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Horse Trail - LCR Gorge, AZ

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Guide 5 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northeast > Hotevilla
4 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 2.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,004 feet
Elevation Gain -1,695 feet
Accumulated Gain 426 feet
Avg Time One Way 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.82
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
3  2012-05-06 toddak
14  2011-02-19 toddak
20  2008-06-03 suzaz
19  2006-11-16 suzaz
Author Zort
author avatar Guides 1
Routes 23
Photos 94
Trips 18 map ( 245 miles )
Age 50 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Associated Areas
list map done
Navajo Nation Reservation
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Mar, Oct, Nov
Sun  6:14am - 6:24pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Geology Nearby
Culture Nearby
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by Zort

The Route
As with finding the trailhead, getting started on the route required a wee bit of looking. There is a cairn visible from the parking area that leads you west and down to a flat layer above the drainage. I was tempted to contour left toward the top of the obvious drainage to the south, but that's not the cairned route. Instead, stay pretty much west until hitting the edge of of the drainage and possibly seeing another cairn on the way. It might take a bit of glassing the terrain for cairns, but they are there, and they will take you down to the gravel in the wash/creek bed. From there the route will be quite obvious for folks familiar with traveling down washes and canyons. There are a couple pouroffs that will force a go-around to one side or the other. The main obstacle is a very large pour off that is maybe a third of the way down the canyon. The trail stays creek right and traverses quite a ways until necessarily heading steeply down into the creek bed again. (This is strenuous on the hike out!) You'll cross over to creek left again half to 2/3 of the way down and then just above the river you come to the odd bridge of small logs and flat stones that presumably protects a semi technical move of stepping left around a protruding rock/wall and then down to a ledge. Below that you end up crossing to creek right again, traversing above the river for a bit and then finally making the last drop through a steep layer to the river.

My moving time on this round-trip hike was about 2h 10m, but that was double-timing it down the canyon with a mostly empty pack with no time spent for photos or much drinking in of the steep, jagged beauty of the place. Unless you have a train to catch, I would recommend spending four hours or so, depending on fitness, pack, etc. It's a strenuous climb out.

As others have said in triplogs, this is the easiest route I have taken to reach the LCR from atop the impressive gorge. It is hard to picture horses going down it, but it is child's play compared to Blue Spring Trail, and both easier and shorter than Hopi Salt Trail. My plan is to use it as access for caching, but others have used it to connect with Salt Trail as a loop hike, and that would be quite pleasant, too. Really love the idea of using mountain bikes to shuttle between trail heads!

Be sure to pack enough water for the return/continued trip. Any water found in this part of LCR is sure to be nothing but chocolate silt.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2017-10-10 Zort

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    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
    Horse Trail - LCR Gorge
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Third and final segment descending the LCR gorge. Dropped in from the north side via the gaging station trail (located several miles below the Cameron bridge), exited via Horse Trail. Endless miles of sand strolling and rockhopping under towering walls, with a hint of the turquoise water just starting to flow near the exit.
    Horse Trail - LCR Gorge
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    After seeing margotr's photos from a recent full descent of the Little Colorado River (LCR) Gorge, I had to see this place myself, even if I have to do it in several shorter segments. This trip report covers Horse Trail to the LCR, downstream past Blue Springs and exiting up Salt Trail Canyon (approximately 16.5 miles, 3000' elevation).

    Horse Trail is easy to find and the route down is straightforward, except for some back and forth traversing to drop through the final cliff bands just above the river. Even though the USGS gage for the LCR at Cameron had been reading nearly zero for a couple of weeks and the river looked dry from the Cameron bridge, there was a small flow of fairly clear water down in the gorge from springs located a couple miles upstream. After heading downstream for several miles of gentle, pleasant walking, many more small springs appear at the sides of the gorge, gradually adding to the flow and the faint blue color. Some are surface flows, some bubble up through the sand, others look to be old springs that are no longer active. Soon you arrive at the much larger Blue Springs, surging up powerfully from below a limestone cliff, wonderfully warm and flowing out so strong that I couldn't swim against the current. What an amazing place.

    I would say that Horse Trail is definitely the easiest way to get to the springs. Attempts from the west side are possible but require a brutal drive and then dangerous (borderline insane) scrambling to find a route down the cliffs. I know of more than one party who failed to reach the springs from there. In contrast, the start of Horse Trail is an easy drive on good roads from Highway 89 on the Navajo reservation (best to get a Navajo permit at the 89/64 junction in Cameron, they're only open on weekdays in the winter). The Horse Trail is about 2 miles in length and a 1700' drop to the LCR. From there, Blue Springs is an easy 5 miles downstream.

    You could return back the way you came, but about 6.5 miles further downstream from Blue Springs is the bottom of the Salt Trail Canyon exit. This stretch has a stronger current and more vegetation to deal with (additional springs keep adding to the flow, multiple crossings and possible swims (drybag) required), but this takes you through the heart of this incredible river. Just make sure it will be flowing that indescribable electric blue color (instead of brown) when you go. From the top of Salt Canyon, the shuttle back to the Horse Trail start is 30 miles (a nice mountain bike ride if you do it the day before).
    Horse Trail - LCR Gorge
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I've heard so many great things about the LCR that I had to made a stop here on the final leg of a three day canyon hiking trip up around Page. I've also heard that this trail and the road to it are some of the easiest for accessing the LCR. Suzaz's triplog describes the trail pretty good. I got most of my trail beta from Kelsey's non-technical canyon hiking guide. We drove to the TH at night and ended up camping a few miles away. Woke up and hiked down a different canyon that drops into the Horse Trail Canyon, but from that dropoff we could see the trail and get a better idea of where the TH was. Now that it was light, we were able to more easily find the correct road and parking spot for the TH. :D Made the easy hike to the first minor drop off, skirting it on the left, and hit a huge droppff that you bypass on the right. The path is fairly easy to follow with many great placed cairns most of the way. Thank you so much Cairn Fairy. :lol: Take the rugged path down to the drainage and follow it aways and eventually you hit the hole-in-the-rock and the precarious bridge. The trail then skirts along a bench downstream, by the dryfall, under some overhangs & leaning slab, and eventually heads down the river when you're below another small side canyon. The river was lightly flowing with clear water while we took a long lunch break. For some reason I was under the impression that it would be either dry or flowing with muddy water, but I'm guessing this was snow runoff. In the planing stage, I was thinking we could attempt a trek down to Blue Springs, but the hike down was just too arduous and time consuming plus we still needed to drive home afterwards. :o We decided very early on to just hike down to the river, eat lunch, and hike out. The hike out didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would, now that we knew the way. We'll have to come back and possibly backpack down to the Blue Springs or just plan a full day to hike down there and back. I'm definely making another trip to the beautiful LCRG. :D

    Permit $$
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    Navajo Nation Reservation
    Navajo Permits & Services

    Map Drive

    To hike
    From Country Club & SR89 out of Flagstaff AZ
    1. Head northeast on US-89 N toward N Cummings St 46.7 mi
    2. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit and stay on US-89 N 1.3 mi
    3. Continue straight to stay on US-89 N 0.9 mi
    4. Continue straight to stay on US-89 N 14.8 mi
    5. Turn left onto Indian Rte 6134 0.5 mi
    6. Continue onto Indian Rte 6134 8.9 mi
    7. Continue onto Indian Rte 6134 4.0 mi
    8. Turn left 0.9 mi
    9. Continue straight 0.9 mi

    GPS Route - Drive from Flagstaff

    Basically, you take US 89 to Navaja 6134, follow it west 13-14 miles, then while crossing Navajo 6133, juke left onto a small two-track road and follow it to a right turn onto another small track with a cairn. This was the only side road that was cairned, and the only way I found the trail head. So, many thanks to whoever placed that cairn!
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