Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Go prepared! - Caving Checklist
Overview: Apache Box, at only about a mile long, is a short but extremely rugged box canyon near the Arizona-New Mexico border, located where Apache Creek tumbles off of the Mule Creek highlands. The attractions here are the chance to explore mines and caves, or simply travel through a narrow canyon bottom hemmed in by 800 foot sheer cliffs. Opportunities for canyoneering or rock climbing exist, as well. This is a very remote area, so come prepared.
The entrance to Apache Box is accessible via a rough four wheel drive road; consequently, the length of any hike to Apache Box can vary from one to five miles, or more, round trip, depending on your vehicle, determination, and time. The description here will begin near the divide between the Apache Creek and Bitter Creek watersheds, which seems like as good a place as any to begin your hike.
Geology: According to a New Mexico Bureau Of Mines And Mineral Resources report, The Apache Box rhyolite...is pink to red to light brown-gray, fine-grained, crystal-poor to porphyritic to glomerophyritic and holocrystalline. It consists of plagioclase, sanidine, quartz and accessory biotite, zircon, and magnetite. Alteration minerals include sericite and hematite and silicification is common. The historic Apache Box Canyon Mine was a gold, silver, and copper claim, located within Apache Box, and consists of 3 adits and a 40 foot shaft.
Hike: Turning off of the Bitter Creek Road onto the private ranch property, the road to Apache Box travels northeast, past trailers and a couple of homes. Leaving the private ranch property and arriving on B.L.M. land, the road gets really rough, and there are a couple of welcome ridge top parking spots, about 1.5 miles from the Bitter Creek Road. These parking spots make an ideal place to start hiking.
A half mile or so beyond the parking spots, the road forks. Go right, uphill. The road to Apache Box slowly climbs north, below an increasingly steep mountainside to the right. Straight ahead, the enormous cliffs of Apache Box grow closer. Behind the Box, the peaks of the Big Lue Mountains appear quite tame, rising above the grasslands of the Apache Creek basin.
Soon the road passes below a massive cliff to the right, and comes to a small turnaround spot at the entrance to Apache Box, 3.4 miles from Bitter Creek Road. The four wheel drive road ends here, and a signpost identifies the area behind it as a Bureau Of Land Management Wilderness Study Area. A very steep and rocky trail continues on however, switchbacking down into the deep confines of Apache Box. From the switchbacks, one can see several caves in the cliffs above, which appear to be quite difficult to access. Prehistoric artifacts have been recovered from at least one of the caves.
Reaching the floor of Apache Box, the road disappears into the creek bed. This is not a place to get caught during a flash flood. Heading downstream, one soon comes to the old adits of the Apache Box Canyon Mine, at the foot of the cliffs. Bats now call the tunnels home.
Upstream and downstream from where the road ends in the bottom of Apache Box, waterfalls are sure to exist. Be careful, and give yourself plenty of time to explore this rugged and beautiful place.
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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.
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