HS Canyon. Best I can see, Hike AZ has few to no recent entries (I write this in May 2022), so this provides an update. Quick orientation note first. This update covers the section of HS Canyon from the end of the south spur of HS Canyon, to the junction at the north end with Secret Canyon. Now, my GPS route contains other sections, along Chuckwagon, and Dry Creek Road, and Secret Canyon. Those trails and roads are well-traveled and basically established. So I will exclude discussion of those.
Status of HS Canyon. Traversable. The trail can be traversed in its entirety, from its north junction with Secret Canyon Trail to its south junction with the HS Canyon south spur (or in the other direction if one prefers). Now, not a stroll, nor could we consider the trail distinct and easy. Rather, I found the trip quite an adventure in route scouting and cliff scrambling, never really treacherous, but challenging though in an invigorating way. One would want to like that, a modest hiking adventure, but the views throughout, and the solitude all along, add to experience. But don’t bring a dog, or partner not comfortable with route scouting, or even a good hiker but otherwise lacking rudimentary non-technical rock climbing. Do bring patience, and a keen eye, and an expectation of a scrape or two.
Quick interjection about the HS Canyon spur at the south. That spur runs reasonably well-traveled along a wash for a good mile or so. This discussion here takes that spur for granted, as no real issues came up traversing it.
Now, I enjoyed my mini-adventure conquering this trail immensely. While I averaged 20 minute miles on the trails to and from HS Canyon, my effort on the HS Canyon loop ran about a mile an hour. Those slower splits give some indication of the effort involved in route scouting, cliff scrambling and at times of loosing the trail and backtracking. You might go faster, but then if so maybe take more time enjoying the vistas and views.
Now trail notes.
- Overall, I would say 5, maybe 10%, of the route (I will call it a route more than a trail) involves serious bushwhacking. Now it is important to note what I mean by that. By that I mean the overgrowth has encroached so severely that one needs to use hands to grab aside branches, or use feet to hoist yourself over trees, or bend down and scurry under branches. Much more than 5-10% of the route contains serious encroachment, but while annoying, and more importantly while obscuring the route, one can brush through that encroachment with a good strong stride or a quick twist or sidestep.
- The route dips into washes. I found some of these just a mess to traverse. Washes, of course, get water, and that trigger thicker growth, so the trail became obliterated, not a trace of a snippet I could find. There, progress required at times strenuous, slow bushwhacking through thick growth.
- Alternately, in places, the trail ran reasonably nicely, but so nicely I passed important turns in the trail. Only with the help of a GPS route did I come to realize I had gone several dozen feet past the turn, then backtracked to scout out the turn.
- And that leads me to say a GPS track ranks close to essential. I found that if I strayed too far from the GPS track I had, I couldn’t just wing it, and think I could find a better course. Nope. For me, staying on a GPS track proved the most reliable approach to following the route.
- The rock climbing sections do mildly challenge. I compare them to elementary bouldering. One needs to find handholds and footholds, and pull oneself up, at times with maybe only two holds. I don’t think one can just walk up the steeper cliff climbs. And I found patience needed, for finding critical holds. If you rely on just boot or hand friction, you really risk a slip. And it looks like in places a slip would send you backward for significant injury. (No bouldering crash pads were around that I could see).
- In one section cairns appeared. Fortuitously. The cairns lead one around a long diversion which prevents a disastrous cliff out. That diversion can for the most part be walked down (or up), but as I looked around, the cliffs that might provide an alternate path down (or up if going in the other direction) looked sufficiently difficult to require technical equipment to climb or descend.
- The “trailhead” at the north end actually sits in the bottom of the wash at the junction point. Just proceed down the wash to a point where one needs to climb out. On the south end, the “trailhead” (off the HS Canyon spur) sits off to the right, with a cairn built in the fork of a tree, near the very west end of the spur.
This post accompanies a GPS track. With some editing, I have attempted to remove from the GPS track sections where I had wandered off course. But the GPS track, while I deem that necessary, provides only one item for scouting this route. Patience, a keen eye, some cliff scrambling skills, and some humility to backtrack if one gets a bit off course, also help.