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Minnow Canyon

Superstitions beta posted by clangingsymbol
  • The Hype

    This was a beautiful and short technical canyon - short enough to do in an afternoon and be home for dinner, as I did with a buddy. I found myself repeating: "This feels like the exit of Pine Creek, but narrower and with granite instead of sandstone!" This was a real jewel of a canyon in the Superstitions!

    Getting There

    The Drive
    Heading East from the Phoenix greater metropolitan area, take State Route 88 past Canyon Lake and through Tortilla Flats. The road eventually turns to dirt. About a mile after the pavement ends, the Tortilla Trail Head is on your right. If you are shuttling, drop everyone off here and continue with your shuttle car. There is not much room at the exit and there will be other hikers going up Fish Creek, so I would recommend only one car at the exit. Continue with two cars east on 88, 2.5 miles down the hill to the "U-Turn" at the bridge that crosses Fish Creek. Park where you can (far enough off the road for traffic to pass and don't forget to close the windows completely or you will find an inch of dust on your seat). Head back to the Tortilla Flat trail head to start the hike.

    Another option is to hitch, bike, or hike. If you plan to hitch, I would recommend doing it at the start of the hike rather than the end, assuming you are not starting the hike at dawn. This road is very well traveled and you should not have an issue getting a ride from the exit to the trail head unless it is very early.

    The Hike In
    Start up Tortilla Trail. Count the small valleys on your left as you walk in. You are looking for the 3rd valley on the left. It is easy to find. As you crest one small up slope, you will find the 3rd valley. The trail will continue straight and start to bend left slightly as it heads uphill to a ridge. As soon as you see the 3rd canyon, we dropped in. I believe there is another entry on the fourth valley as there are two arms that meet up in the canyon. (As a note, we found what appeared to be a well traveled trail coming down the other fork. Either other groups got lost and descended the second fork or we did not know about a better entrance).

    Some Google Maps Coordinates
    Drop in point - 33.516233,-111.313828
    Upper parking/Trail head - 33.526215,-111.318463
    Lower parking spot - 33.524784,-111.307176

    The Canyon - Rating: 3AII   Longest Rap: 130   # of Raps: 1

    Following the trail through the brush as you head down the valley. After a few minutes, the confluence of the other arm is reached. Continue down canyon. Shortly after entering the main wash the canyon starts to take on a more slot type appearance as the walls become vertical. Another few minutes and you start to navigate boulders that continue to grow in size until suddenly a shaft, about 25-30 feet, opens before you. Climb around a few times to find a place to down climb into the "tunnel" section. At this point, spend some time going back up the tunnel exploring what you can find.When you are ready, continue down canyon. You will spend time navigating the very large boulders that are on the canyon floor.

    Eventually, you will be able to see down Fish Creek Canyon, eying State Route 88 as you approach the one and only rappel (130 feet). I found no bolts when I was there, so make sure you have brought webbing and a rap ring just in case. Inspect the webbing carefully to ensure it is safe for use. We found two very long lengths around a very large boulder. The rappel is very nice, but has a few awkward points: One small gap near the top and a 25-30 foot over hang at the end. Be careful about rope management when tying in to make the pull easier. After the rappel pack up your harness as you will not need it again.

    After the rappel, continue to "boulder hop" (can i say that when they are the size of a small house) down the canyon, finding your way around the various obstacles you encounter.

    The Exit

    After a few minutes you will reach the canyon floor at Fish Creek. Turn left and head down canyon, about 200-300 yards to the bridge. Find your way up to the road and your car.

    Red Tape

    No permit is required for parking at the trail heads.

    The canyon is in Tonto National forest, Superstition Wilderness, so no more than 12 in a group.
  • The Drive
    Heading East from the Phoenix greater metropolitan area, take State Route 88 past Canyon Lake and through Tortilla Flats. The road eventually turns to dirt. About a mile after the pavement ends, the Tortilla Trail Head is on your right. If you are shuttling, drop everyone off here and continue with your shuttle car. There is not much room at the exit and there will be other hikers going up Fish Creek, so I would recommend only one car at the exit. Continue with two cars east on 88, 2.5 miles down the hill to the "U-Turn" at the bridge that crosses Fish Creek. Park where you can (far enough off the road for traffic to pass and don't forget to close the windows completely or you will find an inch of dust on your seat). Head back to the Tortilla Flat trail head to start the hike.

    Another option is to hitch, bike, or hike. If you plan to hitch, I would recommend doing it at the start of the hike rather than the end, assuming you are not starting the hike at dawn. This road is very well traveled and you should not have an issue getting a ride from the exit to the trail head unless it is very early.

    The Hike In
    Start up Tortilla Trail. Count the small valleys on your left as you walk in. You are looking for the 3rd valley on the left. It is easy to find. As you crest one small up slope, you will find the 3rd valley. The trail will continue straight and start to bend left slightly as it heads uphill to a ridge. As soon as you see the 3rd canyon, we dropped in. I believe there is another entry on the fourth valley as there are two arms that meet up in the canyon. (As a note, we found what appeared to be a well traveled trail coming down the other fork. Either other groups got lost and descended the second fork or we did not know about a better entrance).

    Some Google Maps Coordinates
    Drop in point - 33.516233,-111.313828
    Upper parking/Trail head - 33.526215,-111.318463
    Lower parking spot - 33.524784,-111.307176
  • Following the trail through the brush as you head down the valley. After a few minutes, the confluence of the other arm is reached. Continue down canyon. Shortly after entering the main wash the canyon starts to take on a more slot type appearance as the walls become vertical. Another few minutes and you start to navigate boulders that continue to grow in size until suddenly a shaft, about 25-30 feet, opens before you. Climb around a few times to find a place to down climb into the "tunnel" section. At this point, spend some time going back up the tunnel exploring what you can find.When you are ready, continue down canyon. You will spend time navigating the very large boulders that are on the canyon floor.

    Eventually, you will be able to see down Fish Creek Canyon, eying State Route 88 as you approach the one and only rappel (130 feet). I found no bolts when I was there, so make sure you have brought webbing and a rap ring just in case. Inspect the webbing carefully to ensure it is safe for use. We found two very long lengths around a very large boulder. The rappel is very nice, but has a few awkward points: One small gap near the top and a 25-30 foot over hang at the end. Be careful about rope management when tying in to make the pull easier. After the rappel pack up your harness as you will not need it again.

    After the rappel, continue to "boulder hop" (can i say that when they are the size of a small house) down the canyon, finding your way around the various obstacles you encounter.
  • After a few minutes you will reach the canyon floor at Fish Creek. Turn left and head down canyon, about 200-300 yards to the bridge. Find your way up to the road and your car.
  • No permit is required for parking at the trail heads.

    The canyon is in Tonto National forest, Superstition Wilderness, so no more than 12 in a group.
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