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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Crystal Canyon, AZ

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Guide 5 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Globe > Globe NE
3.5 of 5 by 2
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 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 6.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,308 feet
Elevation Gain 700 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6-8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
4  2007-07-29 enfuegoaz
Author jkern15674
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 0
Photos 0
Trips 18 ( 114 miles )
Age 45 Male Gender
Location Chandler, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Reservation San Carlos
Preferred   May, Sep → 7 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:03am - 6:30pm
0 Alternative
Warm Springs
by jkern15674

Likely In-Season!
A beauty with 4 waterfalls within 2 miles and the clearest water in the state. Did I mention that no-one knows where this hike is and the area is pristine. After finding out the general locale me and some technical canyoneer type headed out to see what we could find. The drive is on paved road until that last 2 miles which were fair to good for dirt roads considering the dirt type. After leaving the pavement follow the dirt road around a cow tank (which had 2 dead cows in it) at the water tank on the right hang an immediate left. Follow this road another 1/4 mile until it dead ends? You will find you self in the middle of a cholla cactus field thinking there is no canyons here (you can't see any riparian areas, not even a single tree or anything that would give you a clue other than it's on the map)

From the car park start heading due northeast, this is a boring slog through fields of cacti and cows. After approx 2 miles you should standing at the edge of the canyon. Now at this point you have two options: 1. continue hiking north until the canyon curves and there is a butte, at that point there is an old cable. You can use this as an anchor to rappel off. Now your probably thinking oh that's an easy way down the 1000ft cliff, but the hard part will be your ascending of the rope and trying to keep your hands from becoming a bloody mess. 2. at a rock cairn and several petroglyphs there is a non-tech route down into the canyon. (HINT: the rock cairn is right in front of the waterfall, so if standing at the cliff edge look straight down at the waterfall and you should be there. I wonder if the Indians planned their petroglyphs that way???) The route down is pretty straight forward and some hand over hand work is required class 3-4 scrambling. Once at the creek enjoy the first fall and swimmin' hole. Then start heading down stream to the real fun.

After 2 miles the next waterfall is encountered a nice slide heads you into a pool and the the waterfall is negotiated by jumpin off. It is approx 15 feet and there is a route around it on canyon right. After admiring this beauty continue down stream to the next two falls. The first is 30 ft and there is a bolt on canyon right looking upstream from the ledge. A contingency anchor was placed with 8mm rope and the first rap was on. This is a tough rap, first it's slimy, second about half way down you are pelted by a cross channel of the creek which attempts to knock you feet out from under you. (I fell both times and only 1 member of the group was able to make it down with out falling) Once down there is a nice pool to swim in. If concerned about you group ability to rap themselves there is a belay anchor at the bottom on the big boulder. This anchor is also good for setting a guide line for the next rap. The reason being the bolt for this waterfall is right at the fall and one mistake would send you helplessly to you death. So have you first member set up a guide line and then each member can clip in with there personal anchor system and swim over the the rap. Again we set up contingency anchors on the bolt on canyon right. This rap is 40 feet but the start is what is tricky, I posted my feet up against the right side and swung myself out and around once on the rap it is straight forward. The tech portion of this hike can be bypassed on canyon right but why??

Need: 50ft rope, 50ft pull cord, PAS, harness, beaner', wet or dry suit unless hot, hot, hot, permit from San Carlos Indian reservation

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2006-05-22 jkern15674
    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
    Crystal Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    When I did an Ankle Test in Pinto, apparently I didn't Test it enough... I needed to Ricochet around in some Rocks and Bash the Ankle against a Boulder or two to see if it would hold up.... ](*,) I was also reminded of something on this Crystal Trip. It's never over, until it's over... :?

    We did not use the Hiking Route. There is a Canyoneering Route on the other Side of the Canyon that everyone uses. From where you Park the 4x4 Vehicle, it's only .18 Miles before you Drop into the Canyon. You're roughly 1 1/2 Miles Upstream from the Tech Section when you hit the River, but overall, the Route is about 2 Miles shorter. One of the Guys ran a Track, I'll see if I can get more Accurate Mileage and AEG from him. It's still not an easy Approach by any means. The Slope going down is very Steep and once you hit the River, the Route along the River is negotiating through a Boulder Field most of the way... Although I was a little slower than usual (Is that Possible??? :o ) the Ankle held up very well...We got to the Beginning of the Technical Section and started off with a Slide into a Pool, a Swim and then a 25 foot Jump into the next Pool, followed by another Swim. And then we were at the 2 Rappels...

    The Water was flowing very well... :sweat: But, it was doable to stay out of the Main Flow if you worked against the Rope's Fall Line and stayed Canyon Right on both Rappels... It is supposed to be 2 Separate Rappels. You Rappel the First Fall and then stay connected to the Rope so you don't get swept over the 2nd Fall. The Anchor for the 2nd Rappel is right at the Edge of the 2nd Fall on Canyon Right and not easy to get to from the Water as it's High on the Wall. You can stand on a Ledge just before it in the Pool, but the Ledge ends before you can reach the Anchor... :sweat:

    One of the most Experienced Guys went first. He stayed on Rope in the Pool and finally managed to reach the 2nd Anchor and clip in his Safety Line. He determined that the 2nd Anchor was no longer good enough to Rappel on, it was not safe to use on it's own Merit. But that had been hinted at when Researching this Trip, so we were prepared for that Scenario. We had brought enough Rope to Rappel both Falls off the same Rope. We did thread it through the 2nd Anchor to try to take a bit of the Load off the Top Anchor. 150 Feet of Rope was barely enough for a Single Strand Rappel. If we had needed to "Pull" the Rope, we would have needed 300 Feet. But we didn't need to Pull it since you can go around and get back to the Top Rappel to collect your Gear. We took 300 Feet for Safety Reasons.

    As the rest of us went down, we Rappelled the first Fall, got off Rope in the Pool, but clipped our Safety to the Rope when Swimming through the Pool to the 2nd Fall. We had someone "Man" the 2nd Fall Anchor and help people reach the Anchor to clip in...Then, we'd get back On Rope and Rappel the 2nd Fall. If you didn't go against the Fall Line and stay Canyon Right on the 2nd Fall to a Ledge around the Corner near the Bottom, you were going to get absolutely Pounded with Water. One of the Guys who is heavily experienced in Class C Canyons, called the Water Level ok to run, but just shy of Hazardous... :lol:

    I was the 3rd one down. The first Guy had made it to the Bottom without getting into the Main Watercourse, so we knew it was doable. The second person stayed at the 2nd Anchor to Assist everyone else. I had a great Rappel down the first Fall, staying right and getting into the Pool. Clipped on the Safety and swam over to the 2nd Anchor and managed to finally get up and get hooked in there. Then I was back On Rope. I was surprised to learn that the 1st Person down, didn't stay at the Bottom, but was instead, on his way back up and around. But I went anyway... It was harder for me to fight the Rope's Fall Line on this one, especially since I was Rappelling Left-handed. There were times where I needed to grab that Right Wall and it was awkward for me to do so. I was right on the Edge of the Main Water and the Edge of the Fall still came up to my Waist, but I made it around the Corner and was standing on the Ledge. I had made it! The Ledge went back more and I decided that I needed to be away from the "Edge" a bit more, so I fed some slack through my Device and took a couple of more Steps to get further into the Ledge. And then it happened... Something happened and I can't even tell you what or why, it happened so fast. One minute I was standing on the Ledge and the next second, I was being Whipped to my Right, right into the Base of the Main Fall. Because I was now entering the Natural Fall Line and I must have still had a little Slack, I was not only being Whipped Right, but I was also Falling DOWN some and I fell off the Ledge. So I'm now almost in a Horizontal Position and then the Water hit me, flipping me the rest of the way Upside Down. Luckily I still had both Hands on the Rope, with one hand above, so I was able to right myself. I didn't quite hit bottom, so the Rope swung forward into a more Vertical Position which allowed me to travel through the Fall and end up BEHIND it, where I grabbed onto a Ledge above me and stuck there. I managed to find Vertical Footholds to help keep me there because I couldn't free up my Brake Hand without Falling the rest of the way... I still had Water coming down on Top of me, but not nearly as much and I could Breathe and I could see... And then the Pain hit...Somewhere in that whole Mess, I trashed the Ankle. I can't even tell you how. I either smashed it up against something or caught it somehow and Torqued it to where even having the Brace on couldn't save it... :(

    So now, I'm clinging to a Ledge about 4 Feet off the Deck, using my Brake Hand to keep from Falling the rest of the way and possibly sweeping back out into the Main Flow, and I'm using both my Feet to try to help keep me there as well, with that wonderful Initial Pain coursing through the Brain. To say that there was a Stream of Expletives and Unmentionables streaming forth is an Understatement of the 3rd Degree. And as the Pain starts to ease after about 5 Minutes, I'm wondering how in the Hell I'm going to get out of the Mess I was in. I didn't know how Deep the Pool was below me or whether there was a Hydraulic Situation or not. I couldn't reach my Whistle and even if I could, I didn't think they would hear me above. The Fall was Deafening and the Ledge actually was the Bottom of a large Alcove. So I clung there trying to collect myself and think...I knew that by now, everyone up top was starting to freak since I wasn't Off Rope yet, they couldn't see me and it had already been at least 5 Minutes longer than the Rappel should have taken...I also knew that it might take them awhile to Rig the other Rope and get down to me, and as Time passed, I knew I had to find a way to get out of this myself...I finally had my Wits about me enough that I started looking around more and realized that if I could pull myself up onto the Ledge, the Ledge went all the way to Canyon Left and around the other side of the Fall and I could get out without getting Pounded or risking Deep Water. I didn't want to Tie Off and try to get up, because if I fell, then I was Underwater Tied Off and I wouldn't be able to Move anywhere. So I completely Disconnected and got Off Rope. There wasn't much for Hand Holds and I was looking at the Ledge at Chin Level, so I was going to have to haul myself up a bit. Somehow with about all the Effort I had, I was able to "Beach" myself up onto the Ledge. There was Rock Overhanging the Ledge in places, so I couldn't even sit up, I had to slide on my Stomach all the way around. In one Spot it was a slightly tight Squeeze. But then I was out and beyond the Fall. I went to stand up and take a Step and something in the Ankle Popped and I almost fell again... ](*,) But I got out to the Edge of the Main Pool and was able to see and be seen by the two People at the 2nd Anchor. I gave them the OK Signal so they could relax a bit and then I jumped into the Pool to swim to another Spot so everyone could see me. I think they were relieved. I think I was glad I managed to do it on my Own, but Instant Depression set in, knowing I would have to break the bad News to them about the Ankle and knowing that not only did I ruin their Trip, but that we all had a Long Day ahead of us... :( I felt terrible when it happened before and now, twice in one Month, I was subjecting Friends and Teammates to a long, slow Exit and it was almost too much to bear. But I knew what had to be done, and for the next 5 Hours, with the help and grace of my Friends, I did it...Luckily, I was able to do it again, under my own Power. But instead of 300 Yards this Time, it was going to be almost 2 Miles over some nasty Rocky Terrain. Luckily, it wasn't Downhill this Time. The Rest of the Team divided up my Pack and one guy found me some Poles to help in places and away we went. We made it to the Vehicles just before Dark... : rambo :

    A Severely Disappointing Trip, but I brought it on myself. Beautiful little Canyon that I could only enjoy briefly and got very few Photos of... I did learn a lot on this Trip though and I had some Amazing People with me once again, and for that, I am extremely Grateful. There will be no more Technical Canyons for me until at least June, possibly longer...I will be taking as long as it takes to get back fully this Time...Although I didn't wreck the Ankle quite as bad, it's bad enough and I'm almost starting from Square One again.... :(

    This is a Beautiful little Canyon which takes quite a bit of Effort to get to. And I was all about the Effort, plus some and had very little Time to enjoy the Reward.... I will be going back someday and getting it right...
    Crystal Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I'm surprised to see this hike on this site!
    Since I did this 2 years ago, my memory of the details is a bit hazy.
    I went with a group of friends and an ACA (American Canyoneering Association) member that they brought along. There were 5 of us total. This hike is on the San Carlos Reservation southeast of Globe. We got lost driving towards this canyon, even though the ACA member had been there 2 weeks prior. We spent the entire morning driving reservation roads aimlessly until something finally looked familiar to the ACA guy. We parked at the end of a road, marked the car with the GPS and set out north I think, across the desert. After about a mile we got to the edge of the canyon. A sheer cliff drops about 60 feet to a steep slope that leads into the canyon. We set up a rappel on some sort of old mining junk and descended the cliff. After scree surfing to the bottom the real fun begins. It does not take long to get to the first major waterfall in this canyon (I think there were at least 4). There were some bolts and hangers in the canyon wall on creek right to set up a rappel on. I had never done a single-line rappel down a waterfall before so I was kinda nervous. That and the fact that the ACA guy rigged the most unsafe looking rappel I have ever seen. I argued with the guy about his technique, but he said it's what the ACA taught him. What a bozo! I wish I had taken pictures. I know a thing or two about ropes and rappeling and there is no way the ACA is teaching the unsafe practices that were employed by this guy. Fortunately the rappel went off without a hitch. Rapping 30 feet while a waterfall is pounding the daylights out of you is super cool! The next waterfall was actually a series of 2 falls seperated by a 40 ft pool. The first rap was easy, but then you must undo yourself from the rope while in a deep pool. Then you swim across the pool and try not to get swept over the next fall while clipping the anchors. After I rapped the first fall, I rigged a safety line that the others could clip into so that they would not be swept over the next fall. That fall was sort of a tricky rappel. The rock was undercut, so there was nothing to brace my feet against. The water was coming down on my head with a vengeance. After this rappel I remember the rest of the canyon being uneventful. Eventually the canyon walls peter out. This is the turn around point. You can climb out of the canyon on creek right and pick your way back upstream above the canyon. Near the starting point you can cross the creek and then thrash back up the steep scree slope. To ascend the final cliff, you must either have left a rope hanging and use ascenders, or find a way to climb out that won't kill you. I think we did the latter. Then trek across the desert to the car.
    Other than the stupid ACA guy, this was a cool trip. Unfortunately I couldn't find it again if I tried. This canyon is a guarded secret in the canyoneering community. Good luck finding directions to it. I'd tell you if I knew them, because it certainly isn't the most spectacular canyon. But, if you can find it, it's worth the trip.

    Incidently, my friends and the ACA guy went and did James Canyon near Flagstaff a few weeks later. On a rappel, the ACA guy's anchor failed and one of my friends took a nasty fall. He survived and has recovered. My image of the ACA has been tainted because of these experiences.

    Permit $$
    San Carlos Indian Reservation Recreation Permit required.
    Price, info & locations at San Carlos - Permits

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From Central Phoenix:
    1. Head southeast on I-10 E 7.5 mi
    2. Continue on US-60 E (signs for US-60) 80.4 mi
    3. Continue on E Ash St/US-70 Continue to follow US-70 24.2 mi
    4. Turn left at Indian Rte-8 11.8 mi
    5. Turn left toward Warm Springs Rd 1.0 mi
    6. Turn right at Warm Springs Rd 2.0 mi
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