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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

H.L. Canyon Trail #11, AZ

no permit
93 4 0
Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Alpine S
4 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,182 feet
Elevation Gain -948 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,790 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4-5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 16.95
Interest Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
35  2013-10-20 weavejd
24  2013-10-20 SkyIslander18
15  2012-08-16 SkyIslander18
19  2009-11-01 PrestonSands
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Sep, Aug, May, Jun → Early
Seasons   Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:06am - 6:13pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
H.L. yes!
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
Overview: The H. L. Canyon Trail #11 wraps around Mitchell Peak, in the mountains north of Morenci, Arizona. A part of the Grand Enchantment Trail, the seldom traveled H. L. Canyon Trail offers plenty, from chaparral slopes with sweeping views, to maple filled canyons, to a historic cabin below towering pines. The route of the H. L. Canyon Trail nearly forms a loop, and will be described here as a counter clockwise loop.

History: The historic cabin in H.L. Canyon was said to have been built by a rancher who sold beef to the miners of the Morenci-Clifton area.

Hike: From the trail sign at the Sardine Saddle parking lot along Highway 191, the H.L. Canyon Trail quickly descends into upper Sardine Canyon, through a covering of ponderosa pine and bigtooth maple. Breaking out of the trees after a half mile drop, the trail crosses steep chaparral slopes below Mitchell Peak before reaching a signed junction with the Frye Trail at 1.25 miles (33.20926 N, 109.35958 W). Stay left. Two more signed junctions, for the old Sardine Canyon Trail, and the Walnut Spring Cutoff, soon follow. Stay left at both junctions.

After surmounting several more small brushy ridges, The H.L. Canyon Trail reaches a rocky saddle with a worn trail sign for another branch of the Walnut Spring Cutoff, at just over 2 miles. Our trail becomes a bit faint for a short distance as it climbs north from the saddle, but picks up again as it angles northeast, toward a nearby higher ridge of powdery purplish soil.

From the purple soil ridge, the H.L. Canyon Trail continues northeast on a long and gentle descent, across grass and juniper slopes, where it passes the Mud Spring water trough at just over 3 miles. The spring (33.22659 N, 109.34353 W) appears to be reliable. Within a half mile, the H.L. Canyon Trail crosses H.L. Canyon, where it meets trail 312 at a massive cairn and trail sign on the north side of the creek (33.2315 N, 109.34221 W). The H.L. Canyon Trail turns west at this point, and follows an ancient, faded road up H.L. Canyon.

Always staying close to the creek bottom, the trail is well shaded by ponderosa pine, gambel oak and bigtooth maple. Potential campsites are numerous in this attractive setting. After passing a small spring (33.23301 N, 109.35486 W) among plentiful maple trees, H.L. Canyon bends southwest.

Nearing the 6 mile point, the H.L. Canyon Trail reaches an old homestead near Well Spring, complete with a rustic cabin and outbuilding. The trail transitions into a very rough 4 wheel drive road at this point, and continues up the canyon. A half mile past the cabin, the trail passes a signed junction with the Upper Pigeon Creek Trail #301, while climbing out of the creek bottom.

At the top of H.L. Canyon, the trail reaches H.L. Saddle, where it passes through a gate, next to an old corral and loading chute. From this corral, you could either continue down the H.L. Canyon Trail to Highway 191 in 0.15 miles (the easier option), or follow the unsigned connector trail south to Sardine Saddle. This connector trail, which is actually a very old alignment of the Coronado Trail, begins next to the corral, and contours along the mountainside about 100 feet or so above Highway 191. Either way, it is about a mile back to the Sardine Saddle trailhead.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2009-11-07 PrestonSands
    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
    H.L. Canyon Trail #11
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Chasing autumn colors up the Coronado Trail.
    HL Canyon Loop starting from Sardine Saddle was the choice.
    Nice 8 mile day trip was the plan .....

    Have hiked this loop before ..... nice good trail to follow .....
    Started down the first canyon and within a half mile was into great autumn colors. Climbed up and out to the scenic expansive views of the area and continued down to the Fry Trail connector with no problems. Then the trail became a little difficult to follow. No long story here now just the short - I made a bad direction decision that got us way off the trail. We climbed up to a high mountain peak to realize that I had us hours away from reconnecting to the trail back out. Now well into the afternoon hours, I felt we didn't have enough daylight time left to get back out safely. We were gonna have to spend the night and hit it in the morning ](*,)

    We constructed an overnight camp on the mountain side under a juniper tree, collected a big pile of firewood, broke out our emergency ponchos & blankets and hunkered down for the long 12 hour night.

    Morning could not come soon enough! At first light we broke camp, off-trailed across 2 canyons to reconnect with the trail, lost the trail out 2 more times before finally climbing back up & out to Sardine Saddle tired, sore & hungry.

    My big mistake on this trip was not bringing a topo map of the area. I felt after 2 previous hikes on this trail it was not needed ..... I know better, rookie move, lesson learned.

    My awesome adventure partner who has always trusted me was not very happy about the situation I got us in,
    but handled it very well! My apologies again to her.
    H.L. Canyon Trail #11
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Last hike of the week with my friend before he heads back home to New Mexico tomorrow. I hiked just a little of this trail over a year ago and have been saving the entire loop for an autumn revisit. It was also a good time to show my buddy some of the very scenic Coronado Trail up to H L Saddle. We started from Sardine Saddle and completed this outstanding loop counter clockwise. A rainbow of autumn colors filled the unnamed canyon down and again in H L Canyon on the way back up & out! Great scenic views were had everywhere else in-between and the entire trail was in great shape, I really enjoyed this one!

    It was a good end to a fantastic week of hiking, Thanks Dave! See you next year :y:
    H.L. Canyon Trail #11
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After spending half the day in Morenci taking care of some business, I had a few afternoon hours left for a short hike. Drove through the mine and up the Coronado Trail stopping at Sardine Saddle and first hiked the very short out-n-back Big Tree trail. Cool little trail that took me down to the enormious AZ Cypress tree that in 1988 was recognized as the largest reported of it's species growing in the US! I then crossed the highway and got on the H L Canyon trail with just enough time to take it down to the Frye trail junction before returning back. What a scenic trail just the first mile of this one is and I will be back in autumn (should look awesome) to complete the entire loop! Headed back home to Safford as big storm clouds developed all over the county and after returning home and unloading the truck of hiking gear, I packed it back up with storm chasing gear and headed out .....
    H.L. Canyon Trail #11
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I told you I'd be back, H.L, it just took me awhile:

    The day was getting late, but I went anyway, not knowing what to expect, but knowing I'd finish after dark. I tore into the woods below Sardine Saddle at 2:50 pm. Maples? Hadn't expected that! Then it was chaparral and sunny slopes for a good while, working east across ridges. The trail was in good shape, with recent work evident, and all of the trail junctions were signed. At one point a massive white bird silently watched me from a nearby tree. Shawshank Redemption! Chicago! No...Shikaka! And there was a huge splatter of white crap on the trail to back that up.

    I made great time until I hit H.L. Canyon: Oooh! Lots of maples! The light faded all too quickly, and dusk set in when I arrived at the interesting old Well Spring cabin. Trying not to remember scenes from Wrong Turn, I shot a few photos of the cabin as the moon rose, then continued on to H.L. Saddle in the blackness. Should I follow the connector trail back, or take the moonlit highway? Just then my flashlight died. Guess I'll take the highway. The moon was indeed bright, and I took my time walking that last mile, enjoying evey second. I took quite a few more night shots on the way back to Morenci. What a great adventure! I'm glad I went.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Safford, head east on Highway 70/191. 10 miles from Safford, the highway splits, turn left onto Highway 191 and follow it for another 23.75 miles to a highway junction known as 3-Way (old drive-in movie theater and store). Turn left to remain on Highway 191. From the 3-Way junction, head north for approximately 31.9 miles to Sardine Saddle picnic area, where there is a roadside sign for Trail #11. The H.L. Canyon Trail begins at the north end of the parking area. There is a trail sign nailed to a tree there.

    The north end of the H.L. Canyon Trail is accessible at H.L. Saddle picnic area, 0.9 miles further up Highway 191 from Sardine Saddle.
    page created by PrestonSands on Nov 07 2009 6:46 pm
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