Wednesday, May 16, 2018

South Loop 1st Overlook via Echo Trailhead - 5/15/18

Kyle Canyon from South Loop Switchbacks

Mule Deer off Little Falls Trail

Starting up Echo Trail

Enjoying the Cool Morning
Hikers! If you haven't been escaping to the mountains in the past couple of weeks, well, you should! It was another absolutely perfect day in the upper portion of Kyle Canyon on Tuesday. ... and very few cars at the trailheads. Come on up!

We started our hike at the Echo Trailhead located about a tenth of a mile from Kyle Canyon Road on Echo Way on the left side of the road. This is an optional way to reach the Cathedral Rock and South Loop Trails that adds about a mile to the total one way distance. There were eight of us.

Cathedral Rock from Echo Trail
This trailhead reigns at around 7650 elevation feet. We would top out on the South Loop's 1st Overlook at just over 9000 feet.

Points of Interest during Hike
We noted the trail sign and followed the marked trail to a switchback that led onto an old forest road going up the hill. We saw Cathedral Rock rising in front of us.

Climbing the South Loop

First Wash Crossing
To our left, we saw the beautiful houses of the Echo subdivision on the opposite hillside. The trail veered to the right, climbs a hill, then takes a left at the next fork. (No sign here.) It wiggles its way down to junction with the Little Falls Trail. There is a sign here. Right goes to Little Falls. We took the left and headed down the hill. Not long after that, we had our first mule deer sightings! The Kyle Canyon mule deer are always around somewhere. Here, there were five total. Be careful because these deer are often down near Kyle Canyon Road. The speed limit is 25-35 mph for a reason! Several reasons.

View up Echo Cliffs from Trail
We took some photos of the deer that still had a lot of their winter coat. A couple of them appeared to be very young ... but past the spotted stage.

Mummy's Toe from South Loop
Our hike continued parallel to the paved road below where the old Cathedral Rock trailhead used to be. Then, we climbed a little passing the old cistern. Staying on the most worn trail, we started dropping down to the junction with the "new" Cathedral Rock Trail.

Above the Steps

Heading to Second Wash Crossing
There is another sign here. Right takes you up to the top of the rock. We turned left and continued dropping a little to junction with the South Loop Trail. Then, another sign pointed out that we needed to turn to the right to hike up the South Loop toward Mt. Charleston Peak. The Catherdral Rock / Mt. Charleston Trailhead parking lot was directly below our position. Here is where our hike started a continual ascent. We began climbing on very familiar terrain taking note of the similarities and differences that had been made throughout the winter months. Newly fallen trees. The two major washed out wash crossings were the same. A smaller wash crossing above The Steps that required a leap of faith is fixed and smoothed. There were still trees that seemed to be ready to fall any minute five years after the fire.

Our Destination
It was a breath of fresh air to be back on the South Loop enjoying the scenery with very few other hikers around the whole day.

Second Wash Crossing
We established a "moderate and steady" climbing pace and only needed to stop a couple of times before "The Steps." Up the steps, past the fixed crossing to the 2nd wash crossing.

Climbing Switchbacks

Almost There!
Next, we faced the final challenge of the day, the fourteen switchbacks up to the 1st Overlook. Here, we established a slow and steady pace that everyone seemed fairly comfortable with. One club member had not been on the South Loop before and we made sure he got to take a look at the fossil rock on switchback #7. (The full tour.) At the Overlook, we took our break 3 miles into the hike. The views were gorgeous as clouds had begun forming over the Spring Mountains. The air was cool and we enjoyed the break until the slight breeze started cooling us off a little bit too much. Then we started down.

Yellow Flowers and Harris Peak
We had not seen any other hikers up to this point. Now, there were a couple coming down behind us, and we passed about 9.5 hikers that were going up. Plus, about 4 dogs! Still not many.

Break at 1st Overlook
We also saw a couple more deer going up the hillside from the avalanche area of 2005. The aspens in this canyon (with the two wash crossings) are leafing out big time. This would be the second time in the last thirteen years that these aspens have had to re-establish. (The avalanche of 2005 and the fire of 2013.) They seem to be happy to oblige!

Down Kyle Canyon from 1st Overlook

Smattering of Snow toward Griffith Peak
There is a huge fallen tree in the parking lot of the Cathedral Rock Picnic Area. It will need to be cleaned up before the picnic area opens. But, the trailhead parking is open and we hiked down past it to connect with the Cathedral Rock Trail and the Little Falls Trail. Finally, we turned onto the Echo Trail and saw one more mule deer. The deer will probably become a little more allusive when the trails become more populated in the summer. It was a great day in the mountains ... again.

6 miles; 1800 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Starting down the Switchbacks

View up from 1st to 2nd Wash Crossing

Descending the South Loop

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