register help

Minnow Canyon, AZ

no permit
114 32 0
Guide 32 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions NW
3.8 of 5 by 8
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
View 9
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 2.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,883 feet
Elevation Gain -550 feet
Accumulated Gain 350 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4.15
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
18  2017-10-19 KBKB
5  2016-03-13 desert_boonie
15  2016-03-13 outdoor_lover
12  2016-01-03 GrottoGirl
7  2011-12-31 suzaz
10  2011-11-28 mikebowers
10  2010-04-04 suzaz
23  2009-11-22 suzaz
Page 1,  2
Author nonot
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 236
Photos 1,969
Trips 476 map ( 4,511 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Oct, Nov, Feb, Mar → 11 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:10am - 6:29pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Small fish in a big pond
by nonot

A Class 3AII canyoneering trip in the northern Superstition Mountains with a single rappel of 127 feet.

This trip involves rappelling and down-climbing. A full set of technical canyoneering gear is needed, including: helmet, harness, caribiner, and rappelling device. For this trip add a 150 ft rope (200 ft worked well) AND 150 ft pull cord. Canyoneers must be comfortable with rigging and rappelling single-line if they bring a pull cord instead of a second rope. Furthermore, I recommend each party take along 10 ft of webbing and 1 quick link.

Canyoneering involves slot canyons and you don't want to be in these places during a flash flood. Check the weather before you depart on your trip and do not attempt to go if there is any chance of rain.

The amount of down-climbing required for this trip is significant. None of the down-climbs on the route I took were difficult (YDS class 2-3 hiking terrain), however individuals need to be comfortable on the rocks and understand how to cope with exposure. Other individuals have informed me of anchors they created and rappelled off of at some down-climbs in this canyon they were uncomfortable with descending. I did not see any of these anchors, nor did I think any were necessary on the route I took. It is likely no two people will descend this canyon in exactly the same way, so be prepared if you hit a YDS class 4 drop.

Todd's book derives the canyon name from the fact that it can be completed in a "3 hour tour". If you're lucky you may meet Ginger or Mary Ann on the way. Before I bought the book I thought it might have contained rare Gila topminnows, but this is not the case.

From the Tortilla TH (at Apache Trail), head up the road to Tortilla TH. At exactly 1 mile, we left the road and began to contour around the hill to our east. The going is fairly easy and you can pick a good route to avoid the brush. We descended at a convenient spot into the drainage. Continue following the drainage downhill, unfortunately the next half mile involves a bit of catclaw, but it is pretty mellow as far as off-trail Supes hiking is concerned and is nearly all avoidable. You pass by some drainages coming in on the right, and I observed one cairn found at the second drainage, indicating there may be an alternate, more-popular route into the canyon bottom. In all reality you could get here in any of five hundred different ways, so don't experience anticipation paralyzation if you deviate from the course so far.

Eventually the canyon begins to deepen and you will encounter some easy down-climbs around boulders. After a few easy obstacles, you will encounter the edge of a boulder and look upon a 25 foot drop you can't down-climb. This is the beginning of the tunnel section and your group will have to work together to find the safe way to descend into and underneath the boulder field. Your party will likely want to take some time to explore and enjoy these tunnels. There are several sections, so after you emerge from the first tunnel, do not think you are done!

After a few more tunnels, the canyon begins to get steeper and you will begin down-climbing a few class 3 boulders. At one spot where you look down at a 25 foot drop with an 18 ft log 2 feet in diameter, I recommend you hug the right wall (LDC) to bypass.

Soon, but not too soon, you will reach the major cliff in the canyon, the only rappel. Two bolts are found towards the left edge of a pour over. This is your anchor for the 127 ft rappel. Gear up here and rig your ropes. The descent is slightly to the right (LDC) and is nicely sloping until the last 40 feet, which transitions to overhanging.

After this you can shed your gear and continue some easy and fun down-climbing until you, too soon, reach Fish Creek. Turn left and reach your shuttle vehicle in 10-15 minutes, or else spend some time exploring.

Water sources
Fish Creek generally has water year round, bring a filter. The water surfaces only in sections during dry conditions, so you may have to hunt for a good source.

At large camping sites can be found throughout Fish Creek, some are better than others. I'd recommend you obtain some distance from the Apache Trail in order to enhance your experience; otherwise you may be disappointed with the traffic (human and vehicular.) Please pack out everything you bring in (including all trash) and help to preserve this beautiful area for others to enjoy. Also be aware that after light to moderate rains the creek can become a life-threatening torrent of water so plan ahead and read the weather report.

Combination canyon trips
A strong party may want to attempt both Minnow and Apache Trail Canyon with an early start. I would not recommend attempting to do both Tango and Minnow on a single day.

I am referencing both the American Canyoneering Association (ACA) Canyon Rating System and the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) Terrain Rating System within this hike description. The ACA canyon rating system is explained in the canyoneering rating on the top left of the page. Briefly, the YDS rating system is as follows:

YDS Class 1
YDS Class 2
Occasional scrambling, some use of hands
YDS Class 3
Climbing/scrambling with use of hands required for balance, minimal to moderate exposure
YDS Class 4
Intermediate climbing with moderate to significant exposure, most will want a belay, hand use required to pull yourself upwards, falls would be life-threatening to fatal
YDS Class 5
Vertical climbing, ascent by means of hands and feet, rope and climbing gear required for protection ("Sport climbing" and "Trad climbing")
YDS Class 6
Vertical climbing, ascent by means relying solely on rope and climbing gear ("Aid climbing")

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2009-11-22 nonot
    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
    Minnow Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Took another shot at Minnow on a lovely January day. The temperature was perfect (75 degrees)! We had a great time and really enjoyed the down climbing. There were a lot of weekend tourists parked at the top and bottom. Be careful when driving on the dirt road because it is narrow and filled with people who do not know how to drive on dangerous roads.

    After the long rappel, do your best to stay on the right of the canyon. It tends to have simpler down climbing problems.

    There were a few pools of water in the canyon but nothing you would want to filter (all green and stagnant. There was water in the creek at the bottom. We had to walk through the water to get out of the creek bed and back to the car so this wasn't a completely dry trip.
    Minnow Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    What a great canyon! Led a group of 8, half who had never rappelled before. Left town by 8 AM, and we were back to Tempe by 4. The catclaw is very minimal for Supes conditions, and the boulder hopping (while somewhat rough for the new people) was not nearly as bad as the guide wrote it up to be. The little cave sections (crawling under boulders) was really really fun, and pretty intuitive on how to get though. The group had a lot of fun with everyone choosing their own paths boulder hopping down the canyon - don't worry, because there's always at least a few different ways around obstacles. I was surprised to find two naked bolts maybe 15 minutes before the rappel which seemed to serve no purpose, maybe for a rescue? The rappel is very beautiful, with an easy start perfect for beginners. It also has probably the easiest transition to overhang that I've seen before. Webbing was brand new, but I found the multitude of bolts to be quite an eyesore, with a perfectly good boulder a few feet back for a natural anchor. There was a 2 point bolted anchor as well as another bolt with a single strand of webbing about a foot away. Maybe it could be cleaned up a bit. Also if you don't have enough rope for the entire rap, there's a good halfway point that's already anchored (and large enough for everyone to stand there) if you want a 2 stage rap. All-in-all a great canyon with a beautiful rap overlooking the large walls around the Snake River.
    Minnow Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    First off, taking two vehicles is a must. The shuttle ride saves 2 miles of steep hiking on a high traffic dirt road filled with off road amateurs driving way too fast.

    This trip is definitely not recommended in August on a record hot day! The hike to the point that you drop into the canyon is not too bad. Once you start approaching the canyon, thorns and thistles are almost unavoidable. The canyon gets more fun once you find your first boulder overhang. We chose to rappel the first drop rather than down climb.

    Unfortunately, only once you are in a canyon do you truly understand what all of these trip logs are saying. There is A LOT of down climbing. Expect to be down climbing fairly exposed boulders for the majority of your trip. The major bolted rappel is decent but does not seem as long as it is because of a gentle start. We attempted to find a rappel further along the ridge towards the Fish Creek bridge but were unsuccessful. When you finish the long rappel, you are greeted with more strenuous down climbing towards Fish Creek. The river was not running and was pretty green. Seeing our shuttle car was a welcome site at the end of the day. The tourists checking out the cave nearby the Fish Creek bridge were pretty surprised to see us in our exhausted state! We were happy to cross Minnow off the list but would not recommend it in August for anyone.
    Minnow Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    What a fun hike! The weather was perfect. We had a group of 7 that got on the trail around 8:00AM. There was no shortage of interesting scrambles on this route. A fun rappel towards the end of Minnow Canyon with an overhang about midway down. We did spot one puddle of scummy water going down Minnow if you had a filter and were desperate, and ample water down at Fish Creek. Thanks to Nonot for the gps route. This trip really motivated me to get out and explore more of the lower sections of Fish Canyon. Such a beautiful place.
    Minnow Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    A little warm out but luckily there is quite a bit of shade. Didn't have as much trouble at the downclimbs as last time, though a few were a little more exposed than I remember.

    Lots of useless bolts, it appears most were already chopped. Re-rigged the death triangles at the anchor.
    Minnow Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After exploring upper Apache Trail Canyon, I crossed FR213 and misjudged how far away I was from the Tortilla TH and accidently dropped into the next drainage to the north of Minnow which I'm personally/jokingly naming Guppy Canyon. I soon realized I was in the wrong canyon since I've done Minnow before, but I was about halfway to the major drop off above Fish Creek Bridge so I pushed on to just check it out. There we're some shiny bolts up there with no webbing and looking at the drops from above and below, they look to be about 150ft & 100ft. But I only had a 200ft rope with me and figured I'd have more fun in Minnow and save this one for another day when I have a shuttle setup below to make it more worthwhile dropping down here. ;) So I backtracked a quarter mile and then climbed the ridge to the southeast and couldn't find an easy way down into Minnow, so I dropped down via a drainage and setup a rappel to get past a few of the taller drops and made it into Minnow just above where the fun begins. :D The boulder caves are always cool with loads of down climbing of course, though this time I was able to find slightly easier places to down climb. I spent more time exploring the caves this time and even practiced my ascending at one point. I still need to buy a 200ft pullcord, so for now I just rappel ~75ft to those midway anchors and do another ~75ft rappel to get to the bottom. Some more down climbing and you're at Fish Creek Canyon, though this time I stayed up and checked out those caves/alcoves near the bridge. I tried my luck at hitching a ride for 15-20 mins to no avail, so I just walked the road back to the Tortilla TH. It wasn't nearly as bad of a road walk as I thought it'd be, the views of Fish Creek Canyon are amazing, and it only adds about 2 miles and maybe 1000ft AEG to the hike. :sweat:
    Minnow Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Hiked south from the Tortilla TH and dropped into the 2nd drainage on the eastside of the road which is one of the forks of upper Minnow Canyon. It's a little bushy and loose but not too difficult compared to other canyons in the area. It soon starts to narrow up a bit and then your faced with loads of down climbing in the boulder cave section, which was my favorite part of the hike. :sweat: Most of it is class 3/4 down climbing, but some may want to setup a handline or a rappel for some of the short drops. I ended up setting up an extra rappel in one section. Some of the down climbing could possibly be bypassed by fighting your way thru the brush on the side of the drainage. In this section you also have a sweet view of Fish Creek Canyon, SR88 as it climbs up the canyon wall, and treated to the sounds of Boy Scouts yelling for hours on end. :roll: I was rained on briefly in the boulder cave section but thankfully it didn't make the rock too slick. Too soon you're faced with the 150ft rappel that I did in 2 75ft drops with my 200ft rope since there's a belay station halfway down the dryfall. The rain picked up again and I decided it was a great time for lunch under the overhaning rock. :) From there, there's some more down climbing and then you're in Fish Creek Canyon just about 300ft from the bridge.

    Instead of hiking/hitching my way back up to the car, I decided to head upstream thru upper Fish Creek to Lost Dutchman Canyon, west over a saddle towards Tortilla Ranch and back along FR213 to my car.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    Tortilla Trailhead (Apached Trail): From the junction of Idaho Road & SR-88 follow SR-88 23.0 miles east to FR-213. Turn right and park here. This is the TH for your hike.

    Shuttle: From the TH, have 2 vehicles head east and down fish creek hill until you reach the bridge over Fish Creek in approx 1.5 miles. Find a parking spot here for the shuttle vehicle if you can, but beware parking is very limited and often all parking spots are taken. If so, then continue on north along the Apache trail until you locate a good spot to leave your shuttle vehicle. Return up the hill to the Tortilla TH.
    page created by Vaporman on Nov 15 2009 7:46 pm
    3 pack - loud whistle
    safety first
    help comment issue

    end of page marker