|Inside the "narrows"|
Thursday, January 19, 2012
The most interesting hike north of Nothing, AZ
KAISER SPRING CANYON
Somewhere north of Nothing, AZ
I just drove 245-miles roundtrip to hike 4 miles-- and it was worth it. The return on investment for the road trip alone pays multiple dividends---two canyon-spanning bridges, a swath of Joshua trees, a tour of old west charm (Wickenburg) and a neck-craning 4.3-second fly by of the "town" of Nothing would satisfy any traveler without even setting foot outside a moving vehicle. However, to zoom past Kaiser Spring Canyon without putting boots on the ground would be to miss one of Arizona's quirkiest hikes.
Before the details, a few housekeeping items are in order. First, be on the lookout for hazards underfoot, specifically: quicksand, big horn sheep droppings, wild burro poo and cow pies. Second, the (in)famous hot spring on this hike is no five-star spa and nude soaking is de riguer. Finally, this canyon is prone to flooding so do not attempt this hike after heavy rain or during maximum spring runoff season. Getting into the canyon is the trickiest part, here's how. From the parking area gate, there are two dirt roads heading toward the bridge---take the left one and hike 0.1 mile to where it meets the edge of the canyon. Locate the white BLM post that marks the beginning of the descent path and carefully scramble down the steep, 30-foot embankment.
Inside the canyon the trail is a maze of 4x4 roads weaving through a geological stew of boulders, river rock and sandbars. There are several distinct passages along the hike beginning with what I dubbed “the catacombs”--a wide wash lined with banks of crypt-like depressions. Soon, the canyon enters “the narrows” where vertical stone escarpments soar hundreds of feet above the trail. Here, look for remnants of mining operations and a shallow water-carved cave.
Emerging from the narrows the trail enters “warm spring alley” where a 99-degree fountain of water issues from a wall of granite. A pool big enough to accommodate 2-3 bathers contains the flow. From the spring, continue hiking south 0.2 mile to “the confluence” with Burro Creek. Here, the trail transitions into a cross-country creek-and-boulder hop and although it's possible to hike deep into the gorge, the confluence is a popular turnaround point.
LENGTH: 1.5 miles one-way to the hot spring
ELEVATION: 2,020' – 1,755'
DOGS: good up to the confluence, rugged beyond that
KID FRIENDLY?: rated PG-17 due to possible naked bathers
BEST SEASON: October – April
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 103 miles one way from I-17/Carefree exit.
From Phoenix, go north on I17 to the Carefree Highway (AZ74) exit 223B. Head west (left) and continue 30 miles to US60, head north (right) and continue a few miles to the US93 traffic circle in Wickenburg. Veer right (north) through the circle and continue 65 miles north on US93 to the Kaiser Canyon bridge—located 5.5 miles north of the turnoff for Burro Creek Campground.
Cross the bridge and make an immediate right onto a dirt road just past milepost 135. Follow the dirt road roughly 0.1 mile to a barbed wire gate where the road splits, stay straight, pass through the gate and park in the turnouts near the bridge.
INFO: Bureau of Land Management, Hassayampa Field Office: 623-580-5500