Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Yeager or Yaeger? Whatever, come play!
Not to be confused with Little Yaeger Trail, Little Yaeger Canyon tumbles down the western slope of Mingus Mountain. Technical climbing gear is not needed for this short canyon, which features several small, seasonal waterfalls that are easily bypassed. One can incorporate Little Yaeger Canyon into the Yaeger loop or enjoy it by itself.
A topo map and/or a gps are recommended for this hike. While this is not a difficult canyon, please assess your abilities and don't get in over your head.
From the roadside trailhead at mile 333.25 on U.S. Highway 89A, follow the Little Yaeger Trail #533 (identified by a brown fiberglass post with "533" on it) down to the creek bed in Yaeger Canyon. Cross the creek and travel a short distance up Yaeger Canyon to the first side canyon on your right (east), which is Little Yaeger Canyon. An old roadbed leads up the south bank of Little Yaeger a short distance, ending at a long abandoned mine. A cow path takes one a bit further. The canyon is well shaded here, and you might notice stacked rocks along the canyon wall, which once supported a water pipeline.
The canyon closes in at its first bend, where you will find a concrete box housing Yaeger Spring, beneath tall pines and leafy box elder trees. There may be water in the box. The going becomes slower beyond the spring and the canyon turns rocky. Several small seasonal waterfalls, all easily bypassed with a bit of scrambling, are encountered as one ascends the twisting route of Little Yaeger Canyon.
After passing the tallest of the seasonal waterfalls just below the 6400 foot contour, the canyon suddenly levels out. Bigtooth maples, oaks, and even a few unexpected aspens fill the canyon bottom, where a cow path offers an easy route.
Another bend in the canyon at 6500 feet brings a short rocky stretch which can be bypassed on the north. Beyond this point Little Yaeger Canyon widens and becomes flatter. Ponderosa pines fill the canyon bottom in this pleasant area, perfect for a break.
At the 6600 foot contour, Little Yaeger Canyon forks. The right fork is choked with thorny locust brush. The left fork parallels the Yaeger Cabin Trail #111. The quickest option to exit Little Yaeger Canyon is to make a 200 foot climb up the broad, gentle, open ridge between the two forks to the Yaeger Cabin Trail #111. A left turn on the Yaeger Cabin Trail will take you back to Highway 89A via the Yaeger Canyon Trail #28, while a right turn will take you back via the Little Yaeger Trail #533. Reversing your route back down Little Yaeger Canyon is the most difficult option.
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.