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Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
You Are Fragile-Hike With Care
This short but dramatic canyon is described in a counterclockwise direction starting from Willow Springs Lower and coming out to meet the Rough-N-Ready Trail. The route is entirely off-trail and requires rock hopping, bouldering, and some scrambling. Long pants, a long shirt, and light gloves are a plus. Although the route is confined in the narrow canyon, your route finding skills will be tested to circumvent boulders the size of houses blocking forward progress. If you need an established trail or regular markings to guide you on an adventure, take a pass on this hike. Only two cairns are marking this trail, at the beginning and the end.
Flash flood warning. This ordinarily dry canyon can fill with water quickly, and the water can be intense and violent. Evidence abounds that water at depths over ten feet deep has passed this way. Water will significantly add to the difficulty as the entire hike is in the waterway.
The hike starts from the Willow Springs Canyon Lower Trail, a quarter-mile north-northwest of the Willow Springs Basin Trail. A small cairn on the top of a huge boulder marks the entrance to the narrow dark canyon heading to the southwest. This hike is all business, all fun from start to finish. The sheer rough rock walls tower on either side and in front of you. Pick and choose your route over and around the boulders up the canyon. There are many small caves and alcoves which appear to provide shelter to wildlife. In the wet season, it may be difficult to avoid getting wet, but the many waterfalls along the way will make it worthwhile. Even a casual rock hound will revel in the surroundings. Obsidian(black glass) and geodes are plentiful. Your first trip thru will probably be a mission of survival, but you're sure to return to savor this special little canyon. You will come to a boulder chocked area with a waterfall in the center of the wash. There is a fat man(not) pass on the right bank around this obstacle. If you can't get through, the option is back in the wash over the boulders on the left side. Soon you come to a waterfall that steps up twenty feet. A natural rock ramp on the right side makes for an easy time. Now there is another twenty-foot waterfall on the right. Go up left if there is water. The jojoba is thick in this section, but you can push thru it as you stay high on the left bank heading for the saddle ahead. Once at the saddle take a look back before you descend to the wash. The wash levels off here, although it is rocky. Take the best route, which is sometimes right or left of the wash. The canyon opens up at this point with nice distant views. Soon an arch appears high and off in the distance, directly in front of you. At first, it seems to be an illusion. It's huge and offers a perfect silhouette with the sky. Continuing upstream, the arch gets better with each step. Soon you realize there are smaller arches on either side of the large one. Climbing up to the arch is a nice short excursion. A little over 0.5-miles up the canyon, look left for a mild sized saddle and work your way up to it. The vegetation is light here, and bushwhacking is easy. Work your way down the other side of the saddle, which has many interesting rock outcroppings covered with lichen on the right. Down in this wash, you are heading southeast. Stay to the left side of the wash up on the bank to avoid the worst vegetation. The wash starts its descent towards the Rough-N-Ready Trail. Staying high and left seems to be the ticket aiming ultimately for the little saddle between two rocks at the mouth of the canyon ahead. After the little saddle, it's a steep but easy meander down to the Rough-N-Ready Trail.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.