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Illusions

Mogollon Rim beta posted by Todd Martin
  • The Hype

    OVERVIEW: A spectacular and challenging technical canyon with deep, dark, sculpted narrows, frigid pools, numerous rappels, natural anchor challenges and a potentially deep and difficult to escape keeper pothole. The canyon was discovered by Joe and Sara DeSalme in 2005 and we explored it on several occasions by fixing ropes and jugging back on the return. It was soon obvious that the canyon was easily the best in all of Arizona (and I don’t say that lightly). The first complete descent was made by Joe and Sara DeSalme, Tom Wetherell, Stephanie Martin and Todd Martin on September 5, 2005.

    LOCATION: Coconino National Forest – Tributary of the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon

    REQUIRED GEAR: 1x200' of rope (or 2x100' ropes), 80’ webbing, 13 rap rings, harness, descender, ascending gear, helmet, carabiners, drybag, a warm wetsuit, pothole escape gear (an Imlay Canyon Gear Happy Hooker or its equivalent works well) and 2 etriers.

    SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS: The water in this canyon is extremely cold, wetsuits are required at all times of the year. Several pools in this canyon form keeper potholes when water levels are low. This canyon should only be attempted by small groups of fit, experienced canyoneers capable of evaluating natural anchors and escaping potholes. The canyon is described using mostly natural anchors. Though bolts have periodically appeared in the canyon they may or may not be available for your use. Key rappels in this canyon feature bolted anchors; no additional artificial anchors are needed. Also be aware that several of the rappels descend pristine, moss covered rock. Take care not to destroy the moss on the rappels. Finally, be aware that the canyon contains Arizona Bugbane a rare plant that has very narrow habitat restrictions. It exists in only four small population areas in Arizona. All known populations are located within the Coconino, Kaibab and Tonto National Forests.

    Getting There

    DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Illusions is located northwest of Sedona in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness. The canyon canyon be done as a through trip by spotting a car at the Call of the Canyon Trailhead (resulting in a rather long car shuttle) or as a loop hike using the AB Young Trail.

    Route 1 (shorter if coming from the south): From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Sedona (at the exit for Highway 179). Turn left onto Highway 179 and follow it through the town of Oak Creek to Sedona and the intersection with Highway 89A. Drive 17.4 miles north on Highway 89A and turn left on FR 535. Drive 5 miles on this dirt road to a sign pointing left for Harding Point. Turn right (remaining on FR 535) and drive 5.2 miles to a left branching junction with FR 536. Turn left on FR 536 and follow it 0.8 miles to a T-junction. Turn right, remaining on FR 536 and follow it 3.3 miles to where it ends at a T- junction with FR 231. Turn left onto FR #231 (better road). Drive ~15.5 miles and turn left onto FR #9018M. Drive exactly 1 mile to park at a nondescript spot on the road (GPS Point - UTM: 12S 429920mE, 3871693mN, WGS84 Datum).

    Route 2 (shorter if coming from the north, easier to follow with better road conditions): From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Flagstaff. Turn left (west) onto Route 66 at a Cheveron gas station and sign for I-40. Drive 1.9 miles on Route 66 and turn left (south) onto Woody Mountain Road following the signs for the arboretum. Woody Mountain Road (which is also Forest Road #231) crosses over Highway 40 and after 1 mile becomes well graded dirt. Drive for 26.2 miles, turn left onto FR #9018M and drive exactly 1 mile to a nondescript spot on the road and park (GPS Point - UTM: 12S 429920mE, 3871693mN, WGS84 Datum).

    Optional Car Spot: If descending all the way down the West Fork of Oak Creek a car may be spotted at the Call of the Canyon Trailhead. From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Sedona (at the exit for Highway 179). Turn left onto Highway 179 and follow it through the town of Oak Creek to Sedona. At the T-intersection turn right onto Highway 89A and follow it up Oak Creek Canyon to just past mile marker 385 to the Call of the Canyon Trailhead which is on the left (west). Parking is currently $7 per car, be aware that a Red Rock pass is not valid towards this fee. Also note that the gate to the parking area is locked at 8pm.

    The Canyon - Rating: 3B IV R   Longest Rap: 100'   # of Raps: ~13

    TRIP DESCRIPTION: The first challenge of the canyon is to locate an entry that avoids the thick brush in the upper reaches of the drainage. From non-descript parking spot, walk west to the side of a steep drainage (this is an upper tributary of Illusions Canyon) towards (GPS Point - UTM: 12S 429798 mE, 3871661 mN, WGS84 Datum). The goal is to follow a series of game trails on the eastern (right hand) slope of this drainage (it’s best to stay up on the slope, since the bottom of the canyon is brush filled and makes for very unpleasant hiking). From the rim, hike down the steep, pine needle covered slope of the side drainage to descend a U-shaped bowl between two rock formations. Just below this feature you’ll reach a game trail. Turn right onto the trail to contour along the slope of the hill. Eventually you’ll reach a point below the uppermost Coconino sandstone band where the canyon is split down the middle by a rocky ridge. Stay just to the right of this ridge (to avoid a dry fall on the left), following it down a steep dirt slope to finally enter the drainage at the base of the dry fall. Follow the drainage downcanyon a short distance then leave it again to the right. Work your way first up to a bench on the right, then down along the bench to the junction with the main drainage of Illusions Canyon.

    You can rappel into a short stretch of narrows in the side canyon you have been following, or walk the bench a short distance downcanyon to a steep slope that allows entry into the main drainage of Illusions. A short distance down this main drainage a slippery moss covered boulder creates a short drop-off that presents an inconvenient obstacle. Beyond the boulder water soon appears underfoot and you’ll want to put on your wetsuit. After walking through a short set of shallow, wet narrows the technical challenges begin.

    Rappel #1 is 15 feet from a sling around pine tree on canyon left. Climb over a bunch of dead logs to reach rappel #2, a 20-footer from a pinch point on the left into a pool. Rappel #3 is 30’ from a tree on a bench on the left. The canyon enters spectacular narrows and a downclimb at a natural arch into a shallow pool, followed by a climb down a sandstone corkscrew. More narrows and a few short swims and the canyon widens. You can continue directly down the canyon to negotiate two small drop-offs or climb around onto a bench on canyon left and complete a two stage rappel from a big tree (the first stage is from the bench back into the canyon, the second is a short drop within the canyon itself.

    Rappel #4 is 20 feet from a bolt and hanger on the left over an arch into a very dark room with another arch providing the escape route. Just past the arch is rappel #5, a 30-footer from a bolt on canyon right into a pool. Continue downcanyon through beautiful narrows completing a few swims to a spot where the canyon widens to rappel #6, a 15-footer from a sling around the horn of a choke stone (backed up by a few large rocks) into shallow pool. After walking through a narrow hall, slide down small chute and enter a short tight section of wet, twisty narrows to a log jam. Climb over log jam down into a pool. Then use a sling around several dead logs braced across the slot to perform a 40-foot rappel into a nice room (this drop may be bolted on the left). On the other side of the room is rappel #7 which is 25 feet from a sling around a large wedged dead stump (this drop may be bolted on the left), down slippery wall into a pothole. Below is an extremely dark and wet section of narrows which soon arrives at a 15-foot rappel with an awkward start from a sling around a log (this drop may be bolted on the left), followed by a chute that can be downclimbed with some care to an 8-foot drop that uses a sling around small rock wedged in crack in wall on canyon left for an anchor for a rappel or hand line into a pool.

    Climb out of the pool and slide down a corkscrew which has a drop 5-foot drop at the end into a frigid pool entering a beautiful room. Looking back upcanyon you’ll see multiple deep grooves in the wall created by floods as the floor of the canyon eroded downwards. Identify 2 bolts and hangers on canyon left as an anchor for a 10-foot rappel into a possible keeper pothole (use your right foot to gain traction on the wall on the right to escape this pool, or use a pack toss). Climb out of the pool to a narrow lip to use two bolts connected by a chain to rappel 100 feet down a beautiful mossy wall into a sandy room (by rappelling slowly and carefully down the wall with flattened feet you can avoid creating ugly skid marks through the moss).

    The canyon widens slightly and soon reaches consecutive 8-foot drop-offs that can be descended without rope by experienced climbers. The first is along a log which may require a short jump at the end, followed by a vertical drop which features a small softball sized bore hole which may be used as a hand hold to hang from, before dropping down into the room below. This is followed by a rappel #11, a 40-footer from a sling around a pinch point at the top down a sculpted chute into a pool. Exit the pothole and downclimb a short distance into another pool that has 2 bolts and hangers on the right that may be used for rappel #12. WARNING The drop is 100 feet in length and ends in a potentially deep keeper pothole. The pothole has an unfortunate history of capturing bear cubs and small animals and as a result is sometimes quite unpleasant. The best way to escape is to use a large metal climbing hook attached to an aluminum extension pole and etriers to snag the sharp lip at the exit of the pool. With the hook securely in place, simply climb the etriers to freedom.

    Continue the remainder of the way down the canyon to the West Fork of Oak Creek. The canyon widens below the keeper pothole and becomes more brushy and choked with fallen trees. Hike downcanyon for about 0.5 miles to the final rappel (#13), a 25-footer from a tree on canyon left into a shallow pool. Remove your harness and wetsuit (if you haven’t already) and continue downcanyon a short distance to the junction with the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon.

    The Exit


    Click here for complete Illusions Map
    Turn right and walk downstream through scenic Supai Sandstone narrows (the nicest in all of Oak Creek). Shortly after passing through a subway-like section the flat and well maintained West Fork Oak Creek Trail #108 appears that you can follow the remaining 3 miles to the Call of the Canyon Trailhead.

    Those who have not spotted a car will have to turn right and walk down Highway 89A to the Bootlegger Campground to pick up the steeply graded AB Young Trail #100 that can be followed back up to the rim, forest roads and your car.
  • DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Illusions is located northwest of Sedona in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness. The canyon canyon be done as a through trip by spotting a car at the Call of the Canyon Trailhead (resulting in a rather long car shuttle) or as a loop hike using the AB Young Trail.

    Route 1 (shorter if coming from the south): From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Sedona (at the exit for Highway 179). Turn left onto Highway 179 and follow it through the town of Oak Creek to Sedona and the intersection with Highway 89A. Drive 17.4 miles north on Highway 89A and turn left on FR 535. Drive 5 miles on this dirt road to a sign pointing left for Harding Point. Turn right (remaining on FR 535) and drive 5.2 miles to a left branching junction with FR 536. Turn left on FR 536 and follow it 0.8 miles to a T-junction. Turn right, remaining on FR 536 and follow it 3.3 miles to where it ends at a T- junction with FR 231. Turn left onto FR #231 (better road). Drive ~15.5 miles and turn left onto FR #9018M. Drive exactly 1 mile to park at a nondescript spot on the road (GPS Point - UTM: 12S 429920mE, 3871693mN, WGS84 Datum).

    Route 2 (shorter if coming from the north, easier to follow with better road conditions): From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Flagstaff. Turn left (west) onto Route 66 at a Cheveron gas station and sign for I-40. Drive 1.9 miles on Route 66 and turn left (south) onto Woody Mountain Road following the signs for the arboretum. Woody Mountain Road (which is also Forest Road #231) crosses over Highway 40 and after 1 mile becomes well graded dirt. Drive for 26.2 miles, turn left onto FR #9018M and drive exactly 1 mile to a nondescript spot on the road and park (GPS Point - UTM: 12S 429920mE, 3871693mN, WGS84 Datum).

    Optional Car Spot: If descending all the way down the West Fork of Oak Creek a car may be spotted at the Call of the Canyon Trailhead. From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Sedona (at the exit for Highway 179). Turn left onto Highway 179 and follow it through the town of Oak Creek to Sedona. At the T-intersection turn right onto Highway 89A and follow it up Oak Creek Canyon to just past mile marker 385 to the Call of the Canyon Trailhead which is on the left (west). Parking is currently $7 per car, be aware that a Red Rock pass is not valid towards this fee. Also note that the gate to the parking area is locked at 8pm.
  • TRIP DESCRIPTION: The first challenge of the canyon is to locate an entry that avoids the thick brush in the upper reaches of the drainage. From non-descript parking spot, walk west to the side of a steep drainage (this is an upper tributary of Illusions Canyon) towards (GPS Point - UTM: 12S 429798 mE, 3871661 mN, WGS84 Datum). The goal is to follow a series of game trails on the eastern (right hand) slope of this drainage (it’s best to stay up on the slope, since the bottom of the canyon is brush filled and makes for very unpleasant hiking). From the rim, hike down the steep, pine needle covered slope of the side drainage to descend a U-shaped bowl between two rock formations. Just below this feature you’ll reach a game trail. Turn right onto the trail to contour along the slope of the hill. Eventually you’ll reach a point below the uppermost Coconino sandstone band where the canyon is split down the middle by a rocky ridge. Stay just to the right of this ridge (to avoid a dry fall on the left), following it down a steep dirt slope to finally enter the drainage at the base of the dry fall. Follow the drainage downcanyon a short distance then leave it again to the right. Work your way first up to a bench on the right, then down along the bench to the junction with the main drainage of Illusions Canyon.

    You can rappel into a short stretch of narrows in the side canyon you have been following, or walk the bench a short distance downcanyon to a steep slope that allows entry into the main drainage of Illusions. A short distance down this main drainage a slippery moss covered boulder creates a short drop-off that presents an inconvenient obstacle. Beyond the boulder water soon appears underfoot and you’ll want to put on your wetsuit. After walking through a short set of shallow, wet narrows the technical challenges begin.

    Rappel #1 is 15 feet from a sling around pine tree on canyon left. Climb over a bunch of dead logs to reach rappel #2, a 20-footer from a pinch point on the left into a pool. Rappel #3 is 30’ from a tree on a bench on the left. The canyon enters spectacular narrows and a downclimb at a natural arch into a shallow pool, followed by a climb down a sandstone corkscrew. More narrows and a few short swims and the canyon widens. You can continue directly down the canyon to negotiate two small drop-offs or climb around onto a bench on canyon left and complete a two stage rappel from a big tree (the first stage is from the bench back into the canyon, the second is a short drop within the canyon itself.

    Rappel #4 is 20 feet from a bolt and hanger on the left over an arch into a very dark room with another arch providing the escape route. Just past the arch is rappel #5, a 30-footer from a bolt on canyon right into a pool. Continue downcanyon through beautiful narrows completing a few swims to a spot where the canyon widens to rappel #6, a 15-footer from a sling around the horn of a choke stone (backed up by a few large rocks) into shallow pool. After walking through a narrow hall, slide down small chute and enter a short tight section of wet, twisty narrows to a log jam. Climb over log jam down into a pool. Then use a sling around several dead logs braced across the slot to perform a 40-foot rappel into a nice room (this drop may be bolted on the left). On the other side of the room is rappel #7 which is 25 feet from a sling around a large wedged dead stump (this drop may be bolted on the left), down slippery wall into a pothole. Below is an extremely dark and wet section of narrows which soon arrives at a 15-foot rappel with an awkward start from a sling around a log (this drop may be bolted on the left), followed by a chute that can be downclimbed with some care to an 8-foot drop that uses a sling around small rock wedged in crack in wall on canyon left for an anchor for a rappel or hand line into a pool.

    Climb out of the pool and slide down a corkscrew which has a drop 5-foot drop at the end into a frigid pool entering a beautiful room. Looking back upcanyon you’ll see multiple deep grooves in the wall created by floods as the floor of the canyon eroded downwards. Identify 2 bolts and hangers on canyon left as an anchor for a 10-foot rappel into a possible keeper pothole (use your right foot to gain traction on the wall on the right to escape this pool, or use a pack toss). Climb out of the pool to a narrow lip to use two bolts connected by a chain to rappel 100 feet down a beautiful mossy wall into a sandy room (by rappelling slowly and carefully down the wall with flattened feet you can avoid creating ugly skid marks through the moss).

    The canyon widens slightly and soon reaches consecutive 8-foot drop-offs that can be descended without rope by experienced climbers. The first is along a log which may require a short jump at the end, followed by a vertical drop which features a small softball sized bore hole which may be used as a hand hold to hang from, before dropping down into the room below. This is followed by a rappel #11, a 40-footer from a sling around a pinch point at the top down a sculpted chute into a pool. Exit the pothole and downclimb a short distance into another pool that has 2 bolts and hangers on the right that may be used for rappel #12. WARNING The drop is 100 feet in length and ends in a potentially deep keeper pothole. The pothole has an unfortunate history of capturing bear cubs and small animals and as a result is sometimes quite unpleasant. The best way to escape is to use a large metal climbing hook attached to an aluminum extension pole and etriers to snag the sharp lip at the exit of the pool. With the hook securely in place, simply climb the etriers to freedom.

    Continue the remainder of the way down the canyon to the West Fork of Oak Creek. The canyon widens below the keeper pothole and becomes more brushy and choked with fallen trees. Hike downcanyon for about 0.5 miles to the final rappel (#13), a 25-footer from a tree on canyon left into a shallow pool. Remove your harness and wetsuit (if you haven’t already) and continue downcanyon a short distance to the junction with the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon.

  • Click here for complete Illusions Map
    Turn right and walk downstream through scenic Supai Sandstone narrows (the nicest in all of Oak Creek). Shortly after passing through a subway-like section the flat and well maintained West Fork Oak Creek Trail #108 appears that you can follow the remaining 3 miles to the Call of the Canyon Trailhead.

    Those who have not spotted a car will have to turn right and walk down Highway 89A to the Bootlegger Campground to pick up the steeply graded AB Young Trail #100 that can be followed back up to the rim, forest roads and your car.
The information provided here is intended for entertainment purposes only. The creator of this information and/or Canyon Collective are not liable for any harm or damage caused by this information. Conditions in the backcountry are constantly changing, only you are responsible for your safety and well being.