Thursday, May 18, 2017

Stepladder Peak Loop - 5/18/17

Snowy South Loop Ridge from climb to Stepladder Peak

Stepladder Peak from Cowboy Washington Trail

Starting Out with View Up Kyle Canyon

Abundance of Blooming Cliffrose
 Stepladder Trail, of Kyle Canyon, was established as an official trail when the new Spring Mountains NRA Visitor Center opened in the spring of 2015. Combined with the Shady Hollow Trail, these trails offer access for hiking between the visitor center and Robber's Roost. The trail system in and around Telephone Canyon is quite extensive and, with the correct navigation, provides access all the way up to the Juniper Trailhead and the North Loop. This area is most popular with speedy bike riders. So, be forewarned!

Mummy's Nose from Shady Hollow Trail
 The trailhead is located across from the Visitor Center. Take a right in the traffic circle when going up Kyle Canyon Road.

Hiking Shady Hollow Trail
 There are two directions to head out from the parking lot. We went to the far end of the lot to start on the feeder trail to the Stepladder and Shady Hollow Trails.

Hiking Tin Can Alley

Curve in Tin Can Alley
 At the junction, we turned to the right onto the Shady Hollow Trail. This pleasant lowland trail headed around the large hills to our left and provided a lot of nice views. We avoided connecting with Telephone Canyon Road and started a gentle ascent that led basically parallel along that dirt road. There are a couple of forks to consider but our route led into the Tin Can Alley Trail that stayed the course along the road. There were old rusted tin cans placed on tree branches. These are "antique" trash left by the workers who provided telephone access to the resort cabins up at Deer Creek back in the 40's and 50's.

Trail Sign where Bikes tend to Speed
 Tin Can Alley peters out right around where the Trough Trail comes down on the other side of Telephone Canyon Road. It isn't an obvious junction but the route we were on, obviously turns up to the left beginning a switchbacking climb.

Hikers passing Spots where Brush has been Burned
In this area, firefighters have cleared a lot of brush and have recently burned it leaving spots of ashes. Presumably, this area was chosen due to its close proximity to Deer Creek Road above.

Repair Work still Good

Stepladder Peak from Cowboy Washington Trail
 We came to a sharp fork in the trail. Although our trail continued straight, this was our turnaround point and we took the sharp left turn. This was also our high point of the day. Now, on Cowboy Washington Trail, we started a gentle descent. When we came to several rocks placed in the sun, we stopped for a snack break and pondered why this trail is called "Cowboy Washington." In reality, we were now following the old Deer Creek Road. We even ran across some of the old pavement. Stepping lightly, we passed by the part of the trail that wanted to fall off the hill in the past. The repairs seem to be holding well.

Old Deer Creek Road
 As we circled around with the "new" Deer Creek Road above, Stepladder Peak came into view.

Approaching Saddle Junction
 Then a saddle junction appeared in front of us. Stepladder Loop and Cowboy Wash to the right. A steep connector down to Shady Hollow to the left. And, Stepladder Peak Trail straight in front.

Harris Peak from Stepladder Peak Trail

Climbing Stepladder Peak
 The trail to the peak has improved quite a bit since we began doing this hike two years ago. The trail is more defined even though it is still necessary to keep your eyes open. We climbed up the ridge passing by and over an intermediary "peak." Next, we began our hike / scramble climb up to the rocky limestone Stepladder Peak. All along the approach, there are gorgeous views offered of the east end of the South Loop ridge that included Harris and Griffith Peaks.

Griffith Peak from Stepladder Peak Trail
 After climbing a few rocks, we arrived on top of the peak and stayed for a moment to appreciate the views.

Peak Approach
 We could see up and down Kyle Canyon and all the way up Telephone Canyon. Mummy's Nose was also in view.

Stepladder Peak Views (CW: Down Kyle Cyn, Up Kyle Cyn, Up Deer Creek Rd, Out Ridge)

Descending Scree above Small Cliff
 Not wanting to stop long due to the cold breeze, we started our bushwhack descent. Over the nearby round peak. Down to the right above a cliff of around 10 to 15 feet. Down the scree above the cliff to a saddle. Traverse along this ridge on the right side, then find areas clear of brush to descend down to Stepladder Trail. From there, we circled back around to the feeder trail and found the cars. A good workout with unique views. Cool but beautiful day!

6.5 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Descent to Saddle

Almond Bush

Around 6600' Elevation in Kyle Canyon

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