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Willow Springs Canyon Lower, AZ

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Guide 15 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Mesa NE
3 of 5 by 7
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 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 2.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,741 feet
Elevation Gain -175 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 2.69
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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15  2018-02-24
Black Glass-Saguaro Lake-Willow Spgs Cyn Loop
16  2018-02-24
Black Glass-Saguaro Lake-Willow Spgs Cyn Loop
24  2017-11-26 Steph_and_Blake
8  2014-01-25 RickVincent
18  2011-12-27
Willow Springs Basin
4  2011-11-24 NatureKopelli
5  2011-01-18 sventre
14  2010-11-18
Triple Arch via Black Glass Canyon
Page 1,  2
Author AZLOT69
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 247
Photos 7,293
Trips 1,818 map ( 15,596 miles )
Age 68 Male Gender
Location Gold Canyon, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:10am - 6:31pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Among Goldfield Skyscrapers
by AZLOT69

Willow Springs Canyon Lower is more of a route than a trail but it is a well defined route staying in the waterway the entire length to its junction with Saguaro Lake. Awe inspiring cliffs, hundreds of feet tall, line the canyon on both sides providing non stop scenery. Rock hopping turns to bouldering as the canyon narrows to a slot with one technical section in which many are going to need a rope assist for the final stretch to the water.

Flash flood warning. This normally dry canyon can fill with water quickly and the water can be strong and violent. Evidence abounds that water at depths over ten feet deep have passed this way. Water will significantly add to the difficulty as the entire hike is in the waterway.

The trailhead has several nice sites suitable for primitive camping. Starting at the junction with Rough-N-Ready Canyon and the Willow Springs Basin, the Willow Springs Canyon Lower heads in a north northwest direction. The smooth sandy canyon bottom quickly becomes a rock hop. Pick and choose the best path downstream. Towering cliffs offer ample opportunity for photo taking, looking for wildlife and simply enjoying the splendor of this canyon. The canyon turns and twists with new exciting views around each corner. Winter hiking with the sun at extreme angles can have you in the shade much of the day and present some challenges taking photos with the dark shadows. On the flipside a summer hike would be like a convection oven with the sun straight overhead. There are several sections where light bouldering is required as well as the use of hands. Sturdy footwear and walking sticks are a plus due to all the ankle twisting rocks and the inclination to look up constantly. There are several opportunities for side trips and it can make it difficult to make any forward progress in the canyon. The trail eventually narrows down to a short slot section in which you can touch the walls on either side at the same time. Soon you may hear boats on Saguaro Lake. The noise echoes up the canyon. You are approaching Saguaro Lake but it is still out of sight. Keep in mind that the level of the lake can change quickly because it is regulated by the dam. With this in mind you approach the final obstacle. A fifteen foot drop down some boulders. There is no bypass. Consider your options before continuing. If you go down can you get back out ? Scramblers can negotiate this especially if you have a partner. Setting up a rope assist is an good option. Others will use this as a reason to turn back and return the way you came.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2010-01-22 AZLOT69
    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
    Willow Springs Canyon Lower
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    Black Glass-Saguaro Lake-Willow Spgs Cyn Loop
    I'd never done anything in the Goldfields before, so I PM'd The Gecko that Treks for some suggestions. She through out a few suggestions and I ended up putting a twist on one that she and LP had just finished.

    We started at the Willow Canyon TH at first light. None of the trails out here are signed, but most are in great shape. Temps. in the 30's forced a brisk pace to start. The sweet geology was painted in orange, with the rising sun.

    The first off trail section took us to what are no longer the Tanks that were camouflaged. This is an interesting area that has seen recent improvements. For the life of me, I can't figure out how the water gets from the Tanks to the higher in elevation trough.

    We worked our way downhill to my favorite part of the hike, Black Glass Canyon. Practicing Safety First, we worked our way through the many obstacles in this canyon getting to Willow Creek. From here it was a bit more than 2 miles to get to Saguaro Lake/Salt River. Almost to the lake, we ran into a couple of ladies coming in from the lake, that thought they'd discovered a new canyon. :lol:

    I had plans to do some additional off trail exploring from here, but the canyon walls did not cooperate. So we reversed direction and headed back up Willow Creek. Joe enjoyed this portion so much that for the next 3.5 miles all I head was Bla, Bla, Bla.

    Finally out of the creek bed and back on a trail it was smooth sailing back to the trailhead. Looks like there's plenty more areas to check out.

    Willow Springs Canyon Lower
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    Black Glass-Saguaro Lake-Willow Spgs Cyn Loop
    Willow Canyon Trailhead
    6:37am Cold start, pants kept it bearable.

    Gold Eagles Nugget Trail
    Nice trail, great condition. I'm not sure if the trail is local or FS maintained... regardless, the FS would be smart to sign and designate official trails.

    Quartz Crystal Arroyo
    Course variation of @AZLOT69's description.The trail through here is impressively manicured and quick.

    Razorback Knob
    No matter how you slice it this is a fanciful orchestra of terrain! Hit it sunrise or sunset! We missed that light, 'twas dazzling in the previous two paragraphs. Like crackin' the whip on Breezin Lad early 90's this is a guaranteed winner.

    Camouflage Tanks
    The tanks have been replaced. As a result, they are not camouflaged anymore. We didn't follow @sventre's description route but it's cool to now know about the Cottonwood Spring access into the Goldfields! Worthy destination for the views alone.

    Black Glass Canyon - aka Obsidian
    Snazzy obstacle course canyon. Similar to the huge boulder entrance of Peter's Canyon with Fish Creek (upper bridge) accents. Slow going and just barely in my current ability range. Didn't know to look for the triple arch. The canyon is plenty to engage my attention.

    Willow Springs Canyon Lower
    Never ending sinking steps sand/gravel creek beds rate pure hell in my book. The view at shoreline is the inlet not the lake view desired. Met two friendly kayakers a tenth of a mile from the lake.

    Willow Springs Canyon to Willow Springs Basin Tank
    No thank you. Joe wake up, never do this again.

    Willow Springs Basin Tank to Willow Canyon Trailhead
    Back on trails, life is good.

    Hike to and through Black Glass Canyon is outstanding!
    Willow Springs Canyon Lower
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    Parked at the old corral and walked in near the waterfall. My son and I just wanted to check out the creek. The creek was flowing strong, but the water was muddy brown. We traveled upstream to the first Tinaja, stopped there for awhile and turned back due to time constraints (other plans).
    Willow Springs Canyon Lower
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    Reverse Willow Springs via Butcher Jones. Loaded up my kayak and drove to Butcher Jones. Arrived before sunrise and started paddling towards the mouth of the canyon. Calm glassy water, no wind and pink clouds overhead. The sun came up and lit up the cliff walls, as I made my way across the lake.

    I reached the canyon and listened to an unknown animal splashing in the water on the other side of the tall reeds. Waited for a view, but it never made itself visible.

    I stowed my boat and paddle and started up the narrow canyon. I was looking for what was described as a difficult upclimb, but never really encountered what is described in the hike description. The narrow slot may be tricky to navigate, but there is indeed a workaround to the right. Two workarounds actually. One cuts underneath a rock and the other, further right, is a light bushwhack with a couple easy scrambles up boulders.

    I traveled up the dry wash until reaching a narrow side canyon to my right. I walked a short way into the narrowly slotted canyon and checked out a small cave-like alcove on the cliff wall. This is where I turned around.

    Made it back to my kayak and paddled back to Butcher Jones.

    4.5 miles on foot
    3.5 miles by boat
    Willow Springs Canyon Lower
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    We took the quads out hiking, which is what we call an activity compromise between Tony ("Walk?! Why? Are we out of gas?) and me. We rode the quads on the Jeep road and in the wash from the parking lot for Willow Springs to the trail head for this hike. Let me tell you, that was one tough ride! I lost count of how many times I got off my quad and let him drive it over something nasty for me. Flipping it over is not my thing. Doing wheelies and going airborne is his thing. Even on terrain that I thought I could handle, I still managed to nearly get thrown off it once. Had it not been for my white-knuckle grip on the handlebars, I would have gone flying. Even so, half of me went flying and I bruised my ankle pretty good. Fortunately, this was on the way back after the hike. Unfortunately, I had an audience of three hikers not 10 feet away to see me perform this stunt. :oops: Yeah, I'm cool.

    I was quite relieved when we finally reached the trail head and were forced to park the death machines. This is when my fun starts and his gets put on hold until the ride back.

    The canyon is very scenic, getting better as you go. Not surprisingly, it reminded me a lot of Lower First Water... much of the same geology. It was dry nearly all the way, with just a few small, stagnating pools. Reaching the end, I was bummed because I couldn't see the water. The small inlet was wall to wall with 4 - 6 foot high cattails, so dense that you couldn't see the ground they were growing in. There was a boat in the water there and we could just see the top of it. The people in the boat couldn't see us, and I'm sure they thought they had found a private, little hideaway, so I think it freaked them out when they suddenly heard us talking. :o I had to laugh, remembering every single time I ever tried to get away with anything. No matter how slick I thought I was, there was always somebody there to bust me... every single time.

    Turning around, we headed back to our 'horses' for the spine-jarring ride to the parking lot.

    I hadn't really expected to see anyone else out there, but we saw ten people along the way (not counting the sheriff who pulled into the parking lot right behind us to make sure we had OHV stickers on our plates).
    Willow Springs Canyon Lower
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    I also hiked this sweet canyon all the way to the river/lake. I parked at the TH off of AZ88, but next time if I didn't have a high clearance vehicle I'd probably just park at the Needle Vista parking and hit the wash a little further up. When you first enter that wash, make sure to take a right. Taking a left just leads up a side canyon and a deadend of a road. The first part of this hike is kinna bland, you get better views if you get up out of the wash a bit, or you can just hike faster until you reach the better stuff. The final three miles to the lake are very scenic, windy, and with some small narrows. Once you reach the water, you can't really see the lake unless you hike up the sidewalls a bit. There's a marshy patch and loads of reeds impeding your path to the lake and you'd need sandles, swimsuit, and maybe a kayak if you wanted to get to the actual lake and not just some marsh on a side canyon of the main Salt River/Saguaro Lake. :?

    Permit $$
    Special Use

    Map Drive
    Strictly 4x4

    To canyon trip
    Access to this trailhead on foot 4.5 miles via Rough-N-Ready Canyon or 4.0 miles via Willows Springs Basin. By vehicle strictly 4 X 4 by accessing Willow Springs Trailhead at milepost 204 on Highway 88 with a Bulldog Canyon Permit. This Trail is part of the Bull Dog Canyon OHV area and an administrative permit can be obtained at no cost from the Mesa Tonto Forest Office. The permit will allow further access beyond the gate for those with a four wheel drive vehicle. The trailhead is at the junction of Rough-N-Ready Canyon and Willow Springs Basin.
    page created by AZLOT69 on Jan 22 2010 4:22 pm
    1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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