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Devil's Canyon Hike, AZ

no permit
571 62 7
Guide 62 Triplogs  7 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Globe > Superior E
4.4 of 5 by 17
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 5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,868 feet
Elevation Gain -841 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,093 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.27
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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34  2019-03-30 adilling
21  2016-11-05 RedRoxx44
25  2016-09-03 GrottoGirl
11  2016-03-20 MountainMatt
12  2016-02-19 kelraen
10  2015-02-26 gmaclachlan
29  2015-02-14 RedRoxx44
11  2015-02-12 jameslcox44
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,825
Trips 4,261 map ( 21,471 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Co-Author Fritzski
co-author avatarGuides 43
Routes 0
Photos 597
Trips 59 map (132 Miles)
Age 66 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Sep, Oct → Early
Seasons   Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:11am - 6:22pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Desert Emeralds
by joebartels & Fritzski

Likely In-Season!
Here's an out-n-back trek to the "Five Pools". Which is a downward swerve of layered swimming holes. Be forewarned as this is rather strenuous, not elevation or distance wise: just constant scrambling in addition to bushwhacking, rappelling & climbing. No actual trail exist, just actual beauty worth the effort. Tack on the 4x4 approach for one complete adventure. Best hike this trip April through June and September into October when rain definitely isn't forecasted. The monsoon season is risky and really just too hot. Winter would be fine to the pools. You might squeak out March & November with a wetsuit.

Desert Emeralds
I tagged along with Fritzski and his buddy Bruce on this grand trip. A quarter mile east from the windmill in Hackberry Canyon head east/down the canyon.

0.4 miles The first obstacle encountered is a 40 foot dryfall, which is fairly easy to zigzag down it's ledges. From here on the going is slow and somewhat exhausting compared to trail hiking. Several minor obstacles are encountered along the way to the five pools. This requires crisscrossing the creek back and forth in addition to occasionally high banking the canyon walls. In essence canyoneering is rougly 2-3 times more difficult then general trail hiking. From the 40 foot dryfall to the Devils Canyon confluence is prime real-estate, for rock-jocks anyhow. The north canyon wall is lined with rock formations. Dozens of climbs up to a YDS(Yosemite Decimal System) rating of 5.10c line the wall. The favored "Glitter Box" area is just north up Devils Canyon.

0.7 miles Upon reaching Devils Canyon thick tree coverage takes over. Take a right/south and head down the canyon. Be forewarned, I've personally witnessed wall to wall poison ivy in which I simply couldn't imagine getting through. Of most concern is the section between Hackberry Creek & Oak Creek canyons. However, on this trip it was nearly non-existent compared to years past. In addition there's a short use-trail that rises slightly on the west side to bypass most of it. The section between these two tributary canyons also boast the densest bushwhacking. Going in we bypassed it somehow on the west side wall but to our surprise plowed right through it on the return.

0.9 miles Continue on passing Oak Creek Canyon. From here to the pools it's a "which side of the creek is best" battle. A small waterfall is passed along the way along with some beautiful pools. When the canyon suddenly bends east and then west it's time to get excited as the "Five Pools" are near. My map isn't exact on the pools as I didn't bring my GPS, maybe next time.

2.0 miles The 1st pool is a beauty. This pool has the largest span of low ledges of all the pools, which is on the left.( that's going in, as all my left/rights will be meant as ) The drop-off is 12 feet. The jump or rappel is the same height from a ledge on the immediate left. Rappel wise it's actually less as there's a small ledge. This was my first time rappelling/climbing anything. I can tell you first hand rappelling is twice as scary as climbing. Basically, it's just that first step backwards over the edge, after that it's almost fun. Although climbing isn't as scary, I don't have any upper body strength and it was brutal. For the record I made it up this 120 foot section on my own. Okay, okay it's maybe 10 feet and by far the easiest as it has a slight slope. I believe there's plenty of handholds to climb if you're experienced at all. Better yet read Fritzski's mini-tutor below for the technical info.

The water temp on this day was perfect. The game plan on all these pools is to swim across. You could come to the first pool and turn around as I'm sure many do. If you're more into swimming and sunbathing the first pool is plenty. Much further is probably too much unless you're experienced. Keep in mind the trip home up Hackberry Creek Canyon is in full-sun-exposure even with a crack-of-dawn start.

The 2nd pool is maybe ten to fifteen yards from the first pool and it's tiny. It's really more of a creek filter then anything you'd want to swim. Since it's a necessary swim it's tough to leave out, therefore "Five Pools" is accurate. It does boast a curved slide into the water, which may be fun if the creek is running. Then again I prefer dry as it'd be a pain going up the smooth slippery slope.

The 3rd pool is a 15 foot drop from the second. The jump or rappel is 3 feet higher from a ledge on the immediate left. I didn't jump any of the pools going down. I believe Fritzski jumped three and Bruce jumped everything in sight. I made it back up this route too. However, it was more of Fritzski & Bruce pulling a dead body up the escarpment than me actually ascending on my own.

The 4th pool is the largest and highest drop off all wrapped into one package. Everything about this pool is photogenic. The waterfall drop is 50 feet and the rappel is about 65 feet from a ledge up to the left. Bruce jumped this one from a scramble a third of the way around the left. He said it had a little smack/sting going in but was definitely deep enough. He also mentioned the water down below is cold and makes you swim up fast!

The 5th pool is down a short slope from the third. I bypassed the 4th & 5th pools. The fourth pool was so amazing I more or less ignored the fifth pool on details. Instead I scrambled the left sloping wall down to the lip of the bottom pool. The left bank does add a new variety. A fern lined slope was a pleasant surprise and previously-undocumented to my knowledge. It's amazing it can grow in this brutal canyon, especially on these rock walls. The wall is terraced just enough to catch soil from above. Or possibly decades of leaves and wood decaying as the spongy soil felt like rotted wood. That combined with tree shade and the kicker being a good seep trickling down.

Below the 5th pool is a huge sloping slab which resembles poured concrete. It slopes down to a perfect sharp edge across the canyon. To get below here scramble a short scree slope on the right. I noticed rocks stacked on the left but the right is the sure way to go. On the left wall a seep drips from high above. Devils Canyon continues on down 4.2 miles to a not so happy ending at the mining town Ray. It's lush jungle for as far as I could see.

You may not even want to come down this far and reserve some energy. As I didn't realize that second little tub was a "pool" I was searching for the fifth. Dingbat "Sherlock Teva Holmes" came home and spent countless hours studying photos, water levels and theorizing "the Missing Pool". It was pretty bad. First I imagined a dynamite alteration between the first and second pools. This was of course somebody's kind deed to lower the water lever 3 feet and expose the slimy ledge for easier rappelling or something. Then came the erosion theory. Only to be followed by one last desperate theory. Puzzled I went back to admiring my photos of un-blurred jumps when it all made sense. Oh that pool!

Hackberry Creek Canyon and surrounding canyon walls are rock-jock magnets. Most notable is near the Oak Flat Campground where bouldering contest take place. It's not unusual to see large groups of people in March.

Fritzski Technical Notes:
To descend down through all the "five pools" of Devil's Canyon is considered "technical canyoneering", thus requiring the appropriate equipment, knowledge, and experience. As Joe mentions above, the pools consist of a classic series of plunge pools (1) of which one is a small tub and another a punchbowl (2).

1st Pool: From the top of the first broad dryfall (Sept.) you overlook a 15' drop into the first pool. There was a knotted hand line bolted on the left side for the fairly easy descent. Despite its shabby condition, the descent is a bit less than vertical and with good hand and foot holds. Of course, just heaving oneself over the edge and into the pool is also an inviting option after the long hike in.

2nd Pool: Swimming across the first pool, you come to the top of a ramp or chute leading about 12' down to a small tub only about 10' across. This tub would be the sensible limit for those with no technical experience.

3rd Pool: Again, you find yourself at the top of a dryfall, this time overlooking pool #3 where you will again find a hand line bolted to the left side. Here though, the drop is much more sheer, smooth, and slightly farther than previously encountered. We deemed the condition of the rope unsafe and tied our own hand line from an extra coil brought along for just such an occurrence. Before commencing this drop, be confident in your ability to climb back up this sheer pitch using hand-over-hand, with the use of a belay or ascenders as an option if needed. Once again, jumping is an attractive option.

4th Pool: From here things take a turn for the technical. You are now overlooking the sheer sides of an immense punchbowl at least 60' straight down to the water. Although my daredevil partner choose to jump "for the fun of it", I wouldn't recommend it. I instead opted for the rappel of which the lower half is free hanging. The anchor bolts look new and solid, but bring your own webbing and ring. Having only a 100' static line (3), I had to rig for a single line rappel with retrieval cord (4). You will need rope at the bottom for one last rappel into pool #5.

5th Pool: Swimming out of the bottom edge of the pool you now overlook the final pool #5 and the forested floor of the canyon as it once again flares out from the sheer rock walls. There is a small tree on the left side that serves well as an anchor for the final rappel, which is down a smooth slope and onto a lower ledge where you can make about a 30' jump or continue the rappel into the water assuming you have long enough rope.

The exit at the bottom that Joe discussed above will get you back up to the top of pool #4 where you can retrieve your webbing and any other gear you choose to leave there. From there it is simply a matter of climbing back out via the hand lines (in conjunction with pre-positioned top roped belays if needed).

NOTES: (terms taken from "Canyoneering-Beginning to Advanced" by C. Van Tilburg)
(1) Plunge pool - collection of water at the bottom of a waterfall
(2) Punchbowl - large plunge pool
(3) Static line - lightweight, low stretch rope designed for rappelling
(4) Retrieval Cord - better go buy the book :)

Fritzski's Factoid: Joe mentions the Yosemite Decimal System for rating technical free climbing from 5.0 all the way up to 5.14 (which is like climbing a piece of sheetrock). But where does the "5" come from and what does it mean? The Yosemite system lies within a much broader system of terrain classification ratings developed by the Sierra Club. These classes are as follows:
  1. Walking on level ground
  2. Hiking on or off trail with some elevation change
  3. Scrambling; may require hands for balance or support
  4. Easy vertical or near vertical climbing not requiring protection
  5. Technical free climbing (equipment used only to protect against a fall)
  6. Technical Aid climbing (equipment actually used for support while climbing)

So now when someone says the top of the Flatiron or Brown's Peak requires some class 4 climbing, you'll know exactly what to expect!

Flying Bruce - 5.4MB Mpeg

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2002-09-16 joebartels & Fritzski
    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 of 18 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Devil's Canyon Hike
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    I left work early on Friday and drove up to the Pinals for a weekend of adventure time, hoping to beat the impending winter storm's deluge. I parked at the Silver King Substation, and, despite a 5 pm start, was determined to get a good, second hike in on the Stoneman Trail (aka the Stoneman Grade). The scant clues from satellite imagery had proven true, and, to my surprise and excitement, I was able to follow the north branch of the Stoneman Trail down a side canyon to the east, along a definite, cairned path. Bits of vintage, broken china and bottles confirmed I was on a historic route.

    I dropped into Devils Canyon at sunset, which was an inviting scene, with hoodoo rocks above, trees, and water flowing in the creek. The trail continued up the east rim of the canyon and onto a brushy mesa overlooking Iron Canyon and highway 60. At this point, the trail I had been following ended. The wise choice would have been to go back the same way, but I still had a half mile of Stoneman Trail route to cover, where it intersected the route of the modern highway. It was dark now, but the highway was so close!

    I crawled, bushwhacked, and smashed my way through thick oak brush and endless catclaw down the steep canyon side, stumbling over loose rocks, but, amazingly, staying on the old Stoneman Trail. With headlamp on, I stumbled out of the bushes like a sasquatch onto the busy highway, bloody and filthy.

    My plan had been to walk the highway back, but the narrow shoulder, close canyon walls, and endless, fast moving traffic now made this a bit of a difficult and rather dangerous option at times. With a broken highway reflector stuck on my pack for a semblance of safety, I squeezed along the guardrail and sometimes through the brush-choked creek bottom down Iron Canyon. A semi passed very close at one pint, and I was happy to come to the wide shoulders of the new Devils Canyon stretch of highway.

    Thankful to leave highway 60 near Oak Flat, I turned north for a peaceful, starlit walk along forest road 342. A dead battery scare at my truck was a false alarm, and I drove back into Superior for a well earned turkey sub before camping out for the night on the road to Silver King. A satisfying adventure, and one that filled me with nostalgia for similar trips from years past. I felt connected to my younger self: the real
    Devil's Canyon Hike
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    Devils Canyon 5 Pools Loop
    Joe's been talking this one up for quite awhile, before it got too much hotter, it was time to take a trip out there. If you are a first timer to go out here, check out my GPS track and waypoints for suggested Parking for this one. HC 4x4 will save you a bit more that a mile of road hiking.

    This is an enjoyable canyon offering stark contrasts between jagged cliff walls, Hoodoos, and thick rain forest like flora complete with butterfly's and birds you don't typically hear in other places in Arizona. Long pants for this one as you'll be walking through poison ivy in places.

    It's slow going getting down this canyon but nothing technical until you get to the pools. For us, we used the rope to get down to pool 1.

    We swam pool 1,
    waded through stinky pool (Puddle 2) and
    then went high to North (Left) to bypass pool 3. We couldn't find a good way down to get to the remaining pools, so we enjoyed the views, took some pictures. We believe we should have gone up to the South (Right) instead. Next, went to see if we could find the cairned route to turn this into a loop. Success, as neither of us were looking forward to hiking back up the canyon.

    An enjoyable canyon experience!

    Video Babble = :next:
    Devil's Canyon Hike
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    Pleased to see plenty of water flowing through the Hackberry side canyon access into Devil's Canyon. Of course, all this water made working our way around the biggest fall challenging. Couldn't do the usual rock climb down the normally dry falls. Worked our way around some rock-climbers trails to the left. This took some time as I had to help three novice hikers including my 11 year old kids up and down through some rough terrain and exposed climbs. Beautiful falls and fun boulder scrambling throughout this entire hike. We didn't make it all the way down to Devil's Canyon due to other commitments we had later in the day.
    Devil's Canyon Hike
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    Has been awhile since I hit this one last. Hackberry wasn't flowing like last time, but Devil's was. The waterfalls made it a bit more enjoyable. Hackberry downclimb was cake without being covered in slippery algae.

    I just realized this is the only canyon I've recently done that has healthy doses of both catclaw and locust bush.
    Devil's Canyon Hike
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    Played hooky from work and drove out to Superior for a hike and bouldering off the Mine Rd. The whole area is saturated with moisture. Creeks and waterfalls are everywhere. Plenty of water running through the Hackberry Canyon drainage that drops into Devil's Canyon. We spent some time enjoying the waterfalls and then noticed some dark gray clouds rolling in. Decided to head out and go over to the camp boulder. Wore out my arms climbing around that boulder then headed home.
    Devil's Canyon Hike
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    I was entertaining guests in town from Frankfurt and London. I wanted to take them somewhere that is more interesting than the standard desert trail and that we could get to quickly. We only had time for a short half day hike due to other Easter festivities taking place later in the day. I did not list canyon stats since we really only went as far as reaching Devil's Canyon via the Hackberry side canyon. Two of our hikers were age 8 and 11. Their small size did not seem to impede progress along this boulder-infested scramble. Kids amaze me with their stamina and seemingly endless energy. Other than needing help with some of the big steps here and there, you could mostly expect to find them near the front of the group. We stopped at the creek which was slowly trickling its way through Devil's Canyon. After a short break we returned the way we came. Near the end of our hike, we came across a group of rockclimbers. We climbed the dryfall and watched as one of the women in the group led the climb. My out-of-town guests really enjoyed watching the climbers make their way up the 100+ foot vertical spire. It was a nice finish to this interesting canyon adventure.
    Devil's Canyon Hike
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    Day two of entertaining out-of-town guests. 100% overcast today. Decided it was best to find something close to home. We left Tombstone at 10am and headed up to Superior via a rarely traveled route that cuts up through Redington and Cascabel. It was a long drive down a narrow dirt road, but we ultimately made our way out, up into Mammoth, then Winkelman, and then into Superior. We started at Hackberry Canyon and made our way to the 40 foot dryfall. The girls announced that we had reached the end. "This is as far as we can go." Of course, it didn't take very long before Dean and I found the route and started scrambling down the dryfall. We urged the girls along and helped them where they needed an extra hand. From there it was pretty easy going, occasionally having to examine the creek bed for the best route down to Devil's Canyon. The girls stopped at a final drop of about 20 feet and enjoyed the view from a steep ledge. Dean and I continued on down to the creek at Devil's Canyon. Not wanting to leave the girls too far behind, we decided to turn around and rejoin them for the trip back up Hackberry Canyon. This is a great canyon with some killer vertical rock climbing routes along the way as well.
    Devil's Canyon Hike
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    Another amazing canyon that's loaded with Fall colors on yet another beautiful day! :y: The mining operation appears to be back in full swing and operating 24/7 but that also means the road is being maintained and I was able to my car about a mile from the windmill. I camped the night in the area and had to space myself in between the drilling sights so that the constant noise & bright lights wouldn't keep me up all night. :roll: Didn't feel like trying my luck up that rocky hill just before reaching the TH. Made short work of the road walk to the TH and started down the dry Hackberry Creek while admiring all those sweet climbable spires. :) Climbing down those water/dry falls in Hackberry was much easier since it wasn't flowing and made it down to lower Devils Canyon fairly quickly. Now a year ago, I remember that rock hop/bushwhack down Devils Canyon to be rather rugged & slow going but I guess a year of canyoneering has broken me in because this time it seemed much easier, no rattlesnakes to dodge, and most of the Poison Ivy leaves have already fallen to the ground. ;) Made it those sweet 5 pools in about two hours from the TH and suited & geared up from some adult play time. :sweat: The canyon had been lightly flowing and I was crossing my fingers hoping it'd also be flowing over the waterfalls of 5 pools and was super excited to find that to be the case. :y: Setup a handline for that first easy 15ft drop yet still rappelled down to play it safe & swam across that first chilly pool. Slide down into the next small pool and setup a fixed line for the return trip and rapped down that 20ft drop into the 3rd chilly swimmer. Took advantage of a sunny ledge to soak up some sunshine before rigging that super sweet 60ft overhung rappel while getting showered on by the light waterfall. There was a floating log in the pool that I hopped on and paddled it across that huge plunge pool after pulling the rope. :D The next drop is a sloping 40ft section of slickrock followed by a 30ft drop to the final 5th pool and it's safest to just rappel the whole thing from a anchor on the left side and swim across that final pool. The views down there are mind blowingly amazing of that canyon surrounded by hundreds of rhyolite spires, multi-colored oaks in the creek below, and ferns lining the side of the canyon where a spring or seep is leaking out... :DANCE: Scrambled up the north side of the canyon back to that 3rd pool and soaked up some more sunshine before swimming across that pool and hooking up my ascender to my fixed line get back up to the 2nd pool. Climbed up that slippery slope and swam across that 1st pool again to climb up my handline. Dropped all the gear & shorty wetsuit to soak up some more sunshine & grab lunch before making the rock hop & bushwhack back up canyon. Make sure to look for all the cairns so you don't hike past Hackberry Canyon, which again was much easier to hike up since it wasn't flowing. Admiring all the spires again when I ran across & chatted with some friendly climbers. "Are you canyoneering by yourself?" Maybe... :whistle: After a day of canyon hiking, road walking is such a piece of cake and made it out of there with plenty of daylight to spare. :D
    Devil's Canyon Hike
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    Finally got to knock this one out. Was a PERFECT day for canyoneering and I really enjoyed this canyon. I am wondering if some major changes have happened to this canyon since the description. I can't imagine anyone zig-zagging down the waterfall in Hackberry, it is a vertical 30 ft drop to a ledge now. Also the tree mentioned at the end of pool 4 seems no longer in existance.

    Regardless we brought plenty of ropes and had a great time playing in all 5 pools. A shorty fended off hypothermia well enough, although I do tend to run a little warm compared to others. Got to test out some new ascending techniques and the gear worked well, though I need to practice a bit more to get it down fluidly. Hands are now hamburger though from ropework and just abuse taken on the hike.

    Found a 30 year old toolbox hidden amongst some rocks, tools look good quality although 30 years of rust has taken their toll. Luckily the bushwhacking isn't very bad although it seems slow going the whole way with the nontechnical boulder hopping. Jawjacked with some climbers on the way out while waiting for the rest of my party.

    While practicing stealth techniques :) saw two deer and a couple of!
    Devil's Canyon Hike
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    Phew, this canyon kicked my rear! :sweat: The extra 4 miles is from road walking an extra 2 miles in & out of Hackberry Canyon. Those 5 pools have been on my list for some time, but it wasn't until recently that I had the gear and experience to fully pull it off. It is possible to bypass most of the pools, but where's the fun in that? :lol: I brought my 200ft rope so that I could rappel/swim/wade all five pools properly. That Heckberry falls were flowing fairly nicely, so I opted to build an anchor and rap down and wade thru the pool as opposed to downclimbing on the exposed wet rock. :o I left the wetsuit thru Devils Canyon and took advantage of it by bypassing some scrambling & bushwhacking by just sticking to the creek and wading/swimming thru it. With the wetsuit on and the sun beating down on me, it was actually quite warm and I'd briefly sit in the creek just to cool off in November of all times. There were some small patches of Poion Ivy, but nothing that couldn't be easily avoided. That rock hop/bushwhack from Hackberry to 5 pools seems to take forever and it took me 4 hours to get from my car to the top of the 5 pools, another 2 hours for the technical section, and 4 hours more to hike back to my car. There were some okay handlines with loops for the first 2 drops, but I felt it was safer to just rap down. The second pool only was knee high, but the 1st & 3rd pool were only a few feet down from being full while 4th & 5th pools were pretty much full. I setup single line rappels for the drops into those last 2 pools to try out my new Petzl Pirana on my 8.3mm rope. It gives more than enough friction on that small rope in full friction mode. 8) After that last pool, I didn't have any time for more exploring and quickly found the trail back up to the 3rd pool. Getting up that looped handline was a little bit of work, but I slowly made it up by advancing my personal anchor clips up the loops in the rope. :roll: Did the same on the upper handline just to be safe and then packed the gear for the hike up to Hackberry. I left the wetsuit on again to wade/swim the occasional pool but took it off when I finally got to the top of Hackberry falls where I retrieved my webbing & loop from before. The sun was setting when I reached the road and I made short work of those 2 road miles back to the car.

    It turned out being a fairly sweet trip that every canyoneer should check out at some time, but with the reward to effort ratio being kinna low it might be awhile until I return here again. :whistle:

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Strictly 4x4

    To canyon trip
    Go east out of Superior on US 60 to Magma Mine Road on the south side near mile marker 231. This is also the turnoff for Oak Flat Campground. Follow this paved road for 1.5 miles to a rusty steel pipe gate on the left. This is No.9 road but it isn't marked. Close the gate behind you and continue on past the pond. Passing the pond you will go through a parallel of fences and a coral. From here on it's 4x4 terrain, high clearance is possible but I wouldn't recommend it. Continue on this extremely washed and rocky jeep trail. At about 1.65 miles from the gate you enter a sandy canyon bottom. Past the sandy wash the road is 4X4 terrain only. You are looking for a windmill near a coral. From the windmill there is a road that goes south which is up. Forget that one and turn east/down Hackberry canyon until the road ends. Another road forks to the left and up but forget that one. The hike starts at the road end.
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