Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
After years of glancing over and down into the Marble Canyon drainages, I finally decided to check them out. I chose the southern most cut for the first hike. I was expecting to find a generally flat sand and gravel wash wallow, terminating in a very steep and overgrown upper end... generally open and lacking in diversity.
I was entirely wrong!
The mouth of the canyon is cluttered with housing development; folks aspiring to enjoy the exceptional setting for their private benefit. That is part of the distraction that kept me away from this area for the last three years. Once past the houses the canyon immediately gets interesting. There is an old rock quarry mine on the left with the odd assortment of giant slabs scattered here and there. You keep to the right (south) as the wide open expanses begins to narrow, decorated with a variety of rock formations and jutting cliff edges with glimpses of the towering line of cliffs far up to the right; the edges of the Mesa peninsula.
Winding around, with each corner turned offering ever more interesting variety of textures and shapes, the canyon is pleasantly surprising... and then even more so as it narrows to mere yards, then feet... a mini-slots section replete with a running spring with seeping springs dripping down the smooth rock walls. These form the first of many waterfall formations that characterize this hike. Oddly enough, each mini-climb is different. There are house size boulders to maneuver around. There are stair step striated layers to walk up. There are slick rock, smoothly rounded defiles to climb. There are rock jumbles obscuring the path... the variety and number of interim obstacles are too many to name.
Eventually, as you climb ever higher, there begin to be more and more solid rock slabs to walk, finally getting to a pot holed section with numerous "tinaja" pools... dry or wet, depending... then, the slabs tend to tilt at a much steeper uplift, and the waterfalls begin to pose a bit more of a challenge to scale. It is possible that for many hikers, the lower sections of these slabs would make a good termination point for this hike. To go higher may require a dedication of blood sacrifice, both by flora and rock structure... yet, it is worth the effort.
The final drainage obstacle, the Amphitheatre, lies obviously above, shutting off all access with it's overhanging rock ledges. This is the end of the canyon hike... all that is, except for getting back down!
Note: You may proceed on up to Hershberger Peak or over and down to The Mesa... simply move to your right, working around the end of the obstructing rock formation and on over and up to the adjacent ridge... from there, up to the peak or down to the Mesa.
Note: If you are just in the area for a short time, do this hike as your last for the visit. If you are here for just one day, and can only do one hike... this is the hike for that day. If you live in the area, save this hike for the one you do after you've done all the rest.
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