Thursday, March 26, 2015

Calico Gateway Loop - 3/26/15

Redbud Tree in Gateway Canyon

Calico Sandstone in Gateway Canyon

Southern Tip of the Calico Hills

Dropping Down at Calico I
 Fourteen hikers opted for a moderately strenuous hike around the Calico Hills and down through Gateway Canyon. The loop hike begins and ends at the Red Springs Park in Calico Basin of the Red Rock Canyon NCA. We started by climbing the hill above the boardwalk and our hearts and lungs screamed at the early morning effort. Once we were on the saddle, we dipped back down the other side then climbed up again. This time, we veered off to the right about half way up. By the time we finished climbing ... temporarily ... we were located across the canyon from the southern tip of the Calico Hills as seen in the photo above. As we hiked on up to the Calico I turnout, we began to notice that some of the spring flowers have sprung! First came a beautiful display of beavertail cactus blooms.

The Spring Collection
 Other flowers we saw along the trail were Utah penstemons, globemallow, paintbrush, desert marigolds and redbud trees.

Hiking Along the Calico Hills

Hiking the Grand Circle Trail
 We hiked from Calico I to Sandstone Quarry using the Grand Circle Trail with the exception of a small detour up to the Calico II turnout to offer a restroom stop. It was a beautiful day with a nice breeze to cool us off. There was still some water in the tinajas just south of the Sandstone Quarry parking lot. When we reached the sandstone quarry, we stopped for a short restroom break then continued down the Calico Tanks Trail.

Hiking Over to the Rattlesnake Trail
 Leaving the official trail, we made our way over to the Rattlesnake Trail through a maze of sandstone using the small slot canyon to gain entrance to the sandstone ledges where we took our break.

The Small Slot

 We sat under the gaze of Turtlehead Peak and took in the gorgeous view of the immediate sandstone and the escarpment sandstone beyond. We could see the peaks of the escarpment starting with Rainbow Peak all the way up to the Lost Creek Canyon. This is one of the most beautiful views in the northern Calico Hills because of the wide expanse of color. Here, we also had our choice of sun or shade in which to spend our time.

Rainbow Peak and Rainbow Wall
 After the break, we connected with the Rattlesnake Trail and hiked on out to the base of the Red Cap Peak above.

Hiking Past Ash Canyon Overlook

 Turning the corner there, we hiked down toward the Ash Canyon overlook and veered left to go down through the Rattlesnake wash. Gray Cap, a limestone peak on top of yellow sandstone, can be seen from this wash. At the bottom of the wash, we junctioned with Gateway Canyon. A turn to the left would take you into Upper Gateway Canyon. Today, we took the right turn to drop into Lower Gateway. We could tell immediately  that the gravel in the canyon was, again, rearranged!

Starting Down Lower Gateway Canyon
 Gateway Canyon is always interesting due to its dynamic nature. The canyon quite often gets a cleaning from rainwater. Sometimes hiking obstacles are deep and sometimes the canyon will be a "walk in the park."

Redbud Trees in Gateway Canyon

 We passed a grouping of redbud trees in full flower and marched down through the deep gravel. When we got to the obstacle areas, we slowed down and enjoyed the ride as we made sure that everyone got through safely. At the bottom of the canyon, we continued out the wash all the way to the high dry fall in the bright red stone. From there, we chose to return to the cars a new way that took us behind some of the houses in Calico Basin and back to the entrance road. Great hike.

8.5 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Pickle Rock

High Dry Fall in the Lower Gateway Wash

Calico Basin Wash

The blue line shows today's alternate route.

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