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Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto Creek
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mini location map2016-04-10
17 by photographer avatarDarthStiller
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Hellsgate 37 ( North ) to Tonto CreekPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 10 2016
DarthStiller
Hiking14.20 Miles 3,138 AEG
Hiking14.20 Miles   7 Hrs   30 Mns   1.89 mph
3,138 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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joebartels
Finally got a chance to get out and hike this trail. I was putting it off because I expected it to be harder than it actually was, although I am somewhat sore the next day. April seems to be one of the better months to try to hike this, since the days are long enough to not need a headlamp for any portion of it, and the temperatures are still cool enough so that it’s not miserable. I was still a little worried about hot weather once we had the date picked, but a few days before, the forecast was for rain. :scared:

One car was at the trailhead when we arrived at 6am. We saw those guys on their way out after an overnighter at the creek. They all had official hats for Game and Fish or other state agencies, so it may have been a work related trip for them.

The trail ascends right away from the trail along the old dirt road. There’s only 2 fairly big climbs, then it’s ups and downs along a ridge before the big descent. The trail cuts away from the dirt road and then seems to reconnect to another one or three until finally it’s just a single track. Lots of pines up top. Once the trail ascends to the ridge, there are some really nice views to the east and west. :y: For our entire hike into the canyon, the skies were very clear and the temperature was very warm. Once we finally got to the creek, Joe and I both got rid of our coat/sweatshirt, at which point the clouds almost immediately rolled in, along with some wind. By the time we were done eating lunch, it was already chilly. :oplz:

The area by the creek is very nice. Hells Gate looks more impressive than any of the pics people post, you kind of have to see it in person. I would have liked to explore more up and downstream, but there was no way to do that without getting wet. With the cooler weather rolling in and our time constraint for a dayhike, that wasn’t happening this day.

The last half mile descent to the creek is steep and loose like everyone says, but nothing I haven’t encountered elsewhere. Probably a bit worse than Leisure Canyon, but not as bad as getting up to the ruins at Cold Spring Canyon.

On the way out, there were two waves of sprinkles that hit us for a few minutes, then a little bit of rain. For a little while, it looked like we might luck out and avoid the 90% chance of rain in the forecast. Then, with 3 miles left to go, the rain finally came. It was a pretty steady downpour, with some hail mixed in. The temperature dropped enough and the wind picked up enough to make our hands somewhat numb. At one point, Joe stopped to make a video of the hail on the trail while he narrated. This didn’t turn out so well as I walked thru the middle of it during his zoom in close up of the ground, because waiting for him to finish that didn’t seem like a fun thing to do as the rain continued. We even saw a few flashes of lightning and some loud thunder, but no close calls, thankfully. It was perfect to get caught in the rain just enough to be happy the hike was over and appreciate a warm car ride home. Our fingers were still numb and not working so well once we got back to the car trying to put our gear away and change into dry clothes. But this will seem more pleasant than it was 2 months from now when the heat hits.

This was the first big hike for my new Camelbak Fourteener, and it's working out great. Very good purchase that I'm extremely happy with. Much more comfortable daypack than my Kelty, and still has enough room to carry 7 liters of water and my standard Taco Bell lunch. :D
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