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The Best Hikes in Salt River Canyon Wilderness

73 Triplog Reviews in the Salt River Canyon Wilderness
Most recent of 47 deeper Triplog Reviews
12.55 mi • 2,816 ft aeg
This was obviously not my first time here, but honestly this area will never get old for me. This time around some ice made the hike in a little interesting and as usual you can’t beat the nice feeling that goes along with showing someone this area for the first time.

The ruins were great as usual and as stated earlier the ice was a little interesting, or dicey in spots depending on who you ask. I still maintain that for this area the fire may have improved the area slightly, but the trail has probably suffered some due to post fire erosion, but oh well that just makes it a little tougher on the masses. There are certainly some better views along the trail now and most of the annoying scrub brushes and manzanita along the route have been eradicated, so that probably cancels out the eroded portions. We only saw two other hikers the entire day and the conditions were nearly perfect for hiking overall. I forgot about the third set of ruins in Pueblo, but the "crack house" more than made up for that small disappointment, I hope. I have said this before, but I would still be a big fan of the forest service closing the road at Devils Chasm. Currently, parking at Devils Chasm to avoid the tight boulder squeeze on the road adds an additional three miles to one’s hike, if going to Pueblo or Cold Springs.

We headed to the trailhead for the “lower” Coon Creek ruins on our way out, but after not even a half mile of walking across the drab desert there, neither of us including the dogs thought the ruins would be worth continuing. We will save that one for another day, when the creek may be a more tempting aproach to the ruins.

0 mi • 0 ft aeg
Enjoying the fall colors at one of my favorite Salt River destinations. I love this place. Sunrise is particularly special at Horseshoe Bend. You pay your dues getting out hear but its always worth it. Late November is always best for fall colors. The river was running clean and clear at about 130 CFS. ... 0060

Eric :D

Salt Cedar (Tamarisk)
12.9 mi • 2,913 ft aeg
Mountain Lion Kill - Shute Springs
We decided on an overnight car camping trip with a hike or two to the Salt River from the shadow of Redmond Mountain along FR 644. After parking at our campsite we set out to follow Shute Springs Creek to the Salt River.

Unfortunately we came to a 50' pour-off just over a mile down the wash. The right (north) side walls were too steep so we decided to try our luck on the left. All we ended up doing was climbing higher and higher without locating a reasonable detour. Everything looked like it would eat up too much time so we turned back.

On the way back up Shute Springs Creek (at the moment just a dry wash) we came to the spot we had passed earlier which, based on the deer hooves and large cat-paw prints, appeared to be the site of a fresh mountain lion/deer encounter. Only now, we find new evidence of the mountain lion dragging the deer carcass across the wash. We only had to follow the drag marks for maybe 40 feet and there was the deer, partially covered with dirt and twigs. Based on the lack of smell and how fresh it appeared we figured the kill had taken place earlier, in the dawn hours of morning.

Wow! :o

So, in just the 70 minutes we had been 'downstream' it appeared the mountain lion had returned to drag the kill from wherever it was to a better hiding place.

{We would return the next day to see the lion had returned for a second feeding, which is when we determined the deer had been hidden barely 20 feet off the other side of the wash behind a clump of bushes when we first passed by, then while we were downstream the lion returned and dragged it across to the small ravine where we found it.}

(In the photoset is a photo of the kill as well as another photo taken 26 hours later as a comparison to see how much the mountain lion ate on its second feeding)

Ok, with that drama now behind us, we still have a 'hike to the Salt' to do. But this time we followed FR 644, which from previous experience I knew would take us to a corral at the Salt River Canyon wilderness boundary, and from there we could follow the wash to the river. Along the way we would encounter two separate instances, about a mile apart, where it appeared a bobcat was chasing a deer. although they were prints similar to the mountain lion, they were half the size... just over 2" instead of the over 5" of the big cat. (I compared them to the width of my boots to come up with that figure)

The rest of the hike to the Salt was uneventful. We ate lunch right next to the river then returned back to camp along the same route.

Back at camp we thought just a little about being camped less than a half-mile from a fresh mountain lion kill... just a little. We figured it already had a deer kill which would last 4-5 days. Besides, it probably doesn't like white meat.
0 mi • 0 ft aeg
So close and yet so far..

This is another site that I found on Google Earth. I first found this one about two years ago and have been hopelessly captivated ever since. It's just an amazing backdrop. A small 2-3 room site atop a steep rugged butte on a gooseneck river bend with Black Mesa in the background.

This site is only about 0.50 mile from the car. So close and yet so far. There is no easy way to get to this site. The only time of year to do it is in the fall or early winter during low river flow. Access is by land or by water and both options present problematic obstacles. Land access must happen on the north side of the river but most of the canyon above the river is totally cliffed out. There may be a rock slide area noted on my map. I emphasize "may".. I looked at it yesterday from afar. It looks bad. If you crack the code and find a way down/around the cliffs you'll need to cross the river at a shallow riffle segment west of the butte that can be viewed on satellite. Piece of cake, right? River access just might be the best option. You can't hike along the river because the canyon edges come down on both sides just upstream from the bridge near the Pinal Creek confluence and the water is deep. The good news is that in the fall and early winter, Salt River flow is very low. For comparison current flow at the gaging station above the 288 bridge is about 1,900 CFS. Fall flow is typically around 150 CFS. That's manageable. A cheep raft and a basic paddle will get you through the notch. Paddle up from the bridge to a gravel bar, walk across the gravel bar, and then paddle through the notch. Flow isn't too bad through that section because the water is deep. Paddle to the next gravel bar and you're home free. Now that you've either scaled the cliffs or paddled up the river, you just have crawl and fight your way up a pile of near vertical rock. Piece of cake, right? Ha.. Can you sense my sarcasm. There's just no easy way to do it.

As you can likely see from my photos, I did not hike up to the ruins. This was a recon trip. I decided last week that I've stared at it long enough on Google Earth. A zoom photo from the ridge across the river was better then nothing. My dad just happen to have a new Canon Powershot SX60 that worked perfectly. The site was about 0.25 mile away and the elevation was nearly equal. I had a hunch the west edge of the site would be clearly visible at it was. 0.25 mile is nothing for an SX60 on a tripod.

Well HAZ ruin junkies, this is your mission if you choose to take it on. That butte looks like one bad sucker. She wont give up without a fight but my gut feeling is that it's doable. Most of these nasty ruin buttes have at least one area of weakness. I'm passing the baton. My knees just can't do this bad stuff anymore. My last Black Mesa ruin hike is more my current speed. It looks like a great adventure! You never know.. There just might be some cool stuff up there. The thrill of the unknown.


Current wildflowers were light on the hike. Some hillsides along the highway between 288 and Miami had lots of poppies. The area surrounding Roosevelt is just starting.
2.8 mi • 793 ft aeg
BlackMesaPeak3741 RUINS-SRC Wild
If you enjoy off-trail, remote, scenic Arizona hiking, this Black Mesa - Salt River Canyon Wilderness area is a good choice.

This was Eric and my second trip to this area in the past 5+ years. Prompted by the above knowns plus a plan to hike to a different Black Mesa area which appeared on Google Earth to have an ancient, lesser known Native American Ruin Site (Peak 3741..this [ photo ] ) was all I needed for another commit :)

From our Phoenix east valley areas, it is a long day out driving (3 hours one way) to reach the recommended 4WD Park/TH Start for this ~3 mile round trip, moderate off-trail hike, but well worth it in my opinion.

My posted GPS Route + Geo-coded Photoset with captions hopefully "show and tell" a planned day here.
3.2 mi • 820 ft aeg
Black Mesa Ruins - Salt River Canyon Wilderness

Black Mesa is a special place. The river canyon views are amazing. I first came hear with Hank (Grasshopper) in December 2011. The road getting up hear is one rough SOB. The road is three miles of relentless boulders. It takes one hour to drive three miles! As much as I like it up hear, I never dreamed I'd be coming back.

While recently exploring this area on Google Earth I spotted an interesting butte situated out on the remote eastern ridge overlooking the river. It just had the look.. I zoomed in and found an obvious ruin site. I was immediately hooked. I just had to see it in person! I love exploring unregistered obscure ruin sites. Especially sites on the Salt River. Hank and I were due for another ruin adventure. A simple email and the plans were put into motion. It was an easy sell.

Our planned Saturday had arrived. It was a great day. A bit hazy but a great day overall. The road sucked just like we remembered. Actually worse then we remembered. The hike was straightforward and easy. Very easy for a ruin hike. Zero bushwhack. Just a nice off-trail stroll along the eastern outer ridge. The views were amazing as expected. I was so excited to get up on that butte. We could see it in the distance. I knew there was ruins up there! I wasn't disappointed. A small picturesque three room site situated on the edge of the Salt River Canyon Wilderness. I love this stuff. To our surprise, there were no obvious pottery shards or metate's visible. The site had been cleaned out. The views made up for the lack of artifacts. The trip was a success either way. I was very happy.

For me, this was just one more great day of exploration with my good friend Hank. It wouldn't have been the same without him. We've seen some cool backcountry destinations over the years. Old habits die hard.

Eric (ssk44)

Black Mesa Ruins as seen from Rockinstraw Mountain (12/31/2011)
[ photo ]
0.98 mi • 308 ft aeg
Ruins Near NF-203a and Cook Creek
Here’s yet another old, but not too old, hiking journal from Bud. We, 4 hikers from the Friends Hiking Club, were doing a pre-hike for an upcoming Coon Spring Trail #124 hike. Along the way we decided to see if we could find nearby ruins that one of us had heard of. Sure enough we found a coral off of Nf-203a which was supposedly near the ruins. Today, thanks to the CannondaleKid (aka Mark), I found out that the ruins are the Nordhoff-Hope Cliff Dwellings.
6.2 mi • 1,750 ft aeg
Fantastic view on this one. Interesting look at the Salt River Horse Shoe Bend. Beebee and I spent a couple hours on top working radio. We took the main route (south option) which is off trail but follows a fence line most of the way. The Cat's Claw was vicious in a few spots, reached out and bit me, and drew blood . . . I hate Cat's Claw. Thanks for the proven route Grasshopper (Hank). The one you and Beebee tried first looked no bueno!
5.62 mi • 1,189 ft aeg
Black Mesa-Quintuplets
Catchy triplog title - I located five survey disks.

I was able to actually drive up atop Black Mesa, on FR3271. It’s not much of a road, and it’s very slow going. I don’t recommend it after (or during) a rain. ‘This’ Black Mesa is northeast of Roosevelt Reservoir. (I think I’ve been on top of at least five or six different Black Mesas).

This Black Mesa was definitely used by ranchers years ago, but I suspect that’s not the case now. I found a few watering holes and ‘berms-in-drainages’, but they all looked like they haven’t had action in a long time.

The last two hikes I put up on HAZ were ‘diskless’, due to (my guess) vandals taking survey disks as souvenirs. This hike made up for those diskless hikes by having me locate five little brass disks, all on the mesa. Four disks were associated with the NGS triangulation station called ‘Black’ (1938), and the fifth disk was a Forest Service disk named ‘Black Mesa’ (1934).

The only survey disk of the five that was a challenge to locate was the, always elusive, azimuth mark (for the NGS BM Black). The ‘hint’ on the datasheet said the “azimuth mark is in a boulder, on the north side of a small valley near a group of trees”.
HMM ….. “a group of trees” ..… Surveyors wrote that ‘hint’ in 1938, 77 years ago.
I started the hike, looking for the azimuth mark, as I knew it might take me all day.
(Take note of my ‘wandering’ GPS track at the beginning of the hike track).
I was lucky and found the azimuth mark in about forty minutes, and it IS “near a group of trees”. It was in the fifth or sixth group of trees I searched near. The disk is in a 2 foot high boulder, and had a sprawling prickly pear draped over the whole boulder. I couldn’t even see the little disk from most angles. I carefully moved the cactus out of the way and said “hello” to the azimuth mark.

From the azimuth mark, I headed to the edge of the mesa, and then went to the high point from there.(Better views from the edge). By the way, prickly pears own Black Mesa. They’re very prolific up there, with alot of them growing horizontally along the ground, making the hike more of a ‘dance’ while avoiding them.

The high point is at the south cliff edge of the mesa and is quite expansive. The remaining four disks were easily located at the high point, with the Forest Service disk occupying the center of a bunch of rocks. The summit register was in those rocks also.
I re-established the ‘Height of light’ to vertical, as all the wires were still securely attached to their boulders, and to the very tall wood staff. I’m sure the first good wind will topple it, but at least it’ll stand tall for awhile, as it did in 1938.

I then hiked down the mesa far to the northeast, visiting a very current big horn sheep/wildlife catchment, and a couple corrals and tanks. My objective was to go all the way to the end of the mesa and investigate something I saw on Google Earth, but I aborted that foray when I noticed thick, dark clouds coming in from the north. I didn’t want to risk being ‘caught-in-the-rain’ on the drive down and off the mesa. FR3271 is bad enough when it’s dry.
As it turned out, it didn’t rain. That’s OK though, as now I have a reason to drive back up there and look around some more.

This ‘Black Mesa’ is a fun hike, with alot of varied things to investigate, and if the weather is clear, you can’t beat the views in all directions.
5.4 mi • 1,365 ft aeg
It's been on my list for some time but out-of-the-blue Monday evening it seemed like just the thing. But as such a short hike (2.6 miles) we decided to hike most of the way up the road instead of driving up and then hiking. This made for a long continual climb along a sometimes treacherous road, more like a path in the grass in many areas.

Lest one misunderstand, it was treacherous... for hiking poles. The large cracks in the hard-packed ground had a penchant for grabbing onto the tip as we moved forward, threatening to break it off. Once it got more rocky that risk was exchanged for rolling an ankle over the loose rocks, which would be what most of the hike would be.

We hadn't gone a half-mile before scaring up two deer, then a mile or so later we scared up a herd of four who didn't just high-tail it away but stood and stared at us until by mutual agreement we each went our own way. Shortly after Tracey would see what appeared to be mule deer ears, but then as far away as we were she passed it off as wishful thinking. But because I know just how much of an eagle-eye Tracey has for things, I pulled out the Canon and took a shot with full 60X zoom, and sure enough, it was a deer resting in the shade. Unfortunately, as shown in the photoset, at the time I didn't realize a prickly-pear some distance ahead of the deer grabbed the focus.
Oh well, being handheld and that much zoom what can one expect?

At the end of the road the hike became a winding journey through a seeming labyrinth of daggers, prickly-pear, loose rocks and more. Eventually we reached the summit where I took photos of the two reference marks and the benchmark then got so wrapped up in reading the summit log I neglected to take my usual 360 pan photos and video. No worries, half of the pan would have been taken up by the close vegetation. Thankfully I had taken a number of photos along the southern cliff edge.

By now Tracey was getting a bit tired of the terrain, having to remove her shoes often to remove assorted debris. So rather than make the full circle of the mesa, we cut more directly back to the road, following it the rest of the way back down. No fauna of any kind noted on the return trip.

But now with just over 5 miles under our belt for the day, what next? Hmmm, we're already out this way, what do we do next? Although I had added bogus routes when loading the HAZ Tracks off-line maps, again I did not stretch them far enough for our next and subsequent choices, Upper Coon Creek Ruins & Cougar Canyon.

You'll have to read those triplogs to see how we fared, HAZ Track'ing blind.

As I mentioned earlier, sorry, no video...

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