Aravaipa Canyon - Days Two & Three!
Read about Day One of our trip here!
After spending our first day hiking into Aravaipa Canyon we were ready to explore its side canyons. I was told by many people to go into Aravaipa without a plan, just allow yourself time to play. Stop in a side canyon or two, explore, wander around, don't kill yourself by just hiking through the whole thing. This is now my advice to people wanting to hike or backpack into Aravaipa Canyon - just have fun exploring!
In the morning we left our camp set up and hiked down to Paisano Canyon. The further east we hiked the more green surrounded us. The cottonwood trees lining the creek were beautiful. I had my Garmin InReach to help us with GPS location and for finding side canyons but we still had a hard time seeing them. Going west to east they are hard to see for some reason. Hiking back east to west we were able to see them much easier.
We accidentally walked right past Paisano Canyon and wandered another 15 minutes further than we meant to. The only silver-lining in this mistake is we found a great campsite for our next trip! We eventually turned around and found our way to Paisano Canyon.
This side canyon had a waterfall with a small pool not too far into the canyon. We took a little lunch break there while enjoying the scenery.
Next up was Booger Canyon. Thankfully the weather was overcast and cooler, very strange for May in Southern Arizona. It helped keep us cool so I wasn't going to complain. Booger Canyon is full of these huge rocks and boulders. At first it doesn't seem like there is a way to get back there but after some scrambling you figure it out. I felt like a little kid climbing on the boulders, balancing on rocks, sliding down rock walls to get a better view of the beautiful side canyon. We went back as far as we could. Looking back at the main canyon you had an awesome view of the rock layers.
After an hour or so of exploring Booger Canyon we made it back to camp, took a quick snack break then packed everything up to make our way to Horse Camp Canyon. We found a great camping spot for that evening, on hard ground under some trees with a fire pit and quickly set up camp before going back to explore our last side canyon of the day.
The good thing about being sick with a snuffy nose and congested nasal cavity is you get really good at snot rockets, especially since I went through all of my Kleenex on the first day. By the time we got to Horse Camp Canyon I was a snot rocket pro. (Sorry if this is an overshare but I was quite proud of my new found skill!)
Horse Camp Canyon was our favorite side canyon of the day. It was full of interesting rocks, more scrambling, and beautiful pools surrounded by tall canyon walls. We wanted to stay longer but the sun was setting and we were getting hungry. We said goodbye to beautiful Horse Camp Canyon and made our way back to our campsite.
Once we got back we made a fire, cooked dinner, and enjoyed the cool evening. The sky was cloudy all day and looked like it was threatening to rain but when I check the weather forecast on my Garmin InReach it said there was only a 10% chance of rain. Good, we did not want to be in a canyon if there was a bad storm coming. Even if it rains 10 miles away that water can cause a flash flood which can be dangerous in a canyon like Aravaipa. That night we fell asleep to the sound of the creek while waiting for our last day of exploring.
I woke up around 5am to the sound of rain. Not a light sprinkling, instead this was a hard rain. 10% chance, huh? Since my hiking pants, socks, and boots were wet from the previous day's hike in the creek I had laid them out to dry overnight, just like I did the previous night. They now were soaked. I laid in my tent trying to go back to sleep but I ended up just laying there listening to the rain.
The rain stopped by 6am and I decided it was time for some coffee. I made a cup and wandered down to the creek to find a nice quiet spot to enjoy our last morning in the canyon. Everything was wet but the sky was starting to clear up. While staring up at the walls of Aravaipa Canyon I had this thought that if I had never moved to Arizona, never worked at Summit Hut, never met my coworkers, I wouldn't be sitting in this canyon right now. It was a thought that made me smile. I'm so glad my journey has brought me here to this very moment, drinking coffee, sitting on a rock in this gorgeous canyon.
We were incredibly lazy our last morning and took way too long to make breakfast and tear down camp. By the time we were leaving our campsite it was 11am. I waited as long as I could to put on my still wet hiking pants. That helped wake me up!
We wanted to explore Virgus Canyon before we left so we made a quick pit stop. By now I was quite tired, partly from being sick the past two days but also from sleeping poorly the previous two nights. I'm notoriously a bad sleeper in the backcountry (something I need to work on before the JMT!)
We wandered about a quarter mile into the canyon and I found a nice spot to sit under a tree while Jeremy and Lylah explored further. It had started to sprinkle again and I was content sitting and listening to the canyon wrens rather than trying to navigate over slippery, wet rocks. Finally we made our way back to the main canyon, grabbed our packs and started the hike out.
We wanted to see Hell's Half Acre, another side canyon, before we made it back to the trailhead but just like the other side canyons we had a hard time finding it. Even with my Garmin InReach we weren't able to locate it. I had an idea of where we went wrong but by that time we were already half a mile past it and were ready to get back home. Around this time we finally saw a coati! We'd been wanting to see one the whole trip and finally in the last mile we had a sighting!
The last mile or so I was fatigued from hiking in water and sand for 3 days straight. We tried to find side trails that followed the creek but as usual it was just easier to stay in the water. Soon we saw the trail sign pointing us back to the trailhead. The hike out ends with about a quarter mile uphill section that feels like it goes on forever. The sun was out again and beating down on us, foreshadowing what the next 5 months in Tucson will feel like. We were all happy to see the trail sign at the parking lot!
We got out of the canyon just in time, the sky was darkening again, threatening rain. The canyon was incredibly beautiful but so was the drive back to Hwy 77. The sky was filled with bright white fluffy cloud clusters and I felt so grateful I get to live in such a beautiful place.
You need to add Aravaipa Canyon to your hiking bucket list. I need to make this a yearly trip, there's that much to see and explore and enjoy in this gorgeous canyon.
Date hiked: May 19-20, 2019
Total miles: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 250 feet
Total time: 6 hours
Land Acknowledgement: Ancestral lands of the Hohokam