I was on a 2 night campout on the Mogollon Rim with my 10 year old Grandson, Michael, and his Dad, Lloyd, over the Memorial Weekend. We camped at our favorite spot, Camp Grasshopper #3 down FR 139C on the rim of Barbershop Canyon. This spot has been a favorite place on the rim for Lloyd and daughter Elizabeth to take their family camping over the last 9 years since Lloyd and I first met Grasshopper in July 2012 when he was camped at Camp GH #3 and we were camped about 0.2 miles away at Camp GH #2.
Michael wanted to explore Barbershop Canyon so I dusted off an old gps track from 2015 which would lead us directly to the bottom of the canyon from camp. From there we would take the loop going down Barbershop Canyon and then coming back up Merritt Draw. I was concerned about taking Michael down the very steep and somewhat treacherous canyon side at that location. GH prefers a safer route about a quarter mile up canyon but I've always liked shortcuts and had taken this route back in 2015. As it turned out, the only one of the three of us that I should have been worried about was me. Both Michael and Lloyd scampered down the steep slope finding a doable route while I was carefully creeping and butt sliding my way to the bottom. I don't recommend this route for climbing out of the canyon.
We took our time taking in the beauty of this canyon and for Michael finding challenges to his budding climbing ability at every opportunity. Elk trails provided convenient routes around log jams and dead fall. There was a trickle of water flowing down the stream with only occasional stretches of dry creek bed. The pools got larger and more frequent as we neared the U-Bar Trail crossing and many of the pools had schools of minnows and a few larger fish up to about 10 inches long. There appeared to be two different species among the larger fish. The most abundant appeared very dark in color, almost black, with a wide red stripe running the full length of its sides. These did not appear to be trout. The second type of which there were very few were definitely trout, probably rainbow, based on examining a photo taken by Lloyd.
The lower part of Merritt Draw had lots of dead fall blocking passage up the bottom of the canyon. There were Elk trails around many of these obstacles, some requiring detours up the steep sided canyon walls. Some required crawling under or over fallen logs. All these obstacles and the warm afternoon temperatures were depleting what little energy I had left but Michael and Lloyd seemed unfazed. The creek bed was mostly dry but there were a few pools and small trickles of water coming out of two springs on the hillside. The largest pool was at Drift Fence Spring, a popular watering hole for wild critters.
Back at camp we all agreed that this had been the best hike we'd taken from Camp GH over the years of coming here.
God help anybody who doesn't have a masters degree in Hazology to figure out where they've hiked here. Is it Merritt Draw Loop Lower or Merritt Draw Loop Mid-Lower? Or maybe just Merritt Draw? Is it a riparian area?
It's a good thing I didn't look these things up ahead of time or I'd still be trying to figure them out and missed out on the hiking altogether!
Kudos to @oregon_hiker who descended into Barbershop directly from Camp Grasshopper Mogollon Rim-C/Site#3 (don't worry, I linked that one too!). That's a steep and sketchy descent. One and done for that approach, thanks!
The canyon is pretty dry. Plenty of water, but not continual. We took a break at the U-Bar junction before heading up Merritt Draw (Lower?). There was no water in Merritt for the first mile but slowly more pools appeared which was great for Roshi to swim and cool off on what was a slightly warm day up there. Still beats the valley.
It was nice to cruise on the closed-to-driving road 9735P after miles of rock hopping in the canyon bottoms. It's nice to explore these drainages, and I don't think I had done this stretch before.
[I edited the 4,177 feet of gain that apparently I recorded ]
This trip to the rim is to finish up some undone sections of Barbershop and Dane Canyons. I started out on FSR 139c that follows the ridge between Merritt Draw and Barbershop Canyon. At about 2 miles in parked along 139c and continued on foot along 139c to FR 9735p, which is an old logging road now closed to vehicles. This old logging road takes you to the drop off point to Merritt Draw which is just at the point where Maverick Canyon enters Merritt Draw from the west. Merritt Draw at this point all the way to Barbershop Canyon is fairly easy to navigate unlike the central portion of Merritt Draw which is all choked up with dead fall. Both times I’ve been to Merritt Draw the central portion was dry but on this trip the lower portion the stream was flowing above ground. At about .4 miles from Maverick Canyon is Drift Fence Spring, I did not see the spring but I was not really looking for it either. After two miles of fairly easy walking along the stream Merritt Draw empties into Barbershop Canyon. The U Bar Trail also crosses Barbershop at this point.
Lower Barbershop Canyon from the Merritt Draw intersection to the Dane Creek intersection is 1.6 miles. There was a trail crew working on the U Bar Trail where it crosses Barbershop Creek. After a short chat I continued on down Barbershop Canyon. This canyon is a little bit more overgrown than Merritt but still easy to walk with just a little bit of maneuvering around rocks and dead fall. In almost no time at all Dane Canyon joins Barbershop from the right. Took a short break at the Dane Barbershop junction and pondered about Barbershop Canyon as it continues on down to East Clear Creek, Wonder how doable that is, Oh well, that’s another day.
One look at Dane Canyon as I approached it from Barbershop Canyon and I got this feeling this was going to be pure torture. The entrance to the canyon was choked with brush. As I took my break I also kept thinking about how hard was Dane Canyon going to be. As I found out when I started hiking in Dane, it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. It is more congested than the other canyons I was in but wasn’t terrible. I worried about nothing. This canyon would be a little harder if the water was higher especially in the marshy areas. Beautiful canyon and the almost 3 miles went by pretty quickly with all the scenery. Well worth the effort to see this lower part of Dane Canyon. I'm usually very careful about tripping or falling since I am alone but this canyon did me in twice. Luckily both falls didn't result in injury. The first time it was a hidden branch that snagged my boot the second time it was while crossing a stream stepping on a rock that had small logs on it hanging onto a bush to keep my balance and the logs under my feet shifted and I went down. The sad part is all while I was performing this maneuver I was thinking to myself this is a bad idea. I need to listen to that little voice in my head when it is screaming "BAD IDEA". I took the U Bar Trail where it crosses Dane Canyon back to Barbershop Trail and headed up Barbershop from there.
At the junction of the U Bar Trail and Barbershop Canyon I headed upstream about 3.5 miles to my exit point to FSR 139c. This portion of the Barbershop like the previous portion was fairly easy to navigate. Would definitely be a little harder if the water was higher. It does require a lot of stream crossings and in places going around dead fall. There was one spot that required crossing a log jam in the creek. Even though it’s a little bit of extra work it is worth it to see this portion of the canyon.
The sandstone rocks in all these canyons are Coconino sandstone of the Paleozoic era about 260 Mya and are an eolian deposit, remnants of sand dunes. You can see the cross hatched pattern typical of windblown deposits. Occasionally these deposits are swept away flat by some ancient event only to have more windblown deposits laid down and this is repeated over and over again. I wondered what that event was and how much time passed between events. Barbershop and Dane Canyons had some excellent examples of this along some of the canyon walls.
On day 2 I took the Barbershop Trail at FSR139 east to Barbershop Canyon and headed down stream. I was on this portion of the Barbershop Trail last week but it was raining so it was nice to see this part of the trail in a different light. The rains from a couple days ago had this stream running pretty good but has since subsided enough to make hiking this canyon easier. With grassy flats areas on either side of the stream the going was pretty easy. Steam crossing was a little difficult on the upper portion due to the lack of rocks to cross on but luckily there wasn't any need to cross over. Further down the rocks start showing up and also the need to cross over. Like Dane Canyon the scenery keeps you occupied and you travel pretty far downstream without realizing how far you have gone. At 2.5 miles down, the Canyon Gets a little narrow and pinches off with rock outcrops on either side of the stream that makes traveling further more difficult. This is where I bailed out by heading up the west side of the Canyon to the ridge and FSR139c. Much of the way along Barbershop Canyon you follow a faint game/human trail that makes the walking easier. At the point I exited the canyon there was a fairly good route up the side of the canyon that obviously the elk use to exit the canyon or to get to bedding areas up in the rocks on the side of the canyon.
Once on FSR139c I followed it to an old logging road that would take me toward Merritt Draw. From this road I went off trail down to Merritt Draw just below where Maverick Canyon enters. At the Junction of Maverick Canyon I ran into a bear about 50 yards ahead of me. Both of us took a few seconds to check each other out and this gave me a chance to get my camera out and get a couple of pictures. At first I was trying to frame the picture and zoom in but since the bear was moving I thought just shoot the picture or you'll miss it. Did get too photos but it would of been nice if I was able to zoom in a bit. Oh well can't have everything. Better than the bear I ran into in the Mazzies that was within 30 feet and took off immediately, so rude didn't even pose for a picture.
About .4 miles up Merritt Draw from Maverick Canyon the going gets really ugly, all choked up with trees and brush. made an attempt to stay high on the west side of the canyon but this was as hard as staying in the canyon. I decided this is where I exit this canyon and get on the old logging road that follows along the east side of this canyon from higher up. This road parallels the canyon for about a mile before crossing over the creek. From this point where it crosses to the upper end of Merritt Draw it should be called Merritt Meadow, resembles more the meadows of the Kaibab Plateau only smaller. Along these meadows are two springs, Merritt and Whistling Spring. Easy walking and great expansive views.
Great hike with the exception of the one mile portion of Merritt Draw. Looks like FSR139c is the road to take to do the lower Merritt Draw (which looks easier to navigate) and middle Barbershop Canyons. would make a nice loop trail which I believe someone has posted already.
Headed up to Camp Grasshopper on FR139C on the Mogollon Rim for 7 days to escape the high temps in Phoenix. Hank was there when I arrived on Wednesday busy setting up camp in a forest glen covered with green ferns and grass. We both managed to get our camps set up before the afternoon rain burst hit but Hank soon had a small stream flowing through his tent. It rained almost every afternoon of the trip but usually only for a short time. We were serenaded by a pack of coyotes at both sundown and sunrise the first two evenings but for some reason never heard any elk calling.
The next morning I set off for a loop hike from the camp descending into Barbershop Canyon, then following the canyon down to its intersection with Merritt Draw and heading up Merritt back towards camp. My descent into Barbershop was at a location on its west rim near camp that I had scouted out the day before. It was a steep descent but no cliffs and no brush - just follow the elk trails. The bottom of the canyon was knee to waist high with grass and patches of skunk cabbage and sunflowers. It was still wet from the heavy rain the previous afternoon so I was soon soaked from the waist down but it felt good in the warm humid weather. My heavy duty Gortex backpacking boots leftover from a previous life in the rain forests of Oregon kept my feet dry for the first 3 miles but soon succumbed to the wet grass. My feet were soaked by the end of the hike. I've never found any "breathable" water proof lining for boots or clothing that could stand up to hours of walking through wet grass.
It was fairly easy bushwhacking along the bottoms of both Barbershop Canyon and Merritt Draw. Frequent stream crossings were required but the stream was small and rocky enough to make dry crossings easy to find. I was hoping to see some elk in the morning and tried to be stealthy but had no luck - not even fresh tracks. There were plenty of elk trails which always provided the easiest path through thickets and around fallen trees. I exited Merritt Draw just before its intersection with Maverick Canyon and crossed FR9735P (not approved for motor vehicles) on my way up the ridge between FR139C and Merritt Draw. I then followed the top of the ridge until reaching a point directly above camp and descended the hillside back to camp. Hank was puttering around camp and by now was wearing his fourth hat of the day (he brought 5 or 6 hats). It had been an enjoyable hike through the lush green forest of the Mogollon Rim providing the much needed green fix this Oregon Hiker needed.
I agree a great hike with good friends, just can’t beat that for a weekend out of the heat.
average hiking speed 1.77 mph
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