooting would stop. It was coming from the other side of a Rise to our Right. I heard a Ricochet at one Point and it was pretty intimidating.... I think they finally heard me and the Shooting stopped until we were almost topped out on the next Ridge where we Parked... The Cars were a Relief by then for sure... I felt bad for Andy as he was going to a Mandatory Christmas Party as soon as he got home and cleaned up.... :sweat: I, on the other hand, had Partied the Night before, so I went Home and just crawled into the House for my Final Act of the Day.... :sweat: :zzz:

    Thanks for the Invite Andy, it was a Pleasure to finally Meet You! It was a Good Day! Hard, but the Good Kind of Hard, where you know you did something by the End... Or sooner.... :sweat:
    Crucifix Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I wanted to show some more friends this amAZing gem of a canyon tucked away in the northern Supes and I figured it make a great afterwork hike this Saturday afternoon. :sweat: Without a supped up 4x4, we were hiking the 2 mile road in and when we got to the canyon I was slightly surprised to find it flowing decent with a large swimmer at the beginning of the technical section. :o Hmm, it's really tough to judge pools lie this when it's completely dry. :roll: So we geared up while on of the gals sat it out and waited for us. The cold pool wasn't too bag and we were soon working our way down the sweet 80ft drop. The narrows below was lush & flowing as well and a previous down climb needed to be rappelled due to it being slippery. We found another 100ft of hose to cut up and haul out but we didn't have room for all that dang chicken wire. :-k Another buddy ended up coming thru the canyon a few days later and hauled it a mile closer to the exit. : rambo : After getting our Christmas photos, we did the final 50ft rappel and we already break out the headlamps since the daylight was quickly leaving us. Overcast afternoons can make you loose track of time and time flies when you're having fun. ;) We hit the two confluences with the south fork and then the main fork of Crucifix and by then we all had the headlamps fired up. A quarter mile or so downstream and I declared that that dark saddle on the south would be our exit. They respond 'All the WAY up there?!?' :sweat: We dropped the wetsuits and started bushwhacking our way up the break. It was tedious doing this tricky exit in the dark but thankfully I was able to navigate off of the memory of my previous trip. We eventually made it up the the saddle and then back over to the beginning of the narrows of Hose where we reunited with my buddy's GF. She was a little shaken up being left in the dark for so long. :sorrry: We scrambled up the ridge back to the dirt road and the 2 mile road walk back out was fairly tame compared to that tricky exit hike... We were all glad to be back to the vehicle along the highway and Susan surprised us with some HOT chocolate that REALLY hit the spot. :GB:
    Crucifix Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I never did make it around to doing this canyon last winter and Hardboater beat me to it this season, but at least now I had the beta for it. I wasn't expecting too much of this canyon so I was kinna surprised when I found it to be plenty adventurous & beautiful. :D I packed my 100ft & 40ft ropes just in case and from that SRP gate I headed down that north fork near that crucifix and the start of the climb up Black Cross Butte looming above. This fork is a bit of a thrash and it soon meets up with the main fork with a 2-stage dry fall of about 50ft. Hmm, I can probably bypass this but this looks like a fun rappel and I wouldn't mind dumping the 100ft rope already and doubt I'll need it later based on the beta. So I geared up & set an achor and dropped down this short & sweet drop and got some style points by avoiding the pool on the midway ledge. Some large boulder below to navigate and then you're in the wide & brush-free main fork of Crucifix canyon so I made made fairly good time rock hopping downstream. Looking back up canyon, there's an easy bypass for that rappel so I'll take that on the way back but I'm still glad I did that optional rappel. I saw loads of sweet formations & canyon walls with a handful of side canyons with technical dry falls dropping into this canyon. This place would be heaven on earth during a rainstorm with waterfalls popping in from everywhere! ;) Some sections required some light down climbing and/or bushwhacking to bypass another dryfall but nothing too crazy. At one point, I saw some metal homemade ladders in the canyon and looked up to ponder why they're here and saw this MASSIVE bat cave up above up the slope with a metal & wooden ladder going up into an alcove up above the arch in the cliffside. Holy Pumpkin!!! :o Maybe I'll check that out on the way back... Kept pushing on and just before reaching the lake, I hit the 8ft class 3 down climb that turned the other group back but I was able to down climb it easy enough without gear. A little further on & some shallow wading and I was at the lake's edge eating lunch on a boulder while watching a fisherman trying his luck in this inlet away from the main lake. So beautiful & peaceful though I need to stop seeing/thinking of lakes as barriers and see them as the fluid highways that they really are... Turned around and scrambled back up canyon and up that slope to go check out that Bat Cave. This has to be one of the funkiest manmade things I've ever seen in the remote backcountry. The place reeked of bat poop & the stuff was literally everywhere sicne they lived in the alcove way above and it all dropped down here... :sk: I climbed 15ft or so up the metal ladder, but the crap stained rickety wooden ladder went up at least another 80ft into the dark abyss and looked way too crazy to be sanely ascended. Found an interesting note from a National Forrest non-game specilist who wanted to talk to whomever built the ladder or anyone who's crazy enough to climb up and seen what's up there. :lol: Headed back down to the canyon and slowly made my way back up canyon making sure to take the northern forks whenever I hit a confluence, but at the last confluence I climbed the ridge to check out some hidden alcoves and retrieve my rope & anchor before dropping back down and exploring up the more interesting southern upper fork. This way other fork had more foot prints, some waterfalls & pools & slick rock sections and was much more scenic than the thrash down the other northern fork. :sweat: What a sweet canyon this turned out being and has me curious about the few remaining canyons to the south of here I've yet to check out. :-k

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    This is a point to point hike as described although out and back is possible. Take AZ 88, Apache trail from Mesa past Tortilla Flats to Mesquite Flats. Leave a shuttle car as well as many cars as possible at Mesquite Flats. There is limited parking at the trail head. Continue on AZ 88 to FS 80. Take it back to the gated section for TNFS personnel only. There is limited parking in the area. The scant foot path starts to the northwest of the parking area. There is no marker.
    page created by Hardboater on Nov 13 2010 2:54 am
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