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Prescott National Forest
Stage 1 Fire Restrictions Aug 14th to TBD
This hidden waterfall oasis is located on the eastern slopes of the Bradshaw Mountains. The Bradshaw mountain range keeps Prescott from becoming a suburb of Phoenix. The Big Dipper is worthy of a visit.
I would not recommend this hike if your dog has no off-trail experience or quickly gets into trouble spots. The trail leading in has cacti near and dear.
The trail heading down from the road is the Algonquin Trail #225. Little time is wasted heading straight down into the canyon below. The steepest sections are near the top. Soon after, the trail eases into long lazy switchbacks. It's about a mile and a quarter to Poland Creek. #225 continues to Horsethief Basin.
Sun exposure turned out to be more of a concern than the steep grade. The trail is slightly overgrown in the lower sections. It seemed dry in March after an extremely wet winter. I can only imagine how dry it is in the summer. Get off the trail when it reaches the creek. Head downstream to the left. It's four-tenths of a mile to the Big Dipper. Along the way, you'll pass several lovely cascades and pools.
From what I read, the Big Dipper was merely a few hundred yards down from Hells Hole. I'm not sure where Hells Hole is... I came to a stretch of wall to wall water that I estimated to be at least 30 yards long. The walls are incredibly steep on either side. At the tail end of March, the water was too cold for swimming. The Big Dipper came at a price. I'm not sure if the water was higher than usual.
Nevertheless, I climbed up the right wall and worked my way over. It appeared several others had taken this route. It's steep with prickly bushes and thick shrubbery.
Coming down on the other end, it's only a short hop and a skip to the Big Dipper. It is a truly remarkable sight to see. I was dreading the scramble back and found it hard to relax. If you plan on swimming below, take a good rope as I didn't notice a route to the bottom. Then again, I didn't look much either.
I started hiking at 11:15 am. It took two hours to reach the Big Dipper taking numerous photos along the way. It was an hour and a half back to the trailhead. I was exhausted most of the return trip. A fall on the rocks earlier may have contributed. It seems like this would be a better hike if the water were warmer. Swimming the pools would save time and energy. On the other hand, it's one hot climb back up to the trailhead. Shade does favor this area in the afternoon as it is on the eastern side of the mountain.
Either I was a big wuss or the creek has filled in with sediment from fires. Getting to the Big Dipper without the wall to wall water is reported more common now.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.