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Blue Springs - LCR Gorge - 1 member in 5 triplogs has rated this an average 5 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Mar 21 2017
Zort
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 Guides 1
 Routes 23
 Photos 94
 Triplogs 18

51 male
 Joined Aug 12 2004
 Phoenix, AZ
Blue Springs - LCR GorgeNortheast, AZ
Northeast, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 21 2017
Zort
Hiking
Hiking
10 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The original plan was to bikepack from GCNP to the Blue Spring TH, through-hike all the way back to Lipan Point, and then retrieve the bike via a half-marathon run, buuuuuuut the Little Colorado was decidedly *NOT* open for hiking. All those awesome photos of Grand Falls running like Willy Wonka's chocolate river reveal just how much water and grit have been running down the LCR for the past weeks and months. It was flooding wall to vertical wall. Sadly, a packraft and the requisite skill to pilot one are not in my possession (yet!) so the trip was much abbreviated into an out-and-back to Blue Spring, as follows.

Sunday, Mar 12 - The drive from Phoenix to Cameron was uneventful, and using I40 East to the Country Club exit really helped to bypass any congestion in/around downtown Flagstaff. Permits are required for trekking and camping on the Navajo Nation (for non-Navajo). The previous week I spoke with Vickie at the visitor center, and we arranged to have the permit waiting for me at the Conoco station across highway, because the visitor center is closed on the weekends. I picked up the permit and jumped onto highway 64, canyon bound! It was a quick shot up to Desert Tower, where there was still some snow plowed into a bank in parking lot. That snow pile made for a handy place to lean the bike once I had it muscled out of the truck. It was nice not to have to lay it down, because a fat bike loaded with camping gear and three gallons of water is neither svelte nor dainty. Add sunscreen, turn on a device or two, don helmet and gloves, and then hit the road for multi-sport adventure!

From Desert Tower you can legally ride the service road past the employee housing and sewage treatment area and drop down the steep dirt track to the Lower Basin and the foot of Cedar Mountain. It's nearly a 1000' descent, and it really heats up the brakes when you're holding back nearly 300 lb of bike and gear and rider and water! It is prohibited to drive or even ride the trail to Cape Solitude, but you can go around Cedar Mountain and then drop down to Navajo Route 6140 due east of the mountain. Then you just continue on 6140 as I think other trip reports here describe to reach the Blue Spring TH.

That afternoon found me at the trailhead way too early, so I scouted the route a bit, took a nap in the shade of the bike, had an early dinner, said goodnight to the coyotes, owls and ravens and then turned in early. The moon was nearly full, so it was up high and bright, but it didn't keep me from getting a lot of great sleep. Hooray biorhythm correction!

Monday, Mar 13 - An early start got me... Oh, right - this is all first person "me" and singular "I" stuff, because this was a solo trip. Wouldn't recommend it, actually, because the "hiking" is pretty extreme, strenuous and exposed, as other trip reports warn. Anyway, the day started fairly early, but the route demands a lot of focus and deliberate movement. Unless someone decides that the GPX tracks I uploaded are too inaccurate or removes them for other reasons, you can get an idea of where the route starts at the big juniper tree and ends near Blue Spring itself. Everything in between is steep, occasionally exposed and generally a bit unnerving. Two main rock layers are especially challenging and involve Class 4 (at least!) moves with some very real exposure. I did not remove my day pack (about 10 lb), but a full 50L pack would have been very awkward and some lowering would have been prudent. Others have reported using belay/protection in a few places, but I just committed and made the moves unprotected.

It was upwards to a couple hours of careful travel each way, to complete the ONB. The upward scrambling required a bit more energy, but seemed less harrowing, as always seems to be the case. The route is fairly well marked by cairns, but there were a few places I got off track. As any experienced trekker will relate, when in doubt STOP and look around. Look across ravines for the exit. Retrace your steps when needed. Sometimes you need to go higher in order to see the cairns/route, but this route is so steep that it can be below. A time or two I got that exhilarating "lost" feeling and realized just how long it would take to scout a route to the top without aid of cairns left by folks who had come before. On this route more than any other, the cairns weren't an intrusion on the experience - they were a welcome part of it!

The return ride was a fairly matter-of-fact and thoroughly enjoyable retracing of my big fat tire tracks. There were some horses and cattle in the area, and they all looked healthy and happy. Quite a life they have out there with not much more than the occasional fly or cyclist to distract them from their grazing, cloudbusting and whatever else they do with their time. :)

To summarize; the route is excellent - if you're up to it. For reference, it was harder than the Pt. Huitzil Rt, with the exception of the big slab on Huitzil. Using a fat bike to pack and camp was lots of fun, but you better be ready to do some real work if you want to go that route. To take a full pack down Blue Spring Tr would be hard, and a few spots would require lowering big packs, IMO. Having said that, the original itinerary is still very much on my to-do list, as is the full-monty trek from Cameron to the Confluence. The LCR gorge offers many amazing, remote, rugged, challenging and often solitary experiences. Perfect!

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Blue Spring Gallon + per minute Gallon + per minute
Yeah, Blue Spring was gushing *somewhere* down there in all that chocolate syrup flooding in from all over the high country.
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Zort
http://instagram.com/zort_the_beholder
May 25 2013
AZOutdoorsman
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 Guides 3
 Photos 2,110
 Triplogs 113

male
 Joined Jan 16 2004
 Chandler, AZ
Salt Trail Canyon to LCR GorgeNortheast, AZ
Northeast, AZ
Canyoneering avatar May 25 2013
AZOutdoorsman
Canyoneering
Canyoneering3 Days         
50 LBS Pack
 no routes
Partners none no partners
Back for another Memorial Weekend. Mainly to make it to Blue Springs and back - had to abort last time (see 5/22/09 triplog). Day 1: From Salt Trail TH - down and over to Big Canyon (canyoneering) to LCRG. Day 2: hike to Blue Springs and tube back. Day 3: out Salt Trail (canyoneering through ST Canyon on way out). Beautiful weekend! : )
Named place
Named place
Blue Spring
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Feb 19 2011
toddak
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 Guides 8
 Routes 5
 Photos 1,174
 Triplogs 445

55 male
 Joined Nov 15 2005
 Puhoynix, AZ
Horse Trail - LCR GorgeNortheast, AZ
Northeast, AZ
Canyoneering avatar Feb 19 2011
toddak
Canyoneering16.50 Miles 3,000 AEG
Canyoneering16.50 Miles   10 Hrs   30 Mns   1.57 mph
3,000 ft AEG
Canyon Hiking - Non-technical; no rope; easy scrambling; occasional hand use
B - Up to light current; wading/swimming; possible wet/dry suit
III - Normally requires most of a day
 no routes
Partners none no partners
After seeing margotr's photos from a recent full descent of the Little Colorado River (LCR) Gorge, I had to see this place myself, even if I have to do it in several shorter segments. This trip report covers Horse Trail to the LCR, downstream past Blue Springs and exiting up Salt Trail Canyon (approximately 16.5 miles, 3000' elevation).

Horse Trail is easy to find and the route down is straightforward, except for some back and forth traversing to drop through the final cliff bands just above the river. Even though the USGS gage for the LCR at Cameron had been reading nearly zero for a couple of weeks and the river looked dry from the Cameron bridge, there was a small flow of fairly clear water down in the gorge from springs located a couple miles upstream. After heading downstream for several miles of gentle, pleasant walking, many more small springs appear at the sides of the gorge, gradually adding to the flow and the faint blue color. Some are surface flows, some bubble up through the sand, others look to be old springs that are no longer active. Soon you arrive at the much larger Blue Springs, surging up powerfully from below a limestone cliff, wonderfully warm and flowing out so strong that I couldn't swim against the current. What an amazing place.

I would say that Horse Trail is definitely the easiest way to get to the springs. Attempts from the west side are possible but require a brutal drive and then dangerous (borderline insane) scrambling to find a route down the cliffs. I know of more than one party who failed to reach the springs from there. In contrast, the start of Horse Trail is an easy drive on good roads from Highway 89 on the Navajo reservation (best to get a Navajo permit at the 89/64 junction in Cameron, they're only open on weekdays in the winter). The Horse Trail is about 2 miles in length and a 1700' drop to the LCR. From there, Blue Springs is an easy 5 miles downstream.

You could return back the way you came, but about 6.5 miles further downstream from Blue Springs is the bottom of the Salt Trail Canyon exit. This stretch has a stronger current and more vegetation to deal with (additional springs keep adding to the flow, multiple crossings and possible swims (drybag) required), but this takes you through the heart of this incredible river. Just make sure it will be flowing that indescribable electric blue color (instead of brown) when you go. From the top of Salt Canyon, the shuttle back to the Horse Trail start is 30 miles (a nice mountain bike ride if you do it the day before).
Geology
Geology
Travertine
Culture
Culture
HAZ Rides
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Sep 18 2010
AZOutdoorsman
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 Guides 3
 Photos 2,110
 Triplogs 113

male
 Joined Jan 16 2004
 Chandler, AZ
Blue Springs - LCR GorgeNortheast, AZ
Northeast, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 18 2010
AZOutdoorsman
Hiking2.00 Miles 2,100 AEG
Hiking2.00 Miles
2,100 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Yesterday we scrambled down the high wall of the Little Colorado River Gorge to Blue Spings at the river. This is a remote region on the Navajo reservation just outside Grand Canyon National Park. There isn't a trail just a cairned route and requires a lot of scrambling, some with exposure - not for the casual hiker. The area above Blue is still flowing from the monsoon so the water is currently muddy. The road in is long and requires HC 4x4 - I hit bottom many times. Quite the adventure! Heading back in 2 weeks for a through trip on the river so hold for no more rain so the upper flow stops and the blue water re-emerges. : )
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Aug 30 2006
suzaz
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 Guides 1
 Routes 2
 Photos 3,905
 Triplogs 154

female
 Joined Nov 23 2003
 Gold Canyon, AZ
Blue Springs - LCR GorgeNortheast, AZ
Northeast, AZ
Hiking avatar Aug 30 2006
suzaz
Hiking
Hiking
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Thanks for the PM's, the ratings and the questions about this trip. It's not my best photo set but certainly is right up there as one of my greatest adventures!

I had been slipped a couple of pictures of this spot a few years ago, long before I ever had the courage required to play on this gem! Three years ago I was nervous just going up and down a ladder to hang Christmas lights. :roll: Who would have thunk???

I wouldn't recommend the Blue Springs route to anyone---more exposure than sanely safe......but I WILL most likely get on it again. Lots of AIR on that route. :o Couldn't even get the camera out on some of the really exposed places...LOL. The pictures that are posted are the lesser of all evils....seriously!

It was 2.5 hours on the dirt road to get to the trailhead---4x4 high clearance needed for a significant portion of the 18 miles and even with that we backed off the final road climb, parked it and walked. On the drive in we found the beautiful healthy horses, lots of cattle, interesting rock corrals, various shelters, that huge Great Basin Gopher Snake, and an incredibly GREEN lizard that escaped before I could snap a picture.

The trail is flat and unremarkable for the first 5 minutes and within 10 minutes it drops straight down and becomes more of a route and less of a trail. In my opinion it offers at least triple the exposure found on the South Canyon shortcut or the Salt Trail Canyon. The walls of this rugged gorge are a series of nearly vertical cliffs or massive limestone and sandstone separated by steep slopes or benches of shale. We continued straight down following the cairns that took us over edges and ledges for 2 intense hours (didn't reach the spring)...chalk bag might have been handy to have on this one. On the way down I found I could slip over or slide down in places but couldn't manuever back up without stepping on/climbing on my friend....ah what are friends for?? No hand or foot holds......short chick at a slight disadvantage that way. For a future trip I would overnight at the trailhead, travel with only a daypack, minimal gear, overnight at the spring and climb out the following day....but that's just me.

Another great adventure--- surely to make "the book"!
So many destinations, so little time! Wonder what's next :)
Fauna
Fauna
Gopher Snake
Named place
Named place
Gold Hill
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average hiking speed 1.57 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.

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