Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Fun tributary to West Clear Creek
Overview: A challenging but non-technical canyon following one of the headwaters tributaries of West Clear Creek.
Warning: Some canyon sections are tight and narrow and could be dangerous in heavy monsoon downpours.
Hike: From the parking lot, go through the cattle fence and follow the creek along an old dirt road until you reach an old stone and cement bridge. Leave the road, going left and following the creek; shortly you will reach a barbed wire fence with a sign designating the West Clear Creek Wilderness. Directly across the creek is a huge rock overhang that makes a great shelter in the rain. For the next mile or so the creek gently wanders through easy, open terrain often following faint trails, passing several sweet camping sites.
Eventually the canyon starts to narrow - the next 3 miles are the tightest section, with some scrambling and working around boulders and fallen trees. Somewhere around the 2.5 mile point is the most significant obstacle on the hike, a section of smooth rock sloping down to a 5 - 6 foot downclimb into a waist deep pool. Easy to negotiate going downstream, it would be a bit more difficult if returning upstream, although we were able to use a log in the slot to make it easier.
At about the 4 mile mark, the creek turns sharply left as it joins another side canyon coming in from the northeast. The next mile or so downstream is open and easy walking through grassy meadows and forest to the junction with Tom's Creek coming in from the southwest. Go right (downstream) at the junction of the two creeks for roughly 3 miles of moderate hiking and pleasant wading to the junction with Willow Valley and the true start of West Clear Creek.
From here you can return upstream 8 miles to the start. Better is to continue down WCC several hundred yards to where the Maxwell Trail will take you steeply back up to the rim on the north side of WCC canyon. There you can meet a shuttle vehicle to take you back around to the start via 9 miles of dirt on Forest roads 81E and 81 north to Lake Mary Road and then south 13 miles on pavement back to Milepost 285 on Hwy 87.
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.