This was an adventure in path finding. Other than the Pine Canyon Road and the last half mile of the North Rattlesnake Canyon Trail there really is no trail anymore. Couple of signs at a few junctions indicating there once was a trail. I started on the Pine Canyon Road about .3 miles in from the Downing Pass Road and walked to the Hoovey Canyon Trail. I took Hoovey Canyon to the Witch Ridge trail and headed west for about a mile to a pass then returned along the Witch Ridge to the junction with the Rattlesnake and Bootlegger Trail. Rattlesnake Trail back down to the Downing Pass Road and back along the Pine Canyon Road to the start point.
Pine Canyon Road.
This is a high clearance road that is rather rough in places. I opted to only go in a couple of tenths of a mile since being a loop hike I would have to walk it anyway. Probably not true but I swear I could walk as fast as I was driving on some sections. I'm not sure what I will decide to do for trails that are at the end of this road about 6 miles in. Will either have to get the mind set to drive the rough road or attack the trails from the Turkey Creek side. There was sporadic flow along Pine Creek.
Hoovey Canyon Trail #261
This trail follows an old fire road along Hoovey Creek. While the road is missing in some areas, where it was visible it made for a little easier walking. Further up the canyon the road becomes more of a trail. Now when I say road or trail keep in mind that they are all but totally gone. Sometimes a good imagination helps in locating a good route. The dilapidated sign at the Trail head along Pine creek should be a good indication of the trail conditions. The trail description posted on HAZ for this trail along with the GPS route are quite good, I was amazed when I got up to the ridge where the Witch Ridge trail is or should be there was an old sign. Totally blew me away because I thought I was really winging it on the climb up but when I came up on the ridge I practically bumped into the sign.
Witch Ridge Trail #260
I took this trail west about 1 mile to a saddle overlooking Greenhouse Canyon then returned heading east to the Junction with the Rattlesnake and Bootlegger Trail. While the Hoovey Canyon Trail took a little effort to stay on track the Witch Ridge Trail made the Hoovey look easy. There are sections where tread could be found but they were few and far between. From what I have seen the faint trail is there but it is so overgrown that it is hard to stay on track. Once off the trail it is a thick jumble of brush or rocky slippery slopes that must be traversed. I followed the GPS route as best as possible but I found I was usually higher up the slope than necessary. At one point between Hoovey and the Rattlesnake Trail I was a good hundred feet above trail in a jumble of rocks. Once past this section and looking back I could see where the trail went. The trail probably passed through some brush and I missed it. My GPS showed I was off trail just slightly high but I couldn't see a trail below me and assumed it was just GPS tracking error. My best advice is follow the GPS route that I got off HAZ closely. It is always easier when looking back to see the path but when you are in the thick of it it is easy to loose. In between looking for the trail I got my first views of Rock Creek to the South and Chiricahua Peak with the golden glow of aspen trees. I finally took a break after 5 hours of hiking. I kept planning to stop earlier but it was always "let me find the trail first' or "This isn't really a pleasant spot to stop". Finally along a section of faint trail, a good view with a slight breeze I took lunch under a pine and ate my Subway sandwich, life doesn't get better.
Rattlesnake Canyon Trail #275
There is a sign at the junction with the Witch Ridge, Bootlegger Trail. The trail is faint here but visible. The Rattlesnake Canyon Trail heads north down Rattlesnake Canyon at this point. The Rattlesnake trail actually continues on along what I called the Witch Ridge trail for another couple hundred yards before heading south down into Rock Creek and this is where the Witch Ridge trail ends. Nice view of Rattlesnake Peak from here. I was contemplating including the peak on this hike but at this point I was just concerned about getting back before sunset. From the junction with the Bootlegger Trail at the sign if you look really close with a little imagination you will see the Rattlesnake trail heading down the canyon. The trail along the first half mile can be followed without too much difficulty but once you get down into Rattlesnake creek you are on your own, find the best route. Sometimes in the creek bed other times along side. Once down to the junction with Pine Creek, about 2 miles the going is easier and the trail/road is easier to follow. There was water sporadically in Rattlesnake creek.
I enjoyed this hike in spite of its difficulties. Always nice to explore new areas. This area is definitely a wilderness, of the half dozen hikes I have done here I have never seen another person on the trail. The few people I did see were campers along the long dirt road that passes through the mountains and some at Barfoot Park. There are a lot of other areas I want to check out on the flanks of the Chiricahua's and winter is the time to see them.
Autumn Foliage ObservationIsolated Aspen on the peaks of the Chiricahua's
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.