We car camped on the ridge by Smoky Hollow TH and the goal was to do about 10 mile loop that included Haigler Creek. Sunday morning we headed out hiking the Lost Camp Mountain ridgeline which follows an old road passed a tank. The road continues past the tank but eventually stopped near the base of Lost Camp Mountain. Looking at the topo and satellite it looked easiest to go over the mountain and it turned out to be an easy climb. From the top we continued down the ridge toward Lost Camp Canyon. It was a good route until about the last 200 feet where we had some small cliff bands and scree to the bottom but despite that it was overall decent route. There were some small pools in Lost Camp Canyon but we only had to go about tenth of mile to the confluence with Haigler Creek.
Once in Haigler Creek we headed downstream for the rest of the day. The water was little murky probably from recent rain but definitely not muddy. Some really long pools to enjoy and the occasional cascade usually preceding the pools. Very slow going as other triplogs have mentioned sometimes under a mile an hour. However, we did take our time and a break near one of the better cascades. After the break it was more of the same with pool after pool and a thunderstorm started to build. Fortunately it only rained for about 20 minutes while we were swimming the pools. Finally made it down to Haigler Creek and Tonto Creek confluence a little past 4pm.
We checked out Tonto Creek briefly but unfortunately with the hike out of the canyon still to come we didn’t have time to check out the Hellsgate Narrows. However, once we saw Tonto it was chocolate brown so didn’t feel as bad that we missed out. Just another reason to come back preferably not in monsoon season. After a few minutes looking around we started up the Hellsgate Trail #37 out of the canyon. It’s a little brushy at times and there is one spot of faint trail but otherwise easy to follow. Eventually the trail switchbacks out of the side canyon and up on the ridge and turns into old road. So the last 2 miles or so is old road and very easy to follow. Arrived back at the car camp spot about 615 with enough daylight for happy hour!
Downright perfect day with great company in perhaps one of my favorite canyons/creeks in the state!
Surprisingly not too hot during mid day sun as we made our sketchy explorative descent down into the abyss.
Upon hitting the creek bottom we were greeted with instant paradise and of course the glorious reddish pink granite I love so much.
Soaked up sun, cliff jumped and swam around for countless hours enjoying the bounties of the wilderness until the early evening.
Got nibbled on by crawdads and fish, encountered a chilll lone coatimundi and found the worlds tiniest Coues antler.
Went down Hellsgate via the Young side. The roads to the trailhead are not great, but also aren't the worst I've ever driven. Definitely 4wd though.
Surprisingly despite what I imagine is almost no visitation, this side of the trail is in pristine shape the first 2 miles, likely due to well thought out construction. The last half mile to the creek suffers from erosion and overgrown bushes. Also, the trail stays high on ledges, where HAZbot suggests it goes down the main drainage. This was much easier than anticipated and I was happy with the way my trip had started.
I was surprised to find 15 cows grazing in Haigler creek around the Tonto intersection. I thought grazing was illegal in a wilderness area in the protected riparian areas. They sure made a mess of things as all the campsites have been filled with cowpies. They were very annoying and one might have a leg injury but it was hard to tell.
The next day I headed up Haigler, I made maybe 2ish miles in 6 hours. It sure is beautiful but all the swimming and head-high poison ivy on the brief respites from swimming really slowed me down. Worried about making my planned exit spot I scoped out a doable exit route and cut short my day, deciding to leave the rest of my trip for another time. I discovered my drybag leaked which left me in a sticky situation with a soaked sleeping bag. Luckily it doesn't get that cold down there and I had enough other stuff that was able to dry out before nightfall to get through the night relatively comfortably.
Last day I climbed and bushwhacked my way back to the road. Smartest decision I made the whole trip was to start the bushwhack climbing before sunrise to take advantage of the shade. Not a route I would recommend but it did get me back.
Hike Arizona it is full of sharp, pointy, ankle-twisting, HAZmaster crushing ROCKS!!
Hike Arizona it is full of sharp, pointy, shin-stabbing, skin-shredding plants!
Hike Arizona it is full of striking, biting, stabbing, venomous wildlife!
Needed to escape the valley heat and hit up the first official swimming/creek trip of year!
Rugged and slow going I ventured a bit further than my last time in this formidable area.
Felt good to bust out the floaty and drybag to once again take the camera to these hard to reach places.
Water, weather and company was absolutely perfect!
Sunday Funday well done!
What more to say than it was a pleasure to spend the weekend in this basically untouched pristine wilderness. My expectations were blown away from what I originally had in mind of this place. Great company and incredible terrain made this one of my most memorable backpacking trips to date.
Joel and Chumley were the masterminds of this trip so I was just following along thier precisely planned route. We parked the truck once the road met private property boundary and made our brief and easy manzanita filled descent down to the nicely flowing Gordon Creek. We crossed the creek and walked along nice cattle trails that linked up to a road that led to the top of what I believe is The Big Ridge or at least a portion of its trail, I'm still not sure where that trail was exactly along the hike. Either way once atop that ridge we were greeted with magnificent sweeping views of the unique area. The jagged canyon walls came into view as we made our descent down the road down into Salt Canyon.
Before entering through our side canyon we took a quick water and snack break when suddenly we all heard what sounded like a large animal making its way through the brush when out of nowhere glimpse of a human came into play. Chumley and Joel took off to see who or what it was and what do you know it was a fellow Hazzer in the middle of absolute nowhere! After meeting the very kind Toddak we all laughed at the highly unlikely possibility it was to come across another person in a place like that. True Hazzers are a rare breed among the millions of other Arizonans.
The Salt Canyon drainage worked out perfectly as the only the only trouble we ran into were a few easy downclimbs in which one was blocked by a beautiful sleeping rattlesnake, so we just carefully made our way around it to the left while I believe Jon chucked his 60 lbs backpack over the edge instead.
After a dry and hot drainage descent the cool waters of Haigler were such a treat as we all dipped in for a swim in just one of the many idyllic swimming pools we were going to encounter that weekend.
Before breaking camp we headed upstream to check out a few marked falls area and on our way we encountered scenic 80-100 yard swim through the narrow pink granite walls. That is when my mind registered just how immaculate the canyon was that we were in the presence of.
After our fair share of swimming around we headed downstream with our packs to our planned camp spot somwhere around Leo Canyon which was based upon satellite view and it's close proximity to the lucky charms. I used a canvas floaty to lay my heavy pack on whenever we encountered deep water or a swim and it worked perfectly not only for keeping my pack dry but to keep my balance while walking in the creek and of course as a flotation device. We ended up making camp sooner than expected due to coming across a gem of campsite for a canyon that rugged.
After emptying our packs and relaxing for a moment we all headed downstream to see what else was inside the canyon. Joel had commented earlier in the day about how the clouds in the distance looked like rain clouds and sure enough he was right! Somwhere around 2 hours later dark clouds loomed over our surrounding area while cracks of thunder enmitted as it slowly began to sprinkle and then turned into a pretty decent downpour for a few minutes. Chumley and I took refuge in what I dubbed the emarld cove which was this very unique large overhang with shallow water beneath it. It was probably not the best spot to be in a monsoon storm but considering there wasn't anything else around at the moment and luckily the only lightning strikes we saw were a considerable distance away we were just fine. I know Chums goal was to make it to Hellsgate which I was up for as well before the mini rainstorm happened so then I just went back upstream to set up for some tripod time at some of the more picturesque spots along the creek.
After making it back to camp I began to stuff myself with food and beer since I probably packed way too much in my bag to begin with I was second back at camp, Jon third and Joel the mastermind himself was of course back well after dark which I'm still eager to see his photos since he is who I look up to in the photography world. The night was filled with many laughs, plenty of beers, a unique version of night painting and a surprise visit from a giant centipede. Perfect weather that night and we all slept well after quite the exciting day exploring this seldom traveled area.
We saw a bounty of bear scat and tracks throughout the canyon and on our way out we spotted some fresh new tracks not far from camp, maybe bears like craft beer too... Before heading out the drainage we took one last swim in the cool waters of Haigler before making what we built up to be a daunting trek out but then in reality ended up being relatively easy hike out. For me it was probably because half my pack weight was from the mass amounts of pre-cooked bacon and beer that was consumed the night prior.
We made it to the truck just in time as the last part of our hike kind of sucked from the rapid elevation gain and the heat beginning to pick up but nonetheless it was not bad at all it but it sure was a pleasant sight to see the Chum-mobile and grab a gallon of water to chug. Great weekend, with great people spent in a gem of a wilderness, enough said.
This has been in the works for over a year, but the timing for Haigler has to line up just right with temps, forecast, and runoff. After a chilly washout last year, we were finally able to align the stars this year.
We attempted a new approach via Salt Canyon, which looked reasonable on the map, but ended up being more treacherous than desired. Getting around the very-well-signed private property at the ranch was a beast of manzanita forest along with a very steep and loose slope. On the other side, the climb up the old road to Big Ridge 177 was steep, hot, and exposed. Getting back down to Salt was equally steep, hot, and exposed, and the thought of returning this way had us all dreading the trip back.
As we stopped for a snack near Salt Canyon, we spotted something large moving in the distance. Was it a bear? More likely a cow. Then one of us commented that there were people there. This of course, was impossible! Who the hell else would possibly be down here in such a remote and difficult place to get to? Joel or Jon said "it's probably toddak" and we all laughed at the joke. I got up and walked in the direction we had seen the movement, and before I could see anything I hear "Is that Chumley!?" I dropped an effbomb or two and proceeded to introduce myself to a guy who said he was the other Todd. We chatted for minute and headed back to the rest of the group and chuckled at the coincidence of it all. It was nice to finally meet the guy who has been to some of the coolest places this site has descriptions for!
After parting ways, we headed down Salt. The first half wasn't too bad, but the lower half narrows and gets overgrown. After fighting through brush and poison ivy (and finding a bypass around the rattlesnake that was basking on a shelf that was the ideal route on a short downclimb), we reached the creek just in time to cool off for a few minutes.
We explored both up and downstream from this entry section and eventually found a suitable location to set up camp. Once all our gear was stashed, the real creek fun could begin. I had planned to split from the others and make it all the way to Hells Gate, but we got caught up in one of those famous Arizona 0% chances of rain with an impressive thunderstorm that dropped a solid downpour and kept us on edge watching lightning and listening to booming thunder echo through the canyon while swimming and wading through narrow slots. By the time the weather cleared, I didn't have the time I needed to get downstream and return before dark, so I'll just have to make another trip down here (I'm absolutely dreading this miserable development )
Once the rain cleared we settled in for a fun evening at camp full of shenanigans and tomfoolery that can't possibly be described on such a distinguished website as HAZ.
Sunday involved more creek exploration, napping, swimming, jumping and a general good time all around. No rain today, and the sunny heat of the hike out took it's toll on all of us, especially on the off-trail climb around the ranch. Dinner at Alfonso's rounded out the trip. It's more expensive than Del Taco, but worth the extra dime.
Edit: I forgot to add the part where I was attacked underwater by a Haigler Piranha. Somehow I managed to get this on video:
The perfect adventure. Great company, remote wilderness, running water, mandatory swimmers (my favorite), occasional misery but all around fun. Chumley and Matt covered all the key points. This was my 6th time to Haigler and I can't wait for 6 more. Incredible section of Arizona.
"Arizona is the land of contrast... You can go from Minnesota to California in a matter of minutes, then have Mexican food that night." -Jack Dykinga
Drove up to Haigler for a day of swimming with a couple of friends and the dogs. It rained just before we got there and the the temp dropped to 61 degrees. The water was clear at the crossing but lightly sedimented at the falls. Despite the cool air, cloudy skies and occasional drizzle, and less than perfect water, we spent several hours swimming and enjoying the creek. I even managed to dive off the top this time
Great day to be outside in one of my favorite secluded swimming spots!
Lady was away so off we (brother-in-law and friend) go. I halfway finagled a friend to pick us up at Little Green Valley if we decided to hike the hard hump out. In the end I decided to keep it shorter.
We made it down to camp Friday evening after seeing a passel of elk, deer, turkeys and a fox.
The next morning we broke camp, packed up and headed downstream. Thanks to Chum, I knew a Camp 2 existed but we played it by ear. Going was slow because of the rain muddied water. I like these rocks better that WCC since they grip instead of slip (well except the fish out of water granite parts).
Anyway we made it to the falls and then dropped packs to see if there was a better, nestley camp further on. We eventually gave up and decided we liked Camp 1 better. We had enough daylight still to hike the 3.something miles back to camp plus it's fun to water hike with a full pack so we headed back planning to go upstream from there tomorrow.
We made it back just as the skies opened up. It passed after 45min and we were already wet so we waited. We set up our rainflys for the night's just-in-cases and then gathered more firewood. I had to do the sideways stove jobby to get the wet wood going but going we got it.
Next morn, I let the boys sleep in and we eventually headed east with lighter packs. Much playing and goofing was accomplished and when sky threatened pretty heavily later by pronouncing itself loudly we retreated back. Rain hit camp as we did yet again. Some waiting, then packing up began and we hiked out in the cloudy shade.
Quick overnight trip to introduce the beards to Hells Gate Wilderness. This time we started farther downstream and worked up, covering a section I haven't been to before. Slower than I remember. Took 90 min to go a mile. At least a dozen swimmers. And when it wasn't a swimmer it was overgrown and thick. Lots of underwater obstacles. Would have been easier going downstream, but on our return to camp we opted to hike up and out of the canyon rather than fight the creek again. Probably saved a few minutes but not much. This place is tough. Which is part of its intrigue.
I met up with Chumley, Jonnybackpack & The Legend for a fun overnighter to Haigler Creek. I didn't do any research on this one. I was just along for the ride. After starting our morning off at AZW with some Double IPA we were off to the trailhead. The hike in was fairly straightforward. We followed a use trail along the border of some private property and then dropped down to the creek where we set up camp in an open area that could easily accommodate HAZfest.
After getting camp set up we started the "hike" up Haigler Creek. The going was very slow as we had to swim immediately. When we weren't swimming we were fighting our way through heavy growth. All the ground gained was hard fought. On top of that many of the swims had hidden boulders and downed trees under the water and out of sight. After considerable effort we arrived at the waterfall. I was shocked to see it was already 5pm. We enjoyed the waterfall and took our time taking pics. I was dreading the return because I didn't want to get back in the water. I was surprisingly chilled from the constant swims we had to endure. Chumley had a good idea on climbing out of the drainage and going cross country back to camp. I had my fill of the area and decided to head back early while the others stayed for more pics.
The climb out of the drainage was steep and took considerable effort as you have to scramble up 500-700 ft. Once on top things level off and I made my way back to the "trail" we hiked in on. Once back on trail I cruised back to camp and took a nap while I waited for the others to return. Once they returned we settled in for the night under four strands of party lights and lots of libations.
We woke on the start of Sunday and took our time in camp. Around mid-morning we packed up and started the hike out. We stopped near some Juniper Trees so Jon & Patrick could pick some berries for their next brew. I can't wait to have another Juniper Ale. So yum!
This was a fun and challenging hike. The going is very slow but rewarding. This is a great destination for the summer heat.
Introduction to Haigler Creek. Spent the day with my 11 year old daughter. Drove up to Haigler Creek, enjoyed the cool weather, playing on rope swings and stomping around in the water. We didn't go in very far. Emma was nervous about thunder in the distance and the occasional rain drops. I also knew it wasn't a good idea to get her too deep into this hike, in case of a possible downpour.
We came across what appeared to be an injured cow sitting in the creek. It looked like the hide was completely ripped off of two of its legs. Some other campers had reported it to a local rancher.
Strong water flow in this creek, cool rock formations and an overall enjoyable area. Emma and I relaxed in my hammock when we got back to the car and reflected on what was a fun dad/daughter day.
This is my gym. I have to travel down a bumpy road to get there. There are no treadmillls, no machines, and no personal trainers. I walk..I run..I breathe the fresh air. I can go any time I want, as much as I want and there is no membership fee.
With temperatures approaching 120 in the valley, I knew that even heading for the high country would be hotter than I prefer. The only solution would involve being in water all day. I had an opportunity to go to WCC, but I anticipated it being a little crowded there, so when Joel suggested Haigler, I was sold. I'd camped near the start on numerous occasions in the past, but never ventured downstream more than a quarter mile or so.
I can honestly say hiking this creek may be the slowest, most tiring hike I've done in a long time. Maybe ever. Joel said only the Motherlode was more difficult, but I personally think that is easier. We hiked for a solid 8 hours on Saturday and the GPS logged only 4.4 miles. And that was generous. The map only showed us having progressed a little over 3.5 river miles. 1-mile over 2 hours is a good pace here.
But those hours are crazy fun. Lots of amazing scenery in there! The vegetation was too thick to keep floaties from popping, and most of the creek hiking is not more than chest deep, so the required swimming portions are relatively short and the floaties were not necessary anyway. Of course you definitely need dry bag. Next time, I will absolutely bring trekking poles, which I did not have with me on this trip. I would almost say they should be requirement for anybody making this trip.
There's basically nowhere to camp. Hangers would do much better here. Finding flat, non-rocky places for two people to sleep is a challenge. But the pink granite is beautiful. And there's a handful of cascades and deep swimming holes that made the weekend great.
We headed back out on Sunday, exploring some more and appreciating this remote wilderness canyon. We never did see another person all weekend. At some point, I'd like to take the time to get all the way to Hell's Gate, but that wasn't in the cards this weekend because the hike out in these temps would have been miserable, if not dangerous or impossible.
Finally got to do Haigler! Though I'm left feeling slightly less than satisfied since we only logged about 4 creek miles. I've been wanting to hike this creek for a long time now.
There are multiple sections of beautiful granite narrows and waterfalls, but hell to pay to access those areas. We averaged 1/2mph with full overnight packs and no trekking poles. No trekking poles was a huge mistake. With daypacks and 2 trekking poles, 1mph would be very feasible (in my opinion), but don't expect to travel any more quickly than that. I fell probably 5 times and was more frustrated with each spill. It would start with a slight slip, then turn into this awkward slow-motion fall as my heavy pack pulled me backwards. It would then end with a string of cuss words (which became longer after each fall). Floaties for our packs seemed brilliant at first, but as the short sections of bushwhacking became more frequent, both our floaties eventually popped. I opted to keep my pack on and backstroke through the narrows.
Campsites were very few and far between. We had to do some backtracking to find a decent spot as I wanted to be close to a photo destination for the evening. With the lack of documentation for this creek, you don't know what to expect and when to expect it, so when we came across something photogenic and it was late afternoon, we figured it was time to start settling down.
We saw some nice big piles of bear dung, several fish, a few crawdads and a dead cat(?) of some sort floating and decomposing in the water. Even though we camped a couple miles downstream and I double filtered the water (Chumley's filter plus my steripen), visions of that thing haunted me whenever I felt thirsty.
Overall a great trip! I still ache from the 8 straight hours of rock hopping, swimming and bushwhacking.
"Arizona is the land of contrast... You can go from Minnesota to California in a matter of minutes, then have Mexican food that night." -Jack Dykinga
Terrific trip! A very fun little canyon with scenery galore. Water was warm (sort of)- if you chill easily a 2mm shorty wetsuit may be beneficial.
We did this as 2/2.5 day trip, camping near mile 5 on day 1 and again at Tonto/Haigler confluence on night 2 - this allowed for numerous breaks, including swimming/cliff jumping as well as 'slab-baking' afterwards. We started off about 11AM Friday and were out before noon on Sunday, exiting on Trail 37, Hells Gate.
Thanks to Todd for posting it!
Long day down Haigler and out Hellsgate #37. Water was cool, neoprene socks and a shorty wetsuit were nice in the morning, but not necessary by noon. Lots of fish, some looked to be up to 12-inches in the deepest pools. My guess is that the best time to do this or Tonto Creek is June/July before the monsoon starts and silts up the water.
average hiking speed 1.22 mph
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.