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White Rock Canyon-Arizona Hot Springs Loop, AZ
mini location map2019-03-13
23 by photographer avatarddgrunning
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White Rock Canyon-Arizona Hot Springs Loop, AZ 
White Rock Canyon-Arizona Hot Springs Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Mar 13 2019
ddgrunning
Hiking7.24 Miles 1,325 AEG
Hiking7.24 Miles   3 Hrs   43 Mns   2.15 mph
1,325 ft AEG      21 Mns Break
 
1st trip
This hike has been on my to do list for several years, but the timing has never worked out ... until now.

With a spring break trip to Provo, Utah and overnight in Cedar City, I decided we would have just enough time to stop and do this hike along the way. Also, this is the prime time of year to do this trail from a temperature standpoint.

We got a little later start from the valley than I would have liked, but my two teenagers were committed to attending their track practice first. Good for them, but it pushed back our start time to a little later than optimal, and we reached the trailhead at 3:30 pm.

I had downloaded the official track--which goes down White Rock Canyon. No one had posted a route up or down AZ Hot Springs Canyon, but Google Maps showed a route, and a couple of the triplogs mentioned the possibility of making this a loop, so I finished out the route on Route Editor and off we went.

The trailhead does not have any bathroom facilities. It does have signage with a decent map and some information about the Hot Springs trail and the trail to Liberty Arch. The sign also says the trail is closed from May 15 to Sept. 30, for heat related reasons. I presume that simply means that the parking lot is closed/locked.

The first mile from the TH is nothing to write home about. We crossed under the highway and wandered down a wide wash. Various routes spider through the area, but all generally funneled us towards the narrower White Rock slot in the distance.

As the drainage begins to narrow, just shy of a mile, a signed fork in the trail denotes the turn off to Liberty Bell arch on the right.

Continuing on, the canyon's namesakes appear in the wash in contrast to the surrounding dark rock. The slot closes in, as we began to meander twists and turns along the bottom of the drainage. Fun views around each corner.

A little over 2 miles in, the slot opens up for a quarter mile or so and then narrows back up again. I read on the description or some triplogs about there not being a lot of places to clamber to safety in the event of a flash flood. I actually saw a lot of places where refuge could be had. I'm not suggesting anyone ignore the risks of a flash, but if you were caught in a flash, I wouldn't abandon all hope. It's no Buckskin Gulch.

Soon enough, we arrived at the river and a fairly expansive beach-ish area. Lots of good camping spots in this area, including one I marked on the Route that sits on a raised shelf with views down to the river.

At this point, the trail heads south and slightly away from the river, as we traversed over to the outlet of the AZ Hot Springs Canyon drainage. The route is pretty easy to follow and is probably unnecessarily marked with some crude yellow spray paint arrows in a few places.

Along the way are some outcroppings that jut out into the river and make for fantastic viewpoints, as well as some solid cliff jumping opportunities into the very clear and picturesque water along the shoreline. It was late in the day (around 5pm), and with the sun already casting shadows across the river--and our desire to finish up before dark--we skipped the cold jump and continued on to the mouth of AZ Hot Springs Canyon. Unfortunately, the late afternoon lighting didn't make for great photos of the clear water, but it was absolutely beautiful!

We descended from the rocky traversed down to the AZ Hot Springs beach. Other than one camper, no one was to be seen on the beach. Lots of camping opportunities here, as well, but not nearly as big as at the mouth of White Rock Canyon.

We checked out the waterline and the bathroom facilities and then headed up the drainage towards the hot springs. Within a short period, we switched from hiking shoes to sandals, as avoiding the water became impossible.

It wasn't long before we reached the 20' ladder up to the springs. From below, I could smell marijuana smoke wafting from above. :x Sure enough, right at the top of the ladder was a guy and his girlfriend subjecting everyone in the area with their joint. Not exactly the kind of experience in nature that I planned for my wife and two teenagers. I was annoyed but moved on.

The first of three established pools was just around the corner. It was empty other than a young couple. With the sandbag barriers, the water was thigh deep at its deepest, and ran for about 20-30 feet to the sandbag barrier for the second pool, which was much smaller (8x8) and warmer. Pool two had only one occupant. Finally, pool three was uncomfortably warm to hang out in for very long, particularly as you continued up another 15-20 feet towards the source of the spring.

We hung out briefly in pools 2 and 3 before drying off and continuing our race against the sun and up AZ Hot Springs Canyon to our exit.

Not too far above the springs are several other camping options, and there were a couple of folks who had set up camp in this area. The canyon is relatively wide through most of this area.

We met up with a couple who hike in the area frequently. The guy was from Newfoundland and was a "retired" speed climber. He said he trains in the area quite often. He suggested an alternative route for our return from the one I had programmed into Route Scout. It included some petroglyph panels and a little rock scrambling, so we were all in.

As were were hiking along, four male bighorn sheep appeared on the ridge directly across from us. It was an impressive sight, and alone, made the trip an A+ in my book.

We then reached a well-tatooed petroglyph rock with some pretty elaborate glyphs that were fairly unique in my uneducated experience. One looked like an elephant. Also a very cool experience. There was another glyph panel another 30 yards or so up.

A little later, we came to the scrambling. Nothing particularly technical, but my wife and daughter benefited from a boost here and there. I marked the scramble on the gps route.

As we continued up the drainage, we came to what appeared to be a dead end--cliffed out at a pretty vertical 15 foot climb. Of course, the "speed climber" went straight up, and my 16 year old son followed. For the rest of us mere mortals, we backtracked 30 yards or so, and there was a bypass on the left, which while still requiring some scrambling was much more doable.

After that it was easy walking till we reconnected with the "official" trail and made our way back to the TH just as the last vestiges of light were descending below the horizon.

This was an excellent hike and we hit it at a great time of year--and actually a great time of day. Other than the unwelcome smoking in the hot springs, I have nothing but great things to say about this one. It would make a great overnight backpack trip, and I look forward to returning to do that next time.
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