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Hell's Gate Trail #37, AZ

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89 15 4
Guide 15 Triplogs  4 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson E
3.7 of 5 by 10
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 10.05 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,318 feet
Elevation Gain -1,358 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,558 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 18.57
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12  2019-03-06
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto Creek
12  2018-04-07
Hellsgate Exploration
5  2018-03-24
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto Creek
29  2016-10-08
Hellsgate (37) South via Smoky Hallow TH
19  2016-06-18
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto Creek
14  2015-04-25 toddak
12  2014-05-21 TWA
20  2013-06-01
Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto Creek
Page 1,  2
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
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Preferred   Oct, Apr, May, Mar
Sun  6:12am - 6:22pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
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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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Hell's Gate Trail #37
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Hellsgate Exploration
    I've knocked out more than a few miles in the Hellsgate Wilderness with Joel. Most have involved slow, but spectacularly scenic miles in Haigler Creek, negotiating pools, waterfalls, cascades, bypasses, and most everything an Arizona wilderness area can serve up.

    When he suggested this one recently, I was quickly on board. Having never hiked the actual #37 trail, I was happy to try it out on this day/night schedule. The hike in was pleasant, the temperature warm and the cool spring water refreshing to get into at the bottom. We ventured separate ways at the confluence, where I headed up Haigler to finish off the only mile of the creek I hadn't previously covered. This section provided surprisingly nice scenery, and unanticipated slow going, including 5 deep swimmers that I didn't expect.

    With time a concern, I didn't want to retrace my steps and then fight the upstream current going up Tonto to where I'd expect to find Joel, so I took the cross-country route, climbing ~600 feet to cross the peninsula between the two creeks and then headed down Tonto toward Hellsgate.

    I've been impressed with Haigler since my early introduction in the 90s. Tonto down near Hellsgate is even more impressive. The Hellsgate to Gisela trip remains on my to-do list, and now I'm certain that I'd like to do the whole Tonto from Bear Flat too. It looks like it could have some special places.

    Eventually, I got far enough downstream that I found Joel. I kept going to the confluence and changed into dry clothes. Joel returned a while later and after a short fire to dry out and warm up, we headed out at 8pm for the 7+ miles back to the trailhead. The temperature was cool and there was occasionally a nice breeze that made for a perfect startlit evening for this hike. We hadn't been talking much on the steep climb, so as we passed El Grande Tank, I decided to talk loudly, knowing that this would be a prime spot for a predator to keep watch. As Joel remarked that it was almost certain a cat was keeping an eye on the tank, he panned his headlamp up the slope and caught the eyes of a lion that just sat and observed us as we hiked by. Sometimes it's nice to be hiking with two people!

    A bit later I caught glimpse of what might have been another lion, but seemed smaller so I'm going to say it was a bobcat, and I also got to within a couple of feet of an owl in the trail that waited until the last second to fly away and absolutely scared the poop out of me. My headlamp made it clear that I had scared the poop out of it too. Literally.

    A couple of cats down, and a crazy-close owl experience had us on alert, but the remaining glowing eyes belonged to cows. Still those future burgers managed to grab our attention for a split second too!

    Good times in the wilderness. It was a long day, and I was happy to crawl into bed after 0100.
    Hell's Gate Trail #37
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Ah, Father's Day Weekend out in the wild. I had done this trip with the Earthiest and Azwildguide 5 years ago as our first backpack trip, and I have been wanting to make it back ever since now that I know what I am doing a little better. Unfortunate that we got the hottest weekend of the year to do it on, but we have had the planning in the works for about a month and none of us wanted to bail. 5 of us drove up Friday night to car camp at the trailhead only to find out that we could not camp within a 1/4 mile due to there being a spring box at the worries we just went down the road a bit and found a nice clearing. We got loaded up and on the trail by 7:30 Saturday morning and it was already starting to get warm. There is a decent amount of shade for the first few miles, but it gets progressively more open the farther along you go. We got down to Tonto Creek a bit after noon and had lunch and set up camp. Three of us had hammocks and two had tents so we had to split up camp a bit. We hung our hammocks on the west side of the creek where there were many Sycamores and Willows to do the trick, the tenters set up on the sandy beach just to the east. Tonto was very silty and chocolaty, so we had to head down to Haigler to get better water to filter. After a little break, three of us started out way up Tonto Creek through the gates of Hell. Gorgeous canyon, even if we could not see what was in the water. It must have been about 68-70 degrees in the water, blissful on the sore legs and made the 100+ temps in the canyon much more reasonable. There are long stretches that are too deep to touch so lots of swimming was required. No worries, I just inflated my little 5L dry bag and used it as a floater to take it easy. We made it a good mile + up the creek alternating swimming, bouldering, and scrambling when needed. We must have passed by a good 5 or 6 waterfalls along the way. This is really the highlight of the whole trip and makes the hike out worth it in my opinion. Got back to camp and made some dinner shortly thereafter, once we had gone through our beer we all turned in by 8-9 so we could get an early start in the morning. We all got on the trail between 6-7 the next morning, I had to filter some more water so I was the last man out, but quickly caught up with the group. Don't kid yourself, the first two miles coming out of the canyon are pretty rough, it is like climbing Piestewa one and a half times, with an overnight pack to boot. We all continued our way with many breaks, and made it back to the trucks about 12:30. Quick stop at the Payson McD's (I think this is the only time I ever eat there) to replenish salts and a hobo bath in the sink and we were on back down the hill. Hard fought in the heat, but fantastic trip!

    Cholla and Prickly Pear had some nice bloom, but that was about it.
    Hell's Gate Trail #37
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    In a recent forum post, chumley asked if anyone had hiked the full length of this trail (most hikers come from the north trailhead and understandably don't venture beyond the confluence of Tonto and Haigler Creeks). As a big fan of Hellsgate Wilderness, of course I had to go check out the southern end of the trail. Since driving to the south trailhead on FR133 from Young was questionable, I started from the north trailhead. This report covers the trail section south of the confluence.

    The trail continues a short distance up Haigler Creek from the confluence in the first obvious drainage, which is Smoky Hollow canyon. Shortly after entering the drainage the trail climbs out and up and stays on the eastern slope, paralleling the canyon. The trail is overgrown and faint in spots, but not too hard to follow. After climbing for about 0.75 miles, the trail crosses over to the west side of the drainage and continues climbing on a faint, abandoned road with steadily improving views. There aren't a lot of cairns, but the trail route and GPS track shown on MyTopo are pretty close to accurate.

    From the south trailhead at the junction with FR133 I continued road-hiking east and south about 3 miles through beautiful open range country to go check out the "winter camp" shown on the maps. At some point the camp must have been a bustling place, but it appears to be abandoned. FR133 between the trailhead and winter camp is quite steep and rocky in places and would require a pretty serious off-road vehicle, and based on the grass growing on the road and the lack of tire tracks, I doubt it gets much use. I think it's safe to say that taking the southern route into this rugged area isn't going to be easy.
    Hell's Gate Trail #37
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    My first time out with the turtle in a year, and a few months with the eagle. Destination: hell. Result: lots of heat, some water, and a lot of fun.

    On the way to Payson, it was cool to see two of the bald eagles along 87 north of Fountain Hills.

    My first trip into the Hellsgate Wilderness, taking this trail to the confluence of Tonto and Haigler creeks.

    Highlight was floating on inner tubes through Hell's Gate into a nice 4-5 foot waterfall, a few hundred yards up Tonto from the confluence.

    Great times. Thanks to the bird and the amphibian ...
    Hell's Gate Trail #37
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Driving out on the 87, both mom and dad were in the tree tops past Ft McDowell at the Verde, to wish us well on our day.

    Arrived at the TH at 6:45 and started the trek to the Creek with a comfortable temp of 72.

    We thought it to be unusual when Father Dave agreed to, and wanted to go to Hellsgate with us today. :scared:

    From looking quickly at the Elevation Profile, my takeaway was that this was relatively flat for 4.5 miles, then steep down hill for 2 miles, then Real Steep for the last 1/2 mile. That was pretty close, except for the non-existent flat 4.5 mile part.

    Real nice views on the way down, taking us 3:05 to reach Tonto Creek.

    We played in the water, ate some lunch, went exploring up and downstream in our floaties.
    I didn't take my camera on the floatie trip for fear of getting it wet. Hopefully Denny's water proof camera shots turn out at the 5' waterfall up stream. Father Dave borrowed Denny's floatie and took a solo trip through the Gates of Hell.... er ah... Hellsgate. He was gone for a long time and returned with a funny look in his eyes......

    After 3 1/2 hours of playing in the water, it was time to make the slog out of the Canyon. The Temps at this point had warmed to the mid 90's, so we soaked our clothes in the creek one last time and started up.

    That first 1/2 mile is real steep and loose. We made it to El Grande Tank and soaked our clothes again. The next break was at the Wilderness boundary, where we had cached an Icy Cold Gatorade on the way down. Icy cold was now in the 80 degree range. From this point Dave took off and met us back at the Trail head. From the Creek back to the trail head took us 10 minutes longer to get out than in, at 3 hours 15 minutes.

    Little 3 minute video. Denny is finally proper..

    A fun time with the boys... great to hike with both Father Dave and 3D Denny again.

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    page created by joebartels on Nov 25 2012 9:01 pm
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