a charm of it's own
This short loop makes a decent introduction to off-trail hiking in this area. Most of the canyon bottoms in this area are similar in appearance, but each has their own charm.
From our camp on 139C we descended the western embankment down a gradual slope. Once in the Merritt creek-bottom we turned downstream, hiking sometimes in the creek-bed and sometimes on the benches next to the creek. This is a beautiful, healthy forest rife with ferns and tall pines as well as some oaks.
After about 1.75/2 miles you will reach the 'confluence' with Barbershop Canyon - it will be the first canyon entering from the south-east and water will be running in it. There are well-used campsites at this intersection, as this is where the U-Bar Trail crosses Barbershop Canyon. Turning up Barbershop Canyon you will shortly encounter a metal signpost on creek-left (LDC) with a yellow triangle emblem on it. At this point there is a trail back up to 139C. A couple of our group ascended this trail and road-walked back to our camp. (see dotted red line on my map)
Most continued up Barbershop Canyon passing a small but tall waterfall on creek-right (LDC) - It is a beautiful spring cascading down the rocks. As you continue, watch for a sharp left-hand bend in the creek-bed (see my map) at about 1.6/1.8 miles from the confluence. After rounding this bend, you will see on creek-left (LDC) a substantial elk trail heading upslope. It is a steep trail, but all-in-all not bad as these elk trails go. Once at the top you will merely head west-ish across the flat pine-forest on a blanket of pine straw back to 139C and your starting point.
If you choose to continue up Barbershop Canyon past where we exited, the canyon walls will get shallower, making a hike out less arduous, but we were shooting to exit close to our starting point. If YOU choose to continue further up Barbershop, just exit where you please and road-walk back to your starting point.
Hiking in these canyons does not require a GPS (actually are pointless IN the canyon as you are merely following the creek-bed) but a map does help. There are myriad elk trails offering ingress/egress so just look for those; after all, these guys LIVE here and know the best routes.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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.