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Whiskey-Red Tanks-Coffee Flat Loop, AZ
mini location map2017-01-28
21 by photographer avataradilling
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Whiskey-Red Tanks-Coffee Flat Loop, AZ 
Whiskey-Red Tanks-Coffee Flat Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jan 28 2017
adilling
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1st trip
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I was searching triplogs, looking for a long hike in an area I have not been to before. I came across Ray Huston's Whiskey-Red Tanks-Coffee Flat Loop, AZ and I decided I would give it a try. It's a long loop, 20 miles, but an amazing mixture of landscapes and scenery.

I started out of Peralta Trailhead on the Dutchman Trail and made it to the Whiskey Springs trail pretty fast. I came across a backpacker that had spent the last two night along the same loop. He said it was COLD at night. Judging by all the ice along the trail, I bet it was.

I have been down the Whiskey Springs trail a few times, but always turned the other direction when I hit the Red Tanks Trail. I did not know what to expect. As soon as I saw the Upper LaBarge Box canyon, I knew I was in for a treat. This canyon is really amazing. The rock formations and the cactus growing along the cliffs is awesome. The creek was flowing strong. The trail was not super clear, but it was easy enough to follow. You basically stick to the north side of the creek, up on the sides. I really liked this place and will come back for another visit for sure.

Once out of Upper LaBarge, the scenery changed. Not quite as scenic, but still nice. The trail crossed a creek multiple times and it was sometimes unclear what path to take. I had to check the Route Scout a few times to make sure I was heading in the right direction. This section was cat-claw city and the trail was a little overgrown. So, even though I had long sleeves and pant on, I still looked like I lost a fight with a cat when I got home.

The rolling hills gave way to a climb and the rest of this trail was a lot of up and down along one little ridge after another. The saguaros and chollas started popping up. One thing about this area that really struck me was the incredible number of saguaros up on the hillside and ridges. Amazing! I passed a neat crested saguaro in this area.

The up and down roller coaster gave way to a hike along the creek in Red Tank Canyon all the way to Coffee Flat Trail. I did not expect this at all. With all the water in creek, it was like a mini-Aravaipa. The trail was very unclear here and some of the cairns had you crossing at points that were knee deep or higher. I tried to stay dry and find easy rock hops, but I finally gave that up and just traversed the creek when I had too. I was moving slow through this section for sure. There were still some cottonwoods with yellow leaves. I bet this area is beautiful with the full fall colors. The canyon is surely scenic either way. The creek had pushed some serious water through lately. Evidence of the water knocking the vegetation pretty far up was all over. This trail would have been impassable if the water was like that.

As I approached the Coffee Flats junction, I was looking forward to the "flats". I am hear to report that Coffee Flats not only has no coffee, but it is also not very flat. It was a continuation of the Red Tank Canyon along another creek. I crossed the creek about 6 times before finally turning off to head for the Dutchman. I liked this area. The creek was really nice and the rest of the hike along this trail was very scenic. The saguaros in this area truly are a forest...so many beautiful cacti. When I saw Miners Needle for the first time, I knew the "end was near". I was a little worn out, but still going strong.

The sun was starting to set as I made it back to the parking lot. I told my wife I would be home about 4, I was about 2 hours off.....ha ha. I will explore this area again, but I think I will take a pack and camp out next time.
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“Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit.” –Edward Abbey

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