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Cabin Loop de Loop, AZ
mini location map2021-06-04
46 by photographer avatarandrewp
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Cabin Loop de Loop, AZ 
Cabin Loop de Loop, AZ
Backpack36.45 Miles 4,620 AEG
Backpack36.45 Miles2 Days   21 Hrs   6 Mns   
4,620 ft AEG
1st trip
I came up with a combination on-trail / off-trail approach to the Cabin Loop area as I suspected that the real treasures of were in the canyons. I'm really happy I did it this way as the trails, while beautiful, didn't begin to show off what the area has to offer.

I wanted to do at least 3 days and knew that I wouldn't want to be making the 5 hour drive back to Tucson after a full day of hiking so I added a 4th day and made it purposefully short. This ended up being a smart move as the drive home was taxing enough on a Monday morning, so I can't imagine it on a Sunday night after a full day of hiking.

Day 1 - Pinchot Cabin to Coyote Spring
VERY early start from Tucson and took the back way up through Globe and along Roosevelt Lake rather than the route through Phoenix that Google really wanted me to take. Uneventful drive up, parked on FR139A at the Fred Haught trail intersection, and was ready to start hiking around 11am. Spent a few minutes at the Pinchot cabin and waited for another hiker to get going on the U-Bar trail so that we weren't right on top of each other. We ended up leapfrogging each other all day. Chatted a bit at Dane Spring... nice guy. Pointed him here as he was looking to abandon Alltrails app.

U-Bar trail starts out a bit ho-hum, but improves in terrain and scenery on the approach to Barbershop Canyon. Steep descent and climb out ended up being a workout that I wasn't expecting. Stopped in the canyon bottom for lunch and continued on to Dane Spring. I had originally planned on camping at Dane, but ended up continuing on as there was still some daylight to burn and there was already a group camped there.

Finished off the U-Bar trail and ended up making a campsite for myself on the hill above Coyote Spring. On the way down to the spring to get some water I found the skeletal remains of what appeared to be an elk and this was a little offputting. There only appeared to be remains of one animal so I assumed that this wasn't a popular dinner spot and hoped that I didn't have a visitor overnight. I didn't.

Day 2 - Coyote Spring > Merritt Draw > Camp Grasshopper #2 > Barbershop Canyon (upper-middle??)

Broke camp early and continued on Barbershop trail to Barbershop Spring where I refilled my bottles. After a bit of route finding I found FR139C which I followed a bit to a drainage that dropped into the head of Merritt Draw. Once into the draw I was treated to a really pleasant meadow walk for a mile or so. The riparian exclusion zones erected by the Forest Service appear to have gotten larger from those shown in previous photos and they take up almost the entire width of the draw. They also enclose the springs so pulling water with the current flow levels wasn't possible.

After the open meadow I continued on the abandoned FR9735P which is now a grade which is slowly going back to nature. This area is beautiful and it was interesting to watch the open meadow of Merritt Draw turn into a deep canyon. I continued walking the road around the nose of the ridge and to its intersection with FR139C. I stopped at Camp Grasshopper #2 for a quick lunch and then found the elk trail down the ridge into Barbershop Canyon. The trail was fairly easy to follow, but having the GPS track was definitely nice.

Where the elk trail dropped me, Barbershop was a deep and narrow drainage with a small, dry creek at the bottom. I started upstream in the creek bed and came to some pools within a few hundred yards. The water came and went for the rest of the journey. The canyon remained narrow with hardly any room for a consistent use trail and what little trail was there crossed the stream constantly. This area was beautiful and although there were a number of forest roads about 300ft above I felt like I was miles from civilization.

My intended stop for the night was one of the primitive campsites identified by @Grasshopper , but upon reaching the planned site I realized that it wasn't going to work for me. I was hammock camping and the tree arrangement was such that my hammock would have to span over the use trail. I imagined being awoken in the middle of the night by an elk colliding with me suspended in mid-air. I continued on and after a short distance the canyon opened up a bit and after about 1/2 mile I found an excellent spot on a high bench overlooking the stream.

Made camp, had some dinner, and hit the sack early.

Day 3 - Barbershop Canyon upstream to Rim > Houston Bros > Aspen Spring

I had been awake for about 15 minutes when a crash to my right alerted me to an incoming elk making her way down the ridge. She saw me (or my hammock) and froze. As I reached for my phone to get a photo she bolted back up the hill and from the sound of it she was stepping on every piece of downed wood she came upon!

Broke camp and headed up Barbershop Canyon with the intent of continuing all the way to the rim. This was the highlight of the trip by far as the upper section of Barbershop is absolutely beautiful. From my campsite this was an easy hike and once I reached the head of the canyon it was an easy walk across FR300 to take in the view off the edge of the rim. Spent some time here soaking it up and also took advantage of the cellular coverage to share the view with my wife via FaceTime.

Set off with the intent of following the General Crook trail to Houston Bros and although I was successful for a stretch I eventually lost the blazes and just hiked cross country in the approximate direction. I completely missed the trail and overshot it a bit then in backtracking got turned around. A quick check of GPS put me back on track, but it was an entertaining couple of minutes while I walked in circles.

The initial section of Houston Bros is quite pretty and the broadleaf trees in the drainages were a nice change from all of the pine and fir that I had been seeing for days. There were some good ups and downs in the first half of this trail and it was a bit more of a workout than I was expecting.

Once into Houston Draw the character changes and I was treated to alternating forest and meadow sections. This was easily one of the more enjoyable trail sections of the entire trip and I loved every minute of it. My intention was to camp at McFarland Spring, but after inspecting the area I decided that the area was too overgrown with too much deadfall to make for a pleasant evening.

I continued on and found an excellent site at Aspen Spring just east of the meadow in the side drainage. Nice site with some nice scenery. Setup camp, relaxed a bit, had some dinner, and then hit the sack.

Day 4 - Hike out and drive home

Very early start with a quick hike out to Pinchot cabin and my waiting truck. I was ready to hit the road a little after 8:30 and was very pleased that I had structured the trip this way. The drive home was long and tiring which was made worse by the closures due to the fire. Ended up taking AZ87 to the Bush Hwy and then picking up US60 in east Mesa and finally the straight line of AZ79 back to Oracle junction. Made it home by 1:30, which wasn't too bad at all.

Parting Thoughts

This was my first time in the area and I honestly wasn't sure what to expect. I knew that the trails were heavily forested and feared that the lack of views would get to be a drag after a while. That was absolutely the case and I'm so glad that I planned in the off-trail sections. If I had only done a trail hike I might not have a strong desire to go back, but after this experience I'll gladly make the drive again to explore more of the canyons.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Aspen Spring Dripping Dripping
Very light flow, but enough to create some shallow pools in drainage. MSR pump filter had no issues, but other methods might require some creativity.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Barbershop canyon creek Light flow Light flow
Fair amount of water at the U-Bar trail crossing. Light flow with large pools.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Barbershop Spring Dripping Dripping
Very, very shallow trickle with some small pools. Was able to draw with my MSR filter, but other filters would have trouble. Nearby Barbershop Canyon had large pools and light flow.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Coyote Spring Dripping Dripping
Hard to tell actual flow as it's just a large pool with a trickle down slope. Water was crystal clear which suggests a reasonably consistent flow.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Dane Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Strong flow. Easily qt/min, probably more.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Houston Draw Head Quart per minute Quart per minute
Light flow but created fair amount of surface water in drainage.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max McFarland Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Good flow with pools to draw from

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Pinchot Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Good flow. Lots of pools downstream
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