Malicious Gap, AZ | HikeArizona
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Malicious Gap, AZ

Guide 14 Triplogs Mine 0 0 Topics
4.5 of 5 
no permit
255 14 0
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,712 feet
Elevation Gain 650 feet
Accumulated Gain 650 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.75
 Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
 Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
52  2022-01-28 eru
9  2021-02-13
Copper Mtn Points - Lower/Upper
8  2021-02-12 eru
10  2019-02-09 MountainMatt
1  2012-12-22 ssk44
5  2012-04-05
Malicious Gap Campsite
11  2012-04-05
Malicious Gap Campsite
19  2011-11-26 Kenny
Page 1,  2
author avatar Guides 20
Routes 12
Photos 2,331
Trips 294 map ( 835 miles )
Age 48 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred Jan, Feb, Apr, May → Early
Seasons   Late Summer to Early Summer
Sun  5:30am - 7:13pm
2 Alternative
Nearby Area Water
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Flora  Nearby
Meteorology  Nearby
Named place  Nearby
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How bad could it be??
by ssk44

  Likely In-Season!
This destination was heavily damaged during the Mistake Peak Fire of 2012. Extreme runoff damage and fire scouring are present throughout the area. Check recent triplogs and photosets for current details.Overview
Malicious Gap is a rugged canyoneering route in a remote region of the Sierra Ancha Mountains, within the Tonto National Forest. The hike is located near the Conway Ranch, just northeast of Greenback Valley. This location has been a local secret for years. Oops, not anymore! I found out about this route from a member of the Conway family that I periodically communicate with. He informed me that crazy hikers, as he called them, go up there every once in a while and somehow scramble their way through the rugged gap. I was immediately interested!

Malicious Gap is a narrow segment of upper Greenback Creek. As the name implies, Greenback Creek starts as a fairly normal open canyon and "gaps" down into a narrow deep gorge that later opens up again into the Greenback Valley area. The vertical elevation drop through the gap is a steep 650 feet. That's a decent amount of drop when considering that this canyon segment is only 1.25 miles long. Within Malicious Gap you will find a seasonal stream, running spring water, lush vegetation, classic Sierra Ancha geology, sheer cliffs, incredible rock formations, various waterfalls, and extensive pour-overs.

With a name like "Malicious Gap", you can't help but be intrigued. It begs to be explored! The hike starts at the end of FR236A from a beautiful primitive campsite with extensive shade from large oak trees that line the lower Greenback Creek drainage. Just to the east of the campsite is Greenback Creek, which will be the route that you will be following.

Route finding on this hike is a "no-brainer". This hike involves extensive boulder hopping and scrambling. Much of the canyon bottom is open with segments of solid bedrock. Bushwhacking is only moderate by my standards with about three particularly thick sections. What good off-trail backcountry hike doesn't have some bushwhacking to deal with?

Not far into the hike, you will encounter the first of many gems along the route. I rounded a corner to find a monster, solid rock waterfall. Very cool!! I estimated it to be between forty and fifty feet high. That could be an exaggeration, but whatever it is, it's big and gnarly. Pictures don't do it justice. The initial part starts as a pour-over that quickly turned into a jagged and sheer overhanging rock face. Seeing this spot when Greenback Creek is running would be truly stunning. Greenback Creek typically runs in the winter months during snow runoff from warm periods between storms. Running water would add an interesting and possibly challenging variable to this hike and should be considered. I figured that this was the end of the line but noticed a faint trail from either game or people that headed up a steep slope just to the right through a grove of oak trees that climbed up about half the height of the waterfall. From that point, you could start to scramble up a section of small rock ledges heading back towards the middle of the canyon. The bypass is a fun scramble. However, the trail that follows the cliff ledges heading up to the top is very narrow and steep with small loose rocks lying on the ledges. This is not a section to be taken lightly. One poorly placed step and your hiking days are over.

Beyond the main big waterfall, you will encounter numerous pour-overs and small waterfalls that can all be handled with manageable scrambling. The remaining sections of the hike are very fun with nothing too intimidating or dangerous. Not far up the canyon, there is one short section with a "trail bypass" that goes above a particularly thick section. I built a moderate-sized cairn just above the canyon bottom on the left side to mark the bypass. I did not notice any recent evidence of people heading up the canyon. No one has been through this canyon for some time. All of the trail sections looked to be primarily used by whitetail deer. Whitetail deer trails are a real pain for people to follow because they duck down real low and go under the brush rather than directly through it. I beat open a decent fresh path through the thick sections of the canyon with my walking staff to make things a little easier for future visitors to follow.

Nearing the end of the hike you will pass "Lion Spring". The actual location of Lion Spring is difficult to determine. There was not the typically obvious spring location with large and thick trees. However, the water in the canyon bottom was particularly clear and healthy at one point with more current than most parts. The end of the hike as posted is very distinguishable (Lat. 33 degrees/55'/25.59"/N & Long. 111 degrees/6'/39.51"/W). While walking up from the Lion Spring segment you will eventually encounter a very tall sheer rock face with a dry waterfall on the right side. Work your way around the left side of the rock face through a steep section of oak trees to come out onto a nice flat open area on top with a few nice ponderosa pines around for shade. This seemed like a good ending point for this great hike. Just prior to the posted end for the hike was a perfect small backpacking campsite just off the trail with lots of shade from big oak trees. A short walk down towards Lion Spring would provide plenty of good water. See attached map for the location of the GPS waypoint described in the text.

Malicious Gap is truly a great scramble hike with awesome scenery and lots of interesting places to explore. Nice and short, and not overwhelmingly difficult. Very rewarding and fun hike! Seeing this beautiful canyon with a swift stream running down it would be off the chart! Truly special destination. Count on having it all to yourself if you go.

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2009-05-09 ssk44
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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.

 Permit $$

High Clearance possible when dry

To canyon trip
From Mesa take Highway 87 towards Payson. Turn on Highway 188 and drive to Punkin Center. In Punkin Center, you will be turning directly after the "Punkin Center Bar & Grill", which is visible from Highway 188. From there take FR71 approximately twelve miles to Greenback Valley/Conway Ranch. Do not enter the private property of Conway ranch! Before FR71 enters the ranch site, turn left on FR236A. Follow FR236A for approximately three miles to the trailhead. While traveling on FR236A you will reach a fork within 1.5 miles, which is FR236. Stay left and continue driving on FR236A. FR236A from beyond the FR236 fork degrades into a high clearance two-wheel drive road with minimal base. !!DO NOT DRIVE THIS SEGMENT DURING A RAINSTORM!! You will regret it. At the trailhead location is a beautiful primitive campsite with extensive shade from large oak trees that line the lower Greenback Creek drainage.

(Special Note) From Punkin Center, FR71 crosses Tonto Creek before heading to the trailhead. The crossing at Tonto Creek is gravel only and can be dangerous to cross for long periods following heavy storms and periodically throughout the spring during heavy snow runoff. It is advisable to check the CFS stream flow the day prior to your trip to ensure that you won't be driving over there for nothing. Typically, any number higher than 200 CFS is not advisable without four-wheel drive. When in doubt, wait five to ten minutes for one of the locals to cross so you can see how difficult it is. See USGS Website for "Real-Time Water Data". Select "Tonto Creek Above Gun Creek, Near Roosevelt, AZ" from the "Statewide Stream Flow Table" for current CFS.
page created by ssk44 on May 09 2009 6:31 pm
 90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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