Thursday, May 31, 2018

Lower Rocky Gorge Loop - 5/31/18

Mummy Mountain and Macks Peak from Trail

Rocky Gorge

Upper Rocky Gorge Wash

Small Wash descent from Trailhead
 Rocky Gorge Loop, an old trail, first came to our attention when the new visitor center opened and it was there on the map! It is an equestrian trail, but also very suitable for hiking. Whoever named it was quite optimistic! The "gorge" is, in fact, rocky but is more like a small canyon ... very small. Nevertheless, it is unusual for the terrain and very pretty so a trail definitely was warranted to enable visits. The original loop hike is 8.5 miles long traveling between Blue Tree Road and the high point of the Blue Trail above Sawmill Picnic Area. Fine for a nice weather day.

Sixteen Hikers
 But, today, the wind was scheduled to come in full force around noon so we shortened the hike to its abbreviated version of 6 miles. Sixteen hikers showed up!

Climbing the Big Switchback
 The Blue Tree Road is found approximately 10.25 miles up Lee Canyon Road from Highway 95 on the right side. It hides sneakily but if you find yourself sharing a large space with a lot of logs, you have found the right place! This is the trailhead.

Charleston peeks out from behind Mummy

Hiking down a Middle Ridge
 The trail starts on the downhill side of the parking lot next to a small narrow wash. It isn't marked so you may have to search. Once you find it, it is easy to follow for 0.8 miles. At this point, the trail comes out of the wash and heads over to the large switchback climbing the ridge to the left. Then, up we went, with a grand view of Mummy Mountain toward the higher elevations. Next, the small trail heads down a ridge. At the bottom of the ridge, we stopped to search for burros. There was one and he was a beauty! We followed the trail down and over to another ridge lying above the targeted wash. Once again, I did not find the trail for the descent. I guess it's tricky.

What a cutiepie!
 Anyway, we dropped into the wash and turned left to start our big climb of the day. It wasn't long before we entered Rocky Gorge.

Entering Rocky Gorge
 The striped limestone rocks were as pretty as before and the group hiked smoothly upwards. After exiting the "gorge," we found a shady spot with rocks to sit on and stopped for our morning break.

Hiking up through Rocky Gorge

Still in Rocky Gorge
 The hike continued afterwards going up, up, and up through the loose gravel in the wash. Since this is a horse path, there are many side trails that have been made for horse and riders to get around low hanging trees. These trails are useful to get out of the gravel. As you climb up the wash, the gravel becomes shallower and a trail appears. About 4 miles into the hike, the Rocky Gorge Loop trail turns 90 degrees to the right to climb a short hill to the ridge above. This junction is usually marked by a cairn. Now, instead of following the trail, our shortened version turns left to bushwhack up the highest point of the ridge. It is a pleasant bushwhack that shows use by others. As you near the dirt road at the top, somewhat of a trail appears!

Pinnacle in Rocky Gorge
 A left turn on the dirt road (No Mads Trail) makes you climb just a little further then drop steeply on loose footing. About halfway down, the Blue Trail turns to the left.

Break further up Wash
 We followed this left turn to a fork. The right fork goes down to the Blue Tree group Campground. We forked to the left to bypass the campground.

Bushwhacking the Ridge

Resting with a Group Photo
 The next time the trail offered a choice, we turned down to the right then left and continued down canyon on this wide trail that must have been an old road at one time. The hike follows this with a short dip crossing a wash. Then, it follows an improved dirt road around to the right. Back at the trailhead, the wind was still around an hour away but everyone seemed to be happy to get home early. Nice morning.

6 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 3 hours

Down steep No Mads Trail

Trail above the Blue Tree Campground

Connecting with the Road back to the Trailhead

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