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The Best Hikes in White Canyon Wilderness

194 Triplog Reviews in the White Canyon Wilderness
Most recent of 107 deeper Triplog Reviews
40.27 mi • 7,777 ft aeg
This brings us to recent history! This past weekend, mom and I went hiking for another AZT passage. This time it was the combination of #16 (Gila River Canyon) and #17 (Alamo Canyon).
The Drive: The drive was nice, and actually with a vehicle and Picketpost Mountain TH and the other at Kelvin, this was probably the shortest AZT drive you can get! Both trailheads are easily accessible with a passenger car.
The hike: Let me just start by saying, this is a strenuous hike! It is not for your average "Joe backpacker" who does normal trips. While the trail is in exceptionally good condition, two things make this trip difficult: Heat and minimal water. First, the heat makes this trip very challenging. We went in mid-March when the weather is usually pretty good. But not here. On this trip, you hit the lowest elevation of any point on the Arizona Trail at ~1600 feet. Day-time highs in Superior were supposed to be around 70-75. But we consistently saw temperatures around 80-85 on our little thermometer. I think several factors play into this, including the Gila River gorge acting like a trap for the heat, similar to the inner gorge of the Grand Canyon. Also, the entire climb northbound from the Gila to the top of the mountains is exposed south-facing rock. There is very little vegetation, and very little shade. There were a few times we were ready for a break, but we had to keep hiking a good half hour before we found any substantial shade to rest in. Finally, getting to the lack of water part. Along the Gila River, there are a few access points, and it was flowing pretty clear and filtered well, so that was no problem on this trip. However, I've read about people whose filters clogged almost immediately from the muddy Gila River, and that could land you in a lot of trouble. Once you leave the Gila River, there's no more water until the rainwater collector, and even then, you're depending on reports from other people to know that it hasn't all dried up (hint: it's not a water source; it's a water collector. When it runs out, it's gone!)
With that warning to adequately prepare finished, the hike was amazing! This is one of the most beautiful sections we've done on the AZT, though the section from the rainwater collector to Picketpost was less than stellar in places due to the past fire activity. Cactus everywhere, wildflowers in abundance, and again, a smooth trail all made this a great hike. I can't wait till I have an opportunity to mountain bike this one! We'll just hope I don't have as bad of luck as one guy we saw. He got a flat tire around mile 18, literally half way from either trailhead! Hope he made it out okay--he had some buddies he was riding with who were aware of the problem.

All different kinds - probably around 3,000 feet is perfect for wildflowers right now.
2 mi • 0 ft aeg
Tried to take advantage of the day off to knock out a little bit more of the AZT with my kids. We were delayed leaving and again on the road so we did not have too long by the time we got there. Hiked to first main cross trail and back to trailhead to get the kids home in time for dance class. Ah well-- I got out for a little bit. Can't complain
50 mi • 4,850 ft aeg
Took a nice hike down the Gila section of the AZT ! The scenery is amazing with rolling hills along the river to majestic rock formations on the
other side of the Gila. Took a relatively easy (this was 5 months after back surgery) out and back 5 day hike up to the rain water tank that is on the
route to Superior. Met a lot of AZT thru hikers. One guy "RocketMan" said after he reached Utah he was going to cross country to Canada ! These kids
make one feel old though I did meet a 68 yr old thru hiker ! Not much wildlife this time other than the fish in the Gila. I just took a trip (1/22) and found that
my water filter is dead, last time I used it was for the Gila but it worked fine there. Not sure how to maintain the Sawyer filters. In any event a good warm up for
new adventures !
24.67 mi • 4,850 ft aeg
We did this in 2 days SOBO along with #17 from Picket Post. Probably one of my faves so far due to the beautiful vistas and rock formations. Colors galore. Ran into several through hikers for the AZT and for the GET. Found a lovely low flat spot to camp just after completing #17. Next day, with fresh legs and lighter pack did a little climb and made it to Rincon Road crossing of the Gila, where I managed to fall in and cut my knee. No biggie, though. To be fair, the river was running higher and faster than the time we crossed it a few weeks ago. :)

1 mi • 50 ft aeg
Three of us went out to fix the fencing at the 2nd gate from the south end. Shawn and the others on their section hike last month saw the messed up fencing and bent T-posts. Also one of the metal loops on the gate where the fencing connects was bent down 45 degrees. It’s still a bit of a mystery as to how this damage occurred :-k

Got another ride to/from the site in one off the Copper Basin Railway’s hi-rail trucks 8)

Lunch afterward at Porter’s :)

0 mi • 0 ft aeg
AZT #16 Tortilla Mountains
Finished Passage #16 of Tortilla Mountains that we actually did most of the week before 2/24/18 and 2/25/18. I completed by doing the final 2 miles between the TH and the bridge on this day. The week before, 4 of us had walked most of #16, sleeping one night when the temps got to 31 degrees. We had a rousing good time, lots of laughs. The terrain was pretty flat, we did lose the trail in 1 or 2 spots, but quickly found it again, using the app. We had cached water at a trail junction and didn't actually use much of it, so many gallons were left for public consumption.
5.47 mi • 736 ft aeg
Day 4 Backpack of Passages 17 and 16 southbound. This is the last miles of Passage 16 to the Bridge. Well after 14 hours in our tent when most of us first wanted to get going at 2AM and then 4:30AM, we finally rolled out, had a quick breakfast and were on the trail by 8. It was an overcast morning, looked like it could rain but fortunately it didn't. Yesterday I kept the rain cover on my pack just to hold off the rain and it worked, today I didn't care.

Once again we would be hiking through several washes, up and down and around and through and over but never too far from the River. We made pretty decent time as the first couple miles were mostly downhill. Off in the distance we could see the The A Diamond Ranch (a working cattle ranch nestled on 22,000 acres of saguaro-studded mountains) that was used as a home base for some AZT work projects I think. According to Shawn, the rancher is very cooperative with the Arizona Trail. Per a website I read, the main ranch house can be your home for the best vacation ever; and from what I saw online, 5 star ratings from several different sites.

I knew we would have some elevation though to finish off this trail. Soon we arrived at the pièce de résistance for this part of the hike, the view of the Bridge. I've seen so many pictures of it that it was great to finally witness it in person. Our light wasn't the best for photos but we all squeezed out several pictures before finishing our hike to the new gate. It looked like something or someone had a disagreement with the wire fence and steel posts along side of the gate that is above a bit of a ravine. Once through the gates, we walked over to the tracks to get pictures.

Back on the trail, the climb would begin. I thot I saw where we would saddle out at but it was a false summit. There were a couple on this uphill climb. However, the trail was nice and the grade was pretty decent as you switch-backed up and around and up and around and finally to a summit. Once past that we took a break to soak in the scenery and rest our laurels. We had a tad more uphill after that and then it was downhill most of the way.

Once we headed NE the mine came into view and we would have sights of that off and on as we headed in the opposite direction of our destination ](*,) . We will always remember that being the case with the Picketpost southbound passage as well. But now instead of being Picketposted we have to say Gilaed as this is the earlier passage. It's only about a mile the wrong way but at this stage it felt like ten :lol: . We finally made it to ground level again after travelling on great trail. In fact, the trail condition for this whole passage, even the first 9 miles, is pretty darn good if you ask me.

But as you know, even though it's still morning, I am hiking for beer so nothing much matters. You have quite a bit of a road walk, pass an outhouse, hike by some houses with the dogs that were apparently inside, across a big wash and then up a hill onto some pavement where we watched a crane turn around some sort of machinery. We went to the bridge entrance on the north side and waited for Guru to arrive which he did within about 5 minutes. He brot chips and beverages for everyone :) .

Video production hasn't begun as I have to get up way early tomorrow to go on a hike at South Mountain.
10.45 mi • 1,257 ft aeg
Day Three of the Backpack, Day Two on Passage 16 now eastbound.The wind blew occasionally during the night but no rain. We got up to a somewhat cloudy morning. I cooked up some Mountainhouse Biscuits and Gravy and split it with Ambika. No time for coffee though, takes me too long to get ready and we had another big day ahead of us.

So off we went as the sun toyed with the idea of coming out which it did off and on for a lot of the morning. I could hear cow bells in the distance and Ambika said she saw some cows. It was fun to watch the clouds and scenery on the other side of the river from time to time. Today's hike was not too far from the river but once again involved a lot of little ups and downs. After about a mile you cross the old jeep road and you get a little closer to the river for awhile. This is great hiking down here. When we do come up from the River we get views to the White Canyon Wilderness including The Rincon and Battle Axe to the north and Copper Butte to the east.

We paused at Walnut Canyon wash as there was no need to be in a hurry today. Plus I needed to get some little rocks out of my boot. Later we would discover it wasn't rocks but I had a blister under my fourth toe. Have no idea how I would get a blister there. We continued on our way and now would start getting occasional views of Battle Axe, Copper Butte and The Spine; all fabulous :y: . At about mile six on this day, we started a gradual 200 foot climb high above the river almost from the river. We found a perch tucked between some rocks to have our lunch and tend to my apparent blister which I discovered I had as my sock was a bit bloody; otherwise I would have still thot it was rocks. Ambika band-aided me up and I was good to go. So down we went contouring around the end of the Spine above us.

Back down to the river we go and in a couple miles, we come to an area to water-up for the duration of our hike which meant tonite's meal, tomorrow's breakfast and the hike out which would be around 5-6 miles. So I went with around two litres. Incidentally, the water tasted better here. We had to walk a bit to get to the River from the trail. We hiked back up the large wash to the trail and continued on our way. Shawn figured the camp site he had in mind was about another 1.5 miles. When you pass under those power lines in high gusty winds they make quite the sound.

Shawn made the call to stop early and not stay in the wash in case the brewing storm came to pass. Well that was a good call because we barely had our tents up and the spats of rain started and the wind continued to howl. It was a bit of a challenge getting the tents up in the gusts of wind. We were not too far off the trail and up slightly on a bluff rather than down out of the wind. It was 4 o'clock when we were confined to our tents without supper. I tried to read stuff on my phone but once again, my glasses were in my safety bag which was in my pack which was outside the tent under the side fly. The rain came and went as did the gusts of wind but 14 hours in your tent is way too long.

Part 1 - [ youtube video ]
Part 2 - [ youtube video ]
10.81 mi • 1,053 ft aeg
Day Two of the Backpack, Day One on Passage 16 southbound. I thot this was a mostly downhill hike; well I thot wrong. I thot this was a beautiful passage; well I thot right. Didn't have much for breakfast as we were dry-camping so I just had some granola and two tubes of applesauce. The sun rays slowly lit up the landmarks to the north and we could see a moisture haze in the air. And then the sun rose above Ajax to warm us a little while we were breaking camp.

It was a bit chilly for our 8:30 start but once we got going it was just fine. And the first little part was down hill but for the most part, this day would be a lot of ups and downs, ups and downs, ups and downs but nothing too dramatic on the upside. Many times today you could see where the trail went, sometimes that was good and sometimes not so good. The trail seems to be in good shape. Shawn remarked a couple times about how they got this trail in here. This passage was the last to be completed as well.

We continued south for the most part below Mountains 4202 and then skirt a little wider and westward around Mountain 3845 when the vista opens up toward Martinez Canyon and some striking rock formations and colors. As we got closer to this area I thot I saw a trail that went across a ridge in a rock formation and alas it was. Many times you can see the trail you're going to and the one you've already hiked. Sometimes I look forward to what I see but then I see it involves some more up which is not bad except for this heavy backpack.

I think we all particularly enjoyed the bedrock section (it has a Goldfields look to it) as we wrapped around to a big saddle (below Mountain 3748) where we took our first break of the day. It would be a great place to camp and I'm sure northbound bike riders and hikers are quite relieved when they finally get here. We probably stayed longer than we should but the views and the temps were just so spectacular.

And so we once again begin on the downhill slant as we continue south to the River eventually crossing to the side of Mountain 3845 again. This was some nice hiking as the trail seems in very good shape as you contour the mountainsides without having to go down or up too much. You see, when you look at the elevation graph for this 25 mile hike, it seems mostly downhill... but of course it does over a 25 mile haul but when you expand and zoom in on 10 miles, it's not as downhill. And carrying those heavy packs over every little hill they seem twice the size. :lol:

We saw some cool alcoves and caves on this section and would cross paths with a couple northbound thru hikers from Halifax, Canada. They were carrying 6 liters of water. Their filter had broken so they would have to try to get one once they hit Picketpost in order to carry on. I believe their goal was Roosevelt Bridge. Then a little later we would encounter three northbound bike riders as they were powering up this section. They were very nice.

We would now start seeing Dale's Butte for quite awhile as we rounded another corner and down to the wide drainage at the corner of the White Canyon Wilderness where we would break for lunch about 1. It was starting to get a little overcast with broken clouds which is always nice when you're hiking. We followed alongside the drainage where we encountered a couple more bikers that were kind enough to tell Tracy there was a big hill coming... thoughtful of them, ha! This was near the Red Mountain area. This part of the hike down to the river was pretty rocky from about the 7 1/2 mile mark to the road that takes you to the river. The gusts of wind had picked up somewhere along there and I remember Tracy having to stop to straighten the strong of her hat as she says "it's strangling me or trying to put me out of my misery" :lol: .

We finally made it to the intersection with the road where we took a short break at the 9 1/3 mile mark before heading to the river to retrieve a full load of water. The Sawyer Squeeze worked well. I also brot the Kitchen Sink where we put our water and then dumped it into the squeeze bag to fill our bottles and bladders. It's much easier than sitting at the river and pumping or trying to fill the squeeze bag. The water did have a slight taste to it but not necessarily bad.

Shawn had an idea for a camping spot so we headed west and then slightly south for about a mile above the river. We finally settled on a spot with Tracy and Shawn on one side of the trail and Ambika and I on the other. Two northbound bikers drove up and told us the forecast for Superior had 70% chance of rain. They were debating on whether to continue up the trail at this point. One was an experienced AZT biker and was taking a friend on this overnite riding. Not long after they scooted on, bits of rain started to fall so we madly got our tents up. However, it was only bits of rain so we all were out shooting the double rainbow that had appeared to the north and seemed to arch over Shawn and Tracy's tent.

Ambika and I made a Mountainhouse Chili Mac stew... put a little too much water in it but decided we liked the extra broth it created. Oh and we had a little sangria and finished the night with a couple sips of Fireball as we watched the stars appear and the moon peek in and out of the clouds. That night we would hear blasts of some sort. I think it was gusty as well. Nonetheless, Day Two was on the books.

Well being as I got stuck at home this weekend (my garage door wouldn't open because two cables and the spring had broken so lots of money later I could get out but too late for a planned event), I was able to get this part of the hike all wrapped up.
YouTube finally got some new music too. Not as happy with the transitioning on some of these videos but I hate to remake them.
Part 2 and 3 are pretty awesome; the scenery is just really something out of the 4 videos:
Part 1 from TH south to the ridge [ youtube video ]
Part 2 from saddle to the valley [ youtube video ]
Part 3 continuing in the Valley and across a couple drainages [ youtube video ]
Part 4 finally, the River and west to our camp [ youtube video ]

Here is the link to my photoset from 2012 when we were across the way on Donnelly Slope looking north across the Gila to the area of Passage 16. It's fun to see what the Passage looks like from there after finally being there: [ photoset ]
1.5 mi • 100 ft aeg
Three of us drove out to meet with two ATA workers doing machine trail widening and machine tread work on AZT #16. The location was about a half mile east of Cochran so we waded the Gila from the south side and hiked along AZT. My first time at Cochran and in this general area of the Gila/AZT. The coke ovens looked interesting and lots of mining history.

This was relatively easy work but great to be outside with these guys in this perfect weather! The machine with a 400lb hammer smashes the bedrock and we then clear the rubble off the trail with hands, McLeod’s and shovels.

Saw a thru hiker NOBO, 15 mountain bikers doing Picketpost to Kelvin and a group of hikers from Wisconsin.

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