Thursday, May 1, 2014

Little Zion Loop - 5/1/14

Arriving at Little Zion (aka The Park)

Endless Sandstone of Little Zion

The Approach Road to Rainbow Springs
 Seventeen hikers in four high clearance vehicles drove over Highway 160's Mountain Springs Pass and turned right onto Lovell Canyon Road. Just before the 1 mile marker, we turned right onto the gravel approach road for the trailhead at Rainbow Springs. We found the road to be in good condition for any medium/high clearance vehicle as we motored along behind the Red Rock Canyon NCA escarpment. Near the end of the road, there is space for parking on the right side of the road.

The Trailhead
 We piled out of our cars and began our hike to Little Zion by stepping gingerly up the spring covered wash. We said "hi" to a camper and his dog as we passed.

Being Tested by the Beginning of the Ascent Wash

The Ascent Wash
 The wash curved around to the right while passing two other washes that junctioned on the left. Our wash began with an agave roasting pit up to our right, then a limestone climb up, then we passed a clear trail coming across the wash adorned with cairns that we ignored. Our route, today, would continue up this chosen wash until we were 1.25 miles from the trailhead. At this point, there is a log blocking this wash and cairns that suggest we turn right into another wash. This wash contains the trail that would lead us up to the escarpment rim.

Escarpment Rim Trail Tree
 The rim view arrives suddenly and it is fun to hear the newbies ooh and ahh! Here, we could see the lake down at the bottom that is at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. Between us and the lake, there was mainly a big gaping hole!

Escarpment Colors from the Rim

Hiking the Escarpment Rim Trail
 The escarpment rim described a U-shape and we were at the bottom of the U. Our trail turned to the right and we began a hike around the rim to the top of the U. We had to ascend and descend steeply along the edge a couple of times before we reached the large limestone cairn that marked the entrance trail and wash to Little Zion. To our left was the Peak-ee-toe peak. Ahead of us was Sandstone Peak and, on the other side of Little Zion rose Monument Peak.

Monkey Flowers on the Escarpment Rim
 Yellow Monkey Flowers were in bloom all around. Laszlo took the time to take the great photo above from the rim trail.

Brian says, "See you next year!"

Descending the Sandstone Slab at Little Zion
 Finally passing the large limestone cairn, we noted the steep wash below and decided on taking the trail down to the sandstone slab. The trail curves around toward the south then drops hikers into a small wash to make the descent a little more pleasant. At the bottom of the sandy wash, the sandstone begins. The newbies were duly impressed! The yellow sandstone stretched far out between peaks of the escarpment.

Little Zion
 Since the wind was blowing annoyingly, we descended down the slab to the left and took our break in a sandstone pocket that blocked the wind.

Laszlo Enjoys Little Zion for the First Time

Four Hikers Take their Break on the Arch
 From our pocket, we could see the arch, the small forest, part of the entrance wash and a very large bird's nest high in a pine tree. Four hikers decided to take an excursion over to the arch for their break. Later, five other hikers explored the south wash that backs up to Monument Peak. There was water in the small tenajas of the wash.

The Arch on the Right; The Entrance Wash on the Left
 We probably spent around 30 minutes enjoying Little Zion. We didn't see any large wildlife except for two bighorns as we returned around the escarpment rim later.

Taking a Break Out of the Wind

Exploring the Wash at the Base of Monument Peak
 After the break, we returned up to the large limestone cairn the same way we had come down. This was, perhaps, the most difficult climb of the morning. We circled around the rim trail then before we reached the ascent wash, we turned left down a different wash. Warned that we would do a little "exploring," everyone seemed to brace themselves! The first wash was very brushy, however, comforting cairns were already marking the way.

Heading Back up the Wash Trail to the Rim Cairn
 At the first wash junction, we turned left. From then on, all the junction turns were to the right. We didn't recognize anything until we were almost all the way down to Rainbow Springs Road. Then we saw that we were in the same wash that we use for the Mountain Spring Peak Loop.

A Look Back from the Rim

The Obstacle Course that is the Descent Wash
A huge sigh of relief could be heard when we found the dirt road and turned again to our right. A half mile on the dirt road and we were in the springs / agave roasting pit area. We toured through the marshy springs area and visited a roasting pit then managed to accidentally on purpose hike right down to the trailhead! No back-tracking required. A nice loop if you enjoy a challenging obstacle course through brushy washes!

Agave Roasting Pit at Rainbow Springs
 Under 6.5 miles; 1900 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Finishing at the Spring Wash

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