Thursday, May 22, 2014

Echo Canyon / Skull Canyon - 5/22/14

Wilson Peak from the Top of Skull Canyon

Limestone Floor of Skull Canyon

Ten club members and one guest from Virginia woke early for a hike in the North Blue Diamond Hills of Red Rock Canyon NCA. It was an extremely pleasant cool morning for the duration of the hike. We began at the Cowboy Trails parking area and made our way up to the mouth of Echo Canyon located past the upper horse corral and to the right fork. The strong participating hikers of today were ready for a quick but pleasant pace and we hiked up through the easy scramble of Echo Canyon stopping only once.

Top of Echo Canyon
 As we climbed the 2 miles of Echo, the shadows were replaced by sunshine. When we finished the canyon and the following trail, we junctioned with the old mining road at the top.

Crossing Over to Right Fork Canyon

 A quarter mile up the road, the trail turned us to the left. This was the cross trail that leads hikers just above the first and second finger of the canyons and ridges. Next, we dropped into the upper right fork of Cave Canyon and began hiking along its north rim. This is a gentle climb up the mild canyon where our view ahead was of the gypsum mining tailings pile. We were hiking very very close to the boundary of the Red Rock Canyon NCA.

Right Fork of Cave Canyon
 Eventually, the trail turned us back around to our left. We found ourselves facing the Red Rock escarpment that was being decorated by a magnificent display of cloud play.

Crossing Over Ridge to Left Fork of Cave Canyon

 We dipped through the left fork of Cave Canyon then followed the trail down to the old sign that no longer says Boneshaker Hill. We continued down another quarter of a mile where we located a small trail leading off to the right. This trail took us down to cross Mystery Woman Canyon. The climb out of the small brushy canyon was steep but short and, at the top, we found the high point of the hike and a good view for our morning break.

High Point View
 The pace had not slowed by much and the coolness was still present but the previous hill gave us a reason to stop for a snack! The remaining portion of the hike would be downhill.

Mike Enjoys his Break with a View

 After the break, we continued on our little trail over the hill and down to the top of Skull Canyon. This canyon was so named because, many years ago, hikers found the skull of a wild horse or burro within the canyon walls. The name stuck! The bikers use this canyon from time to time so the trail is clear all the way down. However, there are many slippery sections. We were all able to stay on our feet today!

Hiking the Limestone Floor of Skull Canyon
 The bottom half of Skull Canyon is a limestone floor with fossils embedded here and there. We took advantage of the off trail shortcuts on the limestone.

Skull Canyon View of the Red Rock Escarpment

 As is often the case, the strong hikers began dispersing near the end of the hike. (Some have extra energy to burn!) Nevertheless, we finished Skull Canyon with a junction at the Muffins Trail and circled around the base of Boneshaker Hill. Opting for a different cool down, we headed over to the upper corral connecter trail to finish. A great morning of exercise!

7 miles; 1500 feet of elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Horse Ride on Fossil Ridge

Returning to the Cowboy Trails Parking Area

Top End of Route

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