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The Best Hikes in Salome Wilderness

229 Triplog Reviews in the Salome Wilderness
Most recent of 132 deeper Triplog Reviews
12.81 mi • 2,735 ft aeg
Hell's Hole and Peak 6076
 We had a pleasantly cool morning to start our Hell’s Hole hike on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Pleasant despite the fact that I had to dodge a "blooming Arizona state flower" as I stepped down from the truck. (This would be the "state flower" that "blooms" when torn off the roll and used.) The small parking lot was empty; the adjacent campground appeared to be quite well inhabited.

The first leg was a steady, but not steep, climb. Some interesting and colorful (on fresh surfaces) conglomerate-type rocks caught my eye along this section. The large-boulder cairn on the right marked the turn onto the non-trail to Peak 6076, and it marks the beginning of the descent to the Workman Creek crossing. I would become very familiar with the area near this cairn later in the day.

The descent was gradual at first, and some was fairly flat. Then, just before the creek, the descent surprised me in its steepness. Looking again at the guide after the hike, I had a much better understanding of @te-wa’s choice of words when he wrote, "...before dropping into it." "Dropping" was key, and I misinterpreted it. Besides that, I’d read one thoughtful entry in which the author quantified their reassurance that steepness wasn’t too bad on this hike, stating that the grade on entire trail never exceeded 6%. Of course, after reading that, on the drive to the trailhead, I had sized up the highway’s signed 6% grades; I decided early on in this descent that the author should have measured twice, written once.

Perusing the triplogs the day before, I expected the toughest part of the hike to be the switchbacks descending to Workman’s Creek at the end. I could be in real trouble both getting to the destination in the last couple of miles, and in getting myself out again. But we crossed the creek, found the trail on the other side, then headed up, and great red rock views presented themselves intermittently at windows in the foliage, making it hard to be overly concerned about later on. Then the cliff views became quite consistent for a stretch. Through the early part of the day, face gnats were pretty much a fact of life. And several species of wasps. One variety was quite large and loud. One individual actually trailed me for awhile.

As the trail began the final descent and brush closed in, I wasn’t eager to continue and lose the views. I jumped with a small scream and ran a few steps at one point on the switchbacks when a loud rattle-like very close to my ear on the brushy cliff side sound startled me. I quickly realized that it had to be an insect. But John10s passed that same spot, he got rattled, too, and the possibility that we’d just got lucky with a rattler seemed fairly likely. When I thought more about it, we were hiking a ledge on a steep mountainside; rock may very well have been just a foot or two from our heads, obscured by brush. So it was a rather noisy hike, especially in the farthest reaches...certain wasps practically roaring, rattles, the Geiger counter beeping loudly intermittently...

The GPS said we’d arrived; arrived with trail ahead yet and still above the destination creek. But we knew to continue and were stunned by the fantastic views. Instead of losing the majestic red cliff views, I felt like we were more a part of it. And we had plenty to explore--a small waterfall, pools, fish that appeared to be some kind of trout, boulders of all sizes, blooms, campsites...

The trip back was not as tough as I expected, and we reached the large cairn at about 0.6 miles from the trailhead where John10s wanted to hike up to 6076. I found a shady spot to wait, explored a bit in the area, and found new shady spots as time passed...after an hour I figured he should be back anytime and I should fight back thoughts of the cooler in the truck, just over a half mile away, full of cold drinks and real food. I just wish I’d thought of it sooner. He showed up a half hour later, successful, scratched, hungry, and we made short work of that last half mile!
4.38 mi • 1,042 ft aeg
 Just a short out and back today on this beautiful trail to enjoy the end of fall colors an get my 13yr old dog out to stretch her legs. A 70 degree, clear day made it perfect. We had Lunch at Workman creek and a chance to get our paws muddy while we watched oak leaves fall to the ground.
I’d planned to hike Sixshooter but the entire area in the Pinals is still marked as closed due to the remnants of the Telegraph fire.

Very end of the colors
11 mi • 0 ft aeg
 It's funny, I've always chosen my hikes (and timing of hikes) to avoid crowds, but it used to be just a mental health preference, not because I was trying to avoid a pandemic. 8-[ Anyway, the Anchas are gorgeous in the spring and always a beautiful place to escape city, heat, and crowds. I've been curious about this trail for a while, and we wanted an easy overnight, so this seemed like a good time. And it sure was! Since it's been a while since anyone posted a triplog, I figured I'd leave an update.

Trail conditions: Overall good, although my standards may be low. As mentioned in other descriptions, the first couple miles are an old road, and even though the shrubbery is encroaching in some places, it's mostly nice doubletrack winding through a Ponderosa forest and ascending/descending ridges until, just about at the junction with Boyer trail (which seemed to me to be about 3 miles in), it comes up onto an exposed ridge, which is predominantly juniper. That section is rocky but easy to follow, with a few cairns to help, as it heads east for a quick quarter mile or so. The final descent is definitely more overgrown in places, especially with Shrub Live oak and manzanita, but as long as you're willing to push through, the trail itself is obvious and pretty well graded, with only a few short sections where it was unpleasantly steep. Reading other triplogs, I see that some people really hated that bit, but I was wearing pants and a long-sleeve shirt and using trekking poles, and I had no issues. In fact, the views up and down canyon were great and we saw a variety of blooms and had a lot of birds for company along the way. Soon enough we popped out next to the creek, where it was really lovely. Saw no trash, except a few burned out cans inside one of the three fire rings. There are three decent-sized campsites and the possibility of another one or two less ideal spots if you look around a bit. Water was clear and about three feet deep in the pools and we saw some toads and tiny fish. We continued downstream until we reached a choke point where dry hiking was no longer possible (or at least not without a lot of scrambling up and over). There are lovely sycamore and cottonwoods providing some shade even at mid-day, so it feels very lush. Lounged around by the creek, watched birds, ate lunch, went for a (chilly but refreshing) swim, and then hiked back out. Again, I didn't find the steep climb all that bad and actually made better time going up than coming down. However, we camped back at the two-mile-mark and only carried small daypacks to the end, so I'm sure that colored my experience. :lol: The juniper ridge is pretty exposed, so it was warm, but it's also not very long, and when we came through it was filled with rivers of blooming wildflowers (New Mexico groundsel and fleabane). Talk about super blooms! Then back into the woods, up and down, break down camp, cross the creek again, and follow the old road back to the car. Really nice. Actual total hiking time was about 5:45 at a moderate pace, and I estimate total distance at about 11 miles RT.

The camping: I presume most people would camp in the Hell's Hole area, at the end of the trail. As mentioned, there are three established sites down there. But, having read the reports of people complaining about the misery of schlepping into the canyon with camping gear, and not knowing how bad either the descent or the overgrowth would be, we decided to make our first visit a little easier. Frankly, I enjoyed this option so much that I'd do it again on purpose. Headed out on a Thursday afternoon and got to the trailhead at 3 p.m. Hiking for barely an hour got us to the first crossing of Workman Creek (just past the ranch), which was flowing strong and clear, making it easy to filter. (A point about that: There is a fire ring and a clearing big enough for a smallish tent right where the trail crosses the creek. We did not camp there. Frankly, :SB: I don't think anyone should camp there because 1: It is literally right next to the creek. 2: It is also, literally, in the middle of the trail.) So we hiked two whole minutes further up the hill and found several tent-sized level spots (as well as three existing fire rings, which we didn't need, but did note) in a lovely wooded area off the trail with a cushy pine needle carpet, plenty of places to hang the hammock, and views of the canyon. The creek was both conveniently close (for water) and quite audible (for ambiance). Ahhhh. Fewer bugs up there, too. :zzz: Had a luxe night and a relaxed morning before we headed out at 8 a.m. with just daypacks. About a half-hour on, we noted a couple of very pretty dry-camping spots up on the juniper ridge, too. We were down in the Hell's Hole area before 10 a.m., so had plenty of time to enjoy the creek and canyon before we climbed back out and broke down camp, then hiked back to the car at a casual pace. Along the way we had to squeeze around a party of three (the only other people we saw the whole time) who had pitched their tent where? You guessed it! As I carefully maneuvered myself between their tent and the pricker bushes next to the creek (trying to maintain both a six-foot COVID buffer and a modicum of civility), they said: "Oh, gosh. Are we blocking the trail?" :doh:

Critters: Saw a nice selection of birds, including Red-tailed hawks, Stellar's jays, Painted Redstarts, Western Tanagers, Spotted Towhees, Black-throated Gray warbler, Blue-gray gnatcatcher, Northern flicker, etc, plus some toads and lizards and a few squirrels. Also spotted lots of deer and elk track on the trail, plus raccoon and skunk tracks near the first creek crossing. There were also a few tracks that might have been bear, but were too eroded to be sure.

In summary: For such a short hike, there's an amazing diversity of terrain and habitat, plus a lovely creek, great views, and excellent camping options. At this point in mid-May, Workman Creek is a viable water source at both the two-mile mark and end of trail. I'm already thinking of a fall visit.

Early on, there was a smattering of woodland blooms like lupine, larkspur, and New Mexico honey locust, and manzanita. Also some freaky-looking parasitic pinedrops. Some columbine along the creek. Up on the juniper ridge, all open ground was covered in New Mexico groundsel and fleabane, which was stunning. And on the final slope, we saw sego lilies, more larkspur, claret cup hedgehog cacti, prickly pear cacti, fleabane, and thistle.
3.5 mi • 500 ft aeg
 What a gem! Perfect amount of water flow through the canyon. Not too hotcold. We used wetsuits, which I would recommend for this activity this time of year, and anytime canyoneering wet canyons, even in warm weather.

Finished the adventure with pizza at Big Daddy Pizza in Tonto Basin. Great pizza! Great service. Better than I expected from something in the middle of no where! Very recommended!

Ocotillo, Brittle bush, fairy duster, prickly pear, saguhro,
10.6 mi • 943 ft aeg
 We saw one backpacker the way in. We made it down to the creek/end of where you could hike without getting in and I waded a bit downstream, but I don't think I made it to the official Hell's Hole. Water was a bit cold and I promised to turn back after about 15 minutes for my hiking partners that were waiting. There were several dogs barking in the canyon on the descent to the creek and back out. We saw the owner on the way out. I guess he just sets them loose to track animals and then either goes and retrieves them or calls them back with the GPS tracker. They must have had something trapped because they barked nonstop for several hours while we were there.
11.4 mi • 2,750 ft aeg
 Yesterday Tracie, my intrepid hiking partner, and I made our first trek into Hell's Hole. All I can say is that Hell's Hole seems much more like heaven than hell!

We hit the trail around 8AM with the temperature in the low 30' the time that we got back in the afternoon, the temperature was a very pleasant 64 degrees. We saw a little snow on the ground, and with the dry winter no water shoes were needed to cross Workman's Creek, which is about 2.25 miles into the hike. The trail was in good shape, although it is getting rather overgrown on the descent/ascent to/from Hell's Hole. I was wearing shorts, and on that section I was wishing that I had worn long pants.

My garmin GPS measured 11 miles and an AEG of around 2,750' to and from Hell's Hole.

We did not see another soul on the hike, which suited me just fine!
5.3 mi • 943 ft aeg
 Great quiet hike, did not run into anyone on a Thursday night. Beautiful shaded and forested hike up to the first creek crossing. At this time of the year it was very simple to cross with the stepping stones. Steady flow and what a beautiful sight with all the green the water brings. Soon after I ran into a Salome Wilderness/Tonto Forrest sign after passing through more forest. From there I noticed the a slight climb and the terrain shifted more toward a desert landscape with the towering forested trees disappearing. Here I found much more smaller shrubs and greater sun exposure. I did run into the wooden sign marking Hells Hole 284 and the Boyer Trail letting me know I was on the right path. After this portion of the trail I began the descent through the switchbacks dropping deeper and deeper. I scrapped my legs from all the overgrowth here, but nothing that required any first aid. Once at the bottom I counted 3 camp sites all creek side. There are some make shift stone fire pits and the ground allowed for tent stakes. I didn't see any fish in the creek and I didn't find the waterfall. Calm and quiet night, I did not run into a lot of wildlife. After the peaceful recharge I made my way up and out easily. The hike back up the switch backs is a beast, but conquerable with time. I remember destroying a lot of spider webs in the morning leaving the creek. The trail is easily followed and would recommend this as a 1st/beginner back packer trip, like myself.
11.3 mi • 2,972 ft aeg
 Did this hike Memorial Day weekend, tried to hike down to Workman Creek and then was going to follow the creek back up to where it connects about 1/2 way up the trail and scope out some fishing along the way... but the path along the creek is far to steep on the sides and clogged with brush. My short cut wasn't much of a shortcut as it would have taken for ever to go that way I just returned back up the endless switchbacks of Hell and back out. The trail is very overgrown, lots of scratches, nice remote place but not high on my list to return to.
8.73 mi • 2,064 ft aeg
 Met up with Lee, Jackie, 9L, and a gaggle of dogs for a trip to Hells Hole.

This trail is an unexpected gem! :y:
The trail is in great shape. The forest is stunning and totally unexpected for this area with old growth pines and tons of young spruce, which surprised me for this elevation.

And apparently the private property at the Armer Ranch has prevented the Forest Service from burning the place down!

I was spent and skipped the last 600 foot drop to the bottom of Hells Hole, but I'll be back to check that out sometime. Other hikers reported that all the camp sites down there were taken, so apparently not everybody shares my lack of knowledge about how nice this hike is! Oh well! :lol:
5.43 mi • 1,217 ft aeg
 Fun, fun canyon. Lots of floating plus some swimming, and a bit of down climbing to keep it interesting. Enough water on this day that we could mostly just let the current carry us along much of the time. Good experience down climbing in Class C conditions.

It became a little chilly waiting almost 1 hour (!) for 2 people ahead of us to finally get set up on the one and only rappel. And, in the end, we had to free their rope for them when they pulled, having left knots at the end of the rappel side. Seemed to be some kind of poorly-thought-out date. Sigh...

Some of our group jumped instead of rappelling after we checked for obstacles - pool was nice and deep, just be sure to jump out correct distance from the wall.

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