Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dragon / Gateway Loop - 4/6/17

Dragon Canyon

Dragon / Ash Saddle

Redbuds in Gateway Canyon

Which came first?
 It was a beautiful day at Red Rock Canyon NCA and eight hikers came out for a simple 5 mile scramble and climb. A few of us were suffering from allergies so we started out at a slow even pace ... buffs firmly in place over our nose! We had parked at the dirt parking lot located at the end of Sandstone Drive in the Calico Basin. We got there at 7:30am and found that the parking lot was not filling up very quickly at that hour. It was, however, full when we returned from the hike around 10am. It's a Thursday during various Spring Breaks around the country. Perhaps everyone slept in.

Approaching Dragon Canyon
 Our route took us on out the gravel road at the end of the parking lot. Then, we began a meandering hike along any trails we thought might go toward Dragon Canyon!

Climbing Dragon Canyon (Saddle to Left)
 As mentioned, we were not in a hurry so the pre-warm up was welcome before we hit the steep slope. Dragon Canyon is located adjacent to Ash Canyon on the right side.

Starting to Warm Up

Las Vegas from Ascent
 Finally, we reached the mouth of colorful Dragon Canyon and started up. Options were given if anyone wanted to go ahead but everyone chose to follow the coordinator who was satisfied to take the trail today. The canyon lends itself to a nice scramble up its wash or up the side wall on the left. But, care must be taken since rocks on the wall can be loose. Eventually, we all made it to the saddle between Dragon Canyon and Ash Canyon ... even those that weren't feeling great! This was the toughest part of the day.

Reaching Dragon / Ash Saddle with Red Cap Beyond
 After a pause on the gorgeous color-filled saddle, we crossed over to the trail that takes hikers from this saddle to the top of Ash Canyon.

Trail up Ash Canyon
 Breathing easier now, we enjoyed the views in every direction. With little wind, we could see hot air balloons hanging in the sky to the south.

Climbing to Top of Ash Canyon

Turtlehead from Top of Ash Canyon
 At the top of Ash Canyon, we stopped for an abbreviated snack break. It was still early so we weren't that hungry but the view of Turtlehead above us was enough of a reason to stop. Next, we connected with Rattlesnake Trail and followed it down through the small connector canyon. We hike this trail often. Soon, we dropped into Gateway Canyon. To the left, Upper Gateway climbed up through the limestone gravel. To the right, the limestone offered a few dry water slides before we entered into colorful red and white sandstone.

Descending Rattlesnake Trail

Junctioning with Gateway Canyon (Gray Cap Above)
 On the way to the sandstone, we passed Redbud Corner! Those trees are still purple with flowers but we saw that they were beginning to leaf out. The color will be gone soon.

The Slide

Descending into Lower Gateway Canyon
 The hike down through Lower Gateway was very relaxing and easy. The gravel has built up so much at the tougher scrambles that we had no trouble at any point during the descent. Even "Pickle Rock" is a mere step down right now! The great group of veteran hikers simply enjoyed the relaxing morning as we circled around the south end of Kraft Mountain. After taking a peek at the petroglyphs, we continued back to the cars. Everyone was happy!

5 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Pickle Rock Scramble

View Up Lower Gateway Canyon

Practicing Skills

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