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Backpacking in the canyon

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

The canyon behind our house is a part of a large area of national forest that goes from north of the national monument to south of Rucker Canyon (about 15 miles north of Douglas). We’ve always wanted to do a backpacking trip in the forest that ended at our house, and this weekend we did.

On Friday night, we camped at the Sunny Flat campground a few miles from Portal. Then early Saturday, we set out toward Horseshoe Canyon.

Here are the overall stats for the hike:

Overall distance: 21.6 miles (8.6 on Saturday, 13 on Sunday)

Starting elevation: 5079 ft

Highest elevation: 7220 ft

Final elevation: 4300 ft

Overall, it was a harder hike than we had anticipated. There was a good amount of elevation change, but the real challenge was the trail or lack thereof. Much of the trail had been washed away by Hurricane Odile and consisted of stream beds with large boulders strewn everywhere and large downed trees. In many cases, we ended up walking twice as far as would normally be required in order to avoid obstacles. Climbing over and around boulders and trees added difficulty as well. I was glad we had a GPS because I’m not sure we could have reliably found the way otherwise.

typical “trail”

This was also a trial run for overnight backpacking and our equipment for the upcoming Grand Canyon trip. On that front, all went well.

It was fun to end up at our house, though by the end of Sunday, we were super tired.

We are planning to do another backpacking trip soon, but probably won’t do this one again. Maybe next time will be from Rucker Canyon to our house.


Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Many of you who have visited have enjoyed a drive back into Horseshoe Canyon directly west of our house. It is national forest service land and has many hiking trails and camping spots off the dirt road.

Since Odile though, the road has been closed at the mouth of the canyon (at the old corrals for those who’ve seen it).

Last weekend, we decided to take a hike back to see what the damage was like. In a word, it was unbelievable.

Much of the valley floor has been washed away. There are stretches where you can see that the raging water must have been more than a hundred feet wide, and there is nothing left but rock.

lots of rocks where there used to be dirt

lots of rocks where there used to be dirt

The road is completely gone in many places, and in some there are holes that go ten feet below what used to be the road level. While navigable by foot or on horseback, it would be impossible now for any motorized vehicle to get through.

where I'm standing used to be the road

where I’m standing used to be the road

It is hard to imagine what would need to be done to repair or more likely build a new road. And with all the other more used canyons here, like Rucker, Price, and Cave Creek, this would be at the end of a long list.

So for the foreseeable future, if you want to see the interior of Horseshoe Canyon, bring your hiking boots.