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Sunday, December 29, 2013


A tight section of Dinosaur Wash

Despite its tantalizing name, there's nary a Cretaceous fossil to be found in Dinosaur Wash. Instead, hikers are treated to a cactus-studded paradise of high desert peaks and beach-like washes flanked by a mix of deeply carved sedentary and igneous rocks. From the trailhead, a trio of grand mountains stands out---the elongated profile of Precious Peak (3191'), soaring Creighton Peak (3666') and the prominent russet-capped pyramid of Red Top Peak (3190').  This stony triumvirate guides the trek, which winds around their jumbled flanks
Dinosaur Wash
and breezy passes.
Here, a middle-of-nowhere character presides over a wilderness where eons of harsh winds and raging waters have sandblasted sediments and lava flows into bizarre sculptures and shallow caves.  One such sculpture looming above Dinosaur Wash resembles a yawning Brontosaurus.
After a pleasant stroll through this outdoor art gallery scented with the resinous fragrance of creosote, the trail squeezes through the peaks to emerge at Dinosaur Wash.  From here, free-form exploration is the way to go.  Head northwest (left) through a corridor of sand and stone that vacillates accordion-style between wide alleys and tight passages.  There are a few spots where minor down climbs and boulder hops are required to get through, but most hikers in reasonable shape should be able to plow through to the 4.97-mile point where a 10-foot, slick rock drop off mandating a tricky move serves as a good turnaround spot.
HIKE DIRECTIONS: Although the traditional start point for this hike is off Scenic Loop Road, we decided to tackle it from Sophie's Flat, using the A-B-C-D trail system.  Here's the plan:
From the trailhead, follow A Trail 1.1-mile to B Trail. Follow B Trail to the 1.88-mile point, veer right and follow C Trail to the 2.39-mile point and turn left on the A Trail. Follow A Trail to the 2.91-mile point and connect with D Trail.  Follow D Trail less than a mile, drop into the obvious course of Dinosaur Wash and head northwest (left).  We hiked to the 4.97-mile point and turned around at a slick rock drop off, although with some scrambling it’s possible to continue another mile to the Hassayampa River, Mistake Mine Ruins and the Box Canyon. River water levels vary with rainfall, so bring wading gear if you're intent on hiking through the box. Trails are well-signed up to the wash.
Red Top Peak

LENGTH: 9.5 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2337’- 2789’ (1100’ cumm gain)
FACILITIES: restroom, map kiosk
GETTING THERE: Sophie's Flat Trailhead:

From Phoenix go north on I-17 to Carefree Hwy/SR74 (exit 223) and go 30 miles west toward Wickenburg on SR74, turn right at US60 and continue to just before the Hassayampa River Bridge traffic circle in Wickenburg.  Turn right on El Recreo, go 0.25 mile and veer right onto Constellation Road. Continue 2.7 miles, turn left onto Blue Tank Road and drive 1.3 miles to the trailhead on the right. The last 4 miles are on sedan-friendly dirt roads.

Pass between Creighton & Red Top Peaks



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