Thursday, April 20, 2017

Muffins / SARS / Echo Canyon - 4/20/17

Calico Hills from North Blue Diamond Hills

Narrowleaf Goldenbush blooming at top of Skull Canyon

Beginning Echo Canyon Scramble

Hiking to the Base of the Muffins Trail
 Fifteen hikers arrived at the Cowboy Trails Trailhead located about half a mile south of the Red Rock Canyon NCA's Scenic Loop entrance on Highway 159. Our hike today would take us up to The Muffins, on up to the SARS Trail junction, across on the SARS Trail all the way over to Echo Canyon, then down through the heart of Echo Canyon. Until we reached Echo Canyon, the entire route was on trail. In Echo Canyon, we indulged in some mild to moderate scrambling.

Climbing the Muffins Trail
 The moderately strenuous hike began with the always surprising difficult climb up to the Muffins.

The Muffins Trail behind Us
 About half of the hikers went up the trail at their own pace and the other half stayed together at a slower pace with stops now and then.

Almost to the Muffins

From the Muffins to the Calico Hills
 When the last hikers reached the Muffins, the front hikers were lounging on the rocks overlooking a hazy Las Vegas view. Everyone caught their breath then the group moved on up the hill. There are 2 ways hikers tackle the remaining hill of the ridge. Some hike up and over the little peak and some, like us today, hike on a trail that goes around the peak. This trail has less elevation gain and we happily hiked around to the junction with the SARS Trail to turn right.

Climbing up the Muffins Trail beyond the Muffins
 As we hiked, we were constantly entertained by the colorful flora decorating the terrain. The Colorado Four O'Clocks, Desert Paintbrush, Mariposa Lilies, Cliffrose and Goldenbush were all blooming somewhere on the hillside!

Starting across on the SARS Trail
 The SARS Trail led us down past the top of Skull Canyon then up and over to cross Mystery Woman Canyon.

Desert Paintbrush and Goldenbush

Passing the Boneshaker Sign
 The trail climbed up to the ridge of Boneshaker Hill and we passed the sign on our way as we continued on the SARS Trail. Next, we crossed the Left Fork of Cave Canyon, went up and over to the Right Fork and began a beautiful trail hike down through this part of Cave Canyon. We found a tiny bit of shade on the rocks here and stopped for our snack break. (We were careful to look for rattlesnakes!) After the break, we continued down the trail until we crossed to the other side of this canyon.

Banana Yucca blooms on SARS Trail
 We passed Second Finger then First Finger and turned right on the old mining road at the junction. This led us to the Echo Canyon Trail.

Starting down Echo Canyon Trail
 The trail took us down into the canyon and we veered into the ravine just after the second set of switchbacks.

Hikers at Top of Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon Scrambling
 The scramble down through this small canyon is fun but we found, along with all the greenery and flowers, the brush in the canyon was growing at full force. Nevertheless, we were able to find the routes that made the scramble possible and finish at the Upper Stables of the Red Rock Canyon Trail Rides. It was a beautiful day but the cool wind was beginning to subside and it was time to call it quits.

7.5 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Echo Canyon

Shell Fossil

The Scramble Finale

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