Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
It was heaven, not hell
According to Wikipedia...
"Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness is a 19,410 acres (7,850 ha) wilderness area located in the U.S. State of Arizona. It forms the northwest border of the Galiuro Mountain range. The wilderness is administered by the BLM and is located northeast of Mammoth, Arizona in Graham and Pinal counties, about 120 miles (190 km) southeast of Phoenix. The wilderness includes the 11-mile (18 km) long Aravaipa Canyon, the surrounding tablelands and nine side canyons."
That description sounds somewhat boring and ho-hum, but we've been hearing praise about Aravaipa for years now. So, after having obtained the necessary permit ( see permit section ), we took off to see what all the talk is about.
It was close to a 4 hour drive from our home in the east valley to the trailhead at the east entrance to the canyon. We camped that night at Fourmile Campground on BLM, but could just as easily have camped along Turkey Creek (a tributary to Aravaipa Creek). In the morning we donned shorts, old tennis shoes, and hiking gaiters (in hopes of keeping pebbles out of our shoes). We quickly understood why everyone gushes about Aravaipa. Having myself grown up in WVa, my hubby in northern Illinois, and our friends in the NJ countryside, we felt like we were kids again hiking through a creek in the midwest or east coast.
The vegetation was lush, the water ever-flowing, there was plenty of shade, but enough sunlight to stay warm, and thousands of minnows. This was a whole new version of Arizona! The water never got deeper than mid-calf and it wasn't really any trouble to cross the creek (although we would recommend the use of a hiking stick and avoidance of mossy rocks). Hiking from east to west, Hell Hole Canyon is the first major canyon on your right (north). It was recommended to us by a couple people and, really, who can resist the name "Hell Hole" Canyon? The creek in Hell Hole Canyon is appropriately named Deer Creek as we saw a number of mule deer, a couple of which didn't seem terribly spooked by us. We saw a couple light grey frogs, hanging gardens, Vermilion Flycatchers and yellow columbine. We hiked a bit past the "hell hole", a window high up on the canyon walls to the spring (on the left) that seemed to supply most of the water to Deer Creek. The coolest part about this side canyon is how it narrows and twists and turns. We often thought "could this be the end?", only to be pleasantly surprised that it continued around the bend. You could hike beyond the spring, but we chose to turn around and head back. This was definitely heaven, not hell.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.