by Stewart Aitchison & Bruce Grubbs (Falcon Guides)
© Stewart Aitchison & Bruce Grubbs/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
The trail head has camping near the parking lot for those interested in getting there late at night. The trail starts in ponderosa pines which grow on the north side of ridges and in the canyons. At several points the trail and the road co-exist. Stay to the northeast where the trail separates from the road for easier hiking.
The trail eventually leads to chaparral where the vistas to the west are wonderful in the morning.
If you wish to see "Hell's Gate", stop about a 1/2 mile from the confluence of Haiglers and Tonto creek. The deep canyon to the south east will indicate where the Tonto creek is flowing. The views from the top are amazing. There are at least two water falls that can be seen from the top. The trail then becomes very steep and the rock on the trail is loose. I highly recommend poles.
Without crossing the creek, there are a few camping sites at the confluence of the creeks. There are a few more sites 20 yards above these sites if the they are occupied and a few more across the Tonto Creek. Camping site are limited.
The way out is a stenous 2000 foot hike. The trial is mostly facing south and quite warm even in April, and we started our hike at 7.
This trail is wonderful. We backpacked in on a Saturday and stayed overnight down at the creeks. We saw one day-hiker one our way in that practically ran the trail out and back. At the bottom, there were only four other folks, a couple of guys fishing and another couple camping out overnight. On our trip out on Sunday, we saw only two more people making the hike in part of the way.
The water was about mid-calf high, low enough to walk across to the good camping areas. We brought our water filter and probaby filtered about 6 liters of water. It was great.
Last quarter mile down to the creeks is *very* steep. We were very happy that we had our hiking poles as it's pretty much a scree slope. Hot on the way out as it's totally exposed during the worst part of the climb out. Great training hike for the Grand Canyon. Definitely wouldn't do it later in the year, i.e., summer. It would be too hot. We will most likely do this hike again next spring. Good stuff!
Nice trail. We didnt see anybody. Good spots to set-up camp all along the way. There was only one creek with any water at about 3.5 miles in. Without rain, that will be dried up in a week. The only other water is at mile 7 (El Grande Tank) and the bottom. The 'tank'(1 mile before the trail end) is stagnant water and not very appealing. Great 1 or 2 night trip.
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