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Horse Trail - LCR Gorge - 2 members in 5 triplogs have rated this an average 4 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Oct 02 2017
Zort
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 Guides 1
 Routes 23
 Photos 94
 Triplogs 18

51 male
 Joined Aug 12 2004
 Phoenix, AZ
Horse Trail - LCR GorgeNortheast, AZ
Northeast, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 02 2017
Zort
Hiking
Hiking
15 LBS Pack
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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After deciding I was too far behind schedule and the Little C was too wet and silty for my intended trip down from Cameron to the Confluence, last week I made a hasty retrieval of a supply cache I placed two days prior down at the bottom of Horse Trail Canyon on the LCR.

Many thanks to HikeAZ folks who shared info on this pleasantly short and relatively easy route down to what will remain my intended supply cache location for a future trip down the Little C!

Getting there:
The trailhead actually took me a very long time to find, because I was silly enough not to have saved a GPS waypoint for it, and I also had read a report here suggesting it was easy to find. To be clear, anything is easy to find with a waypoint, but without that, and no other specifics about where to enter this canyon, it is less than obvious. I posted tracks from this trip, so if you want to save a couple hours of banging around the rez, you can download them and avoid all that exploratory adventure. :)

Basically, you take US 89 to Navaja 6134, follow it west 13-14 miles, then while crossing Navajo 6133, juke left onto a small two-track road and follow it to a right turn onto another small track with a cairn. This was the *only* side road that was cairned, and the only way I found the trail head. So, many thanks to whoever placed that cairn!

The Route:
As with finding the trail head, getting started on the route required a wee bit of looking. There is a cairn visible from the parking area that leads you west and down to a flat layer above the drainage. I was tempted to contour left toward the top of the obvious drainage to the south, but that's not the cairned route. Instead, stay pretty much west until hitting the edge of of the drainage and possibly seeing another cairn on the way. It might take a bit of glassing the terrain for cairns, but they are there, and they will take you down to the gravel in the wash/creek bed. From there the route will be quite obvious for folks familiar with traveling down washes and canyons. There are a couple pouroffs that will force a go-around to one side or the other. The main obstacle is a very large pour off that is maybe a third of the way down the canyon. The trail stays creek right and traverses quite a ways until necessarily heading steeply down into the creek bed again. (This is strenuous on the hike out!) You'll cross over to creek left again half to 2/3 of the way down and then just above the river you come to the odd bridge of small logs and flat stones that presumably protects a semi technical move of stepping left around a protruding rock/wall and then down to a ledge. Below that you end up crossing to creek right again, traversing above the river for a bit and then finally making the last drop through a steep layer to the river.

My moving time on this round-trip hike was about 2h 10m, but that was double-timing it down the canyon with a mostly empty pack with no time spent for photos or much drinking in of the steep, jagged beauty of the place. Unless you have a train to catch, I would recommend spending four hours or so, depending on fitness, pack, etc. It's a strenuous climb out.

Observations:
As others have said, this is the easiest route I have taken to reach the LCR from atop the impressive gorge. It is hard to picture horses going down it, but it is child's play compared to Blue Spring Trail, and both easier and shorter than Hopi Salt Trail. My plan is to use it as access for caching, but others have used it to connect with Salt Trail as a loop hike, and that would be quite pleasant, too. Really love the idea of using mountain bikes to shuttle between trail heads!

Be sure to pack enough water for the return/continued trip. Any water found in this part of LCR is sure to be nothing but chocolate silt.
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation None
Dry, dry, desolate - scrubby and no flowers.
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Zort
http://instagram.com/zort_the_beholder
May 06 2012
toddak
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 Guides 8
 Routes 5
 Photos 1,202
 Triplogs 460

56 male
 Joined Nov 15 2005
 Puhoynix, AZ
Horse Trail - LCR GorgeNortheast, AZ
Northeast, AZ
Canyoneering avatar May 06 2012
toddak
Canyoneering29.00 Miles 1,700 AEG
Canyoneering29.00 Miles   13 Hrs   30 Mns   2.15 mph
1,700 ft AEG
Canyon Hiking - Non-technical; no rope; easy scrambling; occasional hand use
A - Dry or little water; shallow or avoidable water; no wet/dry suit
IV - Long, full day, bivy possible
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Third and final segment descending the LCR gorge. Dropped in from the north side via the gaging station trail (located several miles below the Cameron bridge), exited via Horse Trail. Endless miles of sand strolling and rockhopping under towering walls, with a hint of the turquoise water just starting to flow near the exit.
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Feb 19 2011
toddak
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 Guides 8
 Routes 5
 Photos 1,202
 Triplogs 460

56 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).
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May 06 2007
Vaporman
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 Guides 2
 Routes 4
 Photos 8,687
 Triplogs 931

41 male
 Joined Mar 28 2005
 SLC, Utah
Horse Trail - LCR GorgeNortheast, AZ
Northeast, AZ
Hiking avatar May 06 2007
Vaporman
Hiking5.00 Miles
Hiking5.00 Miles   4 Hrs   45 Mns   1.05 mph
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I've heard so many great things about the LCR that I had to made a stop here on the final leg of a three day canyon hiking trip up around Page. I've also heard that this trail and the road to it are some of the easiest for accessing the LCR. Suzaz's triplog describes the trail pretty good. I got most of my trail beta from Kelsey's non-technical canyon hiking guide. We drove to the TH at night and ended up camping a few miles away. Woke up and hiked down a different canyon that drops into the Horse Trail Canyon, but from that dropoff we could see the trail and get a better idea of where the TH was. Now that it was light, we were able to more easily find the correct road and parking spot for the TH. :D Made the easy hike to the first minor drop off, skirting it on the left, and hit a huge droppff that you bypass on the right. The path is fairly easy to follow with many great placed cairns most of the way. Thank you so much Cairn Fairy. :lol: Take the rugged path down to the drainage and follow it aways and eventually you hit the hole-in-the-rock and the precarious bridge. The trail then skirts along a bench downstream, by the dryfall, under some overhangs & leaning slab, and eventually heads down the river when you're below another small side canyon. The river was lightly flowing with clear water while we took a long lunch break. For some reason I was under the impression that it would be either dry or flowing with muddy water, but I'm guessing this was snow runoff. In the planing stage, I was thinking we could attempt a trek down to Blue Springs, but the hike down was just too arduous and time consuming plus we still needed to drive home afterwards. :o We decided very early on to just hike down to the river, eat lunch, and hike out. The hike out didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would, now that we knew the way. We'll have to come back and possibly backpack down to the Blue Springs or just plan a full day to hike down there and back. I'm definely making another trip to the beautiful LCRG. :D
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Yea, canyoneering is an extreme sport... EXTREMELY dramatic!!! =p
Nov 16 2006
suzaz
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 Guides 1
 Routes 2
 Photos 3,905
 Triplogs 154

female
 Joined Nov 23 2003
 Gold Canyon, AZ
Horse Trail - LCR GorgeNortheast, AZ
Northeast, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 16 2006
suzaz
Hiking
Hiking
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I've got this "thing" about the Little Colorado River, the type of thing that can keep me up until all hours of the night reading and researching. It seems that I'm always searching out the routes and canyons that lead to the LCR. This is one of those routes. I know I love the blue water but there is something else that keeps drawing me back to this area.

I love it when those individuals that DO know about unpopular, rarely travelled or unpublished routes help those of us that DON'T but would like to know more. Thank you to those that have shared, those that have gone before me to report back, those that build cairns and those that join in on my obsession journeys. (Hank and Ambika this time)

This one, the "Horse Trail", was apparently a route that horses were taken down to get to the river. The top of the trail was in fact clearly marked with a fresh "Horse type cairn" --first photo. It is a steep route at the beginning with lots of loose crumbly stuff but no real rock climbing. Horses or mules could have done most of the route but there are a few places that things must have shifted, some rock slides and boulder jumbles that are now making it rather challenging in spots. This route drops into the LCR about 5 miles up from Blue Springs. If I was on a quest for the sometimes beautiful blue waters of the LCRG I would not use this route.

There was a bone chilling strong wind at the top of this route requiring lots of layers of clothing. The wind was lost once we dropped a bit into the canyon and we were baking on the mostly sunny route. I don't think this would be a good summer route unless you carefully timed it with the canyon shade.

I had heard of a "bridge" to be crossed and kept my eyes open for that little gem. (photo #11) It's actually near the end of the trek, just after the neat natural window that views the Little Colorado. (that picture didn't turn out---guess I was trembling a bit while contemplating the bridge we could see ahead.) The bridge was made of two old Pinion Juniper branches that were strategically placed over some AIR. The branches had large flat stones laying over them to step on. We didn't really want to step on this bridge but it was pretty impossible to swing from one cliff to the next without using it....so we did. I could feel it wobble when one branch was touched from behind so I stepped lightly and quickly. :sweat:

The time from the top of the route to the water took us about 2.5 hours. I'm sure others could go quicker (I've heard 1.5 hours down) but we didn't have the need to rush and I like to stop and snap a few pictures from time to time. I don't know the exact milage but we guessed about 2.5 miles one way.

On to study up on the next couple of routes down to the LCR.
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average hiking speed 1.59 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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